Ask Mark

Philadelphia's Director of Sustainability, Mark Alan Hughes, answers our readers

This month's column is my last as Director of Sustainability and my question comes from the editors of Grid

Q: What is the most important or surprising lesson you’ve learned during your time as Director of Sustainability?
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Ask Mark

Philadelphia's Director of Sustainability, Mark Alan Hughes, answers our readers

Q: The tax abatement costs the city millions in revenue, and discourages the renewal of existing buildings, thus causing the waste of huge amounts of energy and new construction material, while not requiring any more labor (that is, it doesn’t create jobs compared to restoring existing buildings). It also encourages private automobile ownership in the city, since all new houses are required to have garages. With rising energy costs encouraging people to move back to the city, this unfair subsidy is completely unnecessary. Will you advocate to eliminate the 10-year property tax abatement for new construction in the city?
—Jerry Silberman
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Philadelphia's Director of Sustainability, Mark Alan Hughes, answers our readers

Q: I’ve heard rumors that all new construction in the city will be required to be LEED certified or Energy Star rated. I’m sure these are just rumors, but what measures are being taken towards making new construction, including residential, more sustainable? The sustainable strategies include, but are not limited to: energy efficiency, construction waste management and requiring the use of regional materials. Also, when can we expect a zoning code that DOES NOT encourage the use of cars and parking in the city?
Christine Rossi, LEED AP, architect intern, Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC
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Ask Mark

Philadelphia’s Director of Sustainability, Mark Alan Hughes, answers our readers

Q: When I saw you speak at Johnny Brenda’s a few months ago, you mentioned an idea to make Philadelphia government offices more energy-conscious by tracking their usage, setting goals and rewarding conservation efforts. Since that time, Mayor Nutter has announced massive cutbacks and I couldn’t help but wonder if your plan to curb the energy use by government offices has been put into effect.
—Elizabeth Reed, Northern Liberties

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Q:  [What is] your vision for residential solar power in Philadelphia’s energy future?
Many Philadelphians, like me, have homes with flat roofs that receive plenty of
direct sunlight. Is the city considering any programs that would help us tap into that potential power, like California’s “Million Solar Roofs” project?
—Tom Schrand, Director of the Environmental Sustainability Program at Philadelphia University

A: Thanks, Tom. Great question. Just to clarify, Philadelphia’s own Million Solar Roofs Partnership (PMSR) was established in 1999 by the Energy Coordinating Agency and the Sustainable Development Fund. It was a regional effort to contribute new solar installations to a national goal of one million by 2010. Through public/private collaboration, public education, developing a market and infrastructure for solar applications, and providing training opportunities to those interested in solar technologies, the PMSR helped to install approximately 185 systems.

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