August 1st, 2011

When Oysters Grew on Trees

Of course, oysters don’t grow on trees. But oysters do grow in shallow coastal waters, as do mangrove trees. The mangrove roots provide a good habitat for the oysters, and the oysters filter the water around the mangroves. So these two very different species can coexist in a way that at low tide it looks as if the oysters are actually a fruit of the mangrove tree.

One of the fantastic stories that circulated back across the Atlantic from Early European explorers was of oysters growing on trees in this New World. So the Oystertree is a mythological creature, inspired in part by the Gulf of Mexico at its healthiest. But there is also a larger truth of abundance accurately told through the myth of the Oystertree: that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. Thus, our goal at Oystertree Consulting is similarly to make the whole greater than the sum. We do that by adding measurable green building and sustainability outcomes to affordable housing and community development goals, seeking social justice ends through environmentally and economically sustainable means.


July 14th, 2011

HUD Public Housing Authority Sustainability Conference

July 2011 HUD PIH Ecowise NewsletterAt the HUD Going Green: Intelligent Investments for Public Housing conference yesterday in Boston, the biggest takeaway was simply the attendance. Standing room only, with participants crowded at tables in a large ballroom, and others apparently turned away at the door. With funding restrictions and cuts for the foreseeable future, it would have been fair to think that green building in particular and investment in general might not be a hot topic. But the turnout yesterday indicates that the opposite is true.

Sessions on Day One included lots of examples of tangible projects representing the Change We Believed In back in November 2008. Examples included green retrofits from agencies in Cambridge, MA and Baltimore, MD, agency-wide sustainability efforts in Denver, CO, and a large scale net zero project in El Paso, TX.

Industry-wide, CLPHA reported on $5 billion of stimulus-funded work, which spurred $12 billion in total economic investment and created over 100,000 jobs in communities across the country (CLPHA numbers presented at the conference). If you’re counting, that’s roughly $50,000 of public investment per job created, which is significantly less than the $200-270k numbers I’ve seen cited by critics of the stimulus. Beyond just the stimulus, HUD reported green retrofits of more than 159,000 units over the past two years–an ambitious benchmark for success that HUD set early last year, and met mostly with retrofits in the public housing portfolio.