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Talking football keeps building council leaders thinking green

Those looking to build in Warwick will soon be able to track their permits on line, learn what stage in the process they are at, what they need to complete and get a picture of when they will be cleared for construction or opening.

“It’s going to be a lot easier to do business in the city,” Mayor Scott Avedisian said Friday, at the 5th annual leadership summit of the regional committee of the U.S. Green Building Council held at the New England Institute of Technology. The two-day summit brought together 110 leaders in sustainable planning, design and building. Chairing the event was Ken Filarski, founder and principal of FILARSKI ARCHITECTURE+PLANNING+RESEARCH of Providence.

As chairman of the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA), Avedisian also spoke of measures to bring efficiencies to the system, including a redesign of the hub system that has all buses emanating from Kennedy Plaza in Providence; reduction of stops; timing of buses in response to demands; use of smaller buses on routes that don’t have high ridership; and the acquisition of hybrid buses that will reduce fuel costs.

Avedisian also talked about the energy efficiencies of RIPTA offices on Elmwood Avenue, from solar panels that when fully installed will start producing 287 kilowatts of electricity starting this June, to water collection systems.

But for all the city and RIPTA are doing to streamline operations and reduce energy consumption, it was hard to compete with what another Warwick resident brought to the 50 men and women attending the morning meeting.

Jack Groh brought the National Football League (NFL) into the conference room with clips of the way the game used to be played and then highlights from the 2010 season that put people on the edge of their seats and all but cheering. Actually, there were a few unrestrained yells with shots of Tom Brady.

Groh the football fan is also the environmental coordinator for the NFL and the juxtaposition of how the game was played, and how it has become the national sport, illustrates his premise that, “We [the NFL] look at things and see how they could be.”

Then he posed the question of the environmental impacts of the game and the Super Bowl.

He said the league started with a solid waste management program in 1993. Recycling was the first step, which evolved into food recovery and even the “re-purposing” of the six miles of fabric that is used for dressing up the Super Bowl stadium. Groh said that efforts to reduce the impact saved the release of 43 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in New Orleans.

In addition, he said that the $50 million to $60 million New Orleans spent to host the game reaped $350 million to $500 million.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse made a video appearance, citing what he called the exciting work of Aspen Aerogels in East Providence developing new insulation material to reduce energy loss; and the work of North Kingstown builder Dave Caldwell, who is combining insulation techniques with renewable energy technologies “to reduce net utility bills to virtually zero.”

Whitehouse also disclosed that he will reintroduce the Energy Efficiency in Housing Act, requiring the Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop incentives for energy efficiency in public housing, and the Renewable Energy Access through Leasing Act. He said the act would enable the Department of Energy to insure the value of renewable energy leases. Solar panels and installing renewable energy systems can be prohibitively expensive to many homeowners, he said. Leasing “can be an attractive, low-capital option,” he said.

Whitehouse said he has also talked with state leaders about the development of a common permit application for residential and commercial solar and geothermal projects.


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