Would you like your solar panels in blue-black, blue-black or blue-black? For years, that’s been your only efficient choice. But researchers recently announced they’ve discovered a way to make the panels bright green.

Once we’ve gone green, can other colorations be far behind? Imagine terra cotta for roofs, green or brown for ground-level panels camouflaged by natural areas, and white, taupe and every other color for exterior walls and outbuildings.

Color panels are currently being made but they are only about 50% as efficient as the ubiquitous blue-black PV panels. The new green panels, which infuse color via “nanocylinders”, rather than a coating or reflective dye, are about 90% as efficient in generating electricity.

A new solar color palette may well incentivize installation for property owners who believe in sustainability principles, but want their solar to aesthetically blend in with their site and architecture.

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By Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

You’ve seen the pictures. The stork wrapped and trapped in plastic. The tortoise with a stomach full of plastic pieces. The little seahorse swimming along with a Q-tip as his mate. The beached whale dead from eating plastic bags, plastic cups, flip flops and tangled string.

All the photos are sad and shocking. But the whale was in Indonesia and the turtle in Thailand. And what does it have to do with you?

If you’re willing to dive into a brilliant, in-depth article in the February 4th issue of The New Yorker, you’ll find your answer. The article focuses on a 22-year-old entrepreneur who is also a visionary, puzzle solver and environmentalist. His organization is called Ocean CleanUp which we’ve written about on Linked In and in our company blog.

Here’s a taste of the article’s contents… “…numerous studies have shown that microplastic is everywhere—in the melting ice of the Arctic, in table salt, in beer, in shrimp scampi. A study last year found traces of it in eighty-three per cent of tap-water samples around the world. (The incidence was highest in the United States, at ninety-four percent.)”

From the online journal PLOS One: “…more than 5.2 trillion particles of plastic were swirling in the planet’s oceans, and, in time, much of it would be ingested by ocean dwellers and by creatures that eat fish, including people.”

Microplastics are also on every beach in the world, including the one in front of the $20,000 a month Hamptons beach house you’re thinking about renting this summer.

Read all about it here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/02/04/a-grand-plan-to-clean-the-great-pacific-garbage-patch

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The subject of ocean pollution and the damage it does to the ecosystem requires a book. A very large, dense book. At present, it’s a disturbing read.

Every year, 1.4 billion pounds of trash enters the ocean. It consists of run-off pesticides, herbicides, detergents, oils, chemical fertilizers and untreated sewage. The latter is primarily plastic which erodes into micro-plastics and can be found on most of the world’s beaches including the one in front of the $20,000 a month house you just rented in the Hamptons.

According to the National Ocean Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce), 80% of marine pollution comes from the land and includes anything purposely discarded or that flows into the ocean from sources like roads, farmland, industrial facilities, residential and commercial buildings through run-off.

New York City suffers from such a problem. During high rain and snowstorms, sewers become flooded by runoff. They, in turn, overcome the capacity of treatment plants, adding untreated waste water to storm water, with that overflow depositing pollutants directly into our waterways.

We’ve been a huge proponent of green roofs in the city, whether they are simply covered in native grasses, decorative or worked as urban farms, because they absorb storm water that would otherwise flood the streets and sewers.

The Atlantic Ocean (north and south) has a garbage patch with a density of 200,000 pieces of marine debris per square kilometer. Estimates are that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific contains 18 trillion pieces of plastic and 80,000 tons of garbage. 99% of it is plastic.

It doesn’t look like 18 trillion single use plastic bags and soft drink bottles because the plastic has been reduced to microscopic, suspended particles. But it’s there and doing extreme damage:

* An abundance of pollution creates ocean dead zones where marine life cannot survive. There are currently approximately 500 ocean dead zones.

* Because birds and sea mammals mistake plastic for food or unavoidably eat microscopic marine debris, according to UNESCO, “plastic debris causes the death of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. “

* Because debris requires oxygen to decompose, the levels of oxygen in the ocean declines, affecting marine animals ranging from sharks to turtles and penguins.

* Because pollution affects the food chain, humans who eat fish and other marine life can be exposed to health problems that include cancer and birth defects. (All those feel good/eat good/be healthy websites that promote fish protein either don’t know, or don’t tell you, that there’s a down side.)

We’ve written this before, but it’s worth writing again:

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
– Inspirational speaker and one of the world’s greatest explorers, Robert Swan

Thus, Part Two of this series will explore the many organizations that are fighting pollution and the innovative ways they’re doing it.

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

Energy savings is still the leading green building dynamic. In addition to substantial cost savings, new laws regulating energy usage and public reporting have upped the ante with regard to not only compliance, but also maintaining a good, green corporate citizenry brand.

2018 will see a groundswell of interest in one emerging trend: healthy buildings and wellness within them. Next are other trends worth noting.

Telecommuting is one on the rise as younger workers seek flexibility and self determination in their work and consider working from home to be a job perk, and employers seek to offset the brain drain of retiring baby boomers by keeping current employees.
Telecommuting reduces traffic congestion and, thereby, greenhouse emissions. Insofar as its impact on real estate, companies are reporting they save multimillions of dollars in real estate costs.

We’ve been proselytizing about green roofs for years, calling them the next great, green building revolution. Gorgeous, living architecture, green roofs are valuable to building owners and tenants alike. They create a sustainable environment for wildlife, reduce runoff, extend roof life, reduce AC and heating costs, serve as a fire and noise retardant, contribute to air quality, and greatly enhance a property’s marketability and value by providing viewable or useable garden and recreational space. They can also be used for sustainability points for certifications and give an owner bragging rights on their building’s green profile.

Trends in green roofs include greater emphasis on native plantings; “communities” of plantings that work together to improve the ecosystem; self-watering and fertilizing systems that take the emphasis off maintenance and place it on monitoring; and more easily moveable planting containers.

Seguing into the topic of wellness, which will be explored in depth in Part Two of 2018 Green Trends, is a connection between green roofs and building wellness – the growing popularity of free-standing, vertical living walls and gardens. It’s an easy, relatively inexpensive way to green up a reception area, lobby, conference or meeting space, office or landscape and can be purchased in various sizes, shapes and systems. Living walls add beauty, reduce energy costs, serve as sound barriers and are contributors to employees’ peace of mind.

Part Two will connect the dots between increased worker health and productivity, building value and going green.

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

Well over a year ago, in November 2016, we wrote about the future – New York City’s future to be exact – in a scenario where the city becomes the largest solar energy producer in the world.

The prediction incorporated solar panels, solar glass and electricity-producing glass coatings, solar storage, buildings functioning off the grid, and a net zero carbon foot print, as well as updates in fast-moving solar technologies.

Thus, we were quite gratified when Newsweek published an article a year later with similar information that included Michigan State University’s R&D of a fully transparent solar concentrator that can turn any glass, from your office window, home skylight and Smartphone screen, into the equivalent of a solar panel.

Having been prescient on this score, will our prediction that NYC will become the world’s largest solar energy producer be far behind? Stay tuned.

Read our article (Solar in the City: Skyscrapers Rock & Rule, November 2016) and many others on solar power in this blog’s Solar category.

Read the Newsweek article here:


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