Green solutions come from many directions

09/03/2010 at 3:31 pm Leave a comment

It has been a year since Mayor Gregor Robertson launched the Greenest City initiative, which concentrates on three general areas, including greener communities. The Olympics jump-started many of the recommended actions to keep us in line with the 2020 goal, but is the environment top of mind for Vancouverites?

To understand what makes a good city sustainable, IBM commissioned a countrywide Angus Reid survey in late 2009. The results for Vancouver were surprising. Residents say being green is an attribute of a city that works well, but they rank environment seventh in a list of priorities.

Topping the list of sustainability issues is transportation — not surprising for anyone who has sat on the Lions Gate Bridge, the Port Mann Bridge or in the Massey tunnel. But fixing traffic problems not only reduces commuting times, it leads to a greener, cleaner city.

In our preparations for the Olympics, Vancouver invested millions in our transportation systems. We all enjoyed the benefits of the Canada Line as it moved thousands of people around the city each day. But now that the Olympic cauldron has been extinguished, we still face the reality that Vancouver needs to better manage the traffic into and out of the city.

The cities of Singapore, Brisbane and Stockholm are all working to reduce both traffic congestion and air pollution through intelligent transportation solutions. Through the use of predictive tools and data analytics, public transportation and automobiles receive information to avoid traffic jams and improve commute times. And with the introduction of new battery technologies, fewer cars and city buses will rely on fossil fuels.

Batteries are being designed that will make it possible for electric vehicles to travel 300 to 500 miles on a single charge, up from 50 to 100 miles currently. Also, smart grids in these cities could enable cars to be charged in public places, using renewable energy, such as wind power, instead of coal-powered plants.

Another culprit contributing to a city’s CO2 emissions is its buildings. City buildings emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases.

Take New York City, where almost 80 per cent of CO2 emissions come from heating, cooling and providing electricity to buildings, which is more than double the U.S. average. New York is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from city-owned buildings by 30 per cent within the next eight years and by 30 per cent from all buildings by 2030.

In the future, the technology that manages buildings will operate like a living organism that can sense and respond quickly, in order to protect citizens, save resources and reduce carbon emissions. Thousands of sensors inside buildings will monitor everything from motion and temperature to humidity, occupancy and light.

This system will enable repairs before something breaks. It will permit emergency units to respond quickly with the necessary resources, and will allow consumers and business owners to monitor and make adjustment to their energy consumption and carbon emission in real-time.

Some buildings are already showcasing built-in intelligence, resulting in reduced energy use, improved operational efficiency and enhanced comfort and safety for occupants.

China’s Hangzhou Dragon Hotel is building an instrumented, interconnected and intelligent hotel management system as part of its transformation into a “smart hotel.”

People want to live in cities where there is an effective management of environmental issues, while not sacrificing quality of life. To achieve the Greenest City status while continuing to uphold our rank as most livable, Vancouver must focus on solutions that harness technology to become smarter and greener.

Green solutions require creativity from home and abroad.

Scott Hardy is IBM’s senior executive in British Columbia.


Entry filed under: Green technology, Renewable Energy.

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