QU Earth Day speaker sheds light on sustainability efforts in Connecticut
By Rob McGreevy
In honor of Earth Day, on April 20 Quinnipiac University’s Student Programming Board invited Mark Robbins, president of MHR Development, to speak in conjunction with other Earth Day related events.
The event opened with an Earth Day fashion show, where models wore eco-friendly garb, and finished with a speech about the role of buildings in relation to environment sustainability.
Robbins talked about his company, which works to improve buildings, and what it does for the environment.
He spoke about the importance of energy efficient buildings and shed some light on how much buildings contribute to climate change.
“Greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels – oil and gas – to create electricity.” Robbins said. “These buildings consume 40 percent of the electricity emitted.”
Robbins made an indirect connection between the electricity consumed and the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
“Buildings are responsible for 40 percent of the national carbon dioxide emissions,” Robbins said. “People say ‘why are buildings emitting carbon?’ well it’s not the buildings that are emitting carbon, but the operation of these facilities – the heating and the cooling of the buildings is coming from power plants that are directly emitting carbon, and also heating the atmosphere.”
MHR has worked on a number of significant projects in Connecticut such as Windermere on the Lake, a 80-acre site in North Stamford. It was originally supposed to be subdivided into multiple housing complexes until MHR stepped in. Robbins said, “it’s a very important site from an ecological perspective.”
MHR prevented the land from being fragmented.
“We wanted to create (a) meaningful habitat,” Robbins said.
So MHR reduced the size of each dwelling unit, expanded the wetlands and made sure the entire site was an uninterrupted habitat. In addition to the ecological measures, every building on the land was optimized to be as energy efficient as possible. The streetlights are lit by battery storage and every house is equipped with a septic tank that converts the discharge into water that, according to Robbins, “is actually cleaner than rainwater.”
The cost of energy in Connecticut is the second highest in the country because it imports most of its energy. According to Robbins, “we’re not fracking here in Connecticut, we’re not refining oil.”
This high cost, Robbins says, brings hope to clean energy industry in Connecticut.
“When people say we’re thinking about doing LED light bulbs or solar panels or investing in combined heat/power equipment and better insulation, the payback here in Connecticut is astronomically better here than it is in the rest of the country,” Robbins said.