Missed The Zero Cities Project Community Forum? Here’s a Wrap Up!

The Zero Cities Project has been working diligently behind the scenes within City Hall to derive a comprehensive and strategic approach for a policy road map which would enable and encourage all Grand Rapids buildings to achieve zero carbon by 2050.

The grant-funded project is informed by technical analysis, community collaboration and a strong focus in equity for all residents living and working in Grand Rapids. Leading the charge is the City’s Sustainability Manager, Alison Waske Sutter. The purpose of The Grand Rapids Zero Cities Community Forum held in the City Commission Chambers the morning of Wednesday, May 23rd was to present the Building Stock Baseline Analysis which was hot off the press.

Accompanying Alison was Cheri Holman, Director of the Grand Rapids 2030 District; and Celia Hoag, advisor from DNV GL to the Consumer Energy’s Zero Net Energy Pilot Program. After presentations, the audience provided feedback during an open forum.

Presentations can be found in the Educational Library on the Grand Rapids 2030 District’s website.

Community Forum Highlights:

The audience was engaged and interested in seeing how such a policy would be adapted to support such a mixed building stock: from commercial fast food, to hospitals, to residential. As seen in the Zero Cities Pilot Presentation, engaging communities and knowledge sharing is a constant component of the three-year planning process timeline. Community feedback will inform and help shape the policy roadmap as it develops.

Building developers encouraged the City to lead with economics first, preferring incentives over unfunded mandates. The audience supported the continued consideration of the elasticity of the City’s diverse building markets. Affordability is a central target for the Zero Cities Project, to retain and attract talent in Grand Rapids.

Also in the spirit of economic equity, single family housing was of interest, as it accounts for 68% of the building stock and 46% of the gross square footage of the city. The Mayor has reignited a Energy Advisory Committee in which individuals with experience in this arena are at the table.

A clear distinction was made between zero net energy and zero net carbon. There is much common

ality in striving for energy efficiency, though zero net carbon incorporates on-site generation and renewable energy procurement options. The panel and audience discussed local renewable energy gardens and microgrid neighborhoods.

Hoag, DNV GL, brought valuable perspective to the table, coming from the state of California which started the policy process much earlier than the rest of the country.

Now that a carbon baseline has been established, the Grand Rapids 2030 District can produce progress reports that compare the actual data and measure progress toward the goal.  The 2030 District is a three pronged program targeting reductions in carbon from Energy, Transportation, and Water. Transportation and Water initiatives are in the nascent stages though growing quickly. Community insight into these realms were welcomed with open ears.

The Zero Cities Project will continue to conduct 2050 projection studies for population, total building area, total energy consumption, and GHG emissions.

Consumers Energy Pilot Program works with building owners and developers to achieve a net zero energy buildings in design and operations. Read details in Hoag’s presentation.

Stay up to date with the Grand Rapids 2030 District on the website or newsletter. The district offers education, tools and resources that support high performance building operations.  Membership is free for building owners.

Written by Gillian Giem, USGBC-WM Staff


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