Mary Ellen's Blog: TCN on the Map

Less than two weeks ago, I sat in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, just off the West Wing of the White House, listening to the stories of four inspiring young adults from member programs of The Corps Network. There was Ray Santos, a Youth Opportunity AmeriCorps Crew Leader from American YouthWorks (AYW) in Texas, who uses his own experience as a formerly court-involved AYW Corpsmember to lead formerly-incarcerated and at-risk Corpsmembers. There was Kenesha Jackson, a young mother who, with the help of Greater Miami Service Corps, reimagined her future and enrolled in college. We heard from Aisha Dorn, a Civic Works alumna who used knowledge she gained during her term of service to start her own brownfield remediation company in Baltimore, MD. And there was Katherine Martinez, a young woman who experienced a boost in self-confidence and became a strong leader while developing tangible job skills through Curlew Job Corps’ welding program.

These four young adults were The Corps Network’s representatives at a White House Community Leaders Briefing on the topic of Corps and the role national service can play in creating opportunities for diverse young people. I applaud Ray, Kenesha, Aisha and Katherine for their willingness and courage to share their stories of service and transformation, especially in front of top officials from the White House, the EPA, and the Departments of Labor, Energy, Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development.  They were an excellent representation of the thousands of extraordinary young people enrolled in the 100+ programs of The Corps Network. There are many Corpsmembers all across the country who, like the four individuals who spoke at the White House, are transforming their communities while also transforming their own lives.

Those of us in the Corps community have heard similar personal stories to those that were shared at the White House. We know from firsthand experience how service in a Corps can help a young person get on the right track, plan for the future and develop into a successful, community-conscious adult. What was exciting about this month was that through the White House briefing, as well as through The Corps Network’s Annual Day of Service, the transformative power of Corps was shared with people outside of the Corps world who previously might not have ever heard of The Corps Network or Service and Conservation Corps.

At the White House briefing, The Corps Network was introduced to important Obama administration officials, like Hallie Schneir, Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls; and Roy L. Austin, Jr., Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity. At The Day of Service, The Corps Network gained recognition in the nation’s capital through high-visibility service projects at four DC-area National Park Service sites. I am proud to say that in our second year of hosting the Day of Service we were able to attract nearly double the volunteers, double the sponsors, and double the number of participating Corps.

The Corps Network is on the map. I feel confident that now, more than any other time during my tenure with The Corps Network, Corps are seen by a wide range of people as a tested and trusted model for improving our communities, protecting the environment, and creating opportunities for diverse young people. We’re in a good place to maintain this trend and expand awareness. I know that Corps will only continue to impress as they go about their daily business of making the world a better place. 

 

Civic Works and The Corps Network Join Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell for 50 Cities Initiative Launch

Civic Works Corpsmembers and Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network, with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Photo courtesy of DOI.

On Tuesday, June 2nd, Baltimore officially became the 11th city to join the Department of the Interior’s 50 Cities Initiative. Staff from The Corps Network as well as representatives from Civic Works, Baltimore’s Conservation Corps, attended an event at Middle Branch Park along the Patapsco River where Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell made the announcement. Also in attendance at the event were Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, White House Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, U.S. Congressman John Sarbanes, the YMCA and several other local organizations.

The 50 Cities initiative is an effort to build coalitions in 50 cities across the country to put into action the Department of the Interior’s broader youth initiative, which is focused on enhancing and expanding outdoor recreational, educational, volunteer and career opportunities on public lands for millions of youth and veterans.

In each of the 50 cities participating in the initiative, The Corps Network is working with member Corps to place an AmeriCorps member at the local YMCA. The Corpsmember will assist a Community Coordinator in developing and leading a coalition of local organizations that can inspire young people to play, learn, serve, and work on public lands.

Twenty-six of the 50 cities will be announced this year. The 11 that have already been announced include New York City, Atlanta, Miami, the Twin Cities, Boston, San Francisco, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Denver, the District of Columbia, and Baltimore. Twenty-four cities will be announced in 2016.

Over the next four years, the goals of the youth initiative (Play, Learn, Serve and Work) include engaging over 10 million young people in outdoor play in 50 key cities; providing outdoor educational opportunities to at least 10 million K-12 students; engaging 1 million volunteers annually in volunteer activities on public lands; and developing 100,000 work or training opportunities on America’s public lands.

Boiler Plate: 
On Tuesday, June 2nd, Baltimore officially became the 11th city to join the Department of the Interior’s 50 Cities Initiative. Staff from The Corps Network as well as representatives from Civic Works, Baltimore’s Conservation Corps, attended an event at Middle Branch Park along the Patapsco River where Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell made the announcement. Also in attendance at the event were Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, White House Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, U.S. Congressman John Sarbanes, the YMCA and several other local organizations.

The Corps Network releases documentary short about connecting urban youth to the great outdoors

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin pays a visit to Civic Works


 

Press Release from the Office of Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.)

August 29, 2014
For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Sue Walitsky 202-224-4524/Tim Zink 410-962-4436

Cardin Meets Students, Employers at Civic Works’ Baltimore Center for Green Careers

“The green technology sector is one of the most overlooked growth areas of our economy. Opportunities are everywhere.”

BALTIMORE, Md. – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate committees on Finance and Environment and Public Works, today toured the educational facilities and met with current students and graduates of Civic Works’ Baltimore Center for Green Careers. The center is helping to build an inclusive and equitable green economy by providing job training in brownfields remediation, home energy efficiency retrofitting and green space beautification, among other programs.

Senator Cardin participated in demonstrations of the hands-on training laboratory for energy retrofit installers, attended a career fair for recent graduates of Civic Works’ brownfields remediation training and participated in a roundtable discussion with graduates, staff and supporters of the program.    

“Green jobs are helping our communities and, at Civic Works, providing a fresh start for those willing to work for it. More than 400 people have graduated from these programs since 2003 and the program maintains an average job placement rate of 85 percent,” said Senator Cardin. “That’s incredibly successful, especially considering that 9 of 10 graduates had a history of involvement in the criminal justice system. What’s more, by gaining skills in brownfields remediation and improving residential energy efficiency, the types of jobs done by the program’s graduates enhance the environment for all Marylanders.”

The Baltimore Center for Green Careers has a unique model that combines workforce development, social enterprise and demand generation. It is one of Civic Works’ key program areas; others include community improvement, workforce development, and education.

Civic Works builds partnerships between AmeriCorps members and the community. AmeriCorps members tutor and mentor students, create community parks and gardens, help homeowners conserve energy, grow food for low-income residents, rehabilitate abandoned houses, involve families in Baltimore City schools, make homes safer for older adults, and recruit volunteers. Civic Works also trains Baltimore residents for employment in the healthcare and green job industries.

“The program’s success shows what the power of partnerships can do for our communities,” Senator Cardin said. “It also proves that we can build greener communities and strengthen our economy at the same time.”

Success After Service: Former Corpsmembers Turn Into Business Owners

Colin MacDonald, a ’99 alum of EarthCorps, owns a private consulting firm with Steven Humphreys. Restoration Logistics takes a private approach to the environmental restoration work that EarthCorps and other nonprofits complete. The business works to bridge the gap between the science of ecology and the restoration projects taking place on the ground in the Puget Sound region. Working on both the consulting and contracting sides of ecological restoration, Restoration Logistics designs plans to improve and maintain natural habitats.

 

Aisha Dorn, an alum and graduate of Civic Works Community Lot program and B’more Green Environmental Certification program, now owns her own environmental management business, Lifeline Environmental, with her husband. Before starting her own business Aisha worked with a temp agency just one week after she completed her training. At her new job she met her husband Marc, who was injured at a worksite due to unsafe practices. Safety is important to Aisha and she felt that she could enter the industry on her own, making the jobs safe, correct, and efficient. It was this passion that led her and Marc to start Lifeline Environmental and since its creation they have seen much success. Many of her clients are nonprofits, including Civic Works where Lifeline was hired to help with the Clifton Mansion renovation process. Says Aisha, “it’s just such a strong network to be a part of.”

 

Revan Qajar, a graduate and former staff member of Urban Corps San Diego, started his own photography studio in El Cajon! His business, San Diego Stars Photography, provides professional photography and cinematography packages for all occasions.

 

Christy Jensen, an alum of Utah Conservation Corps, started her own craft kombucha brewery (lightly fermented tea with probiotic qualities) in Salt Lake City. Her business, Mamachari Kombucha, has gotten off to a great start, being sold in local restaurants and farmers’ markets. She has even found the need to expand and move production to a larger space! “Mamachari” means “mother’s bicycle” in Japanese, which reflects Christy’s love of bikes. Aside from her business, Christy also started a Womyn’s Wrench Night where women can bring their bikes and learn how to fix them. 

Civic Works Summer Program Exposes Baltimore City Kids to Farming, Cooking and Yoga

Article, written by Megan Knight, appears in WMAR Baltimore. Published July 10, 2014.

BALTIMORE - Baltimore City high school students are rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty on a farm and they don't even have to leave the city limits to do it.

Mission Thrive Summer exposes Baltimore city high students to cooking, farming, and fitness.  At first, the idea of hard labor doesn’t go over well with the kids.

"They have it in their head that this is going to be the most awful thing," said Brandin Bowden, the community programs manager for the Institute for Integrative Health.  "Then they get to do it and see the fruits of their labor and its rewarding."

Michelle Thompson, 15, has accepted that being dirty and sweaty is just part of the job.  "You're working on a farm, you expect to get your hands dirty," she said.  She won't let the sweat and dirt keep her from her goal of learning how to grow things, and growing as a person.

"I hope to learn more about myself and to learn how to garden because I’d like to start my own garden," she said.

Five days a week, the students work the land at the Civic Works Real Food Farm in Clifton Park.  When they're not caring for the produce, they're in the kitchen practicing their cooking skills to prepare lunch for their fellow farmers.

A couple of students gained so much from their experience on the farm last year, they decided to do it all over again.

"I got to know a little bit more about myself, about people, and what i should do to become more healthy," said Tykiera Simmons.

Mission Thrive also incorporates a physical aspect into the program.  The kids either do yoga or work with a physical fitness trainer.  They also work on their leadership and job skills.

The best part of the program for the adults is hearing that the kids are actually practicing what they learn.

"They come back and say 'I’m eating healthier' or 'I’m working out more' or 'I’m sharing these yoga tips with my mom," said Bowden.  "I’m always a little bit shocked.  I know I’m saying this, but you’re actually hearing me?" he says with a laugh.

And the kids can feel good about the food they’re helping to grow and harvest.  Its sold in low-income neighborhoods at farmers markets and on a mobile food truck.

For more information about Mission Thrive, click here .

[VIDEO] Civic Works Transforms Old Lot into Garden, Memorial for Colored School 115

Article, written by Danae King, appears in The Baltimore Sun. Published July 8, 2014.

At 90 years old, Betty Williams' clearest memory of her days at Colored School 115 is running through an alley the schoolchildren thought was haunted.

"It was a game to run through and not get caught," she said, describing the lane between two of the old school's buildings.

Williams attended grades one through six at the school, built in 1888 in Baltimore's Waverly neighborhood, from 1929 to 1935. It was declared unfit for children in the 1920s but continued in use because of "the feeling that black children weren't deserving of anything better," said historian JoAnn Robinson. The school was torn down in the 1950s, after the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education ruling forbade school segregation.

On Monday night, about 50 community members gathered for the opening of Schoolhouse Garden, which now commemorates the space where Williams' school used to be, at Brentwood Avenue and Merryman Lane.

The space was transformed from a rubble- and trash-filled lot to a garden with silhouettes of children and teachers, hydrangeas, fruit trees, mulch and paving stones.

The garden is an "homage" to the first colored school in Baltimore, said Waverly Main Street Executive Director Jermaine Johnson. "It keeps history alive so young people coming along know where their grandparents and great-grandparents came from and how well they did despite hardships," said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke. "Instead of looking at a littered lot, you're looking at a legacy."

Williams, who grew up to be a teacher and retired in 1982 as principal at Eastern High School, is one of many notable alumni and teachers, said Robinson, a retired history professor at Morgan State University. "Imagine the feats of intellect, imagination and devotion these teachers must have performed to overcome these surroundings," Robinson said, referring to the ramshackle buildings, outdoor toilets and potbellied stoves the teachers had to tend.

Though the three buildings were called the "chicken coop" by students who attended, Williams said she loved going to school and that the experience was not at all unpleasant for her."

For two years, Waverly Main Street, a commercial revitalization organization in the area, and Civic Works, a nonprofit that transforms vacant lots around the city, have been working on the property.

Located in a high-traffic area across from the Waverly Farmers' Market, it had become an eyesore, but there was a "deep community interest" in it, said Civic Works COO Earl Millett.

"There was always an idea to do a garden in that area," Johnson said, but the idea for a memorial garden was proposed by local historians.

The renovation cost more than $22,000, with funding from the community, alumni of the school and a state grant, Johnson said.

Johnson hopes the public uses the garden, and that the nearby Waverly branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library keeps with the educational theme and hosts reading programs there. Waverly Main Street has programs planned for fall, including a fundraiser to help sustain the garden. "If you allow a vacant lot to go down, it causes people to not fix up buildings," Millett said. "It's a keystone to that area, a lot easier way to get [revitalization] going, it's contagious."

Millett said people owning surrounding buildings have already begun to fix them up, which he credited to the garden project.

How Youth Corps Are Saving Historic Places: Restoring Clifton Mansion with Civic Works

Article, written by Lauren Walser, appears on the National Trust for Historic Preservation website.

Jamal Banks leans in to study two pieces of rotted wood recently removed from the third-floor ceiling of historic Clifton Mansion in Baltimore.

"See how these pieces fit together? This is called a mortise and tenon joint," explains John Ciekot, special projects director of Civic Works, a nonprofit youth service corps headquartered in the mansion.

Banks' eyes light up as he runs his hand along the crumbling wood.

"I see," he says. "So it was put together like a puzzle." He studies it a second longer. "Wow," he adds. "This wood is old."

This is the sort of detail that excites Banks these days. Since February, the 23-year-old has been helping to restore Clifton Mansion as a Civic Works AmeriCorps member. He's been removing and saving floorboards that date to 1812 and tearing down drywall added in the 1960s, uncovering architectural elements and the bones of a centuries-old structure in the process.

Teaming with master carpenters, Banks and his fellow corpsmembers are preserving the local landmark that has served as Civic Works' headquarters for more than two decades. They're developing valuable construction skills that will give them an edge in the job market. And considering the delicate nature of working inside a house as old as Clifton Mansion, they're also receiving a crash course in historic preservation.

“You can really feel the age as you walk through the building. It’s like a time machine,” says Banks. When he’s done with his day’s work, he likes to wander through the mansion, exploring the original footprint of the Georgian-style house and its later Italianate-style additions. The house was built between 1801 and 1803 by Captain Henry Thompson, a merchant and ship owner. Philanthropist Johns Hopkins, who founded the well-known Baltimore university of the same name, made the additions in the 1840s and '50s.

Banks laughs as he points to the school across the street. “That's where I went to high school,” he says to Ciekot. “I always used to see this mansion. I walked by it every day, but I never knew what it was. Now, here I am working on it.”

More than 25,000 young people each year, including Jamal Banks, benefit from job and leadership training (and, in some cases, academic programming) in service corps programs like Civic Works. The 21-year-old nonprofit is a member of The Corps Network, a national association that advocates and provides support for more than 100 youth development programs modeled after the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps. These organizations engage young people, ages 16 to 25, across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. (For veterans, the age limit is 35.)

“Some of our young people come into corps with maybe a high school diploma or GED, some come in at the third-grade reading level, or from foster care or incarceration, and some come in having graduated college,” says Mary Ellen Sprenkel, president and CEO of The Corps Network. “So the corps try to address a wide range of needs for a diverse set of young people.”

The scope of work undertaken by the corps programs is just as wide-ranging as the young men and women who enroll. They tackle projects ranging from trail building and habitat restoration to community gardening and disaster response.

Preservation work has entered the repertoire of some member corps, like Civic Works. For instance, five young members of the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa helped restore the icehouse at the 1912 vacation home of architect Charles Buechner on Lake Superior's Sand Island last summer. And in 2011, the Southwest Conservation Corps received The Corps Network's annual Service Project of the Year award for its Tribal Preservation Program. Located at Acoma Pueblo, which is part of the National Trust Historic Site Acoma Sky City in New Mexico, the program trains young Native Americans to preserve historic and prehistoric sites.

But many corps programs simply don’t have the time, the resources, or the know-how to take on these sorts of large-scale preservation projects.

Enter the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Working with The Corps Network, the National Trust recently launched its Hands-On Preservation Experience (HOPE) Crew. This new initiative connects with The Corps Network's member groups to teach young people skills they can use to save historic places.

“The goal of the HOPE Crew is to engage a new set of future preservationists,” says Monica Rhodes, the National Trust’s manager of volunteer outreach, who has taken the HOPE Crew from concept to reality. “And in doing so, we're opening up the field of preservation to an audience that might not get exposure to it.”

On March 10, the HOPE Crew broke ground on its very first project: the restoration of Skyland Stable, a rustic wooden structure built in 1939 near Skyland Resort in Shenandoah National Park. The HOPE Crew teamed young corpsmembers from the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia with Fred Andreae, a preservation architect from Front Royal, Va., who served as the group's preservation adviser. David Logan of Vintage, Inc., a building company that specializes in historic restoration, joined Andreae on the project to teach corpsmembers the ins and outs of preservation construction as they restored the deteriorating stable.

“The students already have experience with construction, but just not on historic sites,” Rhodes explains.

The HOPE Crew allows The Corps Network to expand the scope of the job training its member corps can offer. It also increases the number of projects each corps can tackle. And the more work the various corps can take on, the more young people they can engage.

“It's a win-win for everyone,” Sprenkel says. “There’s obviously no shortage of historic sites that need work, so making sure there's a new generation of workers who can take care of these places — and making sure there's a new generation of people who care about them, period — I think is pretty important.”

Though significant, the work undertaken by young corpsmembers is hardly glamorous. At San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in Texas, members of the Texas Conservation Corps (TxCC) have been hard at work repointing the mortar on the stone walls of 18th-century missions. They have performed the same task on the Espada Acequia, a Spanish Colonial irrigation ditch built by Franciscan friars in the 1740s and the oldest Spanish aqueduct in the United States. The corpsmembers mix mortar while sweating profusely under the boiling Texas sun, hauling wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of the material over to the missions' walls. They chip out the old mortar and replace it with a fresh batch. Repeat.

“It was grueling,” says Josh Conrad, who served in the TxCC (then called Environmental Corps) back in 2008. “We're talking manual labor to the max. It was great.”

Conrad was an inaugural participant in TxCC’s masonry apprenticeship program. Young corpsmembers there train alongside master stonemasons, which have included the just-retired, Scottish-born John Hibbitts. (Hibbitts worked on the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., the world's sixth-largest cathedral.) The veterans teach their apprentices the masonry techniques needed to preserve stone structures throughout Texas' state parks.

Hibbitts and masons from the National Park Service are more than eager to pass on their rare and highly specialized skills — skills they fear are being lost with each successive generation.

And for Conrad, who had taken a year off from architecture school at the University of Texas at Austin, the experience was eye-opening. When he returned to UT-Austin the next year, he began pursuing a second graduate degree: a master's in historic preservation.

“When you're in architecture school,” Conrad says, “you're working on paper, working on a computer, and you don't really get to deal with the actual building as much as you might want. So I took to this masonry internship as a way to explore that idea, that need I had to work on buildings and understand them. And when I was out there working, I was like, 'This is great. This is what I want to do.’ So I went back to school and really focused myself.”

Today Conrad, 32, is a preservation specialist at Hardy Heck Moore Inc., a historic preservation and cultural resources management consulting firm in Austin. He also maintains the Austin Historical Survey Wiki, a historic properties database he helped create as a graduate student that is now in use by the city of Austin.

And many of Conrad's fellow TxCC members also have found their professional calling through the masonry program. Some have gone on to take jobs with the National Park Service or with stonemasons in Austin. Others have joined the staff of American YouthWorks (TxCC’s parent organization, in conjunction with AmeriCorps), continuing their commitment to service.

In fact, corps all over the country are jump-starting careers. In Charleston, S.C., 28-year-old Kedrick Wright found a new calling of his own: making homes more energy efficient.

Though he now works as a firefighter for the city of North Charleston, Wright spent more than two years serving with The Corps Network member Energy Conservation Corps (ECC). This AmeriCorps-affiliated program of the Charleston-based Sustainability Institute trains and certifies young men and women to retrofit low-income homes with energy-efficient systems.

Despite his demanding schedule, Wright also continues to work part-time with CharlestonWISE, another energy auditing and contracting program within the Sustainability Institute. After all, he says, “There's still more I want to learn. I want to grow as an energy auditor and get [further] certification.”

Listening to Wright rattle off the different options for insulating historic homes, or the step-by-step process of conducting an energy audit, or even the differences he notices between the construction of Charleston's newest houses and its oldest ones (“Those old houses are made to endure the weather here,” he marvels), it’s hard to believe that when he entered the ECC just three years ago, he had no experience in either construction or weatherization. But with a toddler to support and few job prospects, Wright signed up to work with the ECC and got hooked. He found he especially enjoyed his work on Charleston's many historic homes.

“It's considerably more difficult,” he says. “These homes were made to breathe and made to swelter in the South with the high humidity here. So when you change the dynamic of a house, you can run into problems like mold, or things like condensation in areas that weren’t sweating before, because you sealed it up too tight. We have to come up with innovative ways for dealing with these old houses to make them more energy efficient without changing their overall character. It’s really cool.”

Beyond inspiring new career paths, the years these young people spend serving in corps programs build pride and confidence. The work provides a sense of accomplishment that they carry with them for life. “It may not seem that significant while you're doing it,” says Parc Smith, CEO of American YouthWorks in Austin since 2010. “But then you step back a minute, and you realize, wow, the work you just did was on one of the oldest buildings in Texas, and maybe one of the oldest in the country. What [the corpsmembers] are doing today is going to be here for the next hundred years or more for future generations to enjoy. They're going to take their children back to see the projects they worked on across the state.”

The communities benefit, too.

“Most of our members grow up here, they stay here, they'll raise their families here,” says Jay Bell, program manager of the ECC. “So they’re doing work that will impact their families and their community for many, many years down the road. They'll always have that. Having a program like this [in Charleston] is, I think, one of the best things to happen here. We're preserving our communities.”

John Ciekot at Civic Works seconds that notion. “When you walk in the door of Clifton Mansion,” he says, “you're going to be hit with not only history, you're going to be hit with the future: Here's what you can do to serve and improve the community.” He sees the young corpsmembers’ role in restoring Clifton Mansion as a catalyst for a larger transformation in Baltimore.

It's impossible to say who gains more: the corpsmembers, who learn new job skills and find new directions in life, or the communities that see their historic properties cared for by the next generation of stewards. To many corps leaders, this question is beside the point. “Young people are so rarely asked to do anything significant,” Parc Smith says. “And here, we're asking them to take care of some of the nation's oldest buildings. That's an important job.”

 

Civic Works Highlighted for Work on Cool Roofs in Baltimore

Ed Sheeks, project leader with Civic Works, sits on a cool roof he and a crew installed. Also from CIvic Works are left, front to back, Crystal Hudson, James Simpson, and Daysha Bragg. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun / September 26, 2013)

Originally Published by The Baltimore Sun

Push urged for more cool roofs in Baltimore
White or light coatings reduce energy costs, last longer

By Timothy B. Wheeler

Leigh Peterson has one of the coolest roofs in Baltimore. Her rowhouse near Patterson Park sports a blinding white cap, topped by a row of shiny solar panels.

Peterson, 29, a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, doesn't need to see her roof to know it's cool, though. She just has to count the dollars she's saved on air conditioning. She got her roof coated as part of a comprehensive energy retrofit of her 109-year-old house, and her August electricity bill was about half what she paid last year.

"I'm a grad student, so I'm always into saving money, because I don't have much of it," she said. "But I'm also environmentally concerned as well."

Peterson is one of a small but growing number of Baltimoreans putting energy-saving "cool" roofs on their homes or places of business. A new report by the Abell Foundation suggests white or cool roof systems like hers could help fight global climate change while also making the city a healthier place to live — and urged local and state governments to do more to expand installation efforts.

"Longer lasting, cost-competitive and often safer to install than traditional black roofs, cool roofs could become Baltimore's next climate mitigation priority and environmental target," concluded the report, written by Joan Jacobson, a freelance journalist, researcher and former reporter for The Evening Sun and The Baltimore Sun.

Ideal for flat or gently sloping surfaces, cool roofs involve more than slathering a coat of white or shiny metallic paint on an existing layer of tar. They come in two basic types, both intended to reflect sunlight and keep the building below from heating up as much. One involves applying a liquid acrylic coating that dries into a rubber-like surface, while the other features a thin membrane laid down over the roof to seal it.

They can reflect up to 80 percent of sunlight they receive, the report says. Studies show they can cut air-conditioning costs by up to 20 percent and even lower indoor temperatures inside buildings without air conditioning. White or light-colored roofs may reduce the amount of solar heat homes get in winter, but the savings in warm weather more than offset any extra heating needed when it's cold in all but the northernmost climes, studies show.

There are health benefits as well, advocates say. Kurt Shickman, executive director of the Global Cool Cities Alliance, said a study his group just finished in Washington found that in areas where cool roofs were installed along with tree plantings at the street level, heat-related deaths declined by 6 percent to 7 percent. This past summer's relatively cool, rainy weather resulted in 15 heat-related deaths in Maryland, about a third as many as in 2012 and the fewest since 2009, according to the state health department.

Cool roofs can cost about the same as traditional ones, proponents say. Installation and materials range from $3.90 to $9.50 per square foot, compared with $4 to $8.25 per square foot for an asphalt roof, according to the report. Upkeep on cool roofs also is less, because they don't heat up and crack as much.

New or existing roofs covered with liquid coatings can easily last a decade, the report said, and two to three times longer with regular recoating every five years. The membrane roof coverings generally require replacement of the existing roof first, but also can last 25 to 30 years with minor maintenance.

Hundreds of cool roofs have been installed across Baltimore since the first one went on a home in Charles Village in 1981, according to the report. The city's housing and community development department has helped pay for reflective roofs on about 130 homes occupied by low-income families, while Civic Works, a nonprofit group affiliated with Americorps, has installed another 150, according to John Mello, the group's green project director.

The city has since made cooling homes and businesses with reflective roofs part of its climate action plan, so municipal agencies are ramping up their efforts. This year, the report notes, the city got $2.8 million from the state to make grants to low-income homeowners to put cool roofs on 500 homes as part of a weatherization program.

The city also hopes to put cool roofs on 22 to 50 homes a year as part of its "Baltimore Energy Challenge," which works to install a variety of energy efficiencies in homes as well. Alice Kennedy, city sustainability coordinator, said she expected to spend about $100,000 a year over the next three years on the effort, which targets low- to moderate-income households.

But more could be done, the Abell report argued. It suggests Baltimore and Maryland imitate aggressive installation campaigns in other cities and states. In particular, Jacobson urged the city to mandate cool roofs on new and renovated structures as part of its green building standards, much as California has done.

"I think there's some real opportunities, looking at neighboring cities, to take what they're doing and do it in Baltimore," Shickman agreed. New York City, for instance, has worked with local energy companies and corporations to coat government buildings and require cool roofs on all new and renovated private buildings.

City Hall isn't prepared to go that far. Rather than require it, Kennedy said local officials hope that by spreading the word about the savings and other benefits building owners will readily embrace cool roofs.

"It's something we would definitely like to encourage," she said.

Many appear to have gotten onto the bandwagon already, Kennedy said. From her window in the Benton city office building downtown on Baltimore Street, Kennedy said, two-thirds of the roofs she could see have white or reflective coatings.

Washington, D.C., also has a cool roof law, Shickman said, but there developers already are embracing cool roofs as they strive to meet the voluntary green building standards set under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Cool roofs are encouraged under those guidelines, he noted.

The Abell report also called for the state to make cool roofs eligible for financing and rebates now offered for upgrading the energy efficiency of a home or business. The state does have a goal of reducing energy consumption 15 percent by 2015, it pointed out.

The Maryland Energy Administration does not provide any financial incentives to install cool roofs now, but spokeswoman Devan Willemsen said that might be about to change. If lawmakers approve the funding, the state energy office is preparing to roll out a new competitive energy-efficiency grant program targeting low- and moderate-income households, and one of the upgrades the program would pay for is a cool roof.

"We're definitely in support of cool roofs," Willemsen said.

The Abell report also urged the city's school system to integrate cool roofs into its planned $1.1 billion overhaul of 40 school buildings.

Lighter-colored roofing materials went on about 20 city schools that have been renovated or weatherized, the report says. But those crushed-granite and ceramic materials don't yield the same energy savings a true cool roof would.

Keith Scroggins, chief of facilities for the city school system, said administrators are looking at cool roofs, as well as "green" roofs, those which have vegetation planted on them to absorb rainfall and control storm-water runoff.

"As we get closer to design of the first group of schools, we expect to decide on a variety of energy efficient options," Scroggins said.

With storm-water control a priority in Baltimore because of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort, some might think green roofs would take precedence over cool roofs. Shickman said it's a false choice, as both can go on larger buildings, and with smaller structures the runoff controls can be installed on the ground.

The biggest problem with cool roofs, experts warn, is they can cause or worsen moisture damage if not properly insulated and ventilated.

Stanford University researchers also have suggested that cool roofs might actually warm the planet if they went global, because they'd reflect sunlight back into the atmosphere and warm the many fine particles floating in the air. That's a distant worry for now because cool roofs are nowhere near widespread.

Peterson, an area vice president of the Patterson Park neighborhood association, said she put leased solar panels on her roof first, as a hedge of sorts against rising electricity rates, then had the cool roof installed. It was part of a $3,000 complete energy retrofit of her drafty home, she said. Technicians sealed up cracks, put in additional insulation and installed a new hot-water heater.

The payoff: electricity bills of $100 to $120 for her 1,000 square foot home even with her central air running.

"That is pretty wonderful," Peterson concluded.

Tim.wheeler@baltsun.com

An earlier version misstated the size of Leigh Peterson's home. The Sun regrets the error.

Cool roofs

Designed to reflect sunlight and have lower temperatures than traditional black or dark roofs.

Though many are white, they can be other colors as long as they include reflective material.

Ideal for flat or gently sloped roofs, best when put on new or replacement roofs.

Two basic types: "elastomeric" roof with a multi-layer liquid coating, reinforced with mesh, or prefabricated membrane sheet.

Can reflect up to 80 percent of sunlight, reduce air-conditioning costs by up to 20 percent.

 

Boiler Plate: 
Push urged for more cool roofs in Baltimore. White or light coatings reduce energy costs, last longer.

Civic Works Highlighted for Work on Cool Roofs in Baltimore

Ed Sheeks, project leader with Civic Works, sits on a cool roof he and a crew installed. Also from CIvic Works are left, front to back, Crystal Hudson, James Simpson, and Daysha Bragg. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun / September 26, 2013)

Originally Published by The Baltimore Sun

Push urged for more cool roofs in Baltimore
White or light coatings reduce energy costs, last longer

By Timothy B. Wheeler

Leigh Peterson has one of the coolest roofs in Baltimore. Her rowhouse near Patterson Park sports a blinding white cap, topped by a row of shiny solar panels.

Peterson, 29, a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, doesn't need to see her roof to know it's cool, though. She just has to count the dollars she's saved on air conditioning. She got her roof coated as part of a comprehensive energy retrofit of her 109-year-old house, and her August electricity bill was about half what she paid last year.

"I'm a grad student, so I'm always into saving money, because I don't have much of it," she said. "But I'm also environmentally concerned as well."

Peterson is one of a small but growing number of Baltimoreans putting energy-saving "cool" roofs on their homes or places of business. A new report by the Abell Foundation suggests white or cool roof systems like hers could help fight global climate change while also making the city a healthier place to live — and urged local and state governments to do more to expand installation efforts.

"Longer lasting, cost-competitive and often safer to install than traditional black roofs, cool roofs could become Baltimore's next climate mitigation priority and environmental target," concluded the report, written by Joan Jacobson, a freelance journalist, researcher and former reporter for The Evening Sun and The Baltimore Sun.

Ideal for flat or gently sloping surfaces, cool roofs involve more than slathering a coat of white or shiny metallic paint on an existing layer of tar. They come in two basic types, both intended to reflect sunlight and keep the building below from heating up as much. One involves applying a liquid acrylic coating that dries into a rubber-like surface, while the other features a thin membrane laid down over the roof to seal it.

They can reflect up to 80 percent of sunlight they receive, the report says. Studies show they can cut air-conditioning costs by up to 20 percent and even lower indoor temperatures inside buildings without air conditioning. White or light-colored roofs may reduce the amount of solar heat homes get in winter, but the savings in warm weather more than offset any extra heating needed when it's cold in all but the northernmost climes, studies show.

There are health benefits as well, advocates say. Kurt Shickman, executive director of the Global Cool Cities Alliance, said a study his group just finished in Washington found that in areas where cool roofs were installed along with tree plantings at the street level, heat-related deaths declined by 6 percent to 7 percent. This past summer's relatively cool, rainy weather resulted in 15 heat-related deaths in Maryland, about a third as many as in 2012 and the fewest since 2009, according to the state health department.

Cool roofs can cost about the same as traditional ones, proponents say. Installation and materials range from $3.90 to $9.50 per square foot, compared with $4 to $8.25 per square foot for an asphalt roof, according to the report. Upkeep on cool roofs also is less, because they don't heat up and crack as much.

New or existing roofs covered with liquid coatings can easily last a decade, the report said, and two to three times longer with regular recoating every five years. The membrane roof coverings generally require replacement of the existing roof first, but also can last 25 to 30 years with minor maintenance.

Hundreds of cool roofs have been installed across Baltimore since the first one went on a home in Charles Village in 1981, according to the report. The city's housing and community development department has helped pay for reflective roofs on about 130 homes occupied by low-income families, while Civic Works, a nonprofit group affiliated with Americorps, has installed another 150, according to John Mello, the group's green project director.

The city has since made cooling homes and businesses with reflective roofs part of its climate action plan, so municipal agencies are ramping up their efforts. This year, the report notes, the city got $2.8 million from the state to make grants to low-income homeowners to put cool roofs on 500 homes as part of a weatherization program.

The city also hopes to put cool roofs on 22 to 50 homes a year as part of its "Baltimore Energy Challenge," which works to install a variety of energy efficiencies in homes as well. Alice Kennedy, city sustainability coordinator, said she expected to spend about $100,000 a year over the next three years on the effort, which targets low- to moderate-income households.

But more could be done, the Abell report argued. It suggests Baltimore and Maryland imitate aggressive installation campaigns in other cities and states. In particular, Jacobson urged the city to mandate cool roofs on new and renovated structures as part of its green building standards, much as California has done.

"I think there's some real opportunities, looking at neighboring cities, to take what they're doing and do it in Baltimore," Shickman agreed. New York City, for instance, has worked with local energy companies and corporations to coat government buildings and require cool roofs on all new and renovated private buildings.

City Hall isn't prepared to go that far. Rather than require it, Kennedy said local officials hope that by spreading the word about the savings and other benefits building owners will readily embrace cool roofs.

"It's something we would definitely like to encourage," she said.

Many appear to have gotten onto the bandwagon already, Kennedy said. From her window in the Benton city office building downtown on Baltimore Street, Kennedy said, two-thirds of the roofs she could see have white or reflective coatings.

Washington, D.C., also has a cool roof law, Shickman said, but there developers already are embracing cool roofs as they strive to meet the voluntary green building standards set under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Cool roofs are encouraged under those guidelines, he noted.

The Abell report also called for the state to make cool roofs eligible for financing and rebates now offered for upgrading the energy efficiency of a home or business. The state does have a goal of reducing energy consumption 15 percent by 2015, it pointed out.

The Maryland Energy Administration does not provide any financial incentives to install cool roofs now, but spokeswoman Devan Willemsen said that might be about to change. If lawmakers approve the funding, the state energy office is preparing to roll out a new competitive energy-efficiency grant program targeting low- and moderate-income households, and one of the upgrades the program would pay for is a cool roof.

"We're definitely in support of cool roofs," Willemsen said.

The Abell report also urged the city's school system to integrate cool roofs into its planned $1.1 billion overhaul of 40 school buildings.

Lighter-colored roofing materials went on about 20 city schools that have been renovated or weatherized, the report says. But those crushed-granite and ceramic materials don't yield the same energy savings a true cool roof would.

Keith Scroggins, chief of facilities for the city school system, said administrators are looking at cool roofs, as well as "green" roofs, those which have vegetation planted on them to absorb rainfall and control storm-water runoff.

"As we get closer to design of the first group of schools, we expect to decide on a variety of energy efficient options," Scroggins said.

With storm-water control a priority in Baltimore because of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort, some might think green roofs would take precedence over cool roofs. Shickman said it's a false choice, as both can go on larger buildings, and with smaller structures the runoff controls can be installed on the ground.

The biggest problem with cool roofs, experts warn, is they can cause or worsen moisture damage if not properly insulated and ventilated.

Stanford University researchers also have suggested that cool roofs might actually warm the planet if they went global, because they'd reflect sunlight back into the atmosphere and warm the many fine particles floating in the air. That's a distant worry for now because cool roofs are nowhere near widespread.

Peterson, an area vice president of the Patterson Park neighborhood association, said she put leased solar panels on her roof first, as a hedge of sorts against rising electricity rates, then had the cool roof installed. It was part of a $3,000 complete energy retrofit of her drafty home, she said. Technicians sealed up cracks, put in additional insulation and installed a new hot-water heater.

The payoff: electricity bills of $100 to $120 for her 1,000 square foot home even with her central air running.

"That is pretty wonderful," Peterson concluded.

Tim.wheeler@baltsun.com

An earlier version misstated the size of Leigh Peterson's home. The Sun regrets the error.

Cool roofs

Designed to reflect sunlight and have lower temperatures than traditional black or dark roofs.

Though many are white, they can be other colors as long as they include reflective material.

Ideal for flat or gently sloped roofs, best when put on new or replacement roofs.

Two basic types: "elastomeric" roof with a multi-layer liquid coating, reinforced with mesh, or prefabricated membrane sheet.

Can reflect up to 80 percent of sunlight, reduce air-conditioning costs by up to 20 percent.

 

Boiler Plate: 
Push urged for more cool roofs in Baltimore. White or light coatings reduce energy costs, last longer.

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