The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 15, 2008


Bringing green building design to Carlisle

Recent volatility in fuel prices has provided a sharp incentive for Carlisle to increase energy efficiency in our school and municipal buildings. The town has already begun working toward reducing fuel use in existing buildings by forming an energy audit task force. In addition, on August 12, Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie announced the state will be auditing energy use in municipal buildings. Improving old buildings is useful, but it is especially important to incorporate energy conservation and other green building principles in any new municipal construction, such as the Benfield housing or the proposed new school building project.

Durable, energy-efficient structures may be more expensive to build initially, but can be cost effective over the life of the building. A building that lasts for a century is generally cheaper in the long-run than one that must be replaced after 30 or 50 years. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program establishes standards and can be a useful tool to help the town discover and incorporate green design elements.

This week the Housing Authority published the request for proposals for the creation of senior affordable rental housing on the Benfield Land, and one of the development guidelines was the incorporation of green building principles. This is a great opportunity for the town to create attractive, comfortable housing that conserves both fuel and water. The benefit of green building techniques will have a big impact as it will affect all 26 homes in the development.

Daedalus Projects Inc., the firm recommended to work as Owners Project Manager (OPM) on the school building project, has experience with green building. Initially, the OPM will help the town select an architect to prepare schematic designs. Later on, the OPM would help oversee construction. The Senior Project Manager Sean Fennell has LEED accreditation, and according to their OPM proposal, “He analyzes the impact of each LEED design element, itemizing the cost-benefit and payback analysis of each item so the owner can make a fully informed decision.” He is currently working on the Willard Elementary School construction project in Concord, which is incorporating green design elements such as natural lighting, energy modeling and the use of renewable materials.

Another opportunity for the town is the Green Communities Act signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick on July 2. According to information on the state web site, part of the new legislation sets up a program where the Department of Energy Resources’ Green Communities Division will provide grants and technical assistance to towns seeking ways to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. This could help us on our way.∆

No such thing as no-man’s-land

Most of us adults remember roaming our childhood neighborhoods without our parents, riding our bikes far and wide, walking along railroad tracks, jumping over streams (or not, thus soaking our shoes). All this without cell phones for regular check-ins.

Today, we worry that kids don’t go outside enough, that they’re tethered to electronic pursuits indoors. Yet, when they do go outside, we worry about predators (human and insect) and what the kids are up to. Maybe we worry a little more in Carlisle because of the distance between houses.

So maybe it’s not surprising if we don’t get around to telling our kids to respect other people’s property. Some wag once said, “Everybody gotta be someplace.” Well, it’s also true that every place gotta be somebody’s.

Whether it’s your front yard, your neighbor’s back acre, or the woods down the street, every inch of land in our town belongs to somebody: to individuals (and, in many cases, their banks), to companies, to the town, or the state. In our society, there is really no such thing as a no-man’s land. Just because it’s “unimproved” doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong to someone.

In Carlisle, a lot of the land that one might consider “empty” or “just there” is public property. That is, it belongs to all of us. Our public entities, like the Selectmen and the Conservation Commission, have authority over how it is used. They make rules about when we can be on the lands, and what we can do there, in order to protect the land and the many species that live on it, and to preserve it for the enjoyment of all of us.

It’s not okay to build a fire on conservation lands without a permit, as much as it might be convivial to have a weenie roast in the woods – and as much as we might want that for our children. The reason: the danger of fire spreading and damaging the wildlife and the land that belongs to all of us.

It’s not okay to walk down the railroad tracks (even though they provide a convenient path from the high school to the depot area in Concord). The tracks belong to the railroad, and it is responsible for the safety of the land and the tracks.

It’s not okay to build a dirt-bike trail in the woods, complete with contours and jumps, as challenging, industrious, and out-right fun as that might be. Why? Because, unless the land is yours, you’re altering something that doesn’t belong just to you. You don’t get to decide, without consulting the rest of us, whether or how to change the land and its use.

The Conservation Commission and the Land Stewardship Committee work hard to protect Carlisle’s property. They really want us to use the land. They worry about how many “no’s” they put on signs, because they don’t want to put us off (you shouldn’t need a sign to tell you “no alcohol” if you’re not old enough to buy it anyway). In certain instances, the town will issue permits for otherwise prohibited uses.

Your child doesn’t need to know all about that. But he or she does need to know, as Sylvia Willard, the wise administrator for the Conservation Commission, says, “Any place you can stand belongs to someone.” Please teach your children the ground rules, then shoo ’em outside. It’s great out there. ∆



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