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reflections

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  • Violeta Archer
    @Parrott - Thanks for the photos and explanation on the rental market situation. It s unfortunate that the investor community in the U.S. still uses faulty
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 26, 2012
      @Parrott - Thanks for the photos and explanation on the rental market situation. It's unfortunate that the investor community in the U.S. still uses faulty and regressive logic in their investment evaluations. The paradigm shift is precisely about moving away from this type of conventional thinking and embracing the three pillars of sustainability: People, Profit and Planet. The conversation needs to take place within this context -- the new bottomline. Policymakers should be keen on this.
       
      The need to sub-meter many units, thus, is a non-issue. It's taking place all over Europe. Germany's, Spain's, and Italy's lead testifies to that. They live on top of each other in ridiculously reduced units. The issue is really the investor's unwillingness (and fear) to do otherwise, to stray from the norm. But the norm doesn't work in the long-term and doesn't work with our planet. Investors need to be re-educated and shown how the math works. If this doesn't happen, they'll continue to resist and segments in our society will stay stuck.
       
      Just some examples:
       
       
       
       
      The fact that investors usually flip a property in 5 years is, again, a false premise. Europe builds structures to last generations and to withstand the weather. Americans, sadly, have been building with a short-term vision. The American premise will eventually (if it hasn't started already) succumb to sustainable building practices. Intelligent investors will want to invest in buildings with a sustainable value.
       
      Apartment dwellers may be short-term, transient inhabitants, but they shouldn't be penalized for it or be held against a double-standard. There are many valid reasons for their mobility, and as companies continue to seek ways to cut costs, a business case can be made for relocating employees into sustainable housing. Also, if our government has mandated all of its facilities here and abroad, retrofitted or new construction to feature renewable energy sources and energy efficient best practices to off-set utility costs, then surely it should be able to create incentives across the board in the private sector. The problem is a political one.
       
      Other governments are positioning themselves to become dominant players in the energy sector, not just China. The United Arab Emirates is building an ambitious sustainable project titled "MASDAR". It is a city completely operated with renewable energy. . .self-sufficient, off the grid. And they are importing bright talent as well to create a renewable energy hub. This will transfer skills and knowledge and enable them to produce.
       
       
      Last week they hosted the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi where they made it very clear that although the world is weening from oil, they plan on staying as players. 
       
       
      Desertec is another big initiative which will emerge as a regional energy block in the Mediterranean.
       
       
      The U.S., as you state, is still stuck and has a lot of catching up to do! 
       
       
      @Duncan - If only local jurisdictions would adopt the USGBC LEED certification requirements, we'd have a better chance of staving off the imported invasion. For example to satisfy certain LEED credit(s), it requires procuring materials manufactured and assembled within a 500 mile radius. (This isn't much different than the campaign to procure food from local growers.) This may have implications with international trade agreements. 
       
      It's good to know that the folks at ASHRAE and ICC are feeling the pressure to enact more sustainable building codes and have begun to follow USGBC's lead. They realize now that they cannot wait for something to break to fix it. They have to be proactive.
       
      Re: Italy, they traditionally relied on France for nuclear power and Russia for gas. Well, France's summer droughts in the last decade, most significantly the summer of 2009, caused shutdowns because of dried up rivers (nuclear plants consume and need a constant source of water). 2009 was the straw that broke the camel's back as Italians revolted against increasing energy costs and voted for the construction of nuclear power plants closer to home. The problem with that is that the ENTIRE Italian peninsula is on a seismic fault - neither clean nor safe. Environmental studies finally convinced them it wasn't a good idea, and the Italians then voted on a referendum in June 2011 (just last summer!) to go with renewable energy all the way - it's cleaner and safe. Now, they're on their way to reach grid parity by 2017. No wonder the Chinese are at their beck and call. . .
       
      It says something that Italy, with its city-state history and mentality and knee-jerk response, has been able to come together to transform the nation and place it in second position (in Europe) for solar PV installations in a short timeframe. Those power glitches were synonymous to the economic collapse the U.S. experienced in '08, causing them to wake up. They're also rushing to get systems installed in Q1 while Monti is in office. It's uncertain what will happen government-wise beyond that. The austerity measures are also a driving force. As Italians have less money in their pockets and bank accounts, they need to find savings elsewhere.   
       
      On the gas side, I remember entire communities being out of gas in the middle of winter. Italian consumers paid their invoices to the gas companies. The Italian gas companies paid their invoice to Russia, but the Russians hadn't paid their invoice to Ukraine for leasing the land through which the gas pipes traversed. The Ukraine retaliated by not only threatening to block the gas lines, they actually did it. The end-users caught in the middle were outraged and had no recourse! Although diplomatic and sales teams were dispatched, there wasn't much they could do because it was a business/political problem between the Ukraine and Russia (which owed millions!).    
         
      England's parliament has enacted aggressive policies on the renewable energy front, and Australia is another country making great strides both in terms of product development and policy.  
       
      So here we are (the U.S.). . .the mightiest nation in the world . . .without the right incentives or progressive policies to keep us in the running. And as you mention, Jim, the recessionary economy doesn't help. What can help this country, though, is a different attitude. I do hope the resistant factions within Congress wake up soon. 
       
      Best,
      Violeta Archer   
       
       
       
       
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