Buildings

Adapting to Water

By Nandy Grundahl

Flood

Maybe it is the calming sound of water moving, whether down a waterfall or crashing onto a beach.  Any real estate agent knows that property near water, whether an ocean, lake, river, or stream, commands a higher price. But, with rising sea levels and stronger, more frequent storms, those prime water side properties may now be in danger of flooding, not just once every 100 years, but once every few years.

What is a homeowner to do after a flood? Sell (if they can) or stay? Many choose to stay put, figuring the benefits outweigh the costs of shoveling mucky mud out of their basement and maybe even the first floor, as well as other personal and financial tolls..

Did you know there are even contractors now who deal with renovating flood- susceptible buildings? Their floodproofing techniques include:

  • Replacing gypsum and plasterboard walls with concrete
  • Covering floors with stone, concrete or ceramics, not carpeting
  • Rearranging rooms — putting the kitchen, laundry room, and electric box on the second floor (known as an “upside down house”)
  • Running electrical lines not near the floor, but higher up on the wall

Homeowners are advised to use only lightweight, easy-to-move furniture in the basement and on the first floor. It’s a case of adaptation — minimizing the damage that might occur during the next flood.

These techniques are being applied in many areas of the Northeast where this fall we had the double whammy of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. In Pennsylvania, an emergency declaration was issued for more than half of its counties and parts of Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg and other areas close to rivers were evacuated. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and its federal counterpart, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provided assistance.

FEMA has developed a Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting if you would like to learn more about floodproofing techniques.  And EPA has a variety of information and links on what to do before, during and after a flood.  http://www.epa.gov/naturalevents/flooding.html

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy likes to garden and during the growing season brings flowers into the office. Nancy also writes for the EPA “It’s Our Environment” blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Balm Before the Storm

By Tom Damm
Click here to view the EPA press release on the Clean Water Act permit

When it comes to efforts to keep sewage, polluted stormwater and trash from reaching District of Columbia waterways and eventually the Chesapeake Bay, the past few weeks in the nation’s capital have been quite eventful.

EPA was on stage for two major announcements in the District that will have a big impact in cleaning up the Potomac and Anacostia rivers and Rock Creek, and improving the health of the downstream Bay.

The first event marked the signing of an EPA Clean Water Act permit that includes green infrastructure features designed to make the city more absorbent to rainwater – or “spongier” in the words of District Department of the Environment Director Christophe Tulou.

The second event signaled the start of DC Water’s massive series of underground tunnels that when complete will capture nearly all of the sewage overflows from the sewer system during heavy rains.  The project was prompted by a federal consent decree.

Both initiatives will not only promote clean water, they’ll also create jobs and improve the quality of life in the District.

With efforts like these, we’re looking forward to the day when one of the biggest concerns posed by a storm in D.C. is whether the Nationals game is played or not.

Stay tuned.

Click here to view the EPA press release on the Clean Water Act permit

Click here to view the DC Water project press release

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Home, Sweet WaterSense-Labeled Home!

By Elona Myftaraj
homesweethome

Here in the U.S., the U.S. General Accounting Office estimates that by 2013 over 36 states will face water shortages.  So, WaterSense, a voluntary partnership program led by the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to improve water efficiency in new as well as existing homes.

In 2008, WaterSense launched the new homes program to reduce residential water use (a large portion of the total water use in the United States) both indoors and outdoors in new homes when they are built. With the WaterSense certification, houses can start off on the right foot and conserve water from the get-go, rather than going through more expensive retrofits later.

Compared with conventional design, WaterSense homes can save more than 10,000 gallons of household water use per year.  And these are relatively minor changes, like WaterSense toilets and faucets, and Energy Star appliances… nothing as extreme as being without indoor plumbing.  Find out more about what constitutes a WaterSense-certified home by checking out the specs here. Saving water does not have to be a painful process.  Simply choosing WaterSense labeled products instead of conventional models, fixing leaks, and avoiding peak water use periods helps a great deal.

If your family is thinking of investing in a new home, consider WaterSense in your plans!  Use this search tool to find builders that are WaterSense partners in your state.  Not planning on building a new house at the moment?  Learn how to make your existing home more water efficient.  Wherever you live, share the steps you are taking to be more water efficient in your home in the comments section!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Keystone State’s Sustainable Sports

Click here to visit the Eagles Green website! By Trey Cody

Soon the Eagles won’t be the only thing green in the City of Brotherly Love. The Lincoln Financial Field, or “Linc,” which is home to the popular football team the Philadelphia Eagles, plans to go green as well. This massive stadium is making a pledge to become “the most sustainable major sports stadium in the world.” Yes that’s right, not only in the Mid-Atlantic States or the United States, but the world.  How are they doing this?  Their plans include adding to an already established composting program, which captures more than 25 tons of organic waste and a water conservation program that replaced more than 600 toilets. The Eagles organization will also install wind turbines and solar panels, converting the stadium to renewable energy.  In other Philadelphia sports, the Phillies are trying to become as green as their mascot (the Philly Phanatic) with their Red Goes Green campaign launched in 2008 to reduce their environmental footprint.

On the other side of the state, Pittsburgh sports teams have been working hard to give the Eagles some competition and become a black, gold AND green city. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ brand new hockey arena, the CONSOL Energy Center, became the first LEED Gold Certified arena in the National Hockey League when it opened this year. Some of the arena’s environmentally friendly features include green space around the arena, locally bought and recycled construction materials, purchased electricity from renewable resources, water use reduction, indoor air quality, and natural light.  Now that the arena is up and running, the greening continues with the use of green cleaning materials, biodegradable utensils, and the donation of prepared but unsold concession food to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  The Penguins also partnered with the Steelers to increase recycling from tailgating outside Heinz Field.  For the last three football games of the regular season, teams of volunteers circulated in parking lots prior to the game and collected 90,000 aluminum cans, 5,000 glass bottles, 36,000 plastic bottles and cups, and 900 pounds of cardboard to be recycled.  An estimated 4,000-5,000 additional pounds of materials were estimated to have been collected for recycling in the parking lot before the Winter Classic hockey game on New Year’s Day at the stadium.

As you can see in our previous blog about the Washington Nationals’ ballpark, “The field isn’t the only thing green at the Nationals’ Stadium,” major sports teams outside of Pennsylvania have also joined the cause, and our own Mid-Atlantic region has been helping lead the way.  Let’s hope that this growing trend of sustainability in sports continues!

Want to make your home more sustainable like the Linc and CEC?  Need somewhere to start?  Try replacing your toilets; you could save up to 11 gallons per toilet everyday!  To learn more, check out EPA’s WaterSense site. Comment below on some ways you are saving water!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The field isn’t the only thing green at the Nationals’ Stadium

Nationals Park as seen from the Anacostia River. Low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets were projected to save 3.6 million gallons of water each year.The San Francisco Giants were crowned the World Series Champions earlier this week, but if Planet Earth was crowning a champion, it would probably be the Washington Nationals.
The Washington Nationals are in their third season in their new home at National Park in D.C.  Nationals Park is America’s first green certified professional sports stadium.  Perhaps the stadium’s biggest fan is the Anacostia River.  The river borders the stadium and architects took special measures to reduce the impact that the stadium has on the river.  A 6,300 sq. ft. green roof was built over the concession area that will help reduce storm water runoff.  To prevent trash and debris generated at the stadium from reaching the river, screens were constructed in storm drains around the stadium to catch these materials.  Huge sand filters built beneath the stadium filter storm water before it is pumped to the public treatment facility.  The stadium also employs low flow faucets and dual flush toilets which save millions of gallons a year. 

The Nationals are hitting a homerun for the Anacostia River. What are you doing for your local river or watershed? Use the EPA website “Surf your Watershed” to find your local watershed and citizen-based groups that are making efforts to keep your water clean.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Building Green in Philadelphia

Video: Building Green in Philadelphia

Check out this 11-minute video highlighting innovative efforts by green builders in the City of Philadelphia who are helping to protect and restore environmental quality and beautify the city.

By installing cisterns, green roofs, porous pavers, solar panels, and Energy Star appliances, the builders are capturing rainwater, reducing stormwater runoff, and saving energy.

In the video, “Building Green: A Success Story in Philadelphia,” Howard Neukrug, director of Philadelphia Water Department’s Office of Watersheds, explains the importance of green stormwater infrastructure. The city is now offering incentives to builders and developers to use green techniques to help meet clean water and other environmental goals.

One of the main objectives is to slow down, spread out and soak in rainwater before it has a chance to surge into the sewer system and harm local waterways.

What do you think of the video? Let us know your thoughts.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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