Las Vegas’s Energy-efficient Government Buildings: Leading By Example – Las Vegas: Lights On, Sustainable City Las Vegas strives for another 30 years of sustainability management under the guidance of alumnus Marco Velotta.
The towering solar panels in front of Las Vegas City Hall stand guard against a sinister enemy. The effects of a warming climate and severe drought are most apparent in a city built in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and the solar panels represent a quick and focused shift Las Vegas made 15 years ago to future-proof the city. The efforts have paid off. In 2016, Las Vegas was certified as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold City by the US Green Building Council for its extensive implementation of sustainable building and operational practices. The city has reduced annual water use by 40 billion gallons over the past 15 years, even as the population grows rapidly, and in 2020 the city launched its new 30-year master plan with a clear focus on sustainably managing the future of Las Vegas. Las Vegas City Planner and Department of Geography alumnus Marco Velotta (B.S. Geography ’06, M.S. Land Use Planning ’08) has been at the forefront of the city’s sustainability movement since 2008. He grew up in Las Vegas and has seen the city grow exponentially. , its durability during the Great Depression and its subsequent, unexpected transformation into a model city of sustainability. He’s well aware that the path forward isn’t a straight line, which is a good thing because it’s Velotta’s job to make the map.
- 1 Las Vegas’s Energy-efficient Government Buildings: Leading By Example
- 2 Follow The Money: Southwest Gas, Nv Energy Lead List Of Energy Donors To Lawmakers
- 3 Contour New Home Community
Las Vegas’s Energy-efficient Government Buildings: Leading By Example
Graduate Marco Velotta walks under solar panels in front of Las Vegas City Hall, where he serves as a city planner. (Jennifer Kent)
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Where do you find a crystal ball to say with certainty that this is what the future will look like?” Volota asked. We have been taking sustainability actions for over 15 years. We were able to make huge investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Now, by 2050, we’ll add another 300,000 people in the city of Las Vegas alone and another million in the greater metro area. and mixed-use developments that are not as water-intensive and still accommodate population growth. There are several paths forward. It just decides which is best.”
“The crazy thing is, if we get to the point where the water doesn’t go through the Hoover Dam, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles will all lose Lake Mead as a source.”
Water is number one on the city’s list of conservation concerns. Lake Mead — which holds water for southern Nevada, as well as Arizona, California, Mexico and several Native American tribes — is at its lowest level and continues to decline. In August, for the first time, the federal government acted to reduce the amount of water that Arizona, Mexico and Nevada can withdraw from the man-made reservoir, as it gets dangerously close to a dead pool, which is another source of water from Hoover Dam. does not pass It basically cuts off the Colorado River in the middle of the desert. Planning for the worst, the Southern Nevada Water Authority launched a new $1.5 billion water pump in Southern Nevada in 2015. This water pump was turned on in April 2022 just as the inlet valve of one of the two main water sources. The pumps penetrated to the surface and failed. As of today, September 28, the lake’s water level was 1,045 feet above sea level. A second main pump, still underwater and functioning, is just 172 feet below.
“The crazy thing is, if we get to the point where the water doesn’t go through the Hoover Dam, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles will all lose Lake Mead as a resource,” Velotta said. Eighty percent of Lake Mead’s water is used for agriculture in the Imperial Valley and Arizona. We may have seasons where we don’t get some of the products we are used to. We have to ask, should we grow things in the Sonoran Desert? Should we question this?”
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Image caption: A photo of Lake Mead taken on June 14, 2022, shows the drop in water levels over time from 2000 to 2021 and June 2022, including a dramatic drop last year as the drought in the West continues to drain. Precious water continues. Source (Jennifer Kent)
Las Vegas has asked and answered similar tough questions about its water use. The city recycles 99% of its wastewater, which is considered non-consumptive water consumption. However, water consumption sources such as landscape irrigation, water-based cooling systems, and evaporation from pools account for 60 percent of total water demand, with a large majority from single-family residential properties.
“As we communicated with residents, one thing that was consistent was that water was a concern,” Velotta said. “We are looking at rezoning the areas for higher density housing that is more water efficient. There is also a relationship with affordable housing. We don’t have a lot of the types of multi-family and even single-family housing that you have even in Reno – we don’t have a lot of duplexes, triplexes. “When two-thirds of the total housing stock is single-family housing, which uses water, or apartments, we’re really limited.”
There is a sweet spot for energy-efficient housing — what the master plan calls the “missing middle” — three- to four-story multi-story homes in urban, walkable neighborhoods with public transit nearby. But it is single-family housing that still uses the city’s water the most, and numerous conservation efforts have been made in this sector. Strategies include increasing restrictions on landscaping and water features, as well as incentives to move to open spaces. In 2021, the city mandated the removal of non-functional grass in public spaces. These purely decorative lawns shared by office parks, street medians, and residential buildings with no recreational or environmental benefit are the city’s water supply. The pile of grass came just days before the city was thrust back into the spotlight when a suspected mob murder scene — human remains found in a barrel — became public on what was once the bottom of Lake Mead. .
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We have a lot of attention right now because of the drought. “We are in the center of attention of the whole country,” Volota said. It’s what the city is doing now to limit water use while increasing population that will determine the future of Las Vegas.
A map of Las Vegas shows most of the city’s southeastern neighborhoods shaded green to represent grass and tree cover. Las Vegas is working to ensure 20 percent tree cover by 2035 and ensure that 85 percent of the population lives within 1/3 mile of green spaces that provide cooler temperatures, such as a park or tree canopy, by 2050. they prepare. (Las city). Vegas Master Plan)
Water is not the only challenge. As a city built in the middle of the desert, a concerted effort must be made to combat the urban heat island effect. Asphalt, concrete and other urban infrastructure components absorb and retain much more heat from the sun than natural landscapes and can significantly increase the surrounding air temperature. Las Vegas has the most extreme urban heat islands of any city in the country, with temperatures 20 to 25 degrees hotter than the surrounding desert. One of the best ways to deal with this effect is to plant trees. The master plan outlines a goal of planting 60,000 native, drought-tolerant trees throughout the city and ensures that 85 percent of the population lives within 1/3 mile of green spaces that provide cooler temperatures, such as parks or treetops. slow 2050. Other tactics include painting roofs white (another conservation feature of the municipality) and reducing the use of asphalt and concrete.
Strategies are bold for a reason. they work. Over the past decade, the city has reduced its annual municipal water demand by 2.25 billion gallons and has cut its per capita water use in half since 2000. It can make gaining public support a challenge. While water and rising temperatures are top concerns for Vegas residents, so are affordable housing, crime, access to public parks and open spaces. By inviting community input early in the planning process, Velotta and his colleagues at City Hall have been able to respond to community needs while incorporating sustainability into everything they do. Velotta is leading the East Las Vegas project, Nuestro Futuro Este de Las Vegas (Our Future East Las Vegas), which will transform a water-guzzling city-owned golf course into a mixed-use neighborhood that, as the development progresses, It meets the sustainability of the master plan. A vibrant new neighborhood
Contour New Home Community
“This is where all these things come together,” Velotta said. We can transform this Pete Dye-designed course to have 2,000 single-family and multi-family affordable, mixed-income housing units, a park, low-water landscaping and drought-tolerant trees, a community center.
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