Environmental Questions from CAAV
1. Do you support the 50x25 campaign?
I have been working to combat climate change, promote sustainability, and increase building efficiency for the last 20 years. The 50 x 25 campaign is achievable, timely, and is needed.
Over the last 4 years I have worked with Renew Rocktown, Harrisonburg Electric Commission, and on my own to provide more than 100 free energy audits for homes, businesses, and churches in the area. I have empowered these residents to reduce their carbon footprint, increase the comfort of their building, and save money. This work is incredibly important to the 50 x 25 goals. I have also designed buildings that are LEED Certified, EarthCraft Certified, Home Performance with Energy Star Certified, Net-Zero, and Carbon Neutral for clients across the Commonwealth. I teach classes on how to make buildings more energy efficient for community groups, schools, Universities, and even the Department of Energy. This is a passion for me, and I believe the 50 x 25 campaign is a great first step for the City of Harrisonburg becoming a model city for sustainability in the Commonwealth.
Teaching a building science class at the Department of Energy. I have given more than 200 lectures across the country on sustainability, green design, resilient design, and building science.
2. How would implement the 3 goals of 50x25 campaign?
Adopt a solar and wind energy requirement of 50% by 2025 and 100% by 2040.
Improve energy efficiency by 25% in municipal and school operations by 2025.
Incentivize energy efficiency programs to reduce energy poverty among city residents.
These are very achievable goals for Harrisonburg.
Solar Photovoltaic is less expensive than grid energy (retail prices) and we should spread that message to every homeowner in Harrisonburg including through and by HEC. If you have equity in your home, have an unshaded south facing roof – Solar PV is your best possible financial and environmental investment. This also holds true for commercial buildings which often have enough roof space to install large solar arrays and can take advantage of advanced depreciation providing resiliency for their business and an incredible return on investment. Solar in Harrisonburg is a great solution. Wind is a challenge here in the Valley.
Adding the word sustainability to HEC’s mandate to provide reliable and affordable power to Harrisonburg could be the first step towards the 50 x 25 goals.
I have worked hard over the last 20 years to understand building science. I know how to improve buildings using affordable solutions. We need to have a comprehensive understanding of current building by building energy usage or EUI. As a result of this information and having the EUI (Energy Use Intensity) of each building we can create a plan of action to find efficiencies in all our public buildings and implement solutions to achieve those efficiencies. We can also enhance our community understanding of building science through our monthly newsletter, social media campaign, and direct mailings. If users of buildings understand their impacts on the energy use, the energy use can be reduced through behavioral changes.
It is critical that the city establish an energy performance standard for every new building being built by the city, every existing city owned building, and offer incentives for every building being built by the private sector in the city. This performance standard should set out as a goal to achieve at least 50 x 25. We have potential to move faster and achieve higher goals as we make Harrisonburg a more resilient city. This will take coordination with HEC, but that is certainly possible, and the goals are attainable.
We should also encourage expansion and awareness of HEC’s energy audit program and incorporate a weatherization program with it. There are many changes that can be easily made in affordable housing that will create more comfort while reducing energy usage.
Solar is the least expensive holistically, but there are other improvements that are easy and fast to implement.
3. What would you do to increase or facilitate the adoption of renewable energies or solar in City and School buildings?
I have promoted Solar PV through my work as an architect and have designed many projects that incorporate solar PV. I have given lectures across the country on building science, sustainability, and zero energy buildings to increase awareness and share my knowledge. If elected to Harrisonburg City Council I will advocate for an energy performance standard in the city for all public buildings that includes implementation of Solar PV.
I would support the City Council creating a renewable energy requirement for HEC to meet by 2025. City Council should encourage the school board to set a minimum standard for all new buildings to be solar ready. Further I believe the City should set an example by adding Solar PV to public buildings to offset taxpayer dollars used to operate these structures. Setting a renewable energy goal for all city operations is a strategy that I believe would make a huge difference such as 30% renewable energy by 2022.
The first Net-Zero House I designed, located in Albemarle County, built in 2005.
4. How would you prioritize city and state resources for addressing environmental justice concerns, specifically energy efficiency for low income housing?
I believe it is possible to provide not only free energy audits through HEC, but also weatherization solutions through the city for low income housing. Weatherization efforts could be carried out through HEC’s Energy Share program which currently only helps individuals pay their winter electricity bills. It does not address the root causes of energy poverty, energy inefficient homes and apartments. Our most important role as a city should be providing basic services and making sure our residents have a safe and healthy place to live, work, learn, and play. I believe all new projects being built in the city that must have a rezoning or special use permit that include housing should offer affordable units and dedicated workforce housing (housing that is affordable to households earning 60 to 120% of the area median income). Along with this I believe that these same projects should be rewarded with added density options to offset this cost along with implementing energy-efficiency solutions to add to the affordability. We should work with area organizations that assist low income housing like Build United with education, connection, and in the future potentially funding weatherization solutions and solar PV installation. I applaud the work already being done by Harrisonburg Housing & Redevelopment Authority as they install solar on low income housing in partnership with Secure Futures. Making clean energy accessible to low income people should be a priority for a resilient city. I applaud the work done last year at Our Community Place and Gemeinschaft Home in partnership with Give Solar and Green Hill Solar to add Solar PV to reduce their annual operating costs to better serve their missions. There are creative ways to help those in our community that need the support the most and I see it happening through private industry – the city should support these efforts fully.
5. What do you think about recycling?
Recycling is a downgrading of materials (a cradle to grave approach), is financially challenging, and does not benefit the environment holistically. However, we need to continue our recycling efforts until we can figure out ways to be good instead of less bad. Recycling is simply less bad. The city can and should focus on reducing usage as a first line of defense (cradle to cradle approach). The city should continue the mobile recycling center to make it more convenient for residents to recycle their used plastics, cardboard, and metals. If the global economy shifts and economic viability of recycling at a greater scale increases again, we should re-evaluate our systems. However, for now the mobile center seems like a viable solution.
I am supportive of efforts to reduce plastic use in our city. I do not think it is the right time to institute a “plastic tax” for bag use in this economy. However, I do think there are ways to encourage behavioral change without financial burdens to our residents. Education is my first choice.
I have seen how demand can influence industry change. If our City creates larger demand for reusable receptables (closed loop) then we could influence manufacturers to make different decisions for their products. Cities collaborating with other cities would increase this change to happen.
The city also could implement a curbside composting service working with a company like Black Bear Composting. Charlottesville was able to divert 267,920 pounds of waste from their landfill last year using this service. Harrisonburg, thanks to local citizen efforts, diverted 11,200 pounds using the same service. Harrisonburg has a lot of potential growth here. The city could also take on the task of creating composting options at the recycling convenience center as other cities have done.
6. Is there anything Harrisonburg can do to reduce transportation emissions, the largest sector of climate change emissions in VA and the United States?
Harrisonburg has done great things to improve the bike trail network in Harrisonburg over the last 10 years. There is more to come, and more multi-use paths are in the works. We need to continue to build out greenways, bike lanes, and public transportation solutions to further reduce our transportation emissions.
We should also continue to look for optimizations in our systems. Electric buses are one option – although again in this time of economic uncertainty I am not advocating for purchasing new buses. We should continue to look at rider patterns, survey potential riders, and make sure we are fully serving our community with the public transportation systems that are available. We should also look at signage, crosswalk, and sidewalk options through our entire city. I know from walking the streets of Harrisonburg there are some safe places “not to be in a car” and some places where there is no good time of day to walk or ride a bike. We need to work hard to improve the options to get out of a car in our city.
Making solutions as easy as possible for our residents is the best way to change patterns and reduce our transportation emissions.
I am also eager to work with JMU on ways to reduce the number of cars JMU students bring to town each year. The addition of parking decks not only increases the ability for students to bring their cars it also increases the distance they are willing to travel – increasing the number of students living in the County. We want and need these students living in the city limits as they bring economic vitality that helps offset the increased demands they put on our public services. I believe there is a better balance available than currently exists and this will certainly help reduce transportation emissions on a city scale.
Hosting a walking tour to tell the story about sustainability efforts in downtown Harrisonburg.