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Climate Change Resilience Could Save Trillions

Is your city prepared for climate change? The latest National Climate Assessment paints a grim future if U.S. cities and states don’t take serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The bottom line is that the costs of climate change could reach 10% of the entire U.S. economy by the end of the century — or more than $2 trillion a year — much of it in damage to infrastructure and private property from more intense storms and flooding. Cities can greatly reduce the damage and costs through adaptive measures, such as building seawalls and reinforcing infrastructure. The problem is…

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The Promise and Unknowns of Hyperloop Transportation

This post originally appeared at Ensia. Deep in the heart of steel country on a balmy September morning, Cleveland City Council members, professors and non-profit leaders hopped out of their cars and Ubers and filed into a conference hall to find out why an Ohio transportation agency had taken the unusual step of using public money to pursue an experimental form of electric transportation: hyperloop. Attendees to this transportation workshop were no strangers to new technologies, especially innovations they hoped would make transportation faster and simpler. The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) is part of a “smart city” group…

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After a Long Boom, an Uncertain Future for Big Dam Projects

This article first appeared at Yale Environment 360. The last few years have been turbulent for the global dam industry. In July, flooding caused a dam under construction in Laos to collapse, releasing an inland tsunami that drowned hundreds of people — estimates of the number killed start at 200 and go up by multiples of that. The torrent devastated the homes and farmland of about 6,600 people, most of whom now live in tents. In April, landslides at the Ituango Dam, near completion in Colombia, clogged a tunnel used to divert river water from the project. The resulting flooding…

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Study Details Health Risks of Insulation and Air-Sealing Products

A group of organizations promoting energy-efficient housing has published a report on insulation and air-sealing products, concluding that chemical emissions from some commonly used building materials can pose long-term health risks. A Guide to Healthier Upgrade Materials comes from a group called Energy Efficiency for All and is based on research by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the International Living Future Institute, the Healthy Building Network, and others. Although written specifically for those working on energy upgrades for affordable multifamily projects, the recommendations should be useful across the building industry, the authors said. The benefits of insulating and air sealing…

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New Zero-Energy Homes Almost to Cost Parity

If you had a choice between building new homes that meet basic standards and building comfortable, healthy homes that dramatically cut energy bills, which would you prefer? How about if the low-energy homes cost the same (or nearly the same) as a standard home to build? If the cost is relatively equal, shouldn’t every new home be built this way? A recent Rocky Mountain Institute report, The Economics of Zero-Energy Homes: Single-Family Insights, makes the case that not only is this vision becoming achievable, in some locations in the United States the economics are in place today to make cost…

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Minneapolis To Eliminate Single-Family Zoning

Minneapolis has become the first major city in the country to drop zoning regulations that allow only single-family homes, The New York Times reports. In a vote earlier this month, the City Council approved new zoning rules that will allow multifamily units with as many as three dwelling units in every neighborhood in the city. The changes, now under review by a regional policy-setting body, are expected to be put into place next year. The change is part of the city’s revised comprehensive plan, called Minneapolis 2040, that lays out objectives in a variety of categories, including housing. The document…

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