In November of 2019, the City of Ann Arbor declared a climate emergency and committed to achieve a just transition to community-wide carbon neutrality by 2030. Known as A2ZERO, this plan identifies a series of actions in 7 strategy areas, all of which are necessary to reduce the City's 2.1 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (carbon pollution) to zero.
With the combination of Transportation, and operations of Commercial, Industrial, and Residential uses comprising 62% of all greenhouse gas emissions in our community, the impact of land use is significant. In response, the City has added both policy and regulatory measures within A2ZERO to respond to this crisis, and it is anticipated that such regulations will evolve and expand in the future.
Nonetheless, there are actions that can be voluntarily initiated or furthered today to help address this emergency. And these actions can help the City understand other ways we can support our community with achieving our climate, sustainability, equity, and land use goals.
Utilization of Infrastructure and Densification
While the City's infrastructure network is not without challenges of maintenance and investment, a simple way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is through the effective utilization of what already exists. In the context of City regulatory requirements, think about your home, business and property, and how can it be utilized to maximize the benefit of its location. Maximizing the use of property in the City is a way to take advantage of past infrastructure investments (e.g. utilities, roads, transportation choices) rather than the need to expand or replicate these services with greater cost and greenhouse gas impact elsewhere.
When development or redevelopment of a site is contemplated, ensure that you and your design team are not starting with a context-free boundary of your site. Make sure you are considering the natural features present (e.g. woodlands, landmark trees, wetlands, slopes) and think about the ways that these resources can be protected, enhanced, and ultimately add sustainability, economic, and quality of life benefits to your development and the City. The City has many mechanisms in place to consider creative and alternative ways to marry your vision of use and development, while minimizing impacts to natural features that could result in significant cost or denial of your proposed plan.
Future Proof your Development
You are considering a sizable investment to renovate, improve, add, or construct your building. Consider the steps now that you can make to ensure that your investment results in a lifespan worthy of the care and investment you make:
- Consider the addition of solar renewable energy and battery storage to provide safety, stability, and long term benefit as the community's electrical grid shifts from primarily fossil-fuel based, to clean-renewable sources. If you connect your property to a natural gas line, you are acknowledging a reliance on a finite resource that will result in continued greenhouse gas emissions and assurance that in time the usefulness of the building will wane or require significant retooling/and reinvestment to convert to other sources of energy.
- Consider geo-thermal technologies as a way to provide heat and cooling to your building. At any scale, use and size, this technology is evolving and provides an opportunity to reduce any outside energy source needs to effectively maintain your comfort.
- Electrify your appliances. Electric or induction cooktops, dryers, water heaters, heat pumps, and air handlers ensure that as the energy sources to power our community move to more and more renewable sources, the greenhouse gas emission benefits from your use will be immediate and impactful.
Smart Material Choices
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of your proposed development by choosing lower carbon impact materials. A variety of resources are available to explore more beneficial material/supply choices to help reduce the initial impact of greenhouse emissions as your development is conceived and realized. The incorporation of these measures earlier in the process helps to solidify the benefits to you and the community.
(Reducing Embodied Carbon in Buildings,RMI, 2021)
Resources for the Development Community
May 12, 2022