Archive for the ‘Green Websites’ category

Do Wind Turbines or Buildings Kill More Birds?

August 9th, 2016

 

Bird killed by collision with window

Bird killed by collision with window

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on a panel at an integrated design charette in Ottawa, given by Enbridge Gas Distribution through their Savings By Design program. Sustainable Buildings Canada organizes the sessions and provides the expertise. We work as a team to help developers understand how to make their buildings at least 25% more energy efficient than the Ontario Building Code. In addition to that, we provide information on how to make buildings more sustainable in general. I am invited to talk about indoor air quality and construction and demolition waste management, while others are there to discuss other sustainability subjects. Last week was the first time I was introduced to  Safe Wings Ottawa, an organization whose mission is to educate the public and prevent bird-building collisions. It was an eye-opening presentation for me, and I am now a convert. In fact, since then, I have been evaluating buildings on whether or not they are bird friendly.  Anouk Hoedeman from Safe Wings gave a straightforward and enlightening presentation on birds and buildings.

So, what kills more birds – buildings or wind turbines? Wind turbines cause about 600,000 bird deaths per year in North America while buildings cause approximately one billion bird deaths (Note that Anouk also commented that cats are estimated to cause 1.4 billion bird deaths, however, the caveat is that many of those birds counted may have already hit a building and were already dead or at least vulnerable).

Birds are nice, but why is it such a big deal?

You might be wondering, aside from the tragedy of that many deaths caused by buildings, why it’s a problem we should be concerned about given all the other issues we have in the world right now. Well, as it turns out, birds play a significant part of any ecosystem. They are predators of insects and help keep populations in check, they spread seeds and pollinate plants, among other crucial functions. Anouk told us about a documentary called The Messenger (check the website for screenings dates and times) that gives an excellent and disturbing example of what happens when bird populations decline. In China in the 1950s, sparrows were a nuisance for farmers so the government decided to help by having the citizens destroy the sparrow population. Eventually, their tactics succeeded and the sparrows disappeared. The following year there was a mass invasion of locusts destroying crops and killing millions of people through starvation.

What does an unsafe bird building look like?

Transparent passageway linking buildings

Buildings that are considered “bird unfriendly” have a few different characteristics, but all involve windows. Any sort of glass passageway  where the bird can see right through to the other side is dangerous to a bird. They cannot distinguish glass from no glass and will crash head first into it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kanata Research Park - reflecting trees in mirrored glass

Kanata Research Park – reflecting trees in mirrored glass

Buildings that reflect trees, shrubs and plants are dangerous to birds because they see them as real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indoor plants next to windows

Indoor plants next to windows

Plants on the inside of buildings next to the window are dangerous because the bird won’t see the glass and think they can land on them.

Glass balconies are dangerous as well; birds don’t see the glass.

Glass buildings next to glass buildings, beside glass buildings, all reflecting each other can confuse birds. They can fly around between those buildings and never find a way out and die of exhaustion.

More than 70% of birds that hit a building die on impact, and  of those that get up and fly away, there is only a 50% chance of survival.

 

 

How can you help the birds?

Fortunately, there are solutions to helping birds avoid crashing into buildings.

The safest and most effective solution is to address the issue in the design phase of the building. There are several cities that have now developed bird-safe guidelines to help make buildings safer for birds. Safe Wings’ website has links to those guidelines for Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago, San Francisco and more. There are many sorts of glass that are made to be bird friendly. If you understand what the issues might be, if, for example, you are designing a buildings that will be next to a park, or next to other glass buildings, there will likely be a bird problem. There are several Canadian and American companies that make bird-friendly glass. Anouk mentioned that the glass need only be incorporated up to about 16 meters, or, the height of most trees, to prevent the majority of collisions.

 

Window Film by Feather Friendly bird safe glass: http://www.conveniencegroup.com/featherfriendly/feather-friendly

Window Film by Feather Friendly bird safe glass: http://www.conveniencegroup.com/featherfriendly/feather-friendly

 Window film: In the event that the building is already built and is a problem for birds, there are a variety of window films available that can be applied to the outside of windows (more effective than from the inside).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acopian Bird Savers http://www.birdsavers.com/

Acopian Bird Savers http://www.birdsavers.com/

 

Cord: parachute cord is another treatment that can help birds avoid buildings, such as that made by Acopian.

What doesn’t work:

  • Bird sillouette decals

    Bird silhouette decals are not effective at preventing bird collisions

    Falcon and other bird decals (that is an indication that the building has a bird problem)

  • Fake owls
  • Highlighters and bingo daubers (good for drawing grid patterns but will wash off in the rain)

 Residential bird fatalities:

Surprisingly (at least to me), detached homes cause up to 44% of all bird-building collisions. If you have a bird collision problem, visit Safe Wings Ottawa’s website for tips on how to help birds avoid your windows. http://safewings.ca/strategies/homes/

For more information on saving birds from crashing into buildings, visit Safe Wings Ottawa.

Many thanks to Safe Wings Ottawa for providing the photos for this post.

 

 

 

 

 

Mission 2030 Sets An Ambitious Goal: Striving for Zero Waste from Construction and Demolition by 2030

January 16th, 2014

Photo By Ashley Felton (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In December while attending the ConstructCanada show, I went to a few seminars that I really enjoyed. At one in particular, I was so enthusiastic, I got a bit carried away and, er, interrupted the panel with my own stories, questions and conumdrums. The panel was about waste produced by the construction industry, and, if you’ve followed this blog at all, you know waste is one of my biggest pet peeves. In fact, it’s not really a pet peeve, it’s a down right BIG peeve, a major peeve, one I find so frustrating, I just want to fix it all, right now!

Anyway…one of the panelists was Renee Gratton. She is the President and co-founder of the Construction Resources Initiative Council, a group of non-partisan volunteers from the construction industry who have come together to address the growing waste problem in construction and demolition. Here’s something you may be surprised to hear: In Canada, while consumers have been doing an increasingly good job at reducing the amount of material they send to landfill, industrial, commercial and institutional operations have not fared so well. In fact, they have been progressively increasing the amount of material going to landfill. Since industry accounts for two-thirds of all waste, this is a pretty important area to address. On top of that, Canadians may generate the most garbage per capita in the world. Wow, there’s a statistic we should  want to reverse!

According to the CRI Council website, Stats Can noted that in 2008, of all the waste sent to landfill, 75% of it still had value — as in it could have been reused, recycled, repurposed or repaired. When you read a number like that, the goal of zero waste by 2030 doesn’t seem quite as unrealistic as you might have originally thought.

Achieving zero waste in the construction industry isn’t going to be an easy task. However, as Renee recounted at the seminar, a lot of waste reduction has to do with changing our mindset and perspectives. It’s about designing buildings better, increasing resource efficiency and using materials that can be reused or recycled at end of life.  The council’s short-term goal is to get three things going:

  1. Defining the goal — aiming for zero construction renovation and demolition waste to landfill by 2030,
  2. Overcoming inertia — engaging, educating and enabling people and their businesses as to why change is important, and
  3. Taking the first few steps. In this case, the council is calling to action all stakeholders to take the Mission 2030 Pledge and play their part in how building waste is viewed and dealt with, through a fundamental and strategic change management framework.

As the organization is newly established and completely volunteer-run, the website is continually being updated. It provides information on why reducing waste is critical to our planet’s future, along with support on how and where to begin. As the council becomes more established it will also begin to offer its members workshops and educational material on how to implement change. The latest support tool is an app called Waste Saver for your mobile phone (iphone or android), to help you locate companies in your neighbourhood who will   recover it, who is supporting this initiative as well as provide references and address frequently asked questions. While the app still being populated, the more people use it, the more valuable a tool it becomes for everyone.

If you are a contractor, building owner or manager, I encourage you to take a look at the website and start thinking about how you can reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill. It might be as simple as stopping by the ReStore on your way to the dump and dropping off usable construction materials, or using Craigslist or Kijiji to find someone who wants what you don’t. There are plenty of ways to prevent materials from ending up in landfill, but until you’re used to it, it takes some planning, effort and a little research. If you don’t have a resolution yet for 2014, why not make it waste reduction?

Do You Buy 1% For the Planet Products?

November 21st, 2011

Okay, I have a confession to make: I’d never heard of 1% for the Planet before this week. Then, through Facebook, I saw that they were in Montreal holding a presentation, so I signed up to go and hear what they have to say.

While this particular presentation was strictly about water (and so I thought the entire organization was about water), it turns out that 1% for the Planet is all about encouraging companies large and small to dedicated 1% of their sales to environmental causes around the world. Now, 1% of sales may sound like a small number but when you consider that a) it is sales and not profit, the number suddenly gets bigger, and b) some of the companies involved are Naya water and Patagonia, the amount of money being committed to environmental groups are in the $100,000s to millions of dollars.

I spoke with Grace from 1% for the Planet about their mission. The organization was founded by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Matthews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies. They are both passionate environmentalists who knew that in order for business to be successful in the long-run, protecting the environment is essential.

Member companies now donate 1% of their sales to one or many of any of the listed environmental organizations that are approved by 1% for the Planet. If you’re worried that that just means big global environmental organizations, fear not, there are as many small, local groups as there are larger ones. For example, we heard presentations about conservation projects protecting Quebec’s freshwater ecosystem from both The David Suzuki Foundation Quebec Chapter and Fondation de la faune du Quebec. Perusing through the organization’s list of member environmental organizations you will see small local groups as well as large, global groups.

How it works: A company commits 1% of its annual sales to give to environmental causes. It becomes a member of 1% for the Planet. The organization audits the company’s books to make sure the company is donating its committed percentage and the company receives the 1% logo to use on all its printed and other media material. 1% for the planet survives off of membership fees and fundraising, as it too is an environmental not for profit organization.

As a consumer you can support these companies and their efforts by buying their products. If your company already contributes to environmental causes, consider joining this group and wearing your badge proudly. Even if you’re an independent or small business you can join this group. Jack Johnson is a member and we were treated to a performance by Chris Velan, also a member, before and after the presentation.

 

 

Zerofootprint: Energy Efficiency through Software, Architectural Design and Human Behaviour

November 14th, 2011

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Ron Dembo, CEO of Zerofootprint. We talked about the three different areas his company is working on right now and all are about achieving the same goal: reducing energy consumption, whether it’s through plug load, adding insulation or by altering human behaviour. Furthermore, Ron and Zerofootprint believe in benchmarking as a starting point. If this sounds at all familiar, then, hooray! you’ve been reading my blog, because I too in a firm believer of knowing where you’re starting from in order to develop a reduction strategy. There was so much to discuss, and Zerofootprint is involved in so many different projects that I separated the information into three different articles.

 

Finally, Zerofootprint works with organizations such as Earth Hour and provides one minute carbon and water personal calculators to help you find out how you stack up to the average Canadian. The calculators give you a very rough idea of how much CO2 emissions you are responsible for due to your transportation, diet, travel and home. I input my data and am sorry to learn that I am responsible for the emission of 10 tons/year of CO2 — half of which are due to the number of kilometers I put on our minivan. In fact when I switched my answer from my minivan to hybrid, my emissions dropped to 5.3 tons/year. Fortunately I fared much better in water consumption and came in at 85,000 litres per year, about 25% less than the Canadian average, but still not something I’d brag about. If you’re serious about benchmarking your carbon footprint, Zerofootprint offers a more in-depth carbon calculator, but you need access to your utility bills and should block out at least half an hour to fill out the forms. It’s worth it if you really want to know where you stand.

 

The TalkingPlug by Zerofootprint

November 14th, 2011

TalkingPlug

Zerofootprint provides the software for this genius device called  the TalkingPlug. Currently still in development, this plug could be groundbreaking in terms of what it could do for helping consumers and commercial activities reduce energy consumption. Any electricity consuming appliance plugged into the TalkingPlug can be monitored and controlled via a computer. From a consumer perspective it means that window air conditioners can be managed from afar via computer so they don’t need to be cooling your home while you’re away but you can turn it on an hour before you get home from your smart phone. You also can see exactly how much electricity that unit is using. This plug can be especially useful in identifying old and inefficient appliances. By plugging in refrigerators, stoves, etc., you’ll get an idea of how much energy each unit consumes. You will also have the ability to compare it to what an average similar appliance uses and whether yours is out of date, or not performing to where it should be, via the Zerofootprint website. This kind of information allows you to decide the most cost-effective you can make to lower your electricity bills.

Now imagine this system applied to fast food chains or other commercial applications. Because the TalkingPlug is connected to the internet, a company could see how its appliances are performing. For example a vending machine supplier could have all its vending machines across a city/country/continent  monitored and discover which ones are performing well, which ones are broken and which ones are using too much electricity. By being able to quickly identify which machines aren’t working properly, they can be fixed or replaced much faster than if machines are just left to monthly or quarterly visits from the technician.

The TalkingPlug isn’t on the market yet, but keep a look out for it sometime within the next year or so.

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