Students from the University of Wisconsin’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the LaFollette School for Public Affairs presented possible sustainability and greenhouse gas reduction solutions at a meeting of the city’s Sustainable Design and Energy Committee Monday night.
The graduate students told the committee their plans for bettering sustainability among city facilities. Corey Singletary, a student in the LaFollette school, said many large city facilities such as the Alliant Energy Center, the City-County Building and Monona Terrace use a high proportion of energy.
Singletary said major facilities and programs not completely associated with the city, such as the Dane County Regional Airport and Madison Metro, were excluded from their research of the city’s sustainability.
The representatives from LaFollette and the Nelson Institute used software to estimate the amount of energy used by the city since the base year 2007, which Singletary said was approximately the equivalent of 121,090 barrels of oil.
Singletary said the research did not take into account the city’s usage of refrigerant chemicals, which are one of largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. He added the next step will be to evaluate sustainability on a community-wide basis.
Dane County is also using the same software as the city, meaning city and county facilities will be counted and evaluated separately.
The committee also focused on their ideas for future sustainability plans related to transportation and urban development in both the short and long term.
Members of the committee said city transportation is one of the crucial sustainability-related issues, and the location of a new high speed rail station could change plans for traffic reductionin the city.
Committee member Sherry Gruder said the placement of a high-speed rail station in downtown Madison near a major city facility like Monona Terrace could force the committee to alter their parking and traffic reduction plans for the downtown area.
“Depending on where that rail hub gets located, we’re going to have different things to deal with,” Gruder said. “If we have a hub downtown besides the airport, it’s going to have a real effect on the city.”
Gruder said the committee and the city should make sure the new transit options coming to the Madison area should not negate sustainability initiatives that have already been implemented.
The plan is part of a long-term goal to make Madison a more walking and cycling friendly city that could bring residents within one-half mile of all their daily needs. Committee member David Drummond said the city should address these transportation needs as a jumping-off point to continue onto further sustainable development.
Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway, District 12, said it will be difficult to have regional organizations approve the more generic recommendations the committee approves in the future. She said she would like to see concrete recommendations to the city that emphasize the most important initiatives.
“We can go and talk to the county executive all we want,” Rhodes-Conway said. “But this is a city body; we have a hard enough time influencing the City Council and the mayor.”