On November 12, 2009, ten volunteers from Arcosanti attended the 2009 International Greenbuild  Conference & Expo held at the Phoenix Convention Center. This year’s expo hall in Phoenix boasted 1,800 exhibit booths, showcasing the latest in innovative products and services. Each volunteer had a specific  research assignment at the Expo, ranging from community outreach to collecting information about renewable energy technologies, including solar, wind and geothermal; innovations in waste reduction; recycled and renewable products and building materials; and energy efficient strategies. We had the opportunity to learn and share information, insights and contacts and gain exposure at the same time. In the end, the volunteers were able to create new networking relations with many environmentally conscious companies as well as other retailers, schools and individuals.

11/19/09 Meeting Recap
A week later, the volunteers who attended the Greenbuild Expo held a debriefing meeting to review the materials and brochures that were collected and contacts made with other companies.  Each volunteer presented information on interesting products and services that may help solve or alleviate some of the issues regarding sustainability at Arcosanti. This gave everyone the opportunity  to reflect on their experiences and to share what they heard and learned.at the Expo.

11/21/-11/22/09 Preparation of report regarding sustainability at Arcosanti
After compiling informational materials from the Greenbuild Expo, a sustainability report was initiated for the purpose of improving the sustainability and reducing long-term environmental and economic costs at Arcosanti. This report will allow community members to identify and document the problem or problems to be solved, the needs to be met, the opportunities to be siezed upon, and the goals of the community to be pursued, and translate the broad goals into measurable operational criteria. The Greenbuild Expo directory or GreenSource, which is available online, lists resources that could be of use for compiling information regarding potential solutions for site improvements.

This report calls for the “greening” of the Arcosanti site, facilities and civil operational procedures. For example, Arcosanti residents can develop an energy or water audit to begin addressing physical and operational changes that will lessen their facilities’ environmental impact. Initial steps can be as simple as switching to energy efficient lighting, or encompass a significant household plumbing fixtures and irrigation retrofit. Some potential topics to address are/ and not limited to in the following:

Water Conservation
Arcosanti water comes from a 70 foot well in the Aqua Fria River Valley. The average weekly water use is about 50000 gallons. A comprehensive water management plan has not been put in place but several studies have been undertaken by Scott Riley the Habitat Coordinator. We expect that as the project develops there will be more opportunities for investment in water management systems. However we anticipate that this area will not be the most lucrative in terms of reducing the overall ecological footprint of the facility., At the Green Build Event there high-efficiecy toilets and irrigation systems were featured. Most notably Michael Bittman reported on a product that enables hard water and even hard water deposits to be reduced.

Building Materials
One concern is the level of concrete construction at Arcosanti. 7 percent of GHG emissions is caused by concrete construction directly. While small compared to transportation, heating and food production activities it still remains a concern and is a high number compared to other building materials. However the challenge is to offer Arcosanti as a Arcology model that can scale up the process using suitable materials for large scale, high rise building construction. Thus concrete has been the default material. Thus the focus of the information gathering at the event was on composite and lightweight concrete construction materials and also of more nontoxic form release oils, stains and paints. In the construction of the Heat Duct Tunnel construction has recently begun using a non-toxic low VOC form release oil.

Food Production
After the GreenBuild event Jeff Buderer found the Living Building Challenge and Urban Agriculture post. This post discusses ways in which a more comprehensive sustainable habitat strategy can be levergaged from the LEED regs. Scott Riley though noted that while urban agriculture and transportation aspects that would be featured and promoted in an Arcology are included some new LEED standards and other aspects of the Green Build discussion at the conference, these programs and incentives are not really relevant to the small scale that Arcosanti currently operates at.
There’s some good news about Responsible Building from GreenBiz.Com

in that the newest version of the Living Buildings Challenge standards unveiled at Greenbuild also aims to go beyond an individual site to address issues such as social justice and urban agriculture. For example, a minimum amount of site square footage must be used for food production and the site must provide unrestricted access to rivers, lakes and shorelines.

Also noted is the An Indigenous Response to the Challenge of climate change with NASA and tribal colleges, more than ten years after Indigenous peoples came together at the first Native Peoples/Native Homelands Climate Change Workshop. Ten Ways to Get Involved

Energy is an important aspect of this program to make Arcology viable as an alternative to urban sprawl. Right now no comprehensive energy conservation or renewable energy development strategy exists at Arcosanti. Often people participating on our workshop program and also volunteers, Alumni, residents and tourist often ask critical questions about the current design, focus and priorities of CF as it relates to renewable energy and energy conservation. However, Habitat Coordinator, Utilities Manager and Planning Director Scott Riley is looking into several options that can help to address the fact that we still get almost all of our energy from the grid. No one has actually done a study of the current energy situation or budget but our Renewable Energy Coordinator Michael Bittman estimates that current electrical consumption is at 30-100 kilowatts and total renewable energy production which includes 4 collectors and one wind generator about 1-3 percent of the total electrical consumption. To make renewables part of a viable strategy to reduce reliable on fossil fuel produced grid power, we need a comprehensive strategy that includes the:

  1. reduction of electric heaters which are the worst way to heat a building
  2. introduction of energy conservation measures to reduce overall output (includes energy efficiency as well as elimination of unnecessary usages of electricity)
  3. investment in a clean energy infrastructure/micro-grid

During the evolution of Arcosanti, accessability along with insulation went on the backburner. People coming to Arcosanti were expected to work and be able to work and so this eliminated much of the demographic that had disabilities that impeded their activity load. Over the years and with the passage of ADA, a concern grew about the need to address the lack of accessibility options for people living and visiting at Arcosanti. This resulted in the design of EC IV Unit 9-1 with ADA compliant facilities, the first space at Arcosanti have such standards. Later the plans for a grant to improve the access from the parking lot to the visitor center included a 50k grant that included the completion in 2008 of the Handicapped Access Ramp.

Now of course the great gap is getting people from the Arcosanti sign to the Gallery and other parts of the Crafts III building/Visitor Center. The idea of elevator was discussed during and after the Green Build event and Anna and Kim presented their information they collected from Green Build regarding possibilies and costs of a possible retrofit of the Crafts III building so that an elevator could accomodate disabled to both the gallery, back to the Bakery level (entrance) and then down to the Cafe and Ground Floor.

It is important to note that this report is a working document. Its goal is to link the public, residents and managers in planning and consensus building as well as to create discussion and resource for people to share information. It is important to note that before actions plans are taken, it is important to create a baseline inventory of the ecological footprint for each area of interest  in order to allow us to see where our current ecological footprints stand and allow for further planning. For instance, an energy and water audit document can provide a benchmark of where Arcosanti is today so we can measure our progress. More importantly to keep in mind is that any movement toward reducing energy input and water usage helps. The highest degree of success can be realized if we approach it as a continuous project and implement a plan to improve sustainability every year.

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