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Green Spot Project: informs with real-time data, empowers through participation, and greens your space by tracking positive progress



Creating sustainability within the built environment—places that have been directly impacted by humans and where humans live—is an exigent challenge in the mitigation of climate change.

There are several hindrances to meeting this challenge, including (1) higher upfront costs (real or perceived), (2) lack of political support and incentives, (3) lack of market demand, and (4) lack of public awareness(ref1).

Imagine the following scenarios:

·      A homeowner is reluctant to install a rooftop solar installation because they don’t know anyone in their area who has done it before (i.e., they are afraid to be the first) and they heard permit costs for their county might be cost prohibitive (Hindrances 1 and 4)

·      A scientist is hired to identify counties in Alabama that have the smallest total distributed solar capacity installed and identify political and economic solutions to increase their penetration into the market (Hindrances 2 and 3)

·      An employee notices that their building uses virgin paper towels in their bathrooms instead of electric driers, which use 1/6 to 1/10th of the energy, but doesn’t feel comfortable telling the boss (Hindrances 3 and 4)

·      A city mayor wants to create an incentive program to increase low-emission features in buildings but doesn’t know the number of buildings interested to develop a realistic budget plan (Hindrance 2)

The Green Spot Project seeks to address all four hindrances, through the development of data, at relevant spatial scales, needed to identify and quantify sustainability within individual buildings, renewable energy production in demand centers, and a mechanism to track positive progress.

Specifically, the Green Spot Project is an energy informatics database that will map and track green buildings and their attributes at the city, county, and state-level. The data produced will be as relevant and accessible to an average concerned citizen as it is to an engineer working for the Department of Energy.

Category of the action

Building efficiency: Physical Action

What actions do you propose?

Specifically, the Green Spot Project will:

·      Map every green building (“green spot”)

·      Map every roof-top and distributed solar installation (“green source”)

·      Crowd-source attribute information and data for each green spot and green source

·      Map buildings identified by users as having “green potential,” providing a forum for public suggestions and comments related to sustainability for the places and spaces they work and live in and care about

·      Track the number of tons of avoided CO2 emissions from roof-top solar systems for any individual building or area of interest (e.g., Orange County, Florida)

·      Track the number of tons of avoided CO2 emissions from building efficiency features (non-solar) for any individual building or area of interest

·      Enable clear and visually stimulating online data access and synthesis for the concerned citizen

·      Enable clear, relevant, and accurate online data access for policy makers, stakeholders, non-profits, industry leaders, and the scientific community

·      Ensure replication of project system to other areas through an open-access and peer-reviewed manuscript describing all development steps, methods, and metadata

Who will take these actions?

Project Manager and Lead Energy Scientist

The project manager is a Ph.D. candidate in the Environmental Earth System Science Department at Stanford University and is a scientist in residence at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology. This persons research foci includes energy system informatics and their work has been published in top journals including, Environmental Science and Technology and Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. The project manager is currently the Climate and Energy Fellow at California Audubon, an NGO.

Education:  B.A., UCLA in geographic technologies; M.S., CSU Fullerton in biology; earning a Ph.D. in Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Technician and Project Manager

The GIS Technician currently studies the potential of renewable energy systems in California and globally and is particularly interested in increasing the sustainability and energy security of urban areas through academic research and applied, grassroots programs.

Education: B.A., Chapman University in Environmental Science and Policy

Scientific Illustrator and Media Developer

The scientific illustrator produced graphics for the Working Group II contribution to the 2014 IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Their work has been featured on the The Colbert Report and National Geographic.

Education: M.S. in biomedical visualization, University of Illinois; B.F.A. in Art from the University of Iowa. 

GIS Associate and GIS and Python Interns, TBD

The GIS intern will be responsible for assisting in geodatabase development. The GIS/Python intern will be responsible for development of the crowd-source data interface.

Development Intern, TBD

This position will be filled upon project funding and will 1) establish a broad network of users, contributors, and sponsors and 2) ensure beginning-to-end user satisfaction. 

Where will these actions be taken?

California Audubon will provide the hosting requirements for a permanent online home for the Green Building Spot Project at their home website: California Audubon and the University of California at Berkeley will provide office space and related necessary facilities for project team members. The Department of Global Ecology and the University of California at Berkeley will provide ancillary administrative, development, and marketing support in addition to technical expertise and advising. 

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Buildings emit approximately 1/3 of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Our goal for this study is to 1) reduce building emissions in focus areas by 30% in five years (2015-2020), and 2) generate renewable energy where it is consumed. For the latter, in the city of San Francisco, over 3,747 rootop solar installations are installed producing 31,113 MWh y-1, saving 5.9 million dollars annually and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6,282 tons of CO2. The savings incurred is within an area of only 232 square miles (including land set aside for conservation)! For urban areas with similar solar energy resources, this number can be scaled according to the area (ref2). 

What are other key benefits?

The Green Spot Project will enable city, county, and states to make informed decisions towards reaching their sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions goals.

The project managers are active mentors and passionate about increasing the representation of women and underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). To that end, they will encourage applications from candidates that contribute to this goal and subsequently provide interns with training and experiences that will facilitate better employment opportunities in STEM fields. 

What are the proposal’s costs?

Online Data Repository Fees - $2,000

Open-Access Journal Fees - $5,000

Miscellaneous Costs and Fees - $3,000

Development and Marketing Costs - $5,000/year

Graphic Design Costs and Billing Hours (as independent contractor) - $10,000

Computational Software, Hardware, and Supplies - $40,000

Hard Cost Totals: $65,000

Project Lead Scientist - $30,000/year (as independent contractor)

GIS Technician and Manager – $60,000/year

Training Costs - $5,000

Part-Time (35 hours) GIS Associate - $30,000/year

Part-Time (35 hours) GIS and Python Intern - $30,000/year

Part-Time (35 hours) Development Intern - $30,000/year

Soft Cost Total: $185,000/year

Full Project Cost

Year One:  $250,000

Year Two: $185,000

Time line

The Green Mapping Project will be conducted in two phases; the first phase will be an online website presence for a single model state, i.e., California.

The second phase will augment the online presence with the use of a mobile application and expand the area to the rest of the United States. 

Related proposals


ref1 - World Green Building Trends: Business Benefits Driving New and Retrofit Market Opportunities in Over 60 Countries. 2013. Smart Market Report. McGraw Hill Construction and United Technologies, 1-68.

ref2- San Francisco Energy Map: A map of clean energy activity around the city. Accessed July 2014. San Francisco Department of the Environment and CH2M Hill,