Miami Green Homes


Why Prepare a Local Pre-Disaster Recovery Plan? (Guest post by Natalie French)

Recovery is the most complicated, lengthier, expensive and least appreciated phase of emergency management. Some recoveries can take years, and communities will never be able to go back to normal levels.  In fact, it is not realistic to create a false image that things will go back to “normal”.   Long-term recovery also has a toll on the people in charge of the process.   Experiences across the country include cities with administrators and staff who have a difficult time handling the external pressures.  After the floods of 2015, some cities in North and South Carolina saw half of their department heads resign in a three-year span, and a turnover of three to four City Managers in the same time period.

As recommended by FEMA’s “Pre-Disaster Recovery Planning Guide for Local Governments (February, 2017)”, a Recovery Plan helps avoid confusion and improvisation.  Having a plan in place improves capabilities prior to a disaster by helping city governments to:

  • Establish clear leadership roles, including the Mayor’s office, City Council, and City Manager’s office, for more decisive and early leadership.
  • Improve public confidence in leadership through early, ongoing, and consistent communication of short- and long-term priorities.
  • Avoid the often difficult, ad hoc process of post-disaster discovery of new roles, resources, and roadblocks.
  • Gain support from whole-community partnerships necessary to support individuals, businesses, and organizations.
  • Improve stakeholder and disaster survivor involvement after the disaster through a definition of outreach resources and two-way communication methods the city and key organizations will employ.
  • Maximize Federal, State, private-sector, and nongovernmental dollars through early and more defined local priorities and post-disaster planning activity.
  • Provide for more rapid and effective access to Federal and State resources through better understanding of funding resources and requirements ahead of time.
  • Enable local leadership to bring to bear all capability and more easily identify gaps through a coordination structure and defined roles.
  • Better leverage and apply limited State and nongovernment resources when there is no Federal disaster declaration.
  • Maximize opportunities to build resilience and risk reduction into all aspects of rebuilding.
  • Speed identification of local recovery needs and resources and ultimately reduce costs and disruption that result from chaotic, ad hoc, or inefficient allocation of resources.
  • Improve capability and continuity through pre identification of when, where, and how the local government will employ and seek support for post-disaster planning, city operations, recovery management, and technical assistance.
  • Proactively confront recovery and redevelopment policy choices in the deliberative and less contentious pre­disaster environment.
  • Improve the ability to interface with State and Federal Recovery Support Function structure.

A pre-disaster recovery plan provides a local-level framework for leading, operating, organizing, and managing resources for post-disaster recovery activities. The plan can then be used to implement the post-disaster recovery process and carry out post-disaster planning and management of recovery activities, such as restoring housing, rebuilding government facilities, schools, child care services, recovering businesses, identifying resources for rebuilding projects, returning social stability, and coordinating other community planning processes.  By working in advance to develop an understanding of needs and vulnerabilities, identify leaders, form partnerships, establish resources, and reach consensus on goals and policies, the community will be prepared to begin recovery immediately rather than struggle through a planning process in the wake of a disaster.

*****

Natalie French

Media & Emergency Management Specialist

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Architects versus developers (an architects perspective):

Ideas versus money. That is about the simplest way to distinguish the two and also the easiest way to understand why these two groups need each other. While overlap is of course possible, it is not likely. Developers frequently look at a potential project and create a general concept based on location and possible use of the land. Architects then provide a design concept to realize that opportunity and eventually the detailed plans to actually build the initial vision of the developer. Most projects, residential, commercial or otherwise, were created by the synergy of these two groups.

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An Architect as developer has solved the financial puzzle and can move forward not just with the idea and concept, but the execution of the project as well; a developer as architect first must obtain required licenses and typically look beyond function of the project to integration of concept into a larger scope and environment.

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DIY HVAC Maintenance: What’s Safe and What to Avoid! – by Ray Flynn

Thank you to Ray Flynn (ray.flynn@diyguys.net) for this guest contribution:

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Photo courtesy of Pexels

Being a homeowner is a wonderful investment that brings many fulfilling rewards. Of course, it also brings many (often unexpected) costs. From plumbing to electrical issues, there are hundreds of home repairs that could break the bank. Unfortunately, HVAC repairs could be one of them. HVAC repair technicians charge up to $80 per hour, and the repairs themselves can cost hundreds of dollars. Some Miami homeowners spend thousands, depending upon the types of repairs.

Of course, it’s inevitable that every HVAC will eventually be in need of repairs. Adding further complication, some HVAC-related costs can be tax deductible while others are not. So, what is a homeowner to do? One option that many homeowners are considering more frequently is just doing it themselves. It’s no secret that do-it-yourself (DIY) home repair projects are gaining popularity, especially among women.

Before You Begin

Before embarking upon a DIY HVAC maintenance project, however, there are a few things you should know. First, actual HVAC repairs should still be left to the professionals. Otherwise, you might damage your HVAC even further and end up having to pay a professional for costly repairs anyway — or worse, an entirely new HVAC system.

Instead, the best HVAC projects to attempt on your own are fairly simple maintenance projects. When it comes to maintaining your HVAC system, there are certainly a few things you can do on your own without needing to call a professional.

Change Your Filter

Proper maintenance of your HVAC system requires that you periodically change (between 30 and 90 days) the air filter. The air filters prevent airborne particles from getting into the HVAC machinery, where they could potentially cause damage. Failure to change HVAC filters could lead to permanent damage and expensive repairs.

Here’s one bit of advice: Although changing your HVAC air filter every so often is fairly simple, choosing the right size filter when making a replacement is essential. That cannot be stressed enough. Turn off the unit before replacing the filter, and always follow the instructions for your particular HVAC unit. If you run into any difficulties, call a professional to help you.

Clean Your Unit

Another thing you might have to occasionally do is clean your HVAC system. From time to time, dirt, debris, leaves, and other natural contaminants can get inside the machinery. If these items aren’t removed in a timely manner, they can clog things up.

Additionally, while you are inspecting your HVAC system for dirt and debris or changing the air filter, you might want to give it a good cleaning. This involves checking for any holes, leaks, or blockages, inspecting the fans for wear, and wiping down and cleaning the outside of the unit.

A few more simple maintenance tips and DIY repairs to consider might include changing the blower filter at least twice a year (or more, if you live in a dusty climate), adding a programmable thermostat to help make your home more energy efficient, and cutting back any vines or other vegetation that might be growing near your HVAC system.

It’s important to care for your HVAC system. By taking proper care of it, changing the filters, and performing regular maintenance as needed, you can keep your HVAC system running reliably for years to come. Best of all, these are DIY tasks that you can do yourself, which saves you some money by not having to call a professional. But if you’re new to home improvement and/or if any repairs are actually needed, those jobs are best left to the professionals. It’s never worth harming your HVAC system just for the sake of saving a few hundred dollars.



Residential Energy Savings pyramid

Not sure where to start with energy updated for the home? Ready to install PV panels to get off-grid? …or anywhere in-between. This is a great tool to help make sense of where to start and how to prioritize energy related updates to the house. Look also for other posts on this site for solar panels, insulation and design considerations.

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The Benefits Of Going Solar At Home – Guest post by Ryan McNeill

It’s official: Renewable energy is now the average American’s preferred energy solution, regardless of which side of the political spectrum they are on — and few renewable energy options are more accessible to the homeowner than installing solar panels.

The popularity of solar is skyrocketing, accounting for nearly four in 10 new electricity generation capacity additions in the U.S. last year. While utility solar accounts for a large portion of this new infrastructure, residential solar is also showing strong growth as more homeowners are realizing the many benefits of solar energy.

Why are so many homeowners going solar? Let’s take a look.

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Economic Benefits of Installing Solar Panels

Once cost-prohibitive, solar energy is now more affordable than ever. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Economy of scale. Due to increased demand, the cost of solar panels is now half what it was in 2008, and experts believe it still has room to drop.
  • Low maintenance. A high-quality residential solar installation can be expected to last 30 years or more. Very little maintenance is required, which keeps costs low throughout the life of the system.
  • Energy savings. Solar pays back big over time. The average solar customer saves $67,000 over the lifetime of the system — and that’s at today’s energy rates. Who knows what the savings will be as aging conventional energy infrastructure drives energy rates up in years to come?
  • Financing. Solar is an investment, but it doesn’t have to be a painful one. In addition to the energy-saving ROI of the panels themselves, there are many options available these days that make solar panels affordable to the average homeowner. Some of these include rebates, leases and low-interest financing options. Don’t forget that homeowners can still take advantage of the full 30 percent federal solar tax credit through the end of 2019.

Solar Performance Means Peace of Mind

Besides the obvious financial benefits, solar will set your mind at ease. Solar panels are remarkably reliable, cranking out electricity as regularly as the rising and setting sun. They are safe, too, producing no noise pollution or harmful emissions. And, many solar homeowners rave about the sense of liberation they feel when realizing they are no longer subject to the whim of “Big Power.” Those who own battery systems are even secure from interruptions to the power grid.

Global Benefits of Residential Solar

Choosing solar is simply the responsible thing to do, both for the planet and for the communities in which we live.

First, consider the environmental benefits. We all know the impact global warming is having on the planet, and that solar panels are a huge step in the right direction when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint. However, you might not be aware that solar panels are also water-friendly. Per kWh of electricity, solar panels consume 16-20 times less of this increasingly precious natural resource than the most common conventional forms of electricity generation.

Solar is good for people, too. Dollar for dollar, an investment in solar results in twice the job creation as conventional energy sources. And, solar is an important factor in homeland security. Solar panels reduce dependence on foreign energy, reduce the electrical grid’s vulnerability to attack or failure, and provide an excellent source of power in emergency situations.

Is Solar Right for Your Home?

While not every home is suitable for solar, the benefits are clear for those that are. It’s no wonder so many more people than ever are choosing to install solar panels on their homes.

Author bio: Ryan McNeill is the president of Renewable Energy Corporation, one of the largest residential solar energy companies in the mid-Atlantic region. It is committed to providing homeowners with high-quality, American-made solar panels and solar energy products.



Looking at the Future – An inside report on a Florida Office Building fully powered by Solar Energy
April 5, 2013, 5:15 am
Filed under: Building knowledge, Energy Efficiency, Hot Topic, Resources

A guest post by Rush Hood, P.E., and Jeffrey J. Basiaga, Jr.

 

The “IEEE FWCS Industrial Tour Series” sponsored a tour of the Landmarc Construction Net Zero Energy Building in Tampa on March 28, 2013 hosted by Mr. Spencer Kass, Landmarc VP.   He has installed and is operating a practical, utility-connected, photovoltaic generation system. The office is approximately 2800 sq. ft. with lighting and HVAC fully within modern standards.  The building operates at “Net Zero” energy consumption and returns surplus energy to the electric grid.   There is an Electric Vehicle charging station installed and free EV-charging is provided to the visitors parked in the parking lot.

 

As with most engineering projects, there are many factors that are not obvious. A structural analysis  was performed on the building to ensure it could support the weight and wind loading of the solar panels. Special electrical equipment ensures the safety of utility workers by disconnecting the solar generation from the electrical service when the utility power fails. This feature prevents energizing the utility conductors when utility workers would expect them to be de-energized. Additionally, a clearly-marked switch enables easy disconnect of the building generation from the utility in an emergency. Further, the physical layout of the solar collectors must ensure that no portion of the panels are ever shaded by the building structure or trees, as any shading would have a disproportionate impact on the solar generation efficiency.

 

The electric metering functions are not obvious, either. The meter does not simply “run backwards” when the solar generation is supplying power to the utility, since the utility does not pay full “retail price” for energy generated by the customer. A special meter keeps separate track of energy consumed from and supplied to the utility. “Consumed kWh” and “Generated kWh” appear as separate line items on his electric bill. Of course, energy generated on-site that offsets simultaneous usage on-site effectively gives the customer “retail price” for these kWh.

 

Participants also discussed other cost and expense factors that impact the payback of the system, including maintenance, lightning damage, surge suppression, potential for weather damage, and vandalism and theft avoidance measures.  It turns out that the overall economic analysis of the project is very complicated, and at this time incomplete. The consensus of the participants, however, was that we were “Looking at the Future,” and we were all very impressed by the progress that has been made.

 

The engineers that toured the building were very grateful for the opportunity.  We encourage interested parties to seek, learn about, and promote the cutting edge & practical realizations of great ideas.

   

Rush Hood, P.E.,  is an Electrical Engineer and IEEE organizer rush.hood@ieee.org Jeffrey J. Basiaga, Jr., P.E., is an Electrical Engineer and IEEE organizer jb345@tampabay.rr.com



Water and wastewater (WWW) treatment – a look at the energy used for water in the US

While water and wastewater (WWW) treatment accounts for a surprising 5% of total U.S. electric power generation, topographically-variable WWW conveyance account for a more surprising 15% of the same total [Pod06; Coh04]. In addition, while wastewater contains energy in dilute form, current goals for recovering such energy represent only 0.02% of the total generation, through the use of microbial fuel cells of the future [Log04]. If, on the other hand, WWW were decentralized, up to 15% of total U.S. electric power production could be saved.

 

While centralization of WWW treatment was implemented to concentrate resources and ensure water quality, today many monitoring, quality control, and operation and maintenance (O&M) functions can be decentralized electronically. Imagine, if each building of the future contains a direct potable reuse system, then maintenance personnel, rather than driving to a central facility daily, would be dispatched electronically to neighborhoods for routine annual maintenance. Moreover, decentralization would increase the accountability of neighborhood residents in terms of responsible use of water, personal care products, and household chemicals.

 

Beyond energy savings, autonomous net-zero water (ANZW) buildings would not need to treat for most pesticides (US, 5 billion lbs/y) and industrial chemicals (US, 6 billion lbs/y), representing a total mass loading of 2 mg/L on U.S. surface and groundwater runoff. Treatment instead would focus on effective destruction of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) such as pharmaceuticals, which cannot be as easily regulated in terms of environmental half-life as pesticides and other chemicals, by advanced oxidation. This latter advantage would address the current 6% feminization of male fish across all species (20%, black bass) in U.S. river basins [Hin09]. Finally, an urban demand for e.g. one million gallons of water every day in Southeast Florida would be removed from the (Everglades) natural system. Eliminated would be water rationing, and the need to treat seawater with total impurity levels two orders of magnitude higher than drinking water standards, to drinking water standards when impurities in treated wastewater e.g. in S. Florida currently meet 87 of the 93 numerical drinking water standards on average without further treatment.

 

Increased construction activity in the outlined areas over the last 10+ years. Many infill projects and zero lot line developments. Increased population growth in the target area with increased load (people) and demand (use per individual). Overall individual load has increased over X years by X gallons per day. Strain on water treatment system and infrastructure, especially close to water ways cited. Septic tanks systems that are undersized, outdated or broken, without eh owner knowledge. Purposeful (non permitted or documented) re-routing of sewage water to nearby water ways and excess burden on municipal sewer system with surface water runoff, increased rainfall intensity and more man-made diversions of water. Quantity of subsurface runoff (stormwater).

 

Estimates of water use in the United States indicate that about 410 billion gallons per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn in 2005 for all categories summarized in this report. This total is slightly less than the estimate for 2000, and about 5 percent less than total withdrawals in the peak year of 1980. Freshwater withdrawals in 2005 were 349 Bgal/d, or 85 percent of the total freshwater and saline-water withdrawals. Fresh groundwater withdrawals of 79.6 Bgal/day in 2005 were about 5 percent less than in 2000, and fresh surface-water withdrawals of 270 Bgal/day were about the same as in 2000. Withdrawals for thermoelectric-power generation and irrigation, the two largest uses of water, have stabilized or decreased since 1980. Withdrawals for public-supply and domestic uses have increased steadily since estimates began. http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1344/