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Musing From the Front Lines June 2021

As a member of The Air and Waste Management Association (AWMA) Climate Change Committee Meeting we met to continue our planning for the Climate Change 2021 – The Push to Carbon Neutrality, Adaptation and Resiliency – Virtual Conference scheduled for December 1st and 2 nd of 2021.  Our challenge is to overcome the inertia around virtual conference burnout.  One early sign of that might be that only three abstracts have been submitted to date.  We discussed partnerships with other professional organization to help bolster attendance.  Some ideas for partners include the American Society of Adaptation Professions (ASAP), the California Association of Environmental Professionals (AEP), the American Planning Association (APA), and several others.  We also discussed Keynote speakers and/or panel participants.  Some names that have emerged include Gina McCarthy (White House National Climate Advisor), Panama Bartholomy (Director Building Decarbonization Coalition), Jared Blumenfeld (Secretary of CalEPA), Debbie Rafael (Director of SF Environment).  In terms of early ideas related to virtual networking I recommended using the same “speed-dating” platform that I enjoyed engaging with during the North American Carbon World (NACW) conference last month.  Our planning efforts will begin to pick up as we get to the latter half of the year as we hope to drum up some excitement for this important conference.

ITEM #1 This month’s meeting my embodied carbon (Embodied Carbon is that which from extraction, transportation and manufacturing of raw building materials and  is a significant part of a building's life cycle. Embodied Carbon will be responsible for almost half of total new construction emissions between now and 2050) focus team took center stage right out of the gate. As a member of the Green Building Working committee I assisted the committee in studying and developing recommendations for the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors (BOS).  Our team came to the conclusion that the idea of bundling both low-carbon concrete and building electrification into the ordinance is a good idea. Assuming that the Sustainability Commission supports those two approaches in tandem, we can bundle them into one recommendation..
Two other recommendations we made concern purchasing decisions and total life-cycle analyses. A third concerns designing public building for adaptability and repurposing. It seems to me that there are different pathways toward adoption:
The concrete and electrification policies could be adopted via reach codes  (A Reach Code is a local building energy code that “reaches” beyond the state minimum requirements for energy use in building design and construction, creating opportunities for local governments to lead the way on clean air, climate solutions, and the renewable energy economy).
The Buy Clean California requirement and the call for total life-cycle analyses, through a revision of the county’s purchasing policies.
The recommendation that public building must be design for adaptability and repurposing may best be incorporated into the Contra Costa County Climate Action Plan.
The formal work group report is below:
Contra Costa Sustainability Committee
June 28, 2021

Our work group included Nick Despota, Chris Easter, and Luz Gomez. We met four times via teleconferencing. In addition, we held one meeting attended by Brian Reyes (Planner, Marin County), Miya Kitahara (Program Manager, StopWaste) and Wes Sullens (CCC Sustainability Commission). We held another meeting attended by Tammy Seale and Eli Krispi (PlaceWorks), Wes Sullens and Jody London (Sustainability Coordinator, CCC).
This report includes the five recommendations below, a graphic (see below) comparing embodied carbon to operational carbon emissions in buildings, Much of the recommendations.  An interview with Brian Reyes and Miya Kitahara, regarding implementation of a low-carbon concrete building code provided much of the basis for the recommendations. 

1. All-electric requirements for new buildings
Ask Sustainability Committee to support adoption of all-electric building specification for new construction in both public and private sector. We recommend the adoption of a prescriptive, rather than a performance-based, reach code.
2. Revision to Purchasing Services policies
To help achieve GHG reductions well into the future, we recommend that the county’s procurement decisions incorporate total life-cycle analyses. For example, prefer products that arrive at the job site with significantly less packaging waste, and select materials with consideration for their recovery and re-use potential. Purchases informed by life-cycle analyses can  both reduce costs and lower GHG emissions.*
3. Buy Clean California specifications
We recommend that the county’s Requests for Proposals specify use of construction materials identified by Buy Clean California. These materials are characterized by their low global warming potential. Buy Clean California provides specifications for structural steel, concrete reinforcing steel, flat glass, wool board insulation and concrete

4. Adaptability and repurposing of public buildings
Promote adaptability and capacity for re-purposing in new public buildings. For example, community centers should be designed with potential for being quickly adapted as cooling centers or evacuation support facilities. (This principle is drawn from the paper, Circular Economy: Principles for Building Design. European Commission, 2020).

5. Low-carbon concrete to reduce embodied carbon
To reduce embodied carbon in new construction, recommend that the Sustainability Committee direct staff to study adoption of reach codes requiring use of low-carbon concrete. (Based on our conversation with Brian Reyes and Miya Kitahara for their report of experience since implementation of the new building codes, and the status in other jurisdictions considering doing likewise).
During a thorough discussion related to the all-electric approach and the embodied carbon issue an interesting item was brought up related to unintended consequences of moving toxic materials into the low embodied materials supply chain.  I suggested a risk assessment be completed to ensure this issue is addressed before a “new ordinance” gets rolled out and the changes in the building code are promulgated.
ITEM #2 was related to the County Active Transportation Plan.  Active transportation is using human energy (i.e. walking, biking and rolling).  The idea is to reduce carbon footprint and enhance public health, via a deep dive into types of bike lanes and efficacy of their design.  The plan will have a listing of projects to prioritize.  My take away is that more folks want better and safer access to bike trails and the County is trying to deliver.
ITEM#3 Phillips 66 and Marathon renewable fuels refinery turnover.  Phillips refinery will be one of the largest renewable fuel production facilities in the world.  By 2024 production would be 800 MGD of renewable diesel and gasoline  will have the ability to produce renewable jet fuel as well.  Feedstocks will be fats, used cooking oil and vegetable oils.  Hydrogen will also be generated and a 90-acre solar facility will also be constructed. Significant reductions in air pollutants as well as water use will occur.. Renewable diesel is a drop-in fuel (ie no engine modification is needed to  yield 35 vs 100 carbon intensity).
Marathon is similar to Phillips 66.  A key part of Marathon’s sustainability plan is 30% reduction below 2014 emissions.  Soy bean oils, corn oil and fats are feedstocks with both renewable diesel product as well as renewable aviation fuel.  There will be no palm oil used  as there is a strong aversion to its toxic byproducts. Marathon is relinquishing air permits so there is no return to crude oil refining.  They target 48,000 bbl./day by 2023 of renewable diesel; environmental benefits include 60 % reduction in GHGs and a 70% reduction in air pollutants current emissions.


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