The sustainability and green building movement has made great strides in recent years, but it's not enough. In order to put up a good fight against ever-increasing environmental and economic pressures, we need a united front of the public and private sector, and to approach issues on the city – or district – scale.
District sustainability currently experiences the same limited level of awareness that individual green buildings did a decade ago, when the U.S. Green Building Council announced its first 12 LEED Certified projects, of which there are now over 11,000.
What Do We Mean By Districts?
A District or EcoDistrict is a small-scale area such as a neighborhood or a district with a community commitment to achieving neighborhood-scale sustainability.
District Case Study 1 – Seattle 2030 District
The City of Seattle is uniting with leaders in the business community to create a high-performance building district in downtown Seattle that will achieve dramatic reductions in energy use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and water use from buildings by changing how buildings and projects are planned, designed, and constructed.
The Seattle 2030 District Planning Committee has set goals for the District of a 60% reduction in energy use in new buildings by 2015 and carbon neutrality by 2030, a 50% reduction in energy use in existing buildings by 2030, a 10% reduction in energy use in all buildings by 2015 and 50% by 2030, and a 10% reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) IN the District by 2015 and 50% by 2030.
To do this, the City of Seattle will partner with the Seattle 2030 District Planning Committee, which includes property owners, utilities, healthcare providers, and community stakeholders, to "Activate" the District. The City will develop energy efficiency services for new and existing buildings, define membership expectations, and provide stable administrative support for the project. This seed investment will enable the District to develop sustainable funding strategies to support carbon reduction actions on an ongoing basis.
The first goal of the project is to create an organizational framework for the program. This will include hiring a professional director tasked with developing the organization and designing a self-sustaining funding strategy, and will include training property managers in how to utilize ENERGY STAR's Portfolio Manager to track building energy performance.
The next step in activating the District is to collect building data and develop baselines and targets for energy use, vehicle miles traveled, and water use.
The Seattle 2030 District formally launched in September 2011, and has experienced increasing private sector participation, membership interest, and national recognition. The Energy Efficiency Contracting Package (EECP) pilot phase has begun; one building has moved forward with an Efficiency Assessment and the City is working to secure nine more pilot buildings, ranging from residential rental buildings to governmental office buildings. The City continues to develop a Roadmap of permitting and incentive services for new construction projects, which will be refined based on the pilot program. Furthermore, the City developed Streamlined Permitting Services (SPS) to achieve the 2030 District new building goals of reduced carbon dioxide emissions and energy and water consumption. In addition to refinement of District wide baselines and targets for existing building energy use, baselines have been developed for water use and commuter transit.
District Case Study 2 - Portland Eco Districts
The EcoDistricts Initiative is distinct from most green development strategies focusing on brownfield or greenfield development that are primarily led by master developers or public agencies. Instead, the EcoDistricts Initiative targets neighborhoods — at the intersection of buildings, infrastructure and people. Portland Sustainability Institute is working upstream of rating systems like LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) to develop tools and strategies for engagement and project implementation.
The EcoDistricts Initiative brings together community stakeholders, property developers, utilities, and the City of Portland in five neighborhoods: Gateway, Foster Green, Lloyd District, South Waterfront and South of Market.
District Case Study 3 – Living City Block (Brooklyn and Denver)
The mission and vision of Living City Block is to create a replicable, exportable, scalable and economically viable framework for the resource efficient regeneration of existing cities, one block at a time. As we work with communities to implement this framework we will help create regenerative and resilient cities that are culturally thriving, energy and resource super-efficient, and economically sustainable.
Over a period of 4 to 6 years, Living City Block will construct a ‘three-legged stool’ proof of concept which incorporates 1) a business and ﬁnancing case for deep energy retroﬁts at a block scale, 2) enhanced economic development through market stimulation, higher sales and lease rates, better retail and corporate recruitment, and actual job creation, and 3) proving and quantifying that this creates better community in which people chose to work, play and live.
Who Funds District Work?
In 2009 and 2010, EPA awarded $20 million in competitive grants to help local and tribal governments establish and implement climate change initiatives. The overall goal of the Climate Showcase Communities program is to create replicable models of cost-effective and persistent greenhouse gas reductions that will catalyze broader local and tribal government actions to stabilize the climate and improve environmental, economic, health, and social conditions.
The 50 communities were selected in two rounds of funding. EPA offers peer exchange, training, and technical support to grant recipients, and encourages replication across the country to promote the creation of sustainable climate management programs that are not only the foundation for stabilizing our climate, but also create jobs, improve people's health, and fulfill other local government priorities.