Posts Tagged ‘cities’

Never pay an Electricity Bill again? Sounds pretty good to me.

Posted in Models, Movements, Sustainable Cities, Visions by emma.gerard on August 21st, 2013

Source: Climate progress

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photo from: Habitat for Humanity of washington DC

From the article Why Habitat For Humanity’s Newest Homeowner Might Never Pay An Electricity Bill by JOANNA M. FOSTER

Lakiya’s new home is the first super energy-efficient passive house in D.C. It also just happens to be a Habitat for Humanity home.

The house doesn’t look like a futuristic spaceship, but it is different from the other small pre-fab houses along the street. It is a two home duplex with a big wooden porch in front and, of course, solar panels on the roof.

Lakiya’s house started out two years ago as an entry in the Department of Energy’s biannual Solar Decathlon. Dubbed “Empowerhouse” for the competition, it was an ambitious concept brought to life by engineering and architecture students from Stevens Institute of TechnologyParsons The New School for Design and Milano School for International Affairs, management and Urban Policy, many of whom had never even wielded a hammer before attempting this elaborate construction project. The team’s dream was to build a solar-powered house that could not only compete with the most cutting-edge technologies out there, but was actually affordable and something ordinary people would want to live in.

According to Josh Layrea, one of the Stevens engineers, the winning entry from a German team two years before cost over two million dollars. “It was an impressive piece of engineering,” Laryea concedes. “But made for exhibit, not habitation. The entire outside of the house was covered in solar panels.” Laryea and his teammates had a different goal. In a way, they were in a competition of their own, in which they were competing against themselves to see if they could create something that Habitat for Humanity could use not only as a home for a low-income family in the Deanwood area of D.C. but also as an affordable housing prototype for Habitat going forward. The Stevens-Parson-Milano house won the top prize for cost-effectiveness at the Solar Decathlon.

Lakiya’s house was built based on passive house design principles. The basic concept of passive house is to lower energy consumption by being super-insulated and practically airtight. Empowerhouse has 12-inch thick walls and triple-glazed windows and, as a result, uses up to 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than an ordinary house. Such low energy consumption enabled Empowerhouse to have one of the smallest solar panel arrays in the competition, which helps keep construction and maintenance costs down.

As anyone who worked on Empowerhouse hoped, Lakiya’s home is not the end of the dream. Habitat is gearing up to build six more passive houses in Ivy City, a short drive from Deanwood. They’ll look a bit different from Empowerhouse, more townhouses than duplex, but they’ll cost about the same and hopefully pass on the same savings.

“As much as we can afford, we would like to have the highest standard of energy efficiency available for our homeowners,” said Susanne Slater, President and CEO of D.C. Habitat for Humanity. “Our whole mission is to provide affordable housing to low income families, and if homeowners pay less in energy costs, that helps us reach that goal.”

“I really believe that with the mounting cost of electricity, passive houses with solar panels are going to take off,” said Slater. “And our homeowners are going to be out in front of the movement.”

>>> You can read the original article on Climate Progress


Cyclists account for 24% of London’s morning commute

Posted in Movements, Research by Jessica Bird on June 27th, 2013

Source: The Guardian

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Photo by Karla Lopez via Flickr CC

From the article ‘Cyclists make up a quarter of London vehicles says TfL‘ by Laura Laker:

Cyclists make up an incredible 24% of vehicles in London’s morning rush hour, according to Transport for London (TfL) figures . The arresting statistic formed from a mass census of cyclists in London – apparently the biggest of its kind to date – is adding weight to campaigners’ and cycling proponents’ arguments that the bicycle is no longer the transport of the minority, and that we need to take the bicycle seriously as a means of mass transport.The numbers on some headline routes are perhaps not surprising to anyone who has squashed in with scores of cyclists at the traffic lights in London’s morning rush hour, though they do make previous cycling targets look shamefully unambitious. […]

London’s new cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, told the Guardian: “Cycling is clearly a mass mode of transport in central London and until now it hasn’t been treated as such. Nearly all provision for cycling is based on the presumption that hardly anyone cycles, that you can make do with shoving cyclists to the side of the road and that just clearly is wrong.” Since [London Mayor Boris] Johnson’s cycling vision was launched in March, there have been fears that the proposed £913m funding for cycling will suffer at the hands of George Osborne’s spending review, due tomorrow. Gilligan remains optimistic, however, and says although the money is a lot more than previously spent on cycling, it’s not a lot compared to TfL’s overall budget. As Sir Peter Hendy, TfL’s transport commissioner, noted at the cycling vision’s City Hall launch, we get more for our money from cycling infrastructure than for other mass transport systems. He wants to make cycling “one of his highest priorities”. As campaigners point out, urban cycling is still dominated by a minority. The next goal is surely to get everyone else on a bike.

The London Cycling Campaign’s chief executive, Dr Ashok Sinha, said: “The latest cycling figures from TfL simply underline that, given the right circumstances, a large proportion of London’s population would opt to cycle to work. “The ultimate goal must be to enable people of all ages and backgrounds to feel safe enough to cycle for everyday local journeys, not just commuters. The good news is that Boris Johnson gets this and understands that investing in cycling saves money in the long run. That’s why he must resolutely defend his impressive new cycling programme from impending Treasury cuts.” […]

>>> You can read the full article here.


Innovative Urbanism: Crowdsourcing change

Posted in Movements by Jessica Bird on February 8th, 2013

Source: Mesh Cities.


Image from I Make Rotterdam.

From the article “Crowd funding city innovation” by Mesh Cities.

[…] 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.


Bicycles: Machines for disaster recovery

Posted in Models, Sustainable Cities by Kate Archdeacon on November 30th, 2012

Source: The Atlantic Cities


Photo © Sarah Goodyear

From an article in early November by Sarah Goodyear, talking about Bicycle Habitat’s emergency supplies deliveries around New York after Hurricane Sandy:

New Yorkers are learning things from this storm, and from the relief efforts that are ongoing even as another weather front sweeps through this afternoon, forcing another round of evacuations. Practical things. They are learning where to go for help, and how to help each other. They are learning how to get around when the transportation system fails, and the importance of redundancy and resiliency in all kinds of infrastructure. They are learning what you really need to have on hand when supply chains are disrupted, and what you can do without. They are learning how to assess the accuracy of information, and how to spread it. They are learning that individual efforts, pooled together, can make a substantial material difference in a crisis.

Bicycles are part of all this. In the early days after the storm, when the trains and buses stopped running, bikes were one of the few reliable ways of moving people, objects, and information around streets choked with debris. They don’t require the gasoline that people are still lining up for hours to get. They don’t need to be charged up – just add some basic food to a human being, and you can power the legs that turn the cranks.

Many of those of us who use bikes for transportation in better times knew their potential to help out in disaster already. Bikes have been part of my family’s emergency plan since we first made one in the wake of 9/11. After we had a kid, we planned for his bike needs at every stage, from a seat on the back to a bike trailer to a tandem to his own solid ride that would go any distance. A friend suggested on Twitter that the Office of Emergency Management should encourage bike tuneups as part of basic disaster preparedness measures, like a go bag or stockpiles of food and water. Yes to that.

Sure, there are lots of things that bicycles can’t do, or that motor vehicles can do better, if they’re available. Some Bicycle Habitat customers drove heavier donations, like bottled water and canned food, out to the Rockaways to supplement the bicycle effort.

But as I pedaled along the streets of the peninsula, my panniers filled with hand warmers and tampons and energy bars, I was struck again by the power of the bicycle. It is a machine that is uniquely able to leverage and amplify human effort. And this is precisely what we have seen all over the city in the days since the storm hit: The humble work of individual people, harnessed to simple mechanisms, can gain strength exponentially. And move a city forward.

Read the full article by Sarah Goodyear.


“City Semester”: Learning about climate change and sustainability in the city

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 25th, 2012

Source: The Atlantic Cities

From “The High School Curriculum Every Urban Planner Wishes They’d Had” by Nate Berg:

[…]

City Semester is an immersive, city-focused course that combines classwork and field studies for juniors at Fieldston. It’s like other semester away programs run by the school, but instead of sending kids out to the Rocky Mountains or the Maine coast, students in the City Semester program turn their attention to their own neighborhood and city. Meyers has compiled a broad range of teachers from the school to participate, including teachers focusing on history, ethics, language, theater, literature, film, photography and music.

The program is divided into four main sections: sustainability, immigration and difference, power and conflict, and neighborhood and community renewal. This last section is centered around the Bronx River, located a couple miles from the school.

“We wanted to talk about neighborhood formation, and chronologically to talk about the recovery of the Bronx,” Meyers says. “We use the Bronx River as a means of discussing both human and non-human communities.”

One of the main parts of this section of the program consists of a two-day canoe trip down the river. The students collect scientific data about the water and the ecology and make presentations about both the history of the neighborhoods and the development of the river habitats. Meyers says this approach pulls in what the students are learning and relates it to things they see in their day-to-day experiences and the neighborhoods around them.

“Adolescents are at a place in their lives where understanding the relevance of what they’re learning can make an enormous difference in terms of their engagement,” Meyers says.

The program looks broadly at the city as a subject, even looking into the policies and politics that are driving change in New York. Meyers took the class to meet with officials from the city’s Department of Transportation to hear about the planning and implementation of bike lanes throughout the city. Then they rented bikes and rode the lanes. Meyers says this hands-on approach helps students to see the various ways what they’re learning can be applied in real-life situations.

And if delving into city politics isn’t enough to add a little more stress to high schoolers’ lives, one of the sections of the course had students role-playing and problem-solving their way through some not-too-far-off disaster scenarios brought on as a result of climate change. Rising sea levels create a flood in lower Manhattan that causes a blackout, in this scenario. During the power outage, a rumored hostage situation at the United Nations causes the whole subway system to shut down. Students had to imagine they were stuck in their school for 3 days – and to cope with all the logistical and psychological impacts such a situation would cause. They even engaged in community design charrettes to come up with feasible retrofit ideas that can help communities handle the potential threats they’ll face as the climate continues to change.

This section of the course was taught earlier this year by Alec Appelbaum, a journalist who’s covered urban planning for years. He says that high schoolers are maybe the ideal audience for this sort of lesson.

“They’re going to be living with the consequences of the misdirected debate that’s gone on about climate change,” says Appelbaum. “The carbon overload in the atmosphere is something that young people didn’t particularly cause and will have to survive.”

[…]

Read the full article by Nate Berg.


Forget Superheroes: Local Government to the Rescue

Posted in Movements, Research by Jessica Bird on March 6th, 2012


Image from: CDP Cities

CDP Cities is a voluntary reporting platform for cities around the world to document their actions on climate change. An initiative of the Carbon Disclosure Project, CDP Cities have produced this neat infographic compiling data from the 48 participating cities in 2011. Melbourne features in the section on individual cities, citing ‘creating urban and rooftop gardens, lighter buildings, and lightening roof and road colours to lessen urban heat island effect’ as actions being taken by the City council.


Edges and Social Spaces: City Design

Posted in Models, Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on September 28th, 2011

Source: Sustainable Cities Collective


Photo by Chuck Wolfe

From “Confronting the Urban Mirror” by Chuck Wolfe:

To my mind, one of the most compelling features of a provocative urban environment is a place where people watch people—which becomes a small-scale human observatory. Such places are often indicative of safe public environments, including active streets, corners and squares. They are particularly prevalent in cultures where neighbors readily interact, and the seams between public and private are softer than zoning setbacks, while still allowing for a private world.

[…]

The sustainable cities we seek should include small places, where, as here, when the bustle of life begins in the morning and evening, people interact with facets of the city around them. I suspect that workable density, in the city of the future, will abound with the types of spaces readily ascertainable from cities of the past. We need places where we sit on the edges of the public realm and look in the mirror, to be reminded of who we really are.

Read the full article and check out the delightful photos by Chuck Wolfe on Sustainable Cities Collective.

 


Hong Kong Urban Intensity: Public Lectures

Posted in Events, Research by Kate Archdeacon on September 7th, 2011


Photo by Mike Behnken via flickr CC

The Melbourne School of Design presents a series of free public lectures by Professor Tom Kvan celebrating the book launch of The Making of Hong Kong: From Vertical to Volumetric.

These lectures examine one of the most intense cities in the world. Hong Kong’s irregular coastline and steep terrain has resulted in built-up areas that are compact, rich in spatial experience, all parts close to hills and water and connected by an exceptional public transport system. The lectures will present how the authors see value in these conditions: a metropolis with a small urban footprint, 90 per cent use of public transport for vehicular journeys and proximity to nature which has arisen from a culturally and topographic specific condition.

This fascinating book, with over 200 original illustrations, adds to the current urban debate around high density compact cities and interconnected public transport systems as one means of reducing urban energy use and carbon emissions. The lecture will explore why urban intensity is vital for more than ecological reasons and presents propositions based on these observations.

This lecture and book launch is part of a national tour. A reception will follow each lecture. Please register on the Melbourne School of Design website.

  • Sydney Monday 19 September
  • Adelaide, Tuesday 20 September
  • Perth, Thursday 22 September
  • Brisbane, Friday 23 September
  • Launceston, Friday 30 September


Zipcar share cars in Baltimore mean less cars

Posted in Models, Movements, Research by Rob Eales on August 15th, 2011

Source: Clean Technica found here, Fast Company.

Photos: spike55151 on flickr Licence: Creative Commons

A study about the usage of Zip share cars in Baltimore has shown that Zipsters (Zipcar members) use cars less and other forms of transport more.

Urban transport is changing in any number of innovative ways as cities around the US look to alleviate traffic congestion, reduce air pollution and make their cities more “livable.”

One year on, the driving habits of Zipcar members in Baltimore have changed substantially, and that’s having several beneficial effect on the city’s “transportation landscape,” according to one-year anniversary survey results released by the City of Baltimore and the Parking Authority of Baltimore City.

“Zipsters,” as they are referred to, own fewer cars, drive less and use public transportation more often than they did prior to joining, according to a press release

Read the full article by Andrew Burger

These examples which are at the intersection of collaborative consumption (sharing things) and the reduction of the consumption of things provide real pointers to ways of living that cause less impact in the here and now. (Rob Eales)

 

 


Contested Streets: Breaking NY City Gridlock

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on July 20th, 2011

Source: Streetfilms via Going Solar

From “Contested Streets: Breaking New York City Gridlock” by Clarence Eckerson, Jr:

Produced in 2006 as part of the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign, Contested Streets explores the history and culture of New York City streets from pre-automobile times to present. This examination allows for an understanding of how the city — though the most well served by mass transit in the United States — has slowly relinquished what was a rich, multi-dimensional conception of the street as a public space to a mindset that prioritizes the rapid movement of cars and trucks over all other functions.

Central to the story is a comparison of New York to what is experienced in London, Paris and Copenhagen. Interviews and footage shot in these cities showcase how limiting automobile use is in recent years has improved air quality, minimized noise pollution and enriched commercial, recreational and community interaction. London’s congestion pricing scheme, Paris’ BRT and Copenhagen’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure are all examined in depth.

New York City, though to many the most vibrant and dynamic city on Earth, still has lessons to learn from Old Europe.

Watch the film on Vimeo