to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative

February 2018
January 2018

February 2018

An Ian Shapiro Double Feature

Ian Shapiro, the founder and chairman of Taitem Engineering, presented on two topics:

  • Climate Reality Training with Al Gore
  • Emerging Research Trends in Building Science

Among his many accomplishments, Ian is the co-author of the books Green Building Illustrated (2014) and Energy Audits and Improvements for Commercial Buildings (2016), both published by Wiley. He has been a visiting lecturer at Cornell University, Tompkins Cortland Community College, and Syracuse University.

 I. Climate Reality Training

  • Went through training for first time in 2006 – went through it for the second time recently with his daughter
  • We’re dumping 110 million tons of manmade CO2 into the atmosphere every 24 hours
  • As CO2 concentration increases, more infrared radiation gets trapped instead of passing though
  • On 30-year cycle, methane is 100X more potent than CO2
  • Vast majority of GHG emissions has taken place since 1950 and most serious warming has taken place since 1950
  • 16 of 17 hottest years have taken place in the last 17 years – 2016 hottest year ever
  • More and more heating also getting trapped in ocean – increasing air and water temperatures have led to stronger storms
  • Evaporates more water from ocean—also leads to more droughts
  • Extreme weather events have tripled since 1980
  • Dramatic declines in ice mass in both Arctic and Antarctic
  • Miami is first and New York City is third for cities at risk for cities in terms of assets because of rising sea levels
  • Crops are very sensitive to heat – major impact on agricultural productivity
  • Tropical diseases are on move, posing serious public health threat
  • We risk losing 50% of all land-based species by end of century
  • Three questions;
  • Must we change
  • Can we change?
  • Will we change?
  • Denial and despair both lead to inaction – worst response possible
  • We have solutions at hand – rapid growth in renewable energy
  • For example, projection in 2000 was that worldwide wind capacity would reach 30GW by 2010
  • Reality: we reached 16 times that amount by 2010
  • Quadrupled amount of wind power since 2008
  • Cost of solar panels has plummeted and level of solar PV installations has sky rocketed
  • Enough solar energy reaches earth every hour to meet all of world’s energy needs for a full year
  • LED lights projected to make up 95% of market by 2025
  • Auto manufacturers moving to electric vehicle production very quickly
  • Can we change? Yes, but will we change?
  • Withdrawal from Paris climate accord has left US as a major outlier
  • US military has recognized the threat of climate change, however – largest carbon footprint of any organization in world

 II. Emerging Research Trends in Building Science

  • Four important trends:
    • Scale
    • Urgency/time frame
    • Measurable results
    • Focus on grid
  • NYS goal is 50% renewable energy by 2030 – already at 25%
  • Need to electrify
  • Convert combustion to heat pumps
  • Appliances such as stoves and dryers
  • Heat pump installations increased to 138 in Tompkins County between 2010 and 2014 – grew to 859 between 2015 and 2017 – next 2-3 years will be tipping point
  • Installed costs are still high for retrofits – given consensus on electrification and high installation costs, finding ways to reduce installed costs needs to be major priority
  • Another key issue: what is right amount of glazing?
  • Window to wall ratio should be less than 20% -- one of easiest ways to reduce carbon footprint of buildings
  • Daylighting has not been very effective – better to reduce amount of windows
  • What is needed to preserve views?
    • WELL standard: 20% minimum
    • BREEAM: 20% minimum
    • LEED: silent on issue
  • A lot we really don’t know about buildings – need to address what are widely seen as mundane issues rather than chasing development of new widgets
  • Behavior is next frontier – also need more research on policy and effectiveness of incentives

Green Building Policy Proposal – Discussion

  • Need range of solutions: envelop, lighting, etc.
  • Proposed building policy focuses on new buildings and major renovations
  • Two approaches proposed: point system and whole building path – former would lead to net zero by 2030
  • Moved a number of required points from 5 to 6 – will probably bump up number of required points from 6 to 10 ( and maybe even 12) by 2025
  • Other changes:
    • One point for eliminating minor fossil fuel from residential buildings (dryers, etc.)
    • 15% smaller would get one point and 30% smaller would get two points for residential and multifamily buildings
    • Moving toward incentive system if you achieve 10 points: tax incentives, plaques, and the like
  • Most of existing high performance buildings in Ithaca achieve 6-10 points
  • Must achieve 6 points to receive building permit and certificate of occupancy
  • Struggling with issue of off-site renewables – have capped level of renewables and required minimum of 20 years for contracts
  • Need feedback and support – next 4-6 weeks key to securing approval of Common Council – one public meeting
  • Latest draft will be made public in the next couple of weeks

January 2018

The View from Bonn, Germany: Cornell Attends COP 23 – Emma Bankier and Allison Chatrchyan

Emma Bankier and Allison Chatrchyan from Cornell University shared their experiences at the recent UN Climate Change Conference COP23 in Bonn, Germany. Emma is a research assistant at the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions and Allison is the director of the Institute. They were joined by two Cornell students, Tasnuva Ming Kahn and Danielle Eiseman.

  • COP meetings take place every year as part of a gglobbal negotiating process to address climate change – large COPs every five years
  • Cornell is an official UN observer party to the UN Framework on Climate Change – participates with Research & Independent NGOs
  • Provides increased visibility for Cornell research and educational projects
  • Exploring connections and collaborations for future research projects
  • Cornell at COP21 Paris: two UN approve delegates each week
  • Exhibits, side events, blogging, etc.
  • Paris Agreement binding treaty that creates obligations – complex miz of mandatory and voluntary provisions
  • Requires any country that ratifies it to act to reduce GHG emissions – countries agreed to work together to hold increase in global average temperature below 2o C
  • Cornell had seven UN approved delegates each week at COP22 in Marrakech
  • COP 23 in Bonn: 22 Cornell faculty, staff, and students attended November 6-17
  • Danielle: Her first COP – lots of events – impressed by energy of the We Are Still In coalition
  • Emma: Also impressed by We Are Still In and US Climate Action Center – met CEO of Wal-Mart – discussed global supply chain issues
  • Ming: Especially interested in renewable energy and island nations – issue of climate induced migration – very moving to discuss migration issues with Pacific Islanders
  • Also interesting to talk with industry leaders in renewable energy
  • COP 24 will take place in Poland December 3-14, 2018
  • Have submitted an Engaged Cornell Curriculum Grant proposal: Local to Global – a student course involving students and TCCPI in Fall 2018 – what would this look like?
  • Takes four years for US to withdraw from Paris Agreement – but Trump administration will not push forward any commitments
  • New US pavilion at COP23 – two USDA delegates there, working quietly behind scenes
  • Fiji@Bonn: German government worked with Fiji so small island nation could host event
  • We Are Still In right next to building where negotiations took place – set up tent there
  • Ming: Community engagement and local activism important takeaway – doesn’t just have to be governments, big business and NGOs
  • Emma: Surprised by push for nuclear power – major datable at panel discussion
  • Danielle: Island nation speakers very impressive – also interested in gender dynamics at conference – more women need to be involved
  • Not a lot of students at COP
  • Possible public forum after next COP with TCCPI: Are We Still In?


The Green Building Policy Project – Nick Goldsmith

Nick Goldsmith, the sustainability coordinator for the City of Ithaca and Town of Ithaca provided us with an update on the Green Building Policy project that has been underway since August.

  • Local action more important than ever because of climate change acceleration and pull back of US government
  • Green Building Policy an important way to demonstrate local commitment
  • Building sector poses challenges to meeting our GHG targets
  • To meet 80 by 2050 goal, we need to address building energy use
  • Grant-funded projects examine green building standards for new buildings: What combination of mandates and incentives will be most effective?
  • Stream Collaborative, Randall + West, and Taitem formed team to carry out project
  • Major renovations as well as new buildings included
  • Mayor spoke in support of policy in State of City address – Common council expressing more interest in this issue
  • Funded by grant from Partners for Places and Park foundation
  • First step was to do survey of building stock and generate projections for future growth
  • Should be ready to bring recommendations to Common Council in several weeks
  • Successful Green Building Policy Criteria:
    1. Flexible
    2. Affordable
    3. Impactful
    4. Reachable
  • Preliminary recommendations – two compliance options
  • Easy Path: credit system, minim number of points to pass; affordability-driven features
  • Whole Building Path: LEED certification; HERS rating; passive house certification
  • Incentives would require more points – total possible points: 16 (13 commercial)
  • Each point would reduce carbon emissions by roughly 10 percent:
    1. Density –7 dwelling units/acre
    2. Location within one quarter miles f five common destination types
    3. Meet NY Stretch Code (2 points)
    4. Heat pumps or biomass for space heating (3 points/2 commercial
    5. Install on-site renewable energy (1-2 points)
    6. Affordability improvement
      • Smaller building/room size: 10 to 20% smaller than reference (1-2 points)
      • Window to wall ratio: 20% or 10% (1-2 points)
      • Simple building shape
      • HVAC system in thermal envelope
      • Reduce hot water use with EPA Water Sense features
      • Reduce overlighting (25% lower power density than code)
  • What about buyers down road of once new building? Benchmarking would be helpful here
  • Will point system be ratcheted up over time?
  • Anticipated results:
    1. 40-50% lower carbon emissions than NYS Energy Code for new construction
    2. 70% better than existing building stock (same as Architecture 2030)
    3. Lower or similar construction costs (using Easy Compliance Path)
    4. Adjust policy to continue to reduce carbon emissions over time

Meeting Highlights: 2018

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