Cap and Trade’s New Champion May Wear Red #green #energy #election


When Jennifer Hicks, @SB_GreenBiz, editor ofSmartBrief on Sustainability, asked me to submit a brief comment on the election regarding environmental issues for their 17,000 subscribers, I said I would be honored.

Here’s my brief plus the background analysis.

Cap and trade’s new champion may wear red  : While environmentalists have few victories to tout in the election, one major hurdle was crossed. Instead of making every vote a party split, as happened on the 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act, cap and trade and other energy measures can be addressed as issues, not political scores. While Democratic votes are nearly assured, Republicans can now lead the way. The success of cap and trade in curbing acid rain, reducing regulations and allowing the free market to work opens the door. If also tied to job creation, climate change may finally have a champion, clothed in red.


What happened, really?

The election sent thirty House Democrats who passed cap and trade (ACES) home on Tuesday, so some claimed these environmental soldiers were doomed by their vote.

However, exit polls showed a different story. Voters overwhelmingly stated that their primary concern was the economy (52%). Energy concerned only 4%. (the deficit was second at 8%). All issues with the exception of the economy held absolutely no sway for the vast majority of the voters.

Plus half the Democrats that voted against ACES were also ousted. This was not a vote against – or for – the Cap and Trade Crew. So long as Dems pushed and GOP said “Hell No,” energy legislation was dead and completely discounted by American voters due to the oppression of economic misery.

This election was clearly about the economy and jobs. Period.


Lost facts and a confused America

Tell me, has any Congress in history registered so many significant wins and conveyed them more poorly to Americans? Erroneous messages have gone viral. If people only hear conflicting narratives with no clear answers, no compelling vision, then they will be confused.

Clearly explaining complicated issues is essential to successful governance in the 21st century. Never in human history have there been better tools for creating or conveying messages. Washington needs drastic new ways to make difficult topics – like climate change and cap and trade – clear enough that we can agree or disagree with them.


A route to victory

If President Clinton’s or President Reagan’s experiences of working with the opposite party are any indicator, we could begin an era of smart legislation and a renewed cycle of prosperity. After woeful beginnings, each of these presidents worked with the other party towards important legislation. And they got re-elected.

Since Reagan’s staff invented cap-and-trade to deal with acid rain from power plant emissions, there is a Republican basis to use this tool. Rather than the huge costs the utility companies predicted, they spend $3 billion a year and save $122 billion! That is enormous financial success in anyone’s book. It worked so well, the Europeans adopted it for their carbon emissions. We are not explaining a new idea; this history is filled with positive facts to tell the story.

Furthermore, while thirty ACES Democrats were ousted this week, far more remained. So did all eight ACES Republicans. If President Obama works with the new Republican House leadership on significant carbon emissions legislation and past ACES supporters and new Democrats sign on, we have the basis for a successful bill.

That’s why I say with a mix of optimism (the GOP is mandated to govern) and realism (the Democrats, esp President Obama, must collaborate, persuade, and stand on real change on GHG’s): Cap and trade’s new champions may wear red.

Thanks SmartBrief on Sustainability

Thank you, Jennifer and SmartBrief for inviting me to comment.

What did you think about Tuesdays elections in terms of environmental issues – energy, rail, smart growth, waste, water, air – green building and green cities? I’d love to hear! 



 We did not come here to fear the future; we came here to shape it. BARACK OBAMA 2009

Images: Obama on CNN; Boehner on ABC News; masthead on UK Guardian; power plant on Smithsonian, carbon emissions from fossil fuels by end-use sector 2002 by Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Seeing the Big Picture: Cities of the Future. #architecture #eco

For the first Urbanverse guest blogger, I am very pleased to  welcome Ana Maria Manzo, an architect practicing in Valencia, Venezuela. Thank you, Ana, for this excellent inaugural contribution on future cities.

by Ana Maria Manzo


I remember hearing that when designing a park, the best way to define the route that would follow the trails, was to put a group of people in the area and observe the paths they followed, the places where they stopped to take breaks.

When I think of how to design future cities, it always comes to my mind that idea I heard once. From my point of view, it is people, those who will be the inhabitants of the cities of the future, who hold the key to show us the way toward a better life.

To create successful cities, we must begin by reviewing what we have, the way we live, what people want and need, and evolve from there.

Architecture should be made by people and for people, and not for architects. We must remember that not everyone in the world are architects, therefore, not everyone has the ability to visualize things that have not been created yet, because they have not been trained for it, unlike us. Accordingly, not everyone will easily accept the idea of feeling comfortable in a place so different than the one they are accustomed to living.

An architect who faces the image of a city of the future may think it is impressive and exciting; can feel drawn to it and compelled to find ways to make it real as soon as possible; live the change, experience the differences.

Proposals such as the one presented by the Venus Project makes us dream and believe that change is close.

Part 1:

Part 2:

But it is precisely this type of change the one that comes to my mind when I write about non-architects not being able to visualize and relate easily to; drastic changes that erase what we have, eliminating cities and creating new ones. It is possible that this is the best solution to create a better future, but the truth is that there are many people that we must convince first. And the best way to do it is by identifying their needs and then designing based on them.

Big changes are already happening in some countries.


Masdar, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.



Dongtan, China



BedZED, London, U.K.

These are some examples that show us that it can be done; but there are still many skeptics.

For non-architects, or at least for some of them, the images of these cities of the future they find online, are a crazy fantasy; many may even get afraid when seeing them, fear of change, of the unknown. And, as a result of this fear, rejection appears.


(I think this picture is scary even to me)

That is why I think change should be gradual, at least in the most skeptic countries but, above all, should be made thinking of non-architects. We must think of the best way to reach people, to sell to them our futuristic ideas which have to be created based on their own needs so they can relate to them. I think the most important thing is to take one step at a time so as not to frighten these countries with an absolute transformation, in one fell swoop. Small changes are easier to digest, therefore, are more likely to be accepted quickly and can be seeing come true in the short term, unlike what would happen to big changes.

We must see the big picture, dream big and go after that dream; and sometimes the best way to do it is by making small positive changes which will gradually turn into big changes for the world and its inhabitants.

Let´s observe the paths that people follow and change the world one small change at a time…

Ana María Manzo

I am a Venezuelan architect who has devoted the last nine years to developing residential, commercial, industrial, and interior design projects. I have designed for Chrysler, Kraft, and Lucky Strike, among others. I recently started writing, which has been my passion for years. An eternal daydreamer, always looking for happy thoughts.

twitter: @anammanzo

blog:the place of dreams

Images credits

Scary future

The Venus Project





True Green: What Is Sustainable Design Anyway? | on Construction Law Musings #LEED

Written on July 30, 2010 for Christopher G. Hill’s blog in Green Building, Guest Post Friday

 Noisette Rose

This week, Musings welcomes Cindy Frewen Wuellner, PhD, FAIA, architect, urban analyst, and founder of Frewen Architects Inc. Cindy teaches at the University of Houston Futures Studies Graduate Program. She is currently writing a book on the influence of social technologies on the design, construction, and use of 21st century cities. She can be reached at 913-961-1702 or on twitter as @.urbanverse

The Noisette Rose – A Triple Bottom Line Approach

For the Noisette Development in North Charleston, SC, in a collaboration of BNIM and Burt Hill Architects, we created a framework called the Noisette Rose. Based on the Triple Bottom Line concept, project goals combined concerns for Prosperity and People as well as the Planet. The Rose designates the qualifications and rates the success in meeting those criteria as radial arms around the circle.

The Noisette Rose effectively illustrates the complexity of sustainable design. While LEED and other models establish minimum standards for energy use, waste management, and so on, many experts consider sustainability environmental criteria alone will not achieve sustainable development. The Noisette Rose and Triple Bottom Line method describe that larger vision.

What is Sustainable Design?

Several organizations have defined sustainability in the spirit of the Triple Bottom Line.

  • United Nations: Development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” They added the three mutually reinforcing pillars of economic development, social development, and environmental protection.
  • US Office of Federal Environmental Executive: “The practice of 1) increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use energy, water, and materials, and 2) reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal — the complete building life cycle.”
  • USGBC: Certification defines “green building” as primarily environmental components and identifies five areas – site, water, energy, materials, and indoor environmental quality.
  • Cascadia Green Building Council: “A built environment that is social just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative.”

In other words, while USGBC has focused on environmental “green building,” several other organizations embrace social and economic terms as well. Consequently, it seems likely that sustainable development in coming years will extend beyond strictly environmental concerns and include all three areas of the Triple Bottom Line.

What Will That Mean to Our Practices?

The broadened goals warrant even greater clarity and precision in metrics, and ultimately to establish appropriate jurisdictions for compliance. Like the Noisette Rose, the value of each goal will be judged by how carefully we define excellence and track performance, and how effectively the combined criteria create true sustainability.

If environmental performance, being the most readily measured, is covered by building codes and regulations, it removes the question of the short-term marketplace. Similar to other life safety mandates that are the foundation of building codes, everyone plays to the same minimum standards. While individual heroics suffice for pushing knowledge during innovation, only mass adoption creates true environmental change. Voluntary efforts will always fall short.

As building owners, design professionals and users are discovering, we no longer can imagine sustainable design is achieved at occupancy.

The built environment no longer sits passively as a collection of boxes for shelter; experts, owners, and users collaborate with buildings and cities everyday to achieve environmental, social, and economic goals. The aggregation of individual choices determines performance.

True Green

Based my sustainable design work, research, and analysis, I am writing a series called True Green. A number of public challenges highlight the shortcomings of our current practices. Those questions range from inadequate energy performance and design conflicts to green washing and user complaints. These reactions are healthy so long as we respond and improve our practices. In particular, better data and improved education emerge as weaknesses.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” It’s our collective job to make certain the well remains full. If we can do it forever, it’s sustainable.

Cindy and I welcome your comments below.  Also, please subscribe to keep up with this and other Guest Post Friday Musings.