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Many States Lead on Energy Efficiency—More Is Needed

Clean energy, including energy efficiency, has struggled to maintain momentum in a year marked by a global pandemic, racial and social unrest, economic hardship, and subsequent recession. While 2019 saw states adopting ambitious climate goals, 2020 forced governments at all levels to shift priorities to manage the enormous health and economic fallout from COVID-19. However, a new scorecard from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) points to some bright spots. The annual ACEEE analysis shows several states adopted energy-saving targets and vehicle or appliance rules that will lay the groundwork to scale up efficiency programs, such as insulating…

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Code Writers Adopt New Rules

The International Code Council (ICC) expects to develop the 2024 versions of its influential energy code on time, but municipal building officials won’t be voting on it this time. The ICC’s board of directors has adopted new procedures that will leave updates of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) to board-appointed residential and commercial development committees. Eliminated is the current step in the process that puts changes to a vote of the ICC membership, a group that includes thousands of municipal officials around the country who enforce building codes. The recommended changes went out for public review late last year…

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Kitchen of the Week: Modular Culinary Workspaces from Very Simple Kitchen in Bologna, Italy

Favorite recent discovery: Very Simple Kitchen in Bologna, Italy, makers of freestanding modular (and portable) kitchen components. As they say, “We produce simple, colorful, metal kitchens”: ideal for vagabonds and  renters. Founder Riccardo Randi, who studied product design at the IED in Milan, was inspired to launch the company when he moved into an apartment without a kitchen. He designed a simple prototype “inspired by the minimalism and straight lines of Italy’s industrial heritage,” he says, and the idea for Very Simple Kitchen was born. Here’s a look at a few of their projects: Above: The studio is located in…

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Urban Rustic: A Passive House Energy Scorecard

Passive House, as a building strategy, requires meticulous air-sealing, along with ample amounts of insulation, carefully placed to eliminate or reduce the impact of thermal bridging through the building envelope. Once the air barrier of the building has been established, it requires mechanical ventilation to meet air quality needs, along with high-performance windows and doors to avoid undermining all of the air-sealing and insulation. All of these elements together, if successfully managed and implemented, should achieve a building that requires significantly less energy to operate and maintain at comfortable temperatures than any conventionally built structure of similar size and shape.…

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Tackling Embodied Carbon in Retrofits

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put the world on notice: To avert catastrophic and irreversible climate change we will have to hold global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. And to hold warming to this level, we must cut global emissions roughly in half by 2030 and get to zero by 2050. The building sector is a huge part of the problem, accounting for roughly 40% of global annual emissions. And while our industry has made progress, we haven’t done nearly enough. Along with the work of organizations such as the Carbon Leadership Forum and Architecture…

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New York Developer Adapts a European Template for Deep Energy Retrofits

An innovative approach to upgrading the energy performance of multifamily housing first promoted by the Dutch government a decade ago, has taken its first, tentative steps into the U.S. affordable housing market. In New York City, the RiseBoro Community Partnership is rehabilitating nine apartment buildings it owns in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn in a project called Casa Pasiva. The $20 million overhaul will bring the apartments up to Passive House standards and sharply reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions. Patterned after the “Energiesprong” retrofits developed in the Netherlands, the upgrades will give the apartment buildings new facades up…

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