A ‘golden era’ of home-building?


Continuing our theme of pessimistic optimism (or is it the other way around?) we look at a syndicated column from Mary Umberger of Tribune Newspapers, titled, Utility bills?  That’s so passe“.

In the article, we discover the work of David Goswick, head of a company (HOUZE) that guarantees the buyers of its new homes that they will pay no electric or gas bills for the first 10 years, because the homes are so efficient that they will indeed have energy to sell back to the utilities!

HOUZE houses generate their own electricity with natural gas power cell which generates enough electricity to power the home, and several others. HOUZE maintains ownership of the power cell, pays the natural gas bill, and is able to sell the ‘extra’ energy back to the utility companies. The homes are thus reasonably priced for buyers, since they provide a source for ongoing income to HOUZE  in the steady-state.

The power cell is roughly the size of a traditional air conditioning unit, and can store the unused energy in back-up batteries and/or contribute it back to the electricity grid.

HOUZE has brought together many brand names (wisely) to help promote this technology.  From their press release:

Numerous leaders in the building, technology and energy industries are showing their support for HOUZE, resulting in an impressive coalition of strategic brands. Through the dedication of these companies, including AT&T, Carrier, CHASE, James Hardie, Pella, Murff Turff, and the American Gas Association, HOUZE is accelerating the transformation of the residential and commercial building industry from being one of the largest consumers of energy to zero energy buildings that consume less energy, efficiently produce on-site energy and leave a near zero carbon footprint.

So this is an example of what the builder calls a ‘golden era’ – but even if you don’t buy that it’s gold, it is at least a somewhat green expansion of the home-building industry, one that smacks of optimism.

What do you think?

Learn more here.


Salt of the earth…

Several of our last posts have focused on the economic and social responsibility legs of the triple bottom line.  With this post we return to the environmental leg, with a “green by definition” project which was just turned over for operation in sunny Spain.

“Green by definition” is one end of the Green Rainbow we talk about in our book.  These are projects which have as their main outcome an environmental improvement. The other end of the spectrum is “Green in General”, which would be, for example, release of your company’s payroll software.  Even those projects, we assert, can benefit from sustainability thinking.  But that’s not the topic of today’s post.  Today we talk about molten salt.

According to a great article in ecoseed.org, “The 19.9-megawatt Gemasolar concentrating solar power plant uses 2,650 flat mirrors called heliostats arranged over 185 hectares of land to heat molten salt. The heliostats focus sunlight on a tower where liquid is heated up to 900 degrees centigrade. It is then stored for later use at above 500 degrees centigrade in tanks beneath the tower.”

Why salt?

Simple physics.  Salt retains heat longer than water.  Read about it at Sandia National Lab’s site.   Here’s a more detailed technical article about a plant to be built in Nevada.

And here’s a diagram of a molten salt solar power generation system.


The lesson for our project managers?  Learn the technology, the vocabulary.  Understand the importance and significance of such projects and be ready (and willing) to take on either a project like this.

Give yourself the opportunity to work on projects like this.


Some green gold for the holiday season


Various cultures celebrate this season differently, but in just about all of them, gold is considered valuable.

The book Green to Gold was one of our original inspirations when we started Earth PM, and wrote our book.  So we, of course, follow Andrew Winston’s excellent blog.  And he just put up a real nice posting.  We’ll be very lazy (getting in the holiday spirit) and simply send you there (a link is provided at the end of the list).  However, we ask that you take the time to follow the links he provides, and not just to read the list.

1. The climate bill dies in the U.S. Senate.

2. Nature strikes back/Climate change is real.

3. Resources get very tight.

4. China, China, China.

5. Renewables are for real and moving fast

6. Supply chain pressure continues to rise (a.k.a., Wal-Mart doesn’t slow down).

7. Zero is the new black.

8. Big goals were back.

9. Electric vehicles storm the market.

10. Small guys can do it too.

11. (Bonus!) The Military gets serious about green.

Click here for the top 10 (really 11) green business stories of 2010.  Again, we implore you to check out the well-assembled links that Winston has made available!

To our many subscribers, followers, and readers: thanks for your support, and have a great Holiday Season – may you find some green gold yourselves!

Strange Environmental Bedfellow’s Defeat Prop 23 (Update)

strangebedThis is a follow up to an earlier post.

The California vote “signifies the largest public referendum on clean energy legislation. Tom Steyer, co-chairman of the NO on 23 campaign, stated “In the midst of a major economic downturn, and with a barrage of fear mongering and scare tactics, voters still said they want a clean energy future.”” from  Solar Novus Today (www.solarnovus.com)

Californians rejected the attempt to suspend the state’s global warming law signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The defeat was by a significant margin, 39 percent to 61 percent, with 93 percent of the precincts counted, according to the Associated Press.

The San Francisco Chronicle states that; “The vote clears the way for a state law restricting greenhouse-gas emissions to go into effect in 2012. The law requires the state cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. It will require utilities to get almost a third of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar panels, and create a market for carbon-dioxide pollution permits.  Proposition 23 was “the largest public referendum in history on climate and energy policy,” said Fred Krupp, president of the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund.”

Although backers of Proposition 23, conceded defeat, they called the outcome “a victory for Wall Street over Main Street” vowing to continue their efforts to “save jobs” and curb energy costs.   I’m a little confused.  When I look at the contributors to the fight for and against Proposition 23, I might say it was a victory for Wall Street over Wall Street, because on one side are the likes of Microsoft and Apple, on the other is Big Oil.  It reminds me of the Harlequin, turn one way it is dark, turn the other it is light, but overall, it is the same, but that’s the subject of another post.

Continuing with the Chronicle, “”Millions of voters have said they see clean-energy jobs as the path forward through a tough economic climate,” Krupp said.”  For us, as project managers, that is key.  We need to continue to “surf the green wave.”  Green jobs mean green projects, mean project managers to manage those projects.

Don’t you think that those sponsors of green projects would rather have someone familiar with the reasons, the driving forces, behind the green wave, to manage their projects?  For further information on how you get SMARTER* on this “green revolution” see our book and follow us on this site.  The revolution is here, evidenced by the defeat of California’s Prop 23 and a continued emphasis on tax incentives for alternate energy development.

*From Green Project Management, CRC Press (Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic, Timely, and Environmentally Responsible)

President Clinton, Project Manager?

UNITED STATESYou may have often heard said that the Project Manager is like the CEO of their project.

You may also have heard that a President is like the CEO of the country.

So, it doesn’t take too much linking logic to combine those assertions to come up with the ‘conclusion’ that President Bill Clinton is at least ‘like’ a Project Manager.

And in fact, Clinton recently addressed the North American PMI Congress in Washington, DC.  One nice part was that he kept his prepared remarks to a minimum.  Attendees were given a little card in their conference materials to facilitate asking him a question.   So, President Clinton had those questions somewhat before he got up on stage.  Acknowledging the quality of the questions posed by PMI Congress attendees, Clinton said (to applause) that he would not talk too long, and would instead devote more time to a question and answer session – an “Oprah-esque” interview by Greg Balestrero, CEO of PMI.  We were in attendance and listened carefully, taking some copious notes.

You don’t have to agree with Bill Clinton to know that he’s a good speaker.  And here he proved that he’s also a pretty darn good interviewee, ready with a quick wit and a great handle on a whole range of facts and knowledge.  Clinton answered a set of far-ranging questions from the audience.  Here we will focus on Clinton’s comments from his prepared talk as well as his response to the questions, which deal with climate change and project management.  And yes, that topic – and our foundation – the intersection of green and project management – was a major thread (perhaps even a rope!) of the conversation.  There were times when we couldn’t help saying to ourselves: “he really gets it!”.

During his prepared speech, Clinton identified three areas in which Project Management needs to play an increased role.

Those three areas are:

  1. Global instability
  2. Growing economic inequality between rich and poor countries
  3. The need for change in the way energy is produced and consumed in the world

We will focus, of course, on the third item.  However, you can get a perspective on all three and the entire event by reading this recent PMI.org blog entry.

On this topic, President Clinton said, “I happen to believe changing the way we produce and consume energy is the greatest single economic opportunity that the developed nations have had, at least since there was mass mobilization for World War II, and this time, we don’t have to kill anybody….I have a climate change project, and I work in at least 25 countries, 40 cities, on six continents, proving that it is good business to change the way you produce and consume energy.”

Speaking of the Kyoto agreement and the effect it had had on four major economies – those of Sweden, Denmark, Germany,and the UK, Clinton said that after they took the agreement seriously, “those countries had lower unemployment rates, less income inequality, more small business formation, and more job formation, given the size of their economy than we did, and the only conceivable explanation, if you look at all the economic variables, is because they made a very serious attempt to either change the way they consume energy or change the way they produce it or a combination of the two.”

Our favorite quote – perhaps because of the way he introduces it, is this one:

“Deutsche Bank, not Greenpeace, but Deutsche Bank recently did a study on the German subsidies of this last decade, during which Germany leap‑frogged the U.S. and Japan to become the number one producer and user of solar power in a country where the average sunlight is what it is in London, England.

So they had to heavily subsidize it.  Deutsche Bank said, even accounting for the drag of the subsidy, Germany netted 500,000 jobs, which, if we had the German program, we would net 1.2 million, since, if we had the same sunlight, since we have twice the capacity, just implementing that would give us 2 1/2 million jobs, at a time when we desperately need them.  So I think we need to make an economic case, a national security case, and a climate change case together.  People are smart enough to figure this out.”

We like the quote, because:

  • Like us, Clinton is stating that the evidence pointing to the ‘good logic’ (of initiating green projects and putting more green into projects) is not a radical ‘tree-hugger’ idea, but a sound business principle
  • He realizes that people have different ‘channels’ for being convinced of the need to work on sustainability issues.  He combines three biggies here: money, security, and survival.  Pretty basic on the Maslow pyramid, right?  Not too shabby.
  • He uses a reference country – Germany – which has implemented solar power despite its not being a model for sunniness.  Project managers and other intelligent people can do the extrapolation that in areas like the southern USA, Australian outback and the Sahara, the justification should be that much easier

So what do you think?  Were you there?  Did you react positively?

If you weren’t there, based on our reflections and recollections above, what do you think of these connections to our profession that President Clinton made?  And, in particular, what do you think of the very specific connection Mr. Clinton made to the intersection of green and project management?