I experienced a sort of “good article/bad article” phenomenon when I read your September issue. First, I was heartened by the Engineering Green Buildings column (“Compact Fluorescent Lamps”) written by Larry Spielvogel, which is one of the few articles I have read lately that speaks to the realities of so-called “green” design. Too often, a technology is touted as an elixir for our energy problems with absolutely no downside. But as Mr. Spielvogel aptly points out, there always is give and take. The results are net, but we always focus on the gross.
After the refreshing clarity of Mr. Spielvogel's column, I was subjected to the abstract “Rising to the 2030 °Challenge” feature. After having to add photovoltaic solar panels and a gas-fired microturbine farm and gerrymandering utility rates from “default” to “more realistic” (by whose definition?), the authors reach the primary conclusion that zero emissions is possible. Sure, if you have “high-process loads,” enough room to install turbines and panels, and a client who can absorb a seven- to 15-year payback. The conclusion that should have been drawn was the authors' secondary observation that technology changes, not just energy-saving features, are required.
I respect the authors' contributions and take no exception to their impressive analysis, but while I was an early proponent of green design, I have grown jaded by the outlandish claims and unrealistic targets and obstacles put out there without consideration for what is do-able in a commercial market where deep pockets don't always exist.
Your magazine's obvious commitment to all things green is to be commended. But we can't lose sight of the first law of thermodynamics (i.e., conservation of energy). There is no such thing as a free green lunch.
Kevin Dickens, PE, LEED AP
St. Louis, Mo.
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