Torchlight Article Archives


May The Force Be With Us
Jul. 8, 2014

Use The Future As A Reference
May. 8, 2014

Meet Donovan Richards: NYC's New Environmental Protection Chairperson
Mar. 13, 2014

Carpe Diem
Feb. 12, 2014

Tallying 2013
Nov. 30, 2013

Notes From A Green Building Transition Talk NYC 2013
Nov. 18, 2013

So Quiet You Can Hear A Plank Drop
Sep. 23, 2013

Energy Auditing In San Francisco: An Owner's POV
Jul. 8, 2013

Industrial Strength Sustainability
Apr. 24, 2013

Hedgehogs And Foxes
Feb. 21, 2013

Taking Stock of Benchmarking
Oct. 10, 2012

Irrigated With Sunlight
Sep. 24, 2012

The Data-Driven Built Environment
Jun. 27, 2012

Measuring Up
Apr. 2, 2012

Show Us The Application
Feb. 6, 2012

A Whole Lotta Learning Going On
Dec. 7, 2011

X Marks The Spot
Jun. 29, 2011

Reimagining The Middle Distance
May. 16, 2011

Dear Sustainability Officer
Mar. 22, 2011

Moral Hazard
Jan. 25, 2011

Edging Toward Energy Efficiency
Nov. 22, 2010

Energy Efficiency: Money Isn't Everything
Nov. 4, 2010

Hear A Pin Drop
Oct. 12, 2010

PACE Goes Poof!
Jul. 31, 2010

Till Human Voices Wake Us
May. 31, 2010

Home In The Dome
Mar. 22, 2010

Paving The Way
Jan. 29, 2010

It's Not A Wrap
Nov. 24, 2009

More Than Hope
Sep. 24, 2009

We The People
Jul. 2, 2009

Getting Down To Work
Apr. 22, 2009

A Glass Act
Mar. 5, 2009

Don't Get Lost In Translation
Jan. 1, 2009

The Deep Green Quartet
Oct. 30, 2008

Memories of Next Summer
Aug. 26, 2008

Can't Wait
Jun. 26, 2008

If Climate's The Question, Is Sticky the Answer?
Apr. 30, 2008

When Starting Over Is Not An Option
Feb. 28, 2008

Knocking At Our Door
Dec. 28, 2007

Possible But Not Probable
Oct. 31, 2007

Rolling Up Our Sleeves
Aug. 31, 2007

"If We Don't Act Now, When? And If We Don't Act, Who Will?"
Jun. 29, 2007

In Dreams Begin Accountability
May. 2, 2007

How To Get What We Pay For
Mar. 9, 2007

Giant Steps
Jan. 4, 2007

Waiting for Godot in NYC
Nov. 29, 2006

Countdown for NYC's Green Building Law
Oct. 18, 2006

Measuring Up to Lord Kelvin
Aug. 16, 2006

Greener With Envy
Jun. 30, 2006 — A Modest Proposal
Apr. 17, 2006

Torchlight Articles
Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

Beat The Extreme Heat

November 30, 2015

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

OK, writing about scorching hot weather in December may seem a bit odd, but bear with me. Global temperature trends, with 2015 on track for being the hottest year in the historical record, and with the evidence in hand to debunk climate denialist claims of a pause or hiatus in global warming over the last 15 years mean that deep damage to the Earth's climate is happening now. And that's not all for city dwellers. The urban heat island effect (UHIE) at the city-scale is something we are already all too familiar with. With temperatures rising 4–8 degrees Fahrenheit above surrounding areas and staying hotter at night time, UHIE makes us more than sweaty and sticky; it makes us sick; and heat stroke poses increased risk of dying, especially for the elderly and the frail.

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Nancy Anderson, Ph.D. & Stuart Brodsky

Building Energy Performance: What’s Evidence Got To Do With It?

October 05, 2015

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D. & Stuart Brodsky

New York City's landmark Building Energy Benchmarking statute, Local Law 84, is one of the singular achievements of Mike Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 and has the potential to serve as a power tool for helping to realize Mayor de Blasio's goal of cutting the city's carbon footprint 80% by 2050. By potential we mean the extent to which LL84 findings are presently underutilized. By potential we also mean, given the information about building energy use now on hand and the knowledge gleaned about how this data can be applied to building features and operations, there are significant benefits still to be gained.

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Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

Getting Active On Passive House

June 18, 2015

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

I'm a fan of Passive House. Ever since visiting the top-to-bottom renovation job for an elegant 19th century home in Brooklyn Heights undertaken by architect Ken Levenson back in 2011, the potential for constructing — or in this case reconstructing — urban buildings to keep occupants really comfortable year round without boiler heating or air conditioning in every room has been my yard stick to measure all other climate-friendly buildings. Levenson's Snapshot column was the first introduction Sallan readers had to Passive House, and since then, Ken's been one very busy Passive House advocate.

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Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

The Spanish Requirement

March 17, 2015

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

Omri Ben-Shahar concludes a scathing attack on contemporary disclosure laws with a barbed reference to a 400-word pronouncement, called the "Spanish Requirement". It was a prepared statement read in Spanish by 16th Century conquistadors to New World inhabitants, which warned them, having been put on notice, to "acknowledge the Church as the rule and superior of the whole world" or else!

More Than You Wanted To Know book jacket
Image: Book Jacket

While Professor Ben-Shahar concedes, "Happily, disclosures no longer excuse slaughter and slavery", he and his co-author Carl E. Schneider in More Than You Wanted to Know: The Failure of Mandated Disclosures, set out to make the case that today's disclosure laws, often called "sunshine" laws, are, at best, a waste of time because they fail to inform, warn or change anyone's behavior. At worst, disclosure laws shield bad actors from legal liability and let timid politicians hide behind the supposed virtues of enacting sunshine laws rather than passing bills to outlaw the behaviors that disclosure laws are supposed to help us see and thus avoid or amend. These are serious indictments, and as a long-standing supporter of New York City's very own sunshine statute, the Energy Benchmarking Law, enacted in 2009, I knew I needed to read this book with care. What if it's right?

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Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

Promising Promises

January 20, 2015

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

"In Dreams Begin Responsibilities" is a much-admired short story by Delmore Schwartz where the character becomes increasingly agitated in a dream as he watches a film depicting his parents' courtship. Readers are apt to reflect on their own family dramas, hopes and regrets. While, for most of us, the drama of climate change, sustainability and its fierce political struggles is not the same as the family variety, the implicit questions about the choices we make and the responsibilities we incur run deep for both.

As Sallan begins its second decade, it's a good moment to reflect on what promises were made and my sense of what was at stake back in 2005 when Torchlight #1 was posted. Much has happened in the arena of urban sustainability and climate change since then, some of it very good, some of it not, and our responsibilities should press us onward. But, exactly how?

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Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

The Difficulty Of Simplicity

November 10, 2014

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

Use more four-letter words. No, not those kinds, but short, everyday four letter words that mean more to most people than "sustainability" or "resiliency" or even "benchmarking building energy efficiency". Climate activists, energy system innovators, and campaigners for grassroots eco-engagement need to do a better job when trying to tell fellow citizens what they should think is important, which in turn will influence their everyday choices, like the stuff they spend money on and who they vote for. We can't expect most people to take up zero-carbon lifestyles as a rallying cry because people have a lot of other things on their minds and much to do every day. But becoming climate aware and climate smart and energy-educated is well within everyone's reach. This is the reason we've got to do better at making our messages and our prescriptions easy to grasp.

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Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

The De Blasio Benchmarking Blessing

September 29, 2014

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

Mayor de Blasio has given a special vote of confidence to Local Law 84, the building energy benchmarking mandate, in his climate policy vision report "One City, Built to Last: Transforming New York City's Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future". At the very same time, the US Environmental Protection Agency has released an expanded version of Energy Star, a software program that for the first time allows multi-family property owners and managers to score and rate their properties' energy performance and make comparisons with comparable properties. Talk about great timing, now that New York has become the biggest city in the world to set a goal of cutting its carbon emissions 80% by the year 2050.

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