The city of Davis in California prides itself with having invented bike lanes in the 1960s.  Toda, the University of California – Davis is ranked the 8th “greenest” college in the U.S. by Sierra magazine (1).  It is proud to be home to several LEED Certified buildings, three of which have received LEED Platinum Certification, particularly the Robert Mondavi Institute’s brewery, wine, and food science laboratory which was the first facility ever to earn LEED Platinum (1).  It is also home to the nation’s largest net-zero community, the UC Davis West Village, which opened to residents in Autumn 2011.  In addition to its net-zero energy use, the mixed-use facility was developed with the following core principles in mind:

  • Housing Availability
  • Environmental Responsiveness
  • Quality of Place

Though it is not clear that the West Village development is LEED Certified, the development does addresses many aspects of LEED Certification, as discussed in the following sections.


West Village is located on outer edge of the UC Davis campus and is connected to the center of campus via bike paths, bike lanes, and by Unitrans, UCD’s public bus system, which is free to students.  West Village is also a mixed-use facility providing residents both retail, dining, and recreational services.  Streets have been designed in a traditional grid pattern.  Use of the bike lanes and the bus system will be encouraged by prohibiting West Village residents from purchasing campus parking permits (2).

Energy Use

The West Village development incorporates “aggressive energy efficiency measures and on-site renewable energy generation” to meet the development’s energy needs (3).  West Village Energy use is projected to be 50% below the recommended California standards.

To achieve this reduction, several techniques have been applied.  Walls are constructed with 2×6 studs rather than 2×4 studs to allow for more insulation (4).  Windows are shaded on both the interior and exterior to block direct sunlight in this cooling dominated climate.  Windows are provide daylight and lights are on sensors to minimize use (2).  Windows and patio doors open to allow for air flow in this breezy area.  Ceiling fans are installed in main living spaces to aid in air circulation.  Lighting is high efficiency and appliances are energy star rated (2).


Exterior building features, such as solar-reflective roofing and radiant barrier roof sheathing, not only reduce building energy use but also decrease the heat island effect for this development (3).

“A programmable, high-efficiency heat pump heating and cooling system” is used to meet the actual heating and cooling requirements of the buildings.  Heat pumps have a relatively high efficiency compared to traditional furnaces and air conditioners.  To meet the electricity demand of West Village, a 4 MW solar photovoltaic system is planned for the development.  Davis may also be part of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), a district famous for its proactive use of alternative energy.

Water Efficiency

Water use facilities have been built with water saving toilets (1.28 gpf) and low-flow fixtures (1.5 gpm) that use air rather than water to generate greater water pressure (2).  Landscaping also incorporates drought resistant plants (3).

Indoor Air Quality

Use of low VOC paint and interior finishes (2).

Materials and Resources

Use of flooring material with 50% recycled content and “Ecoquartz ™ kitchen countertops made from recycled quartz” (2).

Innovative Research and Waste Management

“UC Davis is now nearing completion of a technical feasibility study for using a biodigester, employing technology developed by UC Davis Professor Ruihong Zhang, to turn campus food, animal and plant waste into energy. The feed stock has been lab tested for the gas and energy it produces; live testing at the biodigester prototype on campus is expected be under way in late 2011. (3)”

Residential unit features (5)

A. Solar panels cover much of the roofs and uncovered areas are light in color to reflect heat.

B. Radiant barrier roof sheathing keeps inside temperature consistent.

C. Upgraded insulation provides greater protection than industry standard insulation.

D. Low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint. VOCs are poisonous chemicals that can cause disease and air pollution.

E. Low-flow faucets

F. Low-flow toilets

G. Ceiling fans

H. Oversized windows for natural light

I.Energy Star appliances

J. Floor material 50 percent recycled

K.Eco-quartz countertops

L. Low-VOC finish on cabinets

Works Cited

1. UC Davis Dateline. UC Davis News and Information. [Online] 8 19, 2011. [Cited: 3 18, 2012.]

2. UC Davis. West Village Living. West Village. [Online] [Cited: 3 18, 2012.]

3. —. Energy. West Village. [Online] [Cited: 3 18, 2012.]

4. —. Press-Kit Backgrounder. West Village. [Online] [Cited: 3 19, 2012.]



The German city of Munich powers its metro, trams and all its households with renewables. The key starting point, says deputy-mayor and Green Party member Hep Monatzeder, is that Munich’s energy provider Stadtwerke München (SWM) is owned by the city.

You say that for a city to be green you need a municipal society. What does that mean?
In 2007 we created the Munich Alliance for Climate Protection and invited politicians, economists, owners of small and large companies, NGOs and citizens to volunteer initiatives for 30 climate protection projects. One third of those projects are working now, another third are in the planning stages.

Can you give some examples?
One is solar panels over parking spaces, with the possibility for e-mobility points to chargeelectric cars. Then we have a project to privilege electric transport bikes for deliveries into the city so companies don’t use trucks.

A very ambitious project is to transform the heat generated by big companies, in their IT server centers for example, into air conditioning via heat exchangers. We have the biggest district heating system in Europe covering about 80 percent of Munich. We want to try and have a district cooling system too.

What are your ultimate goals for a sustainable Munich?
Our ambition is to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030. Our biggest problem is the traffic: 30-35 percent of CO2 emissions come from private cars. Our goal is to bring up the bicycle traffic to at least 15-20 percent of daily journeys. It was just six percent when I started as deputy mayor in 1996.

In the 1990s, we got 3.6 percent of energy from renewables. Now it is about 33 percent, enough to supply all of our 800,000 private households. So I am optimistic that we will reach our goal that by 2025 all customers in the city will be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy.

What is the mix of renewables in Munich now?
Besides wind power, the main renewable energy is hydropower. We have for example a very modern system and you can’t see it, which is very important for the look of the city. We have put it under the surface in the Isar River and other rivers in the city.

Also very important is geothermal energy; we want to build a new quarter for 20,000 inhabitants and this will be managed by geothermal power, solar power and a district heating system.

How much are you spending on renewables?
We want to spend nine billion euros between 2008 and 2025, 500 million euros per year.

Hep Monatzeder, Deputy-Mayor of Munich: “I am optimistic that we will reach our goal that by 2025 all customers in the city will be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy.” (Source: James Tulloch)

How important is city ownership of the energy company Stadtwerke München (SWM)?
That is a very important precondition. During the 1990s we stood firm against the wave of liberalisation. Other municipalities sold their energy companies but we kept it 100 percent owned by the community.

That means we decide how to reduce energy use. When our utility company tried to invest in a coal power plant we said no. So they invested in hydro, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal.

In my experience private energy companies have to look to their shareholders and their shareholders want to see money and therefore they will not try to get experience with new systems. But now they are forced to invest in renewable energy because the framework changed in Germany. The energy suppliers have to quit nuclear power. 

Can Germany phase out nuclear power by 2018 and decarbonize at the same time?
I think we can do it, although if we had started with all of Germany using the Munich system we would be in a much better position. But I think we are good enough at technological innovation.

What energy efficiency measures have you introduced?
We have a law that if you build a new house you can only use certain kinds of energy. And we really force companies to accept our ecological criteria; we give them an offer and if they don’t accept they will not get a building site.

And if we renovate old municipal buildings we are committed to doing so to an energy-efficiency standard 30 percent stricter than the German federal standard.

For example, I am living in a building constructed in 1901. We renovated the house and the cost for our energy came down 28 percent. You always have to promote these examples; people have to feel it in their pocket.

What have you done to tackle the traffic?
We offer park and ride services and we have created parking management and blue zone schemes.

Parking management means you have to pay more per hour for parking the further you travel into the city. The blue zone concept means you can keep a car in the city center for only one or two hours. The effect is that traffic necessary for the economy, such as deliveries, works but commuter traffic is discouraged.

We built a lot of cycling infrastructure and we did a big public relations campaign—that was very important. We put young people on bikes and said biking is fun, good for your health, and good for your pocket.

What have been the results?
In the middle of town traffic has come down in the last 10 years and the bike traffic has risen. Nowadays 68 percent of daily journeys are by bike, by foot, or by public transport.

Now we are having a big discussion about whether to reserve lanes on the road for cyclists. We have started some pilot projects counting cars and found that it is possible in some places to close one lane to cars and reserve it for cyclists. We would like to do more of that in the future.

What advice would you give to any other city government?

Show your people that they can have a good life when we bring CO2 emissions down, and create common green areas like parks for that good life. The social aspect of a green city is very important.


Researchers studying the iridescent properties of butterfly wings think that this could help engineers develop temperature sensors that are smaller and faster. This technology could work without the need for cumbersome cooling techniques, something that has always been needed in thermal imaging and medical diagnostics

Full article here

Thanks to Oliver.

Tree cover in American cities is shrinking, and it could be costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

A new U.S. Forest Service analysis of 20 U.S. cities, including Atlanta Ga. (above), pegs urban tree loss at about 4 million trees a year. That decrease translates into an astronomical annual loss in environmental services, such as reduced heating and cooling costs, when you consider that each tree represents as much as $2,500 in such services during a its lifetime (a return rate three times greater than tree care costs), the forest service says.

Urban tree-planting campaigns have made a difference, but not nearly enough to offset development. “Tree cover loss would be higher if not for the tree planting efforts cities have undertaken in the past several years,” David Nowak of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station said in a press release. “Reversing the trend may demand more widespread, comprehensive and integrated programs that focus on sustaining overall tree canopy.”

Read it all here

Thanks to Oliver for bringing this up.

A light-emitting diode (LED) that emits more light energy than it consumes in electrical energy has been unveiled by researchers in the US. The device – which has a conventional efficiency of greater than 200% – behaves as a kind of optical heat pump that converts lattice vibrations into infrared photons, cooling its surroundings in the process. The possibility of such a device was first predicted in 1957, but a practical version had proved impossible to create until now. Potential applications of the phenomenon include energy-efficient lighting and cryogenic refrigeration.

Read the full article here:

Thanks to Alvin Lopez for pointing out.

Thanks to Alvin Riviera Lopez for sending me a link to this particular video on Youtube that talks about advanced materials that are the future of insulation.  Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist Alex Gash enlightens us about aerogel or frozen smoke. Aerogel is dehydrated silica gel whose insulation properties are 39 times more than the best fiber glass of today because of the complex lattice structure. We might actually be looking at the home insulation material of tomorrow !

Here is an article pointed out by Narendran Raghavan from the EEB class. Editors and judges from the Renewable energy world group of websites choose “the best ” renewable energy projects in categories like solar, wind, hydro etc and present the Project of the year and Excellence in renewable energy awards every year. Here, you will be able to find the details about this year’s winners in each category !

Here is an interesting read pointed out by Kevin Kibet from our EEB class (Thanks ! ) . It is a very interesting article which emphasizes on how avoiding fossil fuels could pave the way to solve three major problems that humanity is facing right now .. air pollution mortality, global warming and energy security. Please read at your leisure and feel good about doing your degree in RCL !!

Good morning all !! Looks like its going to be a great day today ! The first thing I saw as soon as I woke up this morning was my neighbor’s wet roof and I realized nature has been doing what she has always been the best at, cleaning up after us. This got me thinking about other things and I have always been amazed at how ingeniously disguised nature was.  I mean, look all around you, find anything that is not man made and challenge yourself to NOT find some extraordinary bit of engineering or something that NOT is there for a reason I bet you will lose all the time*

Lets just say this. Its like playing this computer game where things are hidden in plain sight and out observation skills are tested. Lets assume that everything that we currently have problems with have been there long before the advent of mankind and our ancestors and by “our ancestors” I don’t mean the genus “Homo” but the all the other life forms that existed before us, have successfully been able to solve ALL of it without a problem. Let’s take a page from their books and look long enough and hard enough to discover… or rather find the solutions to our problems that are hidden right in front of us.

People have been doing this for some time now and the branch of study is called “Biomimicry”. I for one love to learn more about these things and a great source for me is So don’t be surprised if many of my posts contain videos.   Janine Benyus‘s video below gives an introduction to get you started on Biomimicry and to find out if that’s your kind of thing.

Have a great day !!

* – if you are willing to accept your ignorance and are ready to research or… even better, think above and beyond

Hey guys and girls of UD RCL, when you get a chance, check out this video from Justin Hall-Tipping explains his organization’s take on the convergence of energy efficiency and nano technology and few very cool ideas about the energy efficient windows of the future, wireless/gridless energy transmission etc .