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10 Ways Smart Cities Improve Worker Safety

Green Tech to Improve Public Health and Safety


10 Ways IoT Technologies Benefit Sustainable Smart Cities

by Jane Marsh |

As the conversation around greenhouse gas emissions and climate change intensifies, cities are implementing green initiatives to make life easier and healthier for the planet and citizens. 

Innovative communications and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies have pioneered the shift towards “smart cities” and a supportive digital landscape that promotes sustainability, optimal well-being, and public safety.

In essence, a smart city is a metropolitan area that utilizes information technology to improve quality of life and urban operations on a social, economic, and cultural basis.

In the workplace, these eco-friendly cities worldwide are even improving occupational welfare.


Here are ten ways sustainability and new IoT technology prove invaluable for worker safety, as well as public health and safety in general>>>

Improves Indoor Air Quality

Scientific evidence has indicated that indoor air quality has been more polluted than outdoor air. Since most people spend 90% of their time inside, it’s not unlikely they’re at a greater risk for illness and respiratory issues.

Poor indoor air quality often leads to sick building syndrome (SBS)—cold symptoms, allergies, and other chronic conditions that derive from toxic building materials, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), asbestos, and other chemical and material treatments.

However, smart cities are using special IoT software to combat SBS. Currently, tech companies are developing a sensory system that can be integrated into existing buildings to monitor and improve air quality indoors in real-time.

Reduces Workplace Accidents

IoT technologies also aim to reduce workplace accidents. For example, improving air quality should eventually reduce absenteeism at work, leading to fewer injuries. Even current research shows that healthier workers are less likely to have accidents on the job.

Actual examples of IoT software that are currently improving worker safety include:

Boosts Employee Retention

Since the world’s reopening from the coronavirus pandemic, companies have experienced an exodus of employees known as the Great Resignation.

In January 2022, 4.3 million employees quit their jobs while organizations scrambled to fill 11.3 million openings. Finding skilled workers is a time-consuming and expensive process, making employee retention all the more critical.

According to a 2021 IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) survey, 71% of employees and job seekers want to work for a sustainable company. Another survey found that 10% of millennials would take a $5,000 to $10,000 pay cut to work for a company with a strong sustainability plan.

Ultimately, green companies keep employees engaged and committed to their work, resulting in (and due to) healthier and safer workplaces.

Use of Public Transportation

Many green cities have implemented IoT systems to upgrade sustainable public transportation and commuter safety, reducing the occurrence of vehicle collisions and accidents, such as:

  • Electric car-sharing programs that reduce vehicle congestion and use sensors to understand driver behaviors for future infrastructure planning
  • Smart sensors that enable greater control over airplanes, making it easier to maintain, secure, and comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines
  • Cars that integrate built-in navigational systems and Bluetooth technology to connect smartphones
  • Smart buses that increase safety and optimize routes, allowing passengers to track bus locations and pick-up times
Reduces Mental Fatigue

Implementation of green infrastructure in cities helps alleviate mental fatigue. Considering sustainable cities aim to improve the quality of life for their citizens, interactions with green spaces are beneficial for employees.

Studies show that having ample vegetation in and around workplaces can reduce stress and boost focus and productivity.

When workers have easy access to nature throughout the day, whether spending their breaks outdoors or having a view of a park from their office window, they can experience its many therapeutic benefits.

Lean Operations Decrease Risks

The idea behind lean operations is performing better work with fewer resources. IoT systems improve occupational safety and promote more promising manufacturing practices through automation, such as:

  • Sensors that automatically turn heavy machinery off when it’s not in use
  • Advanced robotics to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Transfer of employees from high-risk labor jobs to safer higher-paying positions
  • Increased productivity while reducing physical harm to humans and the environment
  • Lean operations also encourage organizations to develop more robust long-term sustainability plans with employee safety at the forefront.

Green cities utilizing IoT systems enhance municipal workers’ safety, in particular. For example, pipe crawlers are small robots with attached cameras that crawl hard-to-reach pipes to detect sedimentation, cracks and leaks, dents, and other blockages. This prevents workers from having to climb into unsafe, germ-infested areas.

Prevents Gas Leak Exposure

Innovative city technology is a critical component for municipal occupational safety in additional ways. Green cities may employ devices that detect methane gases, pole tilt sensors, or air quality monitors to ensure public safety.

These IoT systems allow the city to predict potential hazards and respond to disasters more effectively. When it comes to gas leaks, advanced meters can detect open fuel lines or unusual flow conditions, setting off an alarm.

Considering utility workers are typically the first responders to a gas leak, IoT technology can shut off gas remotely before worker exposure at the site.

Access to Healthier Food

Green cities that implement urban agriculture enhance worker and public safety by providing access to healthy, affordable food.

Emerging agricultural technologies include vertical farming, IoT sensors in open fields, and smart greenhouses. Farmers that use IoT systems can remotely monitor moisture and temperature levels, security, and irrigation.

Likewise, smart greenhouse technologies can reduce electrical costs by 33% while predicting natural sunlight for optimal plant growth. These innovative greenhouse IoT systems may also include automated climate control that enables greenhouses to enhance crop reduction regardless of outdoor weather conditions.

Through IoT tech combined with cutting-edge food technology, there is a year-round organic food source in metropolitan areas for improved public health.

Cybersecurity Enhances Workplace Security

Industries like information technology and web development can benefit from innovative office solutions the most, such as utilizing personal devices and cloud computing. However, with the rise of wireless technology comes the need for enhanced security.

Green cities employ IoT systems to protect the cybersecurity of their networks, and many municipal departments and other companies are doing the same. Without it, corporations risk distributing and losing sensitive data.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 46% of companies use a biometric authentication system to protect data collected on devices. Some forms of biometric authentication include face recognition, fingerprint recognition, iris scanning, and voice recognition.

Reduced Energy Consumption

IoT technology can reduce energy emissions throughout offices and green cities. Smart thermostats and lighting, for example, boost building sustainability.

Commercial spaces that operate smart technologies can monitor energy inputs and outputs while improving efficiency, essentially cutting costs.

Concerning improving air quality indoors, implementing IoT automation in offices helps monitor workplace air conditioning, machinery, water heating, and refrigeration—all ways green cities can further protect worker safety.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), greater energy efficiency can improve physical health, including rheumatism, respiratory and heart diseases, arthritis, and allergies.


Workplace Safety Benefits Everyone

Green cities that focus on occupational safety benefit everyone, from employees to upper management. Workplace injuries and disease are costly, but the utilization of advanced technologies is improving health and safety in more ways than previously anticipated.


Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

Environment.co


 

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Vauban in Freiburg, Germany

A sustainable town: Vauban, Germany | leading the world in plus-energy green buildings |


Vauban – A Plus-Energy Community

Vauban is an exemplary sustainable town, the greenest town in Europe. A “zero-emission” district in Freiburg, Germany, most energy for buildings in Vauban is sourced from rooftop solar panels.

Energy for Vauban is also supplied by a local municipal bio-natural gas cogeneration plant. Vauban’s electricity is supplied by renewable energy sources, and district heating for Vauban is supplied by their cogeneration plant.

Buildings in Vauban are either passive energy buildings (ultra energy efficient buildings that consume roughly as much energy as they produce), or plus-energy buildings (producing even more energy than they consume). Homes in the Sun Ship (Das Sonnenschiff) are entirely plus-energy buildings. Residents in plus-energy homes in Vauban simply sell excess energy generated by their home or building back to the municipality (for use in other homes in the community), resulting in lower electricity bills.


Vauban’s Urban Planning

Urban planning helped to create a city layout that lends itself to cycling as the primary mode of transit. Vauban’s urban plan is connected streets throughout the town (forming a fused grid), plenty of pedestrian and bike paths, as well as designated lanes for mass transit (filtered permeability). 

Vauban’s streets have minimal parking spaces, with roads designed instead for pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit. Most Vauban residents don’t own a car, choosing instead to use the tram, cycle, or simply walk. Vauban is not completely emissions-free, as cars are actually allowed (if you pay at least $23,000 USD for a parking spot on the outskirts of town). 

The urban planning strategies of filtered permeability and fused grid were implemented in the design of the municipality of Vauban. Residents primarily live in co-op buildings, such as the Sun Ship.



Vauban
Vauban’s urban planning layout


The radical culture of Vauban has roots in its dramatic history. Ironically, Vauban was a military town through WWII and into the early ’90s. When the military left, the vacant buildings were inhabited by squatters. These people eventually organized Forum Vauban, organizing a revolutionary eco-community. Today, Vauban is modern, beautiful, and represents the very cutting edge of sustainable living.



And, here are the rankings for Green City Times top 10 greenest cities in the world>>>

 

The TOP 10 greenest cities in the world (as determined by Green City Times):

  1. Reykjavik, Iceland  
  2. Vaxjo, Sweden  
  3. Freiburg, Germany 
  4. Vancouver, Canada  
  5. Copenhagen, Denmark  
  6. London, UK 
  7. Curitiba, Brazil 
  8. Portland, Oregon, US 
  9. San Diego, California, US 
  10. Oslo, Norway 
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Profiles in Sustainable Cities – San Diego, California

San Diego, California – America’s Finest City |


San Diego skyline

Sustainable cities, like San Diego, have eco-city designs that prioritize consideration of social, economic, and environmental impacts of climate mitigation policies and sustainability policies. Green cities also prioritize resilient, thriving urban habitats for existing residents.

Among the top of any list of these clean, green eco-cities is San Diego, California. The city of San Diego has a citywide 100% renewable energy program, is implementing a zero-waste plan, and is changing policy to have a majority of the city’s public transit fleet become electric vehicles.

San Diego bills itself as “America’s Finest City”,  and a sustainability powerhouse. Factors leading to San Diego becoming a city that runs entirely on renewable energy include the higher-than-average amount of sunshine in the area, along with the consensus among city leaders to pursue sustainability as a top priority. Additionally, California’s push for 100% renewable energy (100RE) throughout the state has allowed San Diego to attempt to reach 100RE fairly quickly. To this end, San Diego has pushed ahead with its San Diego Climate Action Plan.


Sunny San Diego

San Diego Bay

San Diego is famous for its year-round mild climate, its bays and harbors, and popular beaches.

The city is also known for its US military ports and bases (especially for the Navy in downtown SD & the Marines in Camp Pendleton, North San Diego County – but also for bases of other military branches).

In recent decades, San Diego has become increasingly internationally recognized for its emergence as a global center for clean energy, healthcare, biotechnology, and technological research & development.

Coronado Bridge, San Diego

The San Diego Convention Center, and hotels in Coronado, host many national and international conferences including; many medical conferences, Politifest, the Global Investment Forum, and the Food Waste Solution Summit.

There are also many smart tech. and sustainability conferences put on by CleanTech San Diego. CleanTech San Diego is a non-profit trade organization and think-tank that promotes San Diego as a global leader in clean and sustainable technologies.  

Cleantech San Diego is uniquely suited to support industry by fostering collaborations across the private-public-academic landscape, leading advocacy efforts to promote cleantech priorities, and encouraging investment in the San Diego region.” – CleanTech San Diego.



San Diego’s Sustainability Initiatives

The City of San Diego is a leader of sustainability in the United States. An organization that represents the city’s substantial contribution to sustainability was launched by Cleantech San Diego in 2011 – Smart Cities San Diego. Smart Cities San Diego is a public-private organization that advances sustainable, energy efficient technological development throughout San Diego county, renewable energy technologies, and water efficiency.

Smart Cities San Diego also has initiatives to support greenhouse gas reduction and lowering the carbon footprint of San Diego.


San Diego Climate Action Plan (CAP)

view of downtown San Diego

The push for 100RE is a major part of the San Diego Climate Action Plan (CAP); adopted citywide in December 2015. San Diego’s CAP is billed as a continuing push to make San Diego, “America’s Finest City”, now also its most sustainable city. San Diego plans to eliminate half of all greenhouse gas emissions (reach 50% GHG reduction by 2035 compared to 2010 levels) from the city and run entirely on renewable energy by 2035.

The city had an interim goal of 15% reduction by 2020 – in fact, they got well above that mark – to 24% GHG reduction citywide. San Diego was the first major city in the United States to commit to 100RE, and San Diego County has the highest number of cities countywide that have made 100RE pledges for any county in the nation.


San Diego’s zero-waste goals

In addition to San Diego’s CAP, the city has ambitious zero-waste goals:

The San Diego City Council recently adopted a zero waste plan that sets goals of 75 percent waste diversion by 2020; 90 percent by 2035, a goal consistent with the proposed Climate Action Plan; and “zero waste” by 2040.  FROM –  sandiegouniontribune.com/san-diego-aggressive-recycling


SDG&E and 100RE

The utility that is the lone energy provider to San Diego, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), is one of only several utilities nationwide to offer a 100RE option. San Diego’s sole utility (a de-facto monopoly), SD&E, offers an option for 50% or 100% solar energy as part of their “EcoChoice” plan. The EcoChoice plan offered straight from SDG&E, not a company providing the renewable energy service as an option for residents and businesses to the utility, an “aggregator” energy service.

Community Choice in San Diego

An alternative energy service to the utility is an aggregator energy company; for example the San Diego and statewide “Community Choice” program. Community Choice operates throughout California, including San Diego, and also offers 50% and 100% options to supply residents/ businesses with power from renewable energy, but SDG&E still provides the actual energy maintenance service.

Community Choice is similar to SDG&E’s “EcoChoice”, but the customer pays the private energy aggregator to generate renewable energy, while SDG&E still maintains the actual energy service. Under Community Choice, for example, SDG&E still maintains the grid infrastructure, but instead of paying SDG&E for solar from exclusively large utility-scale solar farms, the customers pay Community Solar and support solar from a variety of local and state-wide renewable energy projects. By paying SDG&E directly through EcoChoice, residents and businesses are paying the utility directly to generate renewable energy. Both services help support renewable energy. 



Additionally, please see: Cleantech San Diego: Smart City


Here are a couple of excerpts from the San Diego Climate Action Plan:

Coronado Bridge

The plan identifies steps the City of San Diego can take to achieve the 2035 [climate] targets. That list includes creating a renewable energy program, implementing a zero-waste plan, and changing policy to have a majority of the City’s [public transit] fleet be electric vehiclesthe city has committed to slashing its greenhouse gases 15% below 2010 levels by 2020 and 50% below that benchmark by 2035. The goals are intended to mirror the state targets of reducing emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.”

“…in 2016 the city had already cut its emissions by 19%, a 2% improvement from the previous year. The report largely attributed that progress to the state’s strict vehicle-emissions standards and renewable energy requirements (for the city’s utility, SDG&E)…”  – San Diego CAP 2016 PDF



Sustainability initiatives in San Diego (including a couple of potential initiatives)

San Diego Trolley, Harbour Dr., in front of the Convention Center

Public transportation options in San Diego include the MTS bus system, commuter rail (The Coaster), and light rail (The San Diego Trolley). Public transit in San Diego accounts for only 3.5% of county residents for all transportation in, and to & from, the city, for people living within 90 minutes of the city. The majority of people drive alone to work in the city, with a modest amount (<10%) choosing to carpool. Far fewer people walk or bike to work in San Diego city, generally people that already live in the area. There is potential for further development of public mass transit and alternative transit like biking, walking, and electric micro-mobility.

By focusing on developing, and increasing the use of, public transportation and sustainable alternative transit in San Diego, the city can most effectively reduce its carbon footprint. This is especially true of light rail in the city, which runs entirely on electricity. 

California mandates that every city in the state is to run on 100% clean energy by 2045. This is part of an effort by a group of bipartisan lawmakers within the state to have California make good on the state’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2045. The opposition and legal challenges to this effort are from fossil fuel companies, lawmakers who side with the fossil fuel companies, and California counties and cities that want to continue to keep natural gas in the energy mix for their municipalities beyond 2045. San Diego is already committed to 100% renewable energy, and seeks more than California’s GHG reduction goal – aiming for net zero GHGs by 2035

San Diego County already has a few cities that have made 100RE pledges, and has the highest number of 100RE pledges for any county in the nation.


Here’s the PDF for the full 74-page San Diego Climate Action Plan that was adopted in December 2015 (the San Diego CAP has been updated since passage, and some of those updates are reflected in this article and the PDF of the plan Green City Times links to here): sandiego.gov/final_july_2016_cap.pdf 




 

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Oslo, Norway – Europe’s Eco-capital

Eco-capital of Europe


Oslo: Net Zero Future

Oslo, Norway

Oslo has fleets of green mass public transit – trams, electric buses, and ferries – that are powered by electricity from a municipal grid fed mostly by renewable power with a majority of that electricity from hydropower – but also from biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind energy (along with a share of fossil fuels). Some of Norway’s fleets of buses and ferries run directly on renewables. Oslo not only sources electricity for public mass transit from renewable energy when possible but uses RE sources to provide electricity for every other sector of the city’s economy as well.

For heating buildings within the city, Oslo primarily relies on district heating from municipal waste incinerators (waste to energy, or W2E), as well as biomass-fed cogeneration plants. Biomass-fueled boilers also heat many of the city’s homes and buildings, in addition to supplying Oslo with a renewable source of electricity.

Oslo has a goal of a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) of 95% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). Additionally, Norway is striving to become a carbon neutral nation (net zero emissions). 2030 is the target year that the Norwegian parliament has set to reach carbon neutrality for the country. The capital city of Oslo is leading Norway down the green path to a net zero GHG emissions future.

Oslo has the most electric vehicles per capita of any major city in the world; and the majority of new car sales in Oslo are hybrids, plug-in electric vehicles (EVs), or 100% EVs. Over half of new car sales are EVs; and when hybrids are added in, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles account for only ~15% of new vehicle sales in Oslo.


Tackling pollution from cars head-on

The Norwegian government already offers aggressive incentives for drivers to buy electric cars. These incentives include eliminating sales tax nationally for the purchase of some EVs, developing free parking spaces for EVs in major cities like Oslo, as well as building free parking garages for EVs with charging stations in Oslo. Meanwhile, ICE vehicles are still taxed, providing a disincentive for ICE vehicles, while tax-free EVs are incentivized. Norway plans to only allow zero-emission new cars to be registered in the country (starting 2025, at the soonest).



Oslo, Norway is Europe’s eco-capital for 2019- 

“Nearly half of all new cars sold here [Oslo] are fully electric. [Today, the share of new car sales that are EVs is well over half]. There are trams, electric buses and ferries, all running on renewable hydroelectric power. During the icy winters, a waste incinerator plant heats many of the city’s homes.

The city aims to cut emissions by 36 percent from 1990 levels by the end of next year, and 95 percent by 2030. To achieve this, the city council has introduced its own climate budget — possibly the first of its kind in the world.”   FROM-  dw.com/en/oslo-starts-2019-as-europes-eco-capital

“The award [Europe’s eco-capital award] honors high environmental standards, sustainable urban development and green job creation.

Indicators for being a green city include local transport, biodiversity, air quality, waste management, and noise [reduction]. Oslo, with its 660,000 inhabitants, is green not only due to its low carbon footprint of 1.9 tons per capita per year, Katja Rosenbohm tells DW. As head of communication at the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, Rosenbohm was part of the jury that awarded Oslo its new title. “They have very ambitious targets, for example of having a car-free city by 2050.” Rosenbohm also praises Oslo’s “front-running activities in electro-mobility.”   FROM-  dw.com/en/oslo-is-europes-green-capital-2019-finally



The 2019 European Green Capital is Oslo

Since 2010, an annual European Green City Capital has been awarded to European cities with a population over 100,000 (the population of Oslo is about 660,000 and was the 2019 European green capital), in recognition of high environmental standards, sustainable urban development, and green job creation. Additional considerations for this award include public mass transit, conservation, biodiversity, air quality, waste management, and implementing measures to achieve a low citywide carbon footprint.

Oslo has also created its own Sustainable Cities Program. Oslo has ambitious emission reduction goals. Here’s a snippet from DW on why Oslo is Europe’s 2019 eco-capital – 

Oslo starts 2019 as Europe’s eco-capital

The Norwegian capital plans to cut emissions by 95 percent by 2030, despite being one of Europe’s fastest growing cities. As European Green Capital 2019, it hopes to set an example for others.    

Oslo’s waterfront was once a mass of shipping containers and a vast intersection jammed with cars pumping out fumes. Today, traffic is diverted through an underwater tunnel, and much of it is made up of electric or hybrid cars. The new development has impressive environmental as well as cultural credentials, with all new buildings meeting energy efficiency standards for low energy use, explains Anita Lindahl Trosdahl, project manager for Oslo’s Green Capital year.
“We’re using our market power to introduce fossil fuel-free construction,” Trosdahl told DW. “So not only will the build in its lifetime be as sustainable as possible, but also during the construction period itself.”           FROM- dw.com/en/oslo-is-europes-green-capital-2019-finally

Read more from dw: Could oil nation Norway help save the climate?


 

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Sustainable city: CHICAGO

Is Chicago a GREEN City?


Chicago might not be widely known as a green city, however, the city has a Sustainable Action Agenda, a vast network of sustainable mass public transit options, a high share of energy efficient buildings, and is home to a host of other green city initiatives.


downtown Chicago near Lake Michigan


CHICAGO IS – A Sustainable City

– Mass Transit & Green Spaces

L’ railcars, Chicago

Chicago has extensive mass public transportation networks. Chicago features 145 stations for its 8 ‘L’ rapid transit rail lines; and over 120 bus routes with over 1800 buses.

Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has been able to cut its GHG emissions (GHGs) by incorporating more energy efficient transit options even while expanding. CTA’s ‘L’ rail lines and CTA’s bus lines are highly efficient, quick ways to get around the city, and run frequently throughout the day.

Public mass transit options in Chicago include a large network of CTA buses, Metra commuter rail lines, and CTA’s ‘L’ railcar lines (above-ground rapid transit railcars running on elevated subway routes, which combined make over 2,000 trips/ day). CTA has a goal to use 100% clean energy by 2040, and has been able to cut its GHGs by over 10% annually by incorporating more energy efficient transit options while expanding its city fleet.  

Chicago not only features exemplary mass public transit networks but excels at maintaining green spaces in the city as well. The greater Chicago area consists of over 12,000 total acres of parkland (this includes land managed by the state and county – there are over 8,800 acres of green space owned by the Chicago Park District, including over 600 parks). ~8.5% of the land area of Chicago is green space open to the public.

One great example of a large community park in Chicago is Lincoln Park, the city’s largest park (at about 1200 acres). Lincoln Park is the (adjacent) home to a city district (home to over 68,000 people) in Chicago’s Northside, as well as the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Lincoln Park, Chicago



The Sustainable Chicago Action Agenda

 

view of downtown Chicago from Lake Michigan

Chicago has benefited from green urban planning. The City of Chicago has worked hard to put in motion plans to transform the city into one of the world’s brightest examples of a sustainable metropolis.

A path to this goal is found in the 7 themes of “The Sustainable Chicago Action Agenda. These 7 main themes include – Chicago’s Climate Action Plan, Energy Efficiency & Clean Energy, Waste & Recycling, Waste & Wastewater, Transportation Options, Economic Development & Job Creation, and Parks & Open Space

Chicago has developed a citywide Climate Action Plan that mirrors the goals of Chicago’s Sustainable Action Agenda. The Chicago Climate Action Plan includes climate change mitigation strategies featuring energy efficient buildings, clean & renewable energy sources, improved transportation options, and reduced waste & industrial buildings. 


Sustainability Action Agenda of the City of Chicago – focus on LEED buildings

Willis Tower Chicago – tallest LEED Platinum building in the U.S.

One of the aspects of the Sustainability Action Agenda the City of Chicago has been most successful at implementing, and a major part of that which makes Chicago a sustainable city, from an energy use standpoint, is developing sustainable energy efficient buildings. Another is the city’s implementation of sustainable technology with regard to retrofitting buildings.

LEED certifies buildings that demonstrate excellence in the following categories: sustainable sites, location and transportation, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Energy Star is another high energy efficiency standard for buildings and appliances within buildings, particularly high-efficiency electric appliances (such as electric HVAC units). Chicago excels at producing highly efficient buildings, and the electrification of buildings in order to enhance energy efficiency.

With regard to LEED and Energy Star buildings, Chicago has the highest percentage (at over 65%) of LEED-certified/ Energy Star certified office buildings among the top 30 real estate markets in the United States.  The Willis tower (pictured here) went from LEED Gold to Platinum certification in just one year by efficiency retrofitting. The Willis Tower, the tallest U.S. LEED Platinum building, has made significant energy, sustainability, and air quality/ healthy building environment improvements. 


Retrofit Chicago

 

downtown Chicago

In order to make even more advancements in residential and business buildings’ energy and water efficiency, and reduce GHGs associated with buildings in the city, the City of Chicago has launched Retrofit Chicago.  

“Energy efficiency is a priority for strengthening Chicago— helping Chicago to be at affordable, modern, competitive, attractive, livable, and sustainable city. Retrofit Chicago’s energy efficiency pursuits help:  

      • Create Jobs 
      • Save Chicagoans money
      • Improve air quality for workers in commercial buildings
      • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
      • Demonstrate Chicago’s environmental leadership” 


Renewable Energy in City Buildings

City buildings in Chicago are to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2035 (per a resolution by the Chicago City Council). All Chicago Transit Authority buses are to run on electric energy by 2040.

The city’s (former) Mayor Rahm Emanuel, along with Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago Park District, and City Colleges of Chicago, had previously agreed to a 100% clean energy program for Chicago to be implemented over the next 2 decades. This commitment makes Chicago the “largest major city” in the U.S. to commit to supplying all of its public buildings solely with renewable energy


Sustainable Development Division of Chicago

The city of Chicago has initiated a Sustainable Development Division (SDD) to address sustainability concerns in the development of buildings in Chicago.  

The Sustainability Division provides technical assistance for [developers]…required to meet the City of Chicago’s sustainability standards, specifically city-assisted projects [and] new planned developments…[Chicago’s] Sustainable Development Division promotes development practices that result in buildings that are healthier to occupy, less expensive to operate and more responsible to the environment than traditional buildings.

Sustainable requirements involve various levels of LEED [and] Energy Star standards for energy efficiency…The policies are intended to improve…public roadways and parks– [and create] a higher level of stewardship of local water, air, and land resources. The division promotes strategies that absorb stormwater on site, such as…bioswales, permeable pavement and rain gardens, as well as green roofs. Green roofs help to keep rainwater out of overburdened sewer systems, reduce urban temperatures, improve the air quality in densely developed neighborhoods, and reduce a building’s energy costs.” – Chicago SDD

Additionally, Chicago has created the Solar Express renewable energy initiative largely to advance green building in the city. The Chicago Solar Express is a public-private initiative to bring low-cost solar panels to the rooftops of Chicago- by cutting fees, streamlining permitting and zoning processes.

Since 2012, the City of Chicago and ComEd have worked with private partners and the University of Illinois, under a grant from the DOE’s Sunshot Initiative, to lower-cost barriers and reduce market prices of purchasing and installing solar PV for the city. 

“By committing the energy used to power our public buildings to wind and solar energy, we are sending a clear signal that we remain committed to building a 21st-century economy here in Chicago,” [former] Mayor Emanuel said. The city of Chicago will achieve that commitment in a number of ways, including on-site generation and the acquisition of renewable energy credits (mostly wind and solar energy). Jack Darin, president of the Illinois Sierra Club supports the effort, “…by moving boldly to re-power its public buildings with renewable energy like wind and solar, Chicago is leading by example at a time when local leadership is more important than ever.”  FROM: goodnewsnetwork.org/chicago-city-buildings-powered-100-renewable-energy


These efforts of Chicago in green building illustrate the success of Chicago Sustainability themes –  substantially developing energy efficient buildings, and the retrofitting of buildings in Chicago to be LEED and Energy Star certified. Chicago Solar Express, as well as the widespread development of electricity & renewable energy to power buildings throughout Chicago, illustrates more Sustainability themes – clean energy & energy efficiency. Waste Management is yet another Sustainability theme in which the city of Chicago excels.


Chicago’s Waste Management

The City of Chicago has developed ambitious recycling programs throughout the city. By reducing Chicago’s waste and implementing various recycling programs, the city of Chicago is making an effort to conserve resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste management, lower Chicago’s carbon footprint, and reduce space in areas surrounding Chicago currently needed as landfills. These are some of the programs offered by the city of Chicago to increase conservation in the city, especially focusing on Chicago’s recycling programs: 

  • Chicago Public Schools Recycling  program
  • Blue Cart Recycling  – “The City’s Blue Cart program provides bi-weekly recycling services to single-family homes and multi-unit buildings.  By recycling regularly, [residents of Chicago] can help reduce the need for landfills, lower disposal costs, reduce pollution and conserve natural resources, such as timber and water”. Blue Cart Recycling includes almost every type of household waste, and had diverted over a half-ton of waste from landfills in the first 10 months of 2018 alone.
  • recycling drop off centers, a household chemicals recycling center, and a computer recycling facility  in Chicago
  • construction and demolition debris recycling - an ordinance requires that contractors recycle at least 50% of the recyclable debris generated by construction/ demolition 

Another key sustainability initiative that is helping Chicago save money and resources is the city’s wastewater management program. New wastewater treatments are assisting in the recovery of essential energy, solids, and water. These resources are then recycled and transformed into assets that can generate revenue for the city, and protect the environment.


Green Infrastructure in Chicago; Chicago’s Greencorp

The city has also installed 50,000 water meters through the MeterSave program, to help residents of Chicago conserve water and reduce water bills. The city has made a $50 million investment to clean and upgrade 4,400 miles of sewer lines, while also upgrading the built infrastructure, creating a cleaner, greener infrastructure. The City of Chicago is also investing in replacing and enhancing rooftops and roadways in the city to allow for stormwater to circulate back into the environment.  

Chicago plans to continue to replace or build new clean green and clean infrastructure. The city is replacing sewer mains in order to control stormwater accumulation in the sewers. Sitting next to Lake Michigan and atop a swampy marshy land, water management is crucial for Chicago to become a more sustainable and resilient city.

With a history of water pollution and toxic city water, Chicago became one of the lead innovators of waste and water management by securing federal funding in 1970 to upgrade its treatment facilities as a result of the Clean Water Act. Chicago continues to lead by example while reducing its water usage and increasing its efficiency.  

Chicago is also keenly focused on developing sustainability training and jobs among the inner-city population- namely through its flagship program, Greencorps ChicagoGreencorps Chicago provides training and jobs in environmental conservation, as well as nature-area management careers, to Chicago residents with barriers to employment. The Greencorps Chicago Youth Program, which launched in 2013, provides paid, sustainability-focused summer jobs. 


CTA

In addition to robust citywide conservation and waste management programs, the city of Chicago also has well-developed sustainable mass transit systems. Chicago’s mass transit options include transportation offerings from the United States’ 2nd largest public mass transit system; the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), which operates bus and rail lines in the city, including 144 rail stations and over 100 bus routes.  

The city of Chicago is on the way to becoming a leader in sustainable transit. Chicago Transit Authority is committed to providing integral transit options that are greener and more sustainable. CTA is a huge contributor to the city’s sustainability movement because it helps to reduce vehicle emissions by replacing automobile trips with mass transit, reduces traffic congestion, and enables compact development.

The city of Chicago has 1,500 railcars with electric high-efficiency rails, and the new “L” cars are a new family of railcars equipped with innovative braking systems that can transfer electricity back to the third rail, which supplements power to nearby CTA trains (among other advances in the design and function of the railcars). The City of Chicago has launched a significant sustainable mass transportation campaign in order to reduce GHGs, decrease transit costs for the city and its residents, and increase efficiencies associated with transit. Chicago has 1,900 energy efficient buses that were converted to ultra-low sulfur diesel engines in March 2003; since 2007 any new buses acquired have been equipped with clean diesel and hybrid-electric engines. The city of Chicago plans to purchase additional all-electric buses.  

Chicago has also made an effort to promote its multimodal transportation.  That includes its Bike & Ride program. This program was established to improve bicycle access to bus routes and rail stations. In order to do that, the City of Chicago helped develop 6,000 Divvy bikes (Divvy bikes are part of a bike-sharing system run by the City of Chicago Department of Transportation), available for rent at 580 stations across the city. CTA has also worked with car-sharing companies to make for easier access between public transit and car-sharing. The CTA’s multimodal integration addresses transit-friendly development by working with the City of Chicago and other municipalities to connect their services and destinations. 

 



 

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Using Technology to Provide Clean Water to Cities

Clean Water Technologies


How Technology Can Help Cities Avoid Another Flint Water Crisis

Article by Jane Marsh |

The green movement is influencing natural resource protection. As the global temperature rises, adverse effects limit individuals’ access to freshwater sources. In answer, ecologists are developing technologies that improve urban water supplies.

Many engineers and scientists evaluate the Flint Water Crisis while designing their purification devices. The systems assess ways to improve public health and well-being by minimizing contamination. Before individuals consider the different filtration technologies, they must examine the effects of the Flint Water Crisis.


What Is the Flint Water Crisis?

Flint River

In 2014, residents of Flint, Michigan, began noticing changes in their water supply. Before individuals experienced the differences, the city changed its water supply from the Detroit system to the Flint River in order to save money. Flint is a working-class community with a lower-than-average income.

The government saw the community’s health as less of a priority than more developed regions. Officials failed to monitor the new water supply’s safety, which led to adverse effects. After consuming the water, residents began feeling sick and reported rashes, hair loss, and itchy skin.

Even after multiple claims, the local government continued supplying Flint with contaminated water. Residents consumed the water supply for years and some eventually developed Legionnaires’ disease. The effects killed 12 individuals and left 87 with severe illnesses.

Environmental scientists explored Flint’s challenges to create preventive technologies. Engineers and ecologists are applying the systems to protect all communities equally. There are six technologies purifying water sources to avoid a recurrence of the Flint Crisis.


AI Water Monitors

Scientists are using artificial intelligence (AI) to support filtration systems in the digital age. After the Flint Water Crisis, the University of Michigan and Google teamed up and created advanced purification technology. The AI system determines which of Flint’s 55,000 houses have lead pipes.

The technology is 97% accurate at preventing lead poisoning. Switching the water supply and replacing lead pipes can effectively protect Flint’s citizens from adverse health effects. The AI system explores the residual effects of the contaminated water source on residents’ lines.

The Flint Action and Sustainability Team (FAST) received $100 million from the government to apply the technology and replace lead-containing pipes. When corporations like Google advocate for underserved communities and advance AI technology, the government understands the severity of the ecological issue.

Other scientists are developing systems to detect and remove bacteria, further protecting residents.


Bacteria Detection System

Scientists are using membrane concentration technologies to identify specific pathogens and contaminants in water sources. Professionals sample water supplies using hollow-fiber and ultra-filtration methods. Individuals may identify bacteria and viruses in the samples using the detection technology. They can also use the system to identify and remove harsh bacteria from local supplies.

Sampling professionals may use detection technology to locate Escherichia coli (E. coli) in water sources. This bacteria may cause mass illnesses which cause cramping, vomiting, and fever.

Another bacterium the technology can detect to increase health and safety is heterotrophic bacteria. Heterotrophic bacteria are less harmful than E. coli. Scientists assess heterotrophic bacteria levels to identify the potential for other contaminants to reproduce.

Environmental engineers create purification systems using reverse osmosis to remove bacteria and other impurities from water sources.


Reverse Osmosis

Filtration professionals use reverse osmosis to convert ocean water, wastewater, and other sources into drinkable resources. The technology uses a semipermeable membrane to capture and store solutes. Reverse osmosis systems effectively purify water sources and protect individuals’ health.

The technology can also increase a community’s access to safe drinking water. In areas like Flint, where freshwater sources carry contaminants, individuals can use reverse osmosis to convert ocean water into a potable resource. Freshwater only makes up about 1% of Earth’s water supply.

The remaining water resides in the oceans and icecaps. Using the advanced technology helps prevent adverse health effects and communities’ reliance on contaminated water sources. Scientists are also utilizing ultraviolet (UV) rays to avoid another Flint Water Crisis.


UV Water Treatment

Purification professionals are using the germicidal properties of ultraviolet (UV) light to kill microorganisms. The wavelengths ranging from 200 to 300 nanometers eliminate nearly all contaminants. UV light eliminates a microorganism’s ability to reproduce, protecting the current and future water supply.

Professionals could utilize UV filtration technology at water treatment plants to prevent mass contamination. Flint’s plant can install a light system and protect its citizens from adverse health effects. Many green city developers are utilizing such purification technologies to support sustainable systems.


Supporting Green Cities With Purification Technology

Green cities support modern urbanization while minimizing adverse ecological effects. Developers are implementing water purification technologies to eliminate surface-level pollution. Some professionals are even utilizing the systems to convert contaminated water into energy.

Generating power from wastewater decreases a community’s reliance on fossil fuels. The technologies can lower surface and atmospheric degradation over time. Regions may also pair their AI filtration technology with smart city systems to safeguard a community’s health and well-being.


Article by Jane Marsh

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

Environment.co