About Lina Kohandoust, This Website's Author
Hi, I'm Lina Kohandoust, an energy consultant, a mother/chauffeur, wife, founder, do-it-herselfer, wanna-be hobbyist, and "accidental" webmaster.
My interests in energy and environment go back to my very first love - physics. My teenage years and young adulthood (through late twenties) were very tumultuous financially and domestically. Due to pressing obligations, I couldn't afford college until my twenties, but I would take physics classes at nights, or study on my own, when time allowed. Physics and math provided the one outlet that revealed the universe (and this crazy world) in all its cosmic beauty and perfection, and for a few precious hours, demystified life through elegant and balanced equations - until I had to get to my job.
It was also during this period that I became interested in energy efficiency and renewable energy. I could see a lot of waste back then, in buildings, transportation, and general every day living, and I would read about alternatives and learn ideas from some very avant-garde visionaries back then. But as fate would have it, my path to energy was a long meander with several digressions along the way.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in physics, I was offered a job in chemical oceanography at Columbia University's earth science campus, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. It was hard not to fall in love with the earth sciences, especially when the field work involved going to places where most people only dream of, and where real life stories and adventures are much more exciting and fun than any made up story.
I was hooked on academia, and the brain buzz. During the 1990's, most geological and environmental indicators were pointing to potentially dramatic climate change within the next 20-30 years caused by anthropogenic factors. Yeah, that's an $800 word referring to man-made. The effects on the environment since the industrial revolution were not only visible back then anecdotally, but also very quantifiable.
Research institutions worldwide were conducting studies on the hydrosphere (with ocean circulation), the atmosphere (and all its layers), the cryosphere (polar ice), lithosphere (land masses), coral and marine life, tree rings, core samples, ground water, tracers and thousands of other ingenious methods of detecting the impact of carbon, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and pollutants on earth. The evidence back then was converging toward dramatic climatic events, but many academics seemed gun-shy to speak up, especially with political powers that had an agenda for how industry conducts business.
Global Warming, Shlobal Warming...It's All Hot Air
Or is it? With the bizarre frequency of rain, snow and unexpected weather patterns we have been seeing in the past several years, it's not so easy to shrug off climate change anymore. But how do we explain the uncharacteristic weather, in certain regions or seasons?
Here is a way to think about the erratic weather we are experiencing today. A rock has been dropped into a lake. There are ripples that are formed before the water calms back down and reaches equilibrium. We are now in the ripple stage of our climate change. The weather is doing some funky things in different regions of the globe. We are experiencing erratic weather (the northeastern part of the US for example, has gotten more than its share of snow in 2011, but the thaw is also happening more rapidly - I say this a bit with tongue in cheek as we are expecting six inches of snow today, 3/23/11, aaargh).
We don't know how long before we reach a dynamic equilibrium where the earth's systems will continue to function together; that is, how the earth's land mass, oceans, ice mass, clouds/atmosphere and other systems will work together to maintain the carbon cycle (or sustain life). We also don't know what that new state of dynamic equilibrium will be once the ripples stop; what the new global temperatures will be, what the effects will be on ocean circulation (which is a huge component of our sources and sinks for carbon and nutrients), how deserts and forests will respond, what the new coastal water levels will be (how much land we will lose to rise in sea water due to receding polar ice caps), How the salt dilution from melting of ice into sea water will impact ocean circulation, etc. This is only considering the human factor, we haven't mentioned anything about the earth's natural astronomical cycles, or the impact of natural geologic forces such as earthquakes, and volcanoes, etc.
While at Lamont, it became obvious that we have serious problems, and as much as I loved academia, I needed to do something more applied. Besides, it takes 30 years for any new or market-ready technology to become commercial (used in everyday life by the majority of the population). I wanted to apply/commercialize energy saving concepts, so I went back to graduate school in mechanical engineering, and studied thermo-fluids (what some of my friends call "smoke stack theory").
I continued to participate in geological research and do field work, but I did finally meander to commercial and industrial energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering. That was about eighteen years ago. Barring the required administrative tasks, I have found my work very rewarding. I have been at a few organizatons, and was involved in private, as well as, state and federal government projects. Most recently, I worked at a performance-based energy services company. The energy business has certainly evolved in eighteen years.
As with many women who need to juggle work and family, my career has been interlaced with my family, requiring me to become an independent contractor. During intentional gaps in the past ten years, I wanted to apply my knowledge to home energy savings. So I started and continue to rehabilitate older, neglected one-to-four family buildings in my area. Until recently, I did most of the work (and made most of the mistakes) myself. Bottom line - very expensive, very challenging, very long hours, but very rewarding. It didn't kill me, so hopefully, it made me stronger (?).
Through my learning and doing, I have become intimately familiar with the construction industry (both in residential and commercial/industrial), the real estate market, real estate professionals, building and home owners and building managers and tenants. I recognize the voids/discrepancies between government programs, industry initiatives, the mindset of most building contractors, and the general population in promoting green technologies and energy efficiency. The challenges of "greenovating" older properties are very real, especially, when we are appealing to a population that is living through very difficult economic times.
While awareness of energy issues is growing, many people are too busy trying to put food on the table; naturally, understanding or acting on the economic advantages of energy efficiency is not foremost on their minds, especially if it requires an initial outlay of cash, before they can see the savings. Even investing in compact fluorescent bulbs for $2.00 a piece versus $0.35 for incandescent bulbs is hard to swing for many. Yet, energy efficiency and better resource management are the two most important actions that can help carry and sustain us into the future. Without them, the use of alternative energies will still produce waste, and fall short.
So, why an "accidental" webmaster?
Well, I didn't start out wanting to create a website. I just wanted a venue to share what I have learned, to help in some little way. Cruising the net, green seems to be in, no shortage there. But while there are many sites devoted to renewable energy, most tend to be either too basic (simplistic) or too academic. Some DIY sites are just not practical for a beginner with limited time, budget and resources. I found few provided basic, hands-on guides that can carry most people to action in a simple-to-understand manner.
During my "surfing", I came across SiteBuildIt!, and was instantly intrigued by it. It was SBI! that coaxed, cajoled, and after two months of contemplation, convinced me to try my hand at creating and promoting this website. I was on a mission to reach outside of my local sphere, hoping that if even one person is better informed and motivated to act in a more energy-conscious manner, then I may have been a worthwhile cog in the churning wheels of change.
So began my journey in November of 2010. I started putting together the content of this site, page by page, and learning a whole lot more from SBI! than I anticipated. Even though I consider myself somewhat technology savvy, creating content-rich websites is not an area I have spent much time in, and before SBI!, I didn't have the slightest idea of how to approach the effort; from arriving at a concept to developing and promoting it, and driving traffic to it. I will shortly write about my journey in making this website..
I am still a "newbie". This site is in its infancy, but I have a lot to share from my experiences/mistakes, my colleagues', and the community at large. My father, who was an old-school business man, lived by the credo that personal contact and honesty defined not just business ethics, but also personal relationships. I hope that I can build a community of participants through this website, where people are interested, engaged and comfortable in sharing questions, stories, tips, tricks, reviews, news or just to rant and rave.
I know that many pages will be tweaked and expanded upon, while new ones are added on a daily basis. I hope that the information provided will be useful to you, and easy to digest and act upon. I will strive to continually improve it and I look forward to your feedback and contribution. In the words of Garrison Keiler, "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch".
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