Austin at the center of sustainability efforts...again
The Austin Business Journal recently reported that Austin will be chosen as a test city for a new framework that will allow municipalities across the U.S. to measure their sustainability efforts through a series of "green" indicators. This program called the Star Community Index, a collaboration between ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability, the US Green Building Council, and the Center for American Progress, will use a selection of indicators that fall under broader categories such as policy and process to gauge and measure Austin's green efforts over time.
As fascinating and as exciting as the prospects are for the STAR Community Index's impact on sustainable living, the purpose of this article is to summarize a series of initiatives which have solidified Austin's place as one of the greenest cities in America.
On a national scale, Austin is highly regarded for having one of the best green building rating systems in the world. Austin Energy's Green Building Program was the first municipal green building program in the nation and serves as arguably the single most influential rating system in the world. Started in 1985 and fully adopted in 1991 as the City of Austin Green Builder Program, the rating system was a catalyst and key influence for the creation of the US Green Building Council's LEED rating system. Many of the people responsible for the creation of the City of Austin Green Builder Program played key roles in creating the metrics for LEED which serves as the gold standard for green building rating systems on a national level. What's more, the City of Austin is taking the program a giant step forward with they're calling the Zero Energy Capable Homes Initiative. As part of the City of of Austin's Climate Protection Plan, the Zero Energy Capable Home Initiative will call for homes in 2015 and beyond to be built 65% more energy efficient than homes in 2006. It's a hefty feat and unsurprisingly, the City of Austin has taken it on.
Another collaborative effort in 2008 involving the City of Austin, the University of Texas, and the Austin Technology Incubator among others, set out to explore the feasibility of local renewable energy sources and a new economic model for utility systems. The spin-off from these initial efforts has led to what is now called the Pecan Street Project. The first goal of the Pecan Street Project was to design and build a "smart grid demonstration community" in the Mueller neighborhood development. The smart grid in the Mueller neighborhood is designed to incorporate and test advances in the distribution of clean energy including:
- distributed clean energy
- energy storage technologies
- smart grid water and smart grid irrigation systems
- smart appliances
- plug-in electric vehicles
- advanced meters and home energy management systems
- green building
- new electricity pricing models
The Pecan Street Project will be instrumental in the adaptation of these practices on a national scale.
The above programs are only a few of the ambitious and forward thinking efforts in clean energy and sustainable living that Austin proudly calls home. It's the vision of our civic leaders and the city's high tech aptitude along with our population's passion for the environment that keeps Austin moving forward as one of America's sustainable benchmarks.