Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 16th, 2013
Image from Made for Walking
“I just finished a very good – no, make that fantastic – book by Julie Campoli called Made for Walking, published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. … Made for Walking isn’t so much about urban density as about the other things that we need in city neighborhoods – in addition to a level of density – to make city living attractive and sustainable. …
The heart of the book – comprising nearly a hundred pages – is a systematic review of twelve walkable neighborhoods in Denver, Columbus, Vancouver, Miami Beach, Toronto, Alexandria (Virginia), Albuquerque, Portland, Brooklyn, San Diego, Cambridge (Massachusetts), and Pasadena. …
For each, Campoli provides a context map, site maps illustrating neighborhood form and intersection density – the most statistically significant measure of how walkable a neighborhood is – multiple photos of the streetscape and neighborhood assets, measurements of neighborhood size, density and driving rates, and a discussion of what is going on in the neighborhood that adds to or limits its function for walking and sustainability. She likes them all, as do I.
For example, discussing Portland’s Pearl District, Campoli points out that the city has a goal of evolving a demographically mixed neighborhood, including families with children. This requires, she notes, investment in larger-unit, family-friendly homes; access to public amenities such as schools and nature; proximity to cultural resources such as libraries; and buffering from land uses that might be harmful to children. People in my environmental-group and smart-growth circles talk about this kind of thing, well, never. And yet it’s critical to a sustainable future, which is why I know about 50 people who need to read this book.”
Read the full article – there’s much more including sketches and photos – by Kaid Benfield on the Atlantic Cities site.
Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on May 2nd, 2013
Source: The Guardian
Photo from the Carbon Co-op
For customers, trust is key when it comes to getting advice on improving energy efficiency – and co-operatives have the edge.
Ruth Rosselson is an environmental pioneer. The freelance writer and community trainer is one of the first homeowners to sign up with the Manchester-based Carbon Co-op for a programme of energy-efficiency improvements that will transform her cold and draughty house into a warm and toasty low-energy home. “The main motivation for making my house more energy-efficient is that currently it’s so cold and damp,” says Rosselson, 42, speaking from her Manchester semi that she shares with her partner, Justin. “We also care deeply about the global environment and so we wanted to improve the carbon efficiency of the house.”
Carbon Co-op, which launched in 2011, is one of a new generation of co-ops that are now aiming to address the critical issue of climate change by making houses more energy-efficient, which in turn will slash carbon emissions and in the long-run save homeowners money. “The UK has a legally binding target for cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 from a 1990 baseline,” says Carbon Co-op’s Jonathan Atkinson. “At the same time, escalating fuel bills are leading to more and more people experiencing fuel poverty. Consequently we’re aiming high and offering packages of retrofit improvements to householders that will cut both energy bills and carbon emissions.” [...]
“We take the whole house approach to retrofitting and recommend a package of complementary measures such as wall and loft insulation that will improve the energy performance of a house,” says Atkinson. “And because we have a strong ethical strand to our work, we aim to source materials from local businesses such as highly energy-efficient windows from the Green Building Store in West Yorkshire.”
So what’s the key benefit of operating as a co-op in this sector? “The big issue in the retrofitting industry is that of trust,” replies Atkinson. “The big energy companies dominate the energy-efficiency market because they are forced to by Ofgem, the energy regulator. However, very few people trust the big energy companies any more because of the recent mis-selling scandals.” He says people are increasingly suspicious of energy companies trying to sell them big-scale changes, thinking that all the companies want is for their bills to increase. “As a co-op, we’re community orientated and householder-owned with no external shareholders,” says Atkinson. [...]
The Birmingham-based Energy Saving Co-op, which like Carbon Co-op launched in 2011, has similar ambitions to be a national player in the energy-efficiency retrofit market. “We’ve already retrofitted 50 homes with a target of completing 600 homes by the end of the year, two thousand homes in 2014 and a plan to eventually operate nationally,” says the chief executive and co-founder Ewan Jones, who aims to fund this expansion programme through its current share offer.
Financing the retrofit ambitions of both Carbon Co-op and the Energy Saving Co-op is a major challenge though both co-ops and the wider co-op movement are set to benefit from the green deal, the government’s flagship programme to make millions of homes more energy-efficient, which was launched this year. Essentially a type of personal loan where you pay for the work over time through your energy bill, the green deal is set to kickstart the energy-efficiency market – and co-ops and social enterprises are lining up to take a slice of the action. The Energy Saving Co-op, for example, is now working with a number of co-ops which will act as green deal energy assessors including Energywise, a new Birmingham co-op and the Jericho Foundation, a social enterprise which will install the energy saving kit. [...]
Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on April 18th, 2013
Image from Arup
The BIQ [Bio Intelligence Quotient] house will become the world’s first pilot project to showcase a bioreactive façade [...] With 200m² of integrated photo-bioreactors, this passive-energy house generates biomass and heat as renewable energy resources. At the same time, the system integrates additional functionality such as dynamic shading, thermal insulation and noise abatement, highlighting the full potential of this technology.
The microalgae used in the façades are cultivated in flat panel glass bioreactors measuring 2.5m x 0.7m. In total, 129 bioreactors have been installed on the south west and south east faces of the four-storey residential building. The heart of the system is the fully automated energy management centre where solar thermal heat and algae are harvested in a closed loop to be stored and used to generate hot water. [...]
“Using bio-chemical processes in the façade of a building to create shade and energy is a really innovative concept. It might well become a sustainable solution for energy production in urban areas, so it is great to see it being tested in a real-life scenario.” — Jan Wurm, Arup’s Europe Research Leader
The system will be officially presented to the media on 25 April 2013 when the biofaçade system goes into operation for the first time.
Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on April 15th, 2013
Image: Union Kitchen’s Floor Plan
“The “equipment library” at Union Kitchen in Northeast Washington, D.C., contains some of the more mundane artifacts of the modern “sharing economy”: an oversized whisk, a set of spatulas, ladles, chopping knives, sheet pans and tongs. “Collaborative consumption,” as it’s also known, is more often associated with the big-ticket items that have given the concept such bemusing cachet. Suddenly, it seems, people are casually lending and borrowing cars, bikes, even brownstones. But this basic kitchenware, hanging in a 7,300 square-foot warehouse, reveals the reaches to which all this sharing could ultimately expand, as well as the reasons why it will have to.
Union Kitchen moved into the space in late November of 2012, taking over what had been the commissary for a chain of local kabob houses. Jonas Singer and Cullen Gilchrist had been looking to expand the kitchen operations for a café they own in the city. But this two-story red brick warehouse situated on a cramped manufacturing block was more space than they needed. So they turned the warehouse – complete with a walk-in freezer, two fridges and prep space for two-dozen entrepreneurs – into a shared kitchen and food incubator. For $500 a month, member chefs get a share of their own prep table, access to communal equipment, pantry shelves, and ingredients at wholesale prices.
By early January, the kitchen already had nearly a dozen members, including a cupcake food truck company, a caterer specializing in mole sauces and chocolate cakes, and the city’s lone Kombucha brewer. It would be prohibitively expensive for any of them to open their own commercial kitchens. But – and this is a related problem – there also isn’t affordable space enough in this growing city to do so.
“The reality is that if D.C. swells from a place where there are 500,000 people in 2010 to a place where there are 850,000 in 2020, well what are we doing with those 350,000 extra people who are here?” Singer asks, sitting on a couch in the kitchen’s lounge. “We’re all living in slightly smaller spaces. Obviously the per-capita number of car owners has to go down. The amount of space like this is going to be much tighter. A lot of the sharing economy just has to do with the number of people living per square foot of land. It’s all about physical space.””
Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on April 10th, 2013
Sustainable Cities Net’s mothership, the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (VEIL) has become a Green Apes Jungle Guardian (!!!) and so we’re doing a shout-out to our networks to let you know that the Green Apes app is now available online.
What’s a Green Ape and why would you want the app?
From the website:
Build & share your green profile and kick some jungle butt!
- get points for everyday sustainable actions
- track your progress
- compete and collaborate with friends
- find answers, inspire and be inspired
Book your tree in the jungle! join the ultimate sustainable community
We (VEIL) are pretty interested in behaviour change tools that are appealing, fun, or just not mind-numbingly terrifying. A quick look at the YouTube video and the website indicates that this app might be quite fun to use, although it’s pretty new (version 1.1) and may have a few issues. It also requires a facebook log-in. What will be really interesting is what happens if/when it reaches a large audience of users and glitches get ironed out. Unexpected (and hopefully awesome) results should follow.
Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on April 4th, 2013
Photo by Asian Development Bank via flickr cc
[...] The development of Thailand’s energy efficiency sector is an interesting case study. It demonstrates how strong government leadership combined with strategic support from international climate finance can drive the transition toward an energy-efficient economy. In the early 1990s, Thailand’s economy was growing rapidly at 10 percent per year; the power sector was growing even faster. The government recognized that conserving energy would provide a low-cost way to meet its citizens’ rising demand for energy.
It responded by passing a law in 1992 that set energy efficiency standards for industry and established an Energy Conservation Promotion Fund, which raised funds for energy efficiency projects by taxing petroleum products. The government also introduced a demand-side management plan, using about $40 million in climate finance from the Global Environment Facility (an international climate fund) and the Australian and Japanese governments. This plan included public awareness campaigns, setting energy efficiency standards for buildings and appliances, and demand-side planning to better manage the timing of consumer energy use.
The state energy generation utility successfully implemented the demand-side management plan, with impressive results: The utility achieved 15,700 gigawatt hours of energy savings by 2012, exceeding its own energy-savings targets. Key to the plan’s success was the fact that it was designed in close coordination with the private sector, carefully tailored to the Thai context, and widely disseminated through public awareness campaigns, resulting in strong support from industry and the public. Furthermore, the utility underwent considerable staff expansion and training to build its capacity to effectively implement the plan.
Financing Low-Carbon Projects in Thailand: While the demand-side management plan yielded positive results, an important barrier remained: Thailand’s local banks had a limited understanding of energy efficiency projects, making it challenging for potential developers to access financing for such projects. The Thai government took action by establishing an Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund in 2002, offering credit lines—initially at no interest—to local banks so that they could provide loans for energy efficiency projects. The Revolving Fund made commercial banks more familiar with energy efficiency projects, and by 2010, it had financed projects worth a total investment of $453 million, resulting in energy cost savings in the region of $154 million each year. The financial incentives to banks, combined with the enhanced awareness of energy efficiency, were key to the success of the Revolving Fund. Another critical factor was that the government had a reliable source of funding from the Energy Conservation Promotion Fund to invest in the Revolving Fund, so it did not need to rely on international support.
What Can We Learn from Thailand? Thailand has been able to transition smoothly from readiness activities—such as capacity-building, awareness-raising, and demonstration—to large-scale investments. It is now embarking on a 20-year energy efficiency development plan funded through the Energy Conservation Promotion Fund, which aims to reduce the country’s overall energy consumption by 20 percent by 2030. Other countries can learn from Thailand’s experience of combining strong national leadership with strategic use of climate finance for carefully targeted readiness activities. [...]
>>> Read the full article, and learn more about the Thailand case study on the World Resources Institute’s website.
Posted in Research, Tools, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on March 12th, 2013
Image: Forum for the Future / Which?
“The financial world of 2030 as seen in the Consumers in 2030 report we produced with Which? magazine is radically different from that of today with the emphasis on shared endeavour and a disintermediation of large financial institutions. The Crowd House Mortgage idea couldn’t be more removed from the model of today. The capital lent is sourced from people who know the borrowers – possibly only in a virtual sense – and the lending decision is taken not by computer but by those lenders. “Computer can’t say no, co-worker can say yes.”
Could it happen? Quite possibly. The economic environment may not get better and banks may continue to be unpopular. That’s the “production” side of the current version under pressure. The demand side may be more subtle, coming down to what young people prefer out of the options outlined in the report: multi-generational living, expensive renting or buying with peers in a rolling re-run of student days. Put like that, seeing appreciable demand for co-own mortgages isn’t impossible is it?
The research makes it clear new ideas are needed and not just in housing. One we are looking at in the Forum is an alternative pension, the sustainable lifetime pension. The idea is simple: instead of investing in financial assets located quite possibly thousands of miles from your home, you invest locally in things that will secure a better quality of retirement: How can you help make old people feel more secure? Invest local pension contributions into the local economy so that people are employed closer to home and can feel more protective of the area where they work. How can you protect the elderly from rising energy prices? Allow them to direct pension savings into local renewable energy schemes whilst they are working in return for capped energy fees in retirement.
You can see the idea: local money into local assets with a return which isn’t entirely financial. That idea and the crowd source mortgage are some way away now. But both are valid ideas for focusing thinking debate as we look at an unclear future.”
Go to the Forum for the Future blog to read more by Simon Howard, read other posts in the ‘future artefacts’ series, or download the Consumers in 2030 report.
Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on March 6th, 2013
This study is “based on a very small set of interviews – 16 people who self-identified as deliberately trying to live a lower-carbon lifestyle because of concern about climate change – and so its findings don’t necessarily apply to other people living in lower carbon ways. However, what is interesting about it is that it shows that people’s motivations for living in less carbon intensive ways are not primarily environmental. A concern for social justice is often much more important, as well is a desire for a more equal society” FCRN mailing: 5 March 2013.
This exploratory mixed-methods study uses in-depth interviews to investigate the values, motivations, and routes to engagement of UK citizens who have adopted lower-carbon lifestyles. Social justice, community, frugality, and personal integrity were common themes that emerged from the transcripts. Concern about ‘the environment’ per se is not the primary motivation for most interviewees’ action. Typically, they are more concerned about the plight of poorer people who will suffer from climate change. Although biospheric values are important to the participants, they tended to score altruistic values significantly higher on a survey instrument. Thus, it may not be necessary to promote biospheric values to encourage lower-carbon lifestyles. Participants’ narratives of how they became engaged with climate action reveal links to human rights issues and groups as much as environmental organisations and positive experiences in nature. Some interviewees offered very broad (positive) visions of what ‘a low-carbon lifestyle’ means to them. This, and the fact that ‘climate change’ is not necessarily seen as interesting even by these highly engaged people, reveals a need for climate change mitigation campaigns to promote a holistic view of a lower-carbon future, rather than simply offering a ‘to do’ list to ‘combat climate change’.
Howell, R.A. (2012). It’s not (just) ‘‘the environment, stupid!’’ Values, motivations, and routes to engagement of people adopting lower-carbon lifestyles.
Global Environmental Change, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.10.015
>> Download the paper
Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on February 15th, 2013
Photo from SolarKiosk.
For those who’ve grown up constantly plugged into the power grid, it’s almost impossible to think of life without an endless supply of outlets, power cords, and technology. But for an estimated 1.5 billion people around the world, power—from cutting and burning firewood to lighting kerosene lamps, paraffin, and candles—doesn’t come easy. According to the United Nations Foundation, almost 3 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating, about 1.5 billion have no access to electricity, and 1 billion more have access only to unreliable electricity networks. Smoke from polluting and inefficient cooking, lighting, and heating devices kills nearly two million people a year and causes a range of chronic illnesses and other health impacts.
In an effort to tackle health and development-related obstacles in developing countries, a company based in Germany and Ethiopia is bringing clean energy to “off-grid areas” around the world. Housed in a metal hut topped with a solar panel-filled roof, the designers have named their creation a “SolarKiosk,” a small-scale power source for communities without electricity. Each SolarKiosk is expected to provide enough power for villagers to charge their mobile phones and car batteries, run a computer, or power up a solar fridge. Goods sold from the Kiosk include solar lanterns, mobile phones, and cards to top-up cellular devices. Considering that the Kiosk’s fridge may be the community’s only one, it could be used to house everything from medication to chilled drinks. The kiosk could also provide television, music, and internet depending on the locale. The creators project that a larger-size SolarKiosk could even produce enough energy to run a telecom tower reliably, while also providing security and maintenance. It will even be possible to connect multiple kiosks to create a local grid.
The world’s first SolarKiosk set up shop on July 15  near Lake Langana in Ethiopia. Designed by Graft Architects, the project not only provides clean energy solutions to “off-grid” countries, but once installed, becomes a power-generating shop and business hub, providing jobs to community members and education on how solar products work. It also becomes a glowing, solar-powered light source at night. Each kiosk comes in a lightweight, DIY kit, making it is easy to transport and build a kiosk in off-road, rural areas—the package could even be carried to its target location on the back of a donkey. With the exception of pre-manufactured electrical components, the kiosk’s parts can be constructed from a range of local materials including bamboo, wood, adobe, stone, metal, or even recycled goods. Post-assembly, the entire structure is firmly anchored in the ground. [...]
NB. The second SolarKiosk was installed in Teppi, Ethiopia, in November last year. – [JB]
Posted in Movements by Jessica Bird on February 8th, 2013
Image from I Make Rotterdam.
[...] We all know or suspect that riding a populist, demographically-driven wave is the essence of electability. This era’s politicians (generally) know it’s best not to think too big in terms of urban-improving expenditures. Time is better spent learning how to deftly kick the can of crumbling infrastructure down the road—increasingly potholed though that road may be. “Let my successor manage the impending crisis,” their inner voices might be heard to say, “I’ll lose the next election if I raise taxes to fix x,y, or z let alone build something new.” This attitude is closely related to the one that causes well-established, successful companies like Nortel to go from world leaders to market flameouts almost overnight. Why improve something that the investors think to be a world beater? Behind the scenes, however, key players are running for the exits with whatever spoils they can carry before the whole operation collapses due to inattention. There is an alternative to the destructiveness of this self serving, near-term thinking about our cities: Crowd funded urban innovation. It is not a fantasy. Some cities are already doing it.
Why is crowd funded urbanism different than what we’ve seen in the past? In a way, it isn’t. It is fundamentally old school thinking brought into the digital age. In the farming communities of our parent’s parents, when people saw something that needed doing they pitched in to get it done. That’s the way crowd funded urbanism works. See it. Fix it. New communications tools are shrinking our complex world to the point where direct action is possible even where political action is an oxymoron. Even better, in a connected world we can assemble best-practice solutions in one easily accessible place for everyone’s use. Talk about efficiency.
Take a look at I Make Rotterdam for one example of a crowd funded pedestrian bridge that is a prototype for this nascent, city-changing movement. The public in that city cared enough to invest real money in the project after being inspired by New York’s High Line Park (good ideas are contagious). What’s more interesting is that their commitment spurred local government to get behind the project as well. [...] That’s the power of this idea. It is not about finding new ways of taxing people. What it is about is unequivocally showing where people want their communities improved so governments can act. Another example is the U.K.’s Space Hive. Broader in scope than I Make Rotterdam, Space Hive offers opportunities to tackle the needs of communities across the U.K.
Are these projects reinventing the way representative taxation will work a generation from now; or, are they just another example of online art projects that capture our collective imagination? We will find out, but our guess is that the future of cities demands better forms of community representation. These just may be the early models that will evolve to greatness.
>>> You can read the full article on Mesh Cities.
>>> Check out I Make Rotterdam, SeeClickFix, and Space Hive for some great examples of crowdfunded urbanism in action.