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Embracing Sustainable Urban Sports Facilities



Athletics field by Soft Surfaces Ltd via Flickr

With the Summer Olympics in Rio upon us, athletics are in the spotlight across the globe – and that topic includes not just the athletes and coaches, but also the facilities where sporting events take place. For those interested in sustainability, however, the questions about the facilities tend to look different; we might wonder what kind of carbon footprint a particular stadium has or how an arena fits into the local environment.

Urban athletics facilities are often leaders in the march towards more sustainable construction, but developing more environmentally friendly recreation spaces continues to be a challenge.

So, what does the future of urban athletics look like? These four facilities can give a glimpse of the sustainable structures to come.

Going For Green Space

At first glance, it seems obvious that outdoor athletics facilities are among the most sustainable options for urban areas, particularly for those that don’t want to compromise existing green spaces by constructing a gym, but the correlation is not always that simple.

For example, basketball is one of the most popular sports in urban areas, drawing crowds to events like the All-City Classic. Basketball, however, isn’t played on grass, and while you can certainly put a court in a park, the smooth courts may contribute to run-off and erosion. In many cases, it may be more sustainable to repurpose an old building for athletic space and retain existing green spaces that support local biodiversity and urban air quality. Combining community spaces with green areas and business is the formula for sustainable development.

Self-Supporting Structures

One of the most harmful environmental effects of urban athletic spaces is their reliance on cooling systems for much of the year. Because it’s important for athletic spaces to be kept comfortable so that athletes remain healthy, this is an unavoidable cost – but that doesn’t mean we can’t make changes to offset the energy use.

A great way to make urban sports facilities more sustainable is by installing energy generating workout equipment – the most common type of which is the stationery bike. Some New York City gyms, for example, use these bikes in their popular spin classes. Each bike is equipped with a small box that works like a human-powered generator, transforming motion into electricity. These systems help reduce their reliance on external power for running air conditioning and other equipment.

Award-Winning Work

Colleges are frequently leaders when it comes to sustainable construction projects, which makes it no surprise that Tulane University’s Lavin-Bernick Center and American University of Beirut’s Charles Hostler Student Center – both projects of Vincent James Associate Architects – were recognized in 2008 and 2009 as among the “Top Ten Green Projects” by the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment.

The Hostler Center, in particular, features a number of athletics spaces that are made more sustainable through simple, passive processes. Light wells funnel natural light into the building from outside, solar collectors heat water for showers and the swimming pool, and naturally replenished water walls insulate the building. These solutions are vital for high-use spaces with major energy needs, like the Hostler Center.

Underground Options

When green space is at a premium and energy use levels are high, one solution that urban planners are adopting for athletic facilities lies beneath the surface – literally. Underground construction, such as that embraced by the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., allows for a kind of double use of space. In this case, the new gym is beneath the pre-existing track and football field. The underground construction also keeps the space especially cool compared to similar facilities.

Sidwell now features one of the most advanced secondary school athletic facilities in the United States, and the increased capacity allotted by the new gym means the school can host many events, providing the opportunity for sustainability proselytizing. Particularly among private urban schools, the Sidwell model could transform physical education and extracurricular facilities.

Urban areas are revolutionizing how we think about athletic facilities by employing a range of sustainable technologies, designing towards LEED certification, and placing a continued focus on the importance of green space. As sites with typically high energy needs, the solutions pioneered by athletic facilities are paving the way for a broad set of new and reengineered buildings around the world.



Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees



As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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