State Looks to Reverse Green Building Codes

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, May 19, 2011

On Earth Day, one state commission took the first step toward rolling back energy-efficient building requirements.

The group is the Construction Industries Commission, and the legislation in question is the New Mexico Energy Conservation Code, adopted late last year after more than 12 months of weekly open meetings and five public hearings. During its April 22 meeting, the commission voted unanimously to start the process of repealing the standards. Public hearings are scheduled in four cities on the same day, June 2.

The commission is the same entity that unanimously approved the rules last year, but it has new members appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez. Some believe the decision to reverse the regulations stems from the also-governor-appointed Small Business-Friendly Task Force, which shares two members with the commission. The task force’s position: State rules shouldn’t be more demanding than national standards.

Read More

Do It Yourself, Honey

Urban farmers take living well into their own hands

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, May 19, 2011

A colony of 80,000 bees holds enough sting to kill you—actually, it holds enough to kill about 80 of you. But sitting a few feet away from a hive that’s nearly as tall as she is, Chantal Foster is unfazed as yellow-and-black honeybees whiz by on a pollen-fueled highway. Maybe it’s because, with rare exception, the potentially deadly flying insects seem to have no interest in her. The bees are on a mission, and it’s about getting frisky with flowers, not ferocious with humans.

Foster runs the Albuquerque Beekeepers Association, and she’s seen the group’s membership double over the course of a year. “Last year there would be 30 to 40 people at a meeting,” she says. “Now it’s standing-room-only with 60-plus people—and on a Wednesday night.” A lot of those new members are young, and many of them are women, she says. “There’s something in the zeitgeist,” she says. “Maybe people are feeling discontented with the way of modern life.”

Read More

Utilities Protest Carbon Caps

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, April 28, 2011

Greenhouse gas rules in New Mexico just can’t catch a break. After escaping Gov. Susana Martinez—and demise in the Legislature—they’re in the crosshairs of utility companies.

The death-defying regulations have a singular goal: to reduce carbon emissions in the state.

Don Brown, spokesperson for PNM, says that’s an expensive proposition. “We’re concerned this would increase the cost of living here, as well as hamper the ability to recruit business here,” he says. “The concern is that it puts us at an economic disadvantage.”

Read More

Trading Greenbacks for "Green"

Will changing the city's building requirements be a boon or a bust?

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, April 21, 2011

Two steps forward, one step back. That’s how some people describe a change to Albuquerque’s building requirements. The city says the move will save much-needed money while continuing to take a step forward with conservation, but critics argue it’s a big step backward.

The City of Albuquerque climbed aboard the sustainability bandwagon a few years ago, launching the AlbuquerqueGreen campaign, adopting the nationwide 2030 Challenge and declaring victoriously that all new city vehicles would be powered with alternative fuel. In 2005, it even adopted a law requiring some new structures to meet the guidelines of the world’s most recognized and respected system. Buildings more than 5,000 square feet would have to follow standards set by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

What that last bit means is that when larger structures were built or majorly renovated, they had to meet requirements of energy efficiency, water conservation, lighting and air quality.

On Feb. 7, the City Council unanimously repealed this law, replacing it with older conservation rules. The 2009 code addresses energy efficiency, but it doesn’t outline standards for many other aspects covered in LEED. Some green-building advocates worry the move may serve as a bellwether for the city’s attitude toward sustainability and speculate about the larger implications of this change.

Read More

Growing a Neighborhood

by Christie Chisholm, LocalFlavor Magazine, April 2011 

A patch of dirt heaped with old tires, soiled diapers and needles is an odd place for a garden. When the SouthWest Organizing Project got permission from the City of Albuquerque to take over the tract in early 2010, its workers and volunteers lugged out mounds of the stuff, including more than 35 wheelbarrows’ worth of glass. But once the weeds and debris were plucked and plots were laid, it produced more than 6,800 square feet of scarlet runners, tomatoes, onions, sweet corn, squash, pumpkins and yellow-meat watermelons, among a cornucopia of other produce.

Dubbed the Feed the Hood project, the mission of SWOP’s garden is to distribute fresh, healthy food to area residents. Sandwiched between the affluent Ridgecrest and Nob Hill areas, the Southeast Heights garden sits on the corner of Ross and Wellesley, in a low-income and somewhat transient neighborhood. SWOP chose this plot for a reason: to organize.

Read More