Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays from the EcoCenter Team

Friends, I have been thinking about the importance of this week with regard to the EcoCenter's Journey. Last year on this very day, we were told by our project manager from the State Coastal Conservancy that our funds via the state were being frozen due to California's fiscal crisis. If you all will recall, the state comptroller issued a freeze for all grantees due to the fact that the legislature had not yet passed a budget and the state coffers were totally empty of cash. This was a very traumatic time for the Ecocenter team for without the critical support of the state's funds we would not have an ecocenter building. We recall also, the plight of so many projects throughout the State of California who have not resumed work due to California's fiscal crisis.

It's amazing how far we have come in the last year since our funds were unfrozen in August.

Since the freeze ended we were able to finish up our framing, put on our roof, and solar panels, install our plumbing and trimwork and the building looks gorgeous. We have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season--friends who stuck with us through the freeze, our funders who committed to support us dispite the horror of losing our critical funding source, Moira, Amy, Joan, and Sam from the Coastal Conservancy who offered so much emotional support to us during that time, and most important, also all the contractors and vendors and fellow activists who have shown a steadfast committment to the vision of the EcoCenter/Living Classroom despite all the obstacles we have faced.

Thank you all and our team looks forward to this new year which we hope will be full of abundance and inspiration for us, and for all of our friends working on innovative green projects throughout the state.

We have much to be grateful for this year.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Experiencing and Off-Grid Environment

I just spent a week connecting with some friends that are off-gridders in Mendocino and was struck by the power of their life experience living without tie-in to municipal utilities and how our project in San Francisco captures so many themes that are so relevant to our modern world: living with a limited water budget, staying attuned to our electrical needs, being aware of where our waste water goes. I spent over a week living with my friends and I was struck by the fact that so much of our time together involved discussions about basic life systems: potable water, electrical energy, and wastewater. My friends are so attune to their personal needs and what waste is being generated, and how to create more efficient systems.

I spent Thanksgiving in the city last night and watched my urban friends turn on hot water and let the faucet run with abandon, and left heaters on in basement rooms where no one resided. I was struck with how so many my urban friends have no idea what their own electrical homebudget is, yet they are paying large utility bills every month!

Here in the city, so many of us take for granted that we have complete access to these vital systems. How many of us could survive on a water budget of 10 gallons per day or an electrical budget of 2 kw a day?

I am very excited to start working with EcoCenter Team at Literacy for Environmental Justice, to craft educational literature around the systems we are bringing to our community in San Francisco that will help bridge the educational and experiential gap between these two worlds!

Monday, November 16, 2009

We have Power!

Friends! I am very excited to announce that this afternoon at 5:15 pm we hooked into our solar array. I was accompanied by Myla Ablog, Herons Head Park Manager; John, our Americorp intern; Joel of Lorax Developers, as well as the good folks at Occidental Power; and Mike, of All-Around-Electric.

We celebrated this moment by plugging in a power tool! As soon as we pulled the power tool out, one of the good men from Rebuilding Together came over to ask if he can charge up his iphone. Welcome to the 21st Century! This was indeed an incredibly exciting moment to be able to connect right into our power source, and know that our local power utility [whose name will go unmentioned] was providing us with absolutely zero power backup!

I am proud to announce that we are generating our own power and we are independent of the non-renewable energy czars!


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Salesforce, Rebuilding Together, and Literacy for Environmental Justice Team up!

We are getting ready for a big day this week. On Tuesday November 17th over 200 high-tech volunteers who will be in town for Salesforce.Com's Dreamforce Conference, will be coming to the EcoCenter to paint, tile, side, landscape, and install cabinetry at the EcoCenter! This represents an effort by the good folks at and Rebuilding Together to "raise the roof" on a capital project in San Francisco that has been over 11 years in the making. Yesterday I spent eight hours with the incredible staff at Rebuilding Together, Orlanda and Kat and all of the professional folks they bring to the table to help ready the building for the big day. We primed and trimmed and cut our paths in preperation for the big workday

This is an incredibly exciting moment for our team and the community we serve!

This is the kind of infusion of energy we need to take the project to the finish line!

Here's a great quote from our press release:

“This workday is bringing us a thousand hours closer to opening the EcoCenter’s doors,” said Malik Looper, executive director of Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ). “The EcoCenter is a source of great pride in our community, and we welcome the contribution of Rebuilding Together and all those who want to build a more sustainable future for our youth.”

This workday is the largest that RTSF has hosted in its 20-year history. “This is the perfect project, and Dreamforce is the perfect partner,” said Karen Nemsick, RTSF’s executive director.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

EcoCenter Solar Array Installed Today!

It is with great pleasure I get ready to go down to the site this morning to watch our solar array being installed-the last two weeks Oxypower's team has been spending preparing the roof for our modules. Today is the day our 24 BP modules are launched on our building! Kristine Enea's Film crew-Shooterkat will be with us to witness this milestone moment. Installation will occur from 9am-4pm today. Come on down!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pictures from San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR)

We had a wonderful day on August 20th introducing members of SPUR to Herons Head Park and to the EcoCenter! The team from the Port of San Francisco introduced the history of Herons Head Park.

Malik Looper, LEJ's Executive Director gave a commanding presentation about Environmental Justice and the importance of physical pilot projects.

We then brought the group inside to show the progress we are making so far!

It was a great day for all of us!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

EcoCenter Welcomes Department of the Environment to the Center for the First time!

We had a wonderful day showing Jared Blumenfield and Ray Manion from the SF Enviroment to the building today! We owe so much to SFE for their incredible committment to the vision of the EcoCenter Project throughout so many years! Today we welcomed Jared to the building for the first time!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thank you Mayors Community Challenge Grant and the SFPUC!

Friends, I am so happy and honored to report that we have been awarded the Mayors Community Challenge Grant as part of Mayor Newsom's Livable City Initiative for our Rainwater Harvesting System! This particular grant is a partnership between the Mayors CCG program and the San Francisco Public Utilities Low Impact Development Solutions Team! This grant will enable us to purchase a beautiful corrugated steel tank that we will use to capture the rainwater that falls on the EcoCenter roof to be used as the primary water source for the toilets in the building as an alternative to using Hetch Hetchy Water. We will be able to offer a fantastic educational learning opportunity, feature a sustainable water conservation solution, while practicing water savings!

Check out some of the images of our selected tank as well as an interesting article on choosing your tank and an overview of SFPUC's amazing work:


Monday, June 15, 2009

What does it mean to be "off-the-grid"?


The EcoCenter at Heron's Head Park, formerly known as the Living Classroom, will be San Francisco's first and only formal off-grid environmental education center. Alot of folks are always asking why we are building off-the grid, which always brings up the question of, what is the "grid" itself.

I would like to start sharing with our broader community, a little bit of information about why this building is considered to be "off-grid". Over the next few months, while we are building the center, I will be sharing information about each particular building component so that the broader audience can get a little more insight about our work and our program.

What does it mean to be "off the Grid"
"The grid" is a common name for the power grid -- the linked system that delivers electricity to the masses. A typical house is connected to power, natural gas, water and telephone lines. Going off the grid means shunning these public utilities in favor of creating your own energy or treating your own water. Some homeowners have historically choosen to be partially off the grid by supplying their own electricity and ditching their phone line, while relying on the convenience of city water and sewage. Others choose to live completely off-grid by digging wells or using a cistern system to collect water.

The term "off the grid" or "off-grid" refers to living in a self-sufficient manner without reliance on one or more public utilities. Off-grid homes are typically autonomous—i.e. do not rely on municipal water supply, sewer, natural gas, electrical power grid or similar utility services. A true "off the grid" or "off-grid" house is able to operate completely independently of all traditional public utility services. It's impossible to get an accurate count of exactly how many people in the United States live off-grid, but in 2006, Home Power magazine estimated that more than 180,000 American homes were supplying their own powe without being tied to the local utility Because many citizens around the world have never had the chance to go on the grid, current estimates are that (at least) 1.7 billion people live off-grid worldwide. When you consider all the individuals and communities living on the water, in the rural outback, and in emergency situations around the world, the number grows even higher.

There are many factors that inform a person's choice to go--"off the grid":

-Location: How far is the building site from the central infrastructure grid? What is the cost of "tying in"? Are their regulatory or easement challenges in bringing the "grid" to the site? Is there a "grid" to tie into. Many folks living in outback areas (military, water based environment, rural, permafrost zones, industrial) have no access to a utility grid.
-Financial Cost: What are the up-front infrastructure costs of tying to the grid?
-Philosophical Cost: What energy inputs are used to operate the utility grid? Coal? Petroleum? Nuclear? Many persons who decide to go- "off-grid" consider these factors.
-Life-Choices: Some individuals want to live autonomously and independently from centralized systems.

For the Ecocenter, the team was influenced by many, if not all of these factors.I would love to hear from anyone about their experience moving off the grid in an urban environment.

Friday, May 15, 2009

EcoCenter Goes in for the Living Building Challenge

We are very excited to be applying to become the first living buiding in San Francisco. It's alot of hard work, but we're getting there.

The Living Building Challenge Mission: To encourage the creation of Living Buildings, sites and Communities in countries around the world while inspiring, educating and motivating a global audience about the need for fundamental and transformative change.

The ILBI is a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to the creation of a truly sustainable built environment in all countries around the world. Comprised of the leading green building experts, futurists and thought-leaders, we believe that providing a compelling vision for the future is a fundamental requirement of reconciling humanity’s relationship with the natural world.

The Living Building Challenge is a program initially launched and continues to be operated by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council (a chapter of both the US Green Building Council and Canada Green Building Council) and has quickly become the most advanced green building rating system in the world.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Thank you Rebuilding Together and Anderson Windows!

We received a beautiful donation of white terrazzo marble from the great folks at Rebuilding Together in San Francisco! I look forward to figuring out creative ways of using the marble!

Today we also received our gift of greenhouse windows from Anderson Windows!

Thank you both!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Thank you Glide Youth Build!

We had a wonderful day last week working with Glide Youth to implement our workplan around construction waste management. The youth built out bins and starting sourcing material for either re-use or waste diversion. We were joined by Kevin Drew, who is the construction waste management direct at the SF Department of the Environment, and founder of Building Resources. Thank you to Jeff and Steve of Glide for working with us and especially Andey Nunes for coordinating the day!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The EcoCenter has been Framed!

Greetings Friends, I am so happy to report we have a roof on our building. After ten years of work, two architects, three geotechs, and hundreds of hours of design and engineering we have arrived at a building. And its quite beutiful. Check this out.