Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Painting a Typical American Town Green




Painting a Typical American Town Green


If one were to look at the typical residential block of homes in any given town in America, it would be a study of American architecture that for the most part is at the very least some sixty to eighty years of age. Within that typical block you would see homes that have, over the course of time, been upgraded on the outside with perhaps new siding or new windows, perhaps a new roof, maybe some fresh landscaping, maybe a new fence and that’s about it.

On the inside of these homes you’ll see maybe a modern kitchen, a remodeled bathroom, perhaps an exercise room or library, maybe some new flooring or new tile, a fresh living room paint job, perhaps some new window coverings, some new lighting and of course, the people who live in these homes and occasionally go outside to mow the lawn, shovel the snow or walk the dog.

When you think about this and then think about the fact that for the most part a given block is filled with homes built in different architectural eras that evolved around the technologies that were available to the building trades during that particular era, it is relatively easy to conclude that for the most part, the residential blocks that make up the vast majority of American neighborhoods have virtually no modern architectural rhyme nor reason attached to them. When you think a little bit more, it is just as easy to conclude that the people who live in these homes have decidedly different points of view on the way in which they either use or conserve energy inside of these buildings. As one person will use natural gas to heat the home and another will use electricity, another will use fluorescent light bulbs as yet another will use LEDs, whereas one will have a natural gas fired hot water heater while the other will be electric, whereas one will have a huge modern energy efficient refrigerator while another will have an old and reliable and quite smaller unit, whereas one will have a water purification system, another directly connected to an old city water line and another connected to a well, the fact of the matter is that the more closely any block in America is examined, the more obvious that our nations neighborhoods have about as much uniformity attached to them as our nation’s public utility and transportation infrastructure has to it.

No matter how one looks at it, our America is at best a shambles of multiple generations of housing stock connected to multiple generations of public utilities and multiple generations of attitudes as to what it actually means to live on a given block here in our American 21st century. Adding to all of this reality is the fact that for the most part here in 2015 America, very few of the people who live in these homes on these blocks that make up our towns and cities work in industries that have anything whatsoever to do with the industries that built the infrastructure and the homes that created the neighborhoods to begin with.

Going into this thought a bit farther, not only don’t the people who live in these homes not work in the trades that originally built the industries that built the homes that built the towns that built the roads and built the economic strength of the town originally, they work in industries that for the most part don’t even acknowledge that such industries actually play a vital part in America’s entire national economic momentum. Whereas a computer engineer will sit in a lab some several miles away from the home he or she lives in and once that engineer gets home he or she continues to work on yet another computer, the notion of taking the time to look into the condition of the wiring in that home that brings power to the computer is as about as distant to the computer engineer as going out and harvesting eggs in the chicken coop before the sun comes up.

With little to no real thought going into the actual architectural or engineering integrity of either the home or the neighborhood the software engineer lives in and where in every other home in the neighborhood other professionals in equally unattached industries express the same level of basic architectural ignorance, the notion of “Painting a Typical American Town Green” is of course somewhat of a monumental task or goal to convey to those who actually live in our American towns today. But, as this notion is absolutely crucial to convey, as this notion is paramount to our nations’ overall industrial and economic future, we probably should be considering the fact that things really need to be readjusted.

When considering the notion of a truly green town, the list of issues needing to be addressed is indeed monumental in scope. As it is, discovering a realistic starting point from which every home in America is intelligently retrofitted not only for the whole energy management of the individual home but for the capacity of that individual home to integrate its’ energy footprint with that of the homes that reside on the rest of the block is of course the benchmark from which whole green mixed energy retrofitting must start.

As such a starting point is clearly municipal in scope, in other words such retrofitting can only be accomplished with comprehensive blueprinting of the whole set of infrastructure needs as those needs are disbursed through municipal management, another crucial starting point is financial in nature. How does a town go about developing a master retrofitting plan and make it affordable to virtually everyone in a community?


Local Building Code Design

The logical starting point that assures controlled, measured and sustainable retrofitting of a community’s housing stock is to establish a set of building codes that redefine the basic functions of every building system and part. From the ground water drain lines that need to be installed or re-installed along the concrete footings that support the concrete foundation walls to prevent damage to the foundation, to the foundation that needs insulation and waterproofing, to the fresh water and waste water lines coming and going to any given house, a host of new technologies that if introduced in a cohesive manner community wide would serve to not only upgrade the condition of building foundations but serve as well as launch pad for the new building trades and companies that will be required to do the work and grow the community’s economic base as well as tax base is of course step one.

As the nature of the above technologies serve to grow new community construction industries, they do as well serve to define and grow new municipal services that will be required to maintain the systems that manage the water that flows into, out off and around any given residential dwelling.
Whereas the historical nature of municipal code enforcement departments has been to write a set of ordinances that affect only new construction of buildings or the remodeling of existing buildings, the nature and the urgency and the scope of water utility retrofitting needed in virtually every American community is so enormous that the historical function of these building code departments which essentially can only demand of a homeowner that improvements are made when and if the homeowner undertakes renovation work all but ignores the fact that while one home on a given block might be upgraded, the rest of the homes simply will not be. This piecemeal approach to code enforcement has for several decades now virtually ignored the fact that everything that exists below the ground and is in fact a public utility must at some point in time be fully upgraded not in small parts and sections but holistically and all at once on virtually every block in every home in America. 

As this is true of our municipal water system, it is just as true with every other system that goes into either the upgrading of an individual home or a block of homes or an entire community of homes.

   
Local Sources of Revenue and Funding

Using just the above example of our nation’s clearly large need to retrofit our entire water based utility infrastructure, it becomes fairly obvious that multiple sources of revenue will be required to indeed accomplish this enormous task. As these revenue sources have historically been divided between a host of federal and state regulatory bodies, and, as these revenue sources have consistently dwindled over the course of several decades, with the advent of so many new water management technologies, just as many new revenue sources are making themselves known as today as well.
Thinking strictly of rain water run off technologies that are either above or below ground and that need to exist beneath, under or attached to every home, the revenue sources required to accomplish this task are abundant.
·         Consider rain water collection and monitoring systems attached to or adjacent to any given residential dwelling. (private sector investment)
·         Consider rain water filtration and dispersing systems dedicated to a specific residential property. (private sector investment)
·         Consider the above systems fully integrated into a larger municipal rainwater collection network. (municipal tax revenue)


Thinking of below ground and surface water run off technologies that need to exist beneath the foundations of every home and that also need to channel all surface water to specific municipal locations located adjacent to local residential neighborhoods.

·         Foundation drain tiling, the subsequent excavation of earth from foundations to install drain tiling. (private sector investment, building code inspection fees, municipal ground water taxation fees)

·         Surface water channeling via irrigation canals, underground cisterns, and controlled inlet and outlet surface level retention ponds. (private sector investment, municipal tax revenue, parks and recreation revenue)

·         Ground water irrigation of private property gardens. (private sector investment, building code inspection fees)

·         Ground water irrigation of public park gardens. (municipal tax revenue, parks and recreation revenue, private sector/municipal garden space leasing)


Thinking of fresh water supply line upgrades.
·         City water main block by block replacement planning. (federal and state funding initiatives, municipal bond letting)
·         Residential water supply line replacement up to water meter. (municipal water bill fee attachment)
·         Residential water supply line “in house” water supply line upgrade. (private building trade licensing fees, residential building code inspection fees)
·         Residential fresh water garden and lawn irrigation systems. (private building trade licensing fees, residential building code inspection fees, municipal lawn and garden water bill fee attachment, municipal/residential garden water dedicated metering technology. (private sector investment, municipal meter monitoring, integrated parks and recreation funding fee attached to water bill)


Thinking of residential sewer line upgrades.

·         City sewer line block by block replacement planning. (federal and state funding initiatives, municipal bond letting)

·         Residential solid waste sewer line replacement up to municipal sewer line. (private sector investment, private building trade licensing fees, residential building code inspection fees)

·         Residential gray water filtration systems. (private sector investment, private building trade licensing fees, residential building code inspection fees)

As it is relatively easy to see how the inoculation of a vast array of water management technologies not only grows a diverse and substantial network of new manufacturing and service sector industries while in the same breath accomplishing the larger task of bringing entire communities up to par in quite the dynamic “Green Way”, the financial avenues available to both the citizens and the municipalities is just as diverse. But of course, many more benefits emerge for the community as well.

When one considers the need for the community to become educated as to the extent these water management technologies can improve the overall quality of “Green Life” found within any given neighborhood, “Green Education Mandates” unfold as well particularly atthe community college level.   

In the essay I’ve linked to above, I define the community college as being key to the exchange of all educational matters that are “Green in Nature”. Whether a homeowner is considering the installation of a rooftop solar array, a geothermal heat pump or any one of a number of water management technologies, the only logical place to go to acquire the knowledge needed to design, operate, monitor, get an education for or a job in any of the “Green Fields” that go into making a community environmentally and economically sustainable is the community college. As this environment should serve as a clearing house for quality environmental knowledge, it should as well serve as a clearing house for quality economic development, investment and regulatory based information that directly pertains to the overall economic momentum of the community it serves.
As our entire nation is more or less comprised of communities that are divided up into blocks upon blocks of houses that are for all practical purposes, entirely technologically obsolete, as those who live in these houses are for the most part employed in industries that have virtually nothing whatsoever to do with either the reconstruction of our American homes or our American communities, once a true “Green Energy Management Dialog” is brought into the community via the combined efforts of private industry and municipal government, the likelihood of finding neighborhood homeowners who actually do work in housing related industries will improve exponentially as the neighborhood does as well.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mike Patrick Dahlke