Posts Tagged ‘green cities’

Collaboration for Urban Renewal in Quebec

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on September 27th, 2011

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

Photo: Jardin St Roch by meddygarnet via flickr CC

From “Citywatch: Quebec City uses food as pioneer species of urban revival” by Wayne Roberts:

I’ve long felt that Quebec deserves to be known as one of the world’s best examples of an oppressed minority – commonly referred to as “pepsi’s” and “French Niggers of North America” as recently as the 1960s – who’ve made it economically while enriching their traditional culture and distinctive identity. My chance overnight stay gave me a glimpse of the secret formula behind this success. Ironically, it’s very close to the strategy proposed in Jeb Brugmannn’s recent book, Welcome to the Urban Revolution, arguably one of the most important studies of city possibilities since Jane Jacobs. Those running as or voting for candidates in municipal elections across Ontario this fall might want to consider ways of translating Quebec’s success here.

Dog-tired and worried about the high cost of rooms in the height of Quebec’s summer tourism, we dragged ourselves into the reception area of a hotel called L’Autre Jardin Auberge, the Other Garden Inn. The first thing we saw was a wooden sculpture from Africa. The second thing we saw was a fair trade gift store, Boutique EquiMonde. Then we saw a sign describing the place as Quebec’s first “social economy” hotel. The hotel, launched in 1996, is the money-making arm of a Quebec charity, Carrefour Tiers-Monde (Third World Meeting Place), devoted to education for children’s rights and international solidarity and to the economic revival of the surrounding neighborhood. All 28 rooms boasted fair trade towels and rugs, eco-certified writing pads, and nighttime reading booklets on sustainable tourism and responsible shopping. The breakfast nook featured organic and fair trade foods. We knew that at least we would sleep and rise with a clear conscience.

Our early morning walk showed we were in the midst of more than a socially conscious rooming district. The other garden referred to in the hotel’s name was a block away, where a campus of the University of Quebec abutted the commercial district, serving as a meeting place where students, a few homeless people and other wanderers could share a quiet and green space dominated by a tiny waterfall. This was the project that launched the renewal of this down-on-the-heels district in 1992.


Food specialty shops are the city equivalent of the pioneer species that burst forth after an area has been ravaged by a forest fire. But very quickly, signs crop up that this is more than a unique shopping experience based on the delightfully spontaneous jumble of cultural creative-and counter culture-inspired hangouts. A huge church, as was standard in Old Quebec, is at the centre of the street scene. Nearby is a public library that shares a section of the street with a low-end eatery, a budget hotel, regional headquarters for a credit union and trade union. A block away is a provincial office of the ministry of tourism and a large Mountain Equipment Co-op store. Since 2000, the entire street has been pedestrianized, given over to those who jaunt through neighborhood at a walker’s pace.

Almost all the housing in the area comes from Quebec’s iconic balconied triplexes, a mainstay of dense and affordable communities. A typical triplex has one floor for the, who pays a major portion of the mortgage with rental from two triplex tenants, thereby allowing working people to afford to buy handymen’s specials while providing tenants with low rents. What we see here is a distinctive culture of collaboration, not just a distinctive language group. In Quebec, which has pulled itself up by the bootstraps, people from many walks of life and all levels of government have learned to work together. In French, it’s called “concertation.” It doesn’t cost more. It’s about leverage from partnerships, not money.


Quebec’s traditions lend themselves to what urban expert Jeb Brugmann calls the Strategic City. It’s the antidote to the “crisis city,” torn apart by a two-way conflict that destroys both sides. It’s also the counterpoint to the “opportunity city,” where a jumble of creatives can’t break through to win support from political or economic power brokers. Brugmann, who lives in Toronto, doesn’t miss the chance to describe his adopted as the epitome of an opportunity city.


Read the full article by Wayne Roberts on Nourishing the Planet

Capital Bee: Supporting Beekeeping in London

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on September 15th, 2011

Capital Bee promotes community-run beekeeping in London and campaigns for a bee-friendly city.

The heart of Capital Bee is its seven training sites across the capital, offering 75 new beekeepers one year’s training from some of London’s most experienced beekeepers. These communities will then receive a hive and bees in 2012. The community sites, throughout the capital, are in schools, colleges, housing estates, businesses, and allotments. A full list of sites is available here.

Capital Bee is asking Londoners to support their local beekeepers and honey bees by growing plants that bees like, finding alternatives to garden pesticides, and opting for organic choices where possible. Solitary bees and bumble bees also need a suitable habitat in gardens, in much the same way as we put up bird boxes. A honey bee will fly up to three miles, so with over 2,500 hives already in London in London, you are never far from a bee!

The 50 new community apiaries are part of the Capital Growth campaign, which aims to support 2,012 new community food-growing spaces in London by the end of 2,012. Capital Growth is a partnership between London Food Link, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and the Big Lottery’s Local Food Fund.

In August this year, Capital Bee ran the London Honey Festival – “a celebration of London Honey, from across the capital as far as Croydon to Bexley, Tottenham to Ruislip, King’s Cross to the Royal Festival Hall. [People could] participate in the festival at selected restaurants, local shops and at the Honey Festival itself.”


Keeping Stormwater Out of the Sewer System: Green Roofs

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 6th, 2011

Source: Environmental Research Web

From “Columbia researchers find green roof is a cost-effective way to keep water out of sewers“:

Green roofs like the one atop a Con Edison building in Long Island City, Queens can be a cost-effective way to keep water from running into sewer systems and causing overflows, Columbia University researchers have found. The Con Edison Green Roof, which is home to 21,000 plants on a quarter acre of The Learning Center, retains 30 percent of the rainwater that falls on it. The plants then release the water as vapor, the researchers said in the study (

If New York City’s 1 billion square feet of roofs were transformed into green roofs, it would be possible to keep more than 10 billion gallons of water a year out of the city sewer system, according to the study led by Stuart Gaffin, research scientist at Columbia’s Center for Climate Systems Research. New York City, like other older urban centers, has a combined sewer system that carries storm water and wastewater. The system often reaches capacity during rains and must discharge a mix of storm water and sewage into New York Harbor, the Hudson River, the East River and other waterways. Con Edison built the green roof and formed its research partnership with Columbia in 2008. The partners saw the green roof and an adjoining white roof as an outdoor laboratory for environmental research. Gaffin’s team found last year that the green roof and white roof save energy and reduce urban air temperatures. Under its “cool roofs” program, Con Edison has turned many roofs on company facilities white to save energy and protect the environment.

“The information we are collecting from Con Edison’s roofs is invaluable in helping us determine the costs and benefits of green infrastructure projects,” Gaffin said. “Without solid data from experiments like this, it is impossible for us to know which projects are the best options for protecting the environment.” “When we built our green roof we were confident that researchers from Columbia would gain important knowledge about protecting the environment,” said Saddie Smith, vice president for Facilities for Con Edison. “Three years later, it’s clear that our project has helped us understand how roofs can save energy, cool the atmosphere and prevent storm water runoff.”

The researchers used instrumentation to measure sunlight, and other forms of energy entering and leaving the green roof. That data allowed them to calculate the amount of energy leaving the roof in the form of water vapor. The study concluded that based on the cost of building and maintaining a green roof it costs as little as 2 cents a year to capture each gallon of water.

This article is from Columbia University via Environmental Research Web.

Super Short Supply Chain: Supermarket Roof Garden

Posted in Models by Rob Eales on March 15th, 2011


© Food From The Sky

From  “The supermarket growing food on its roof” by Laura Barnett:

Of all the things you might reasonably expect to be doing on a blustery March day, standing on the roof of a supermarket and dragging a rake through a bag of decaying vegetables is probably not one of them. I am on top of Thornton’s Budgens supermarket in Crouch End, north London, which volunteers have transformed from a flat expanse of concrete into a flourishing potted garden and vegetable patch.

The project, called Food from the Sky, is an unusual exercise in the principles of permaculture and sustainable gardening, and is the brainchild of former silversmith and art consultant Azul-Valerie Thome. It opened last May, when a crane lifted 10 tonnes of compost and 300 green recycling boxes donated by Haringey Council on to the roof. Now the garden is producing enough vegetables to sell in the aisles downstairs every Friday, and has just won a community prize at the Co-operative’s annual People and Environment Achievement Awards.

On a quick tour of the garden, Thome and several volunteers show me an impressive array of vegetables – from peas and potatoes to kale and purple sprouting broccoli – alongside flowers, tiny strawberry and raspberry plants, and a composting area. Here, fruit and vegetables left unsold each day in Budgens are mulched, along with woody branches and soil, by the 20 local people who volunteer in the garden.

Volunteer Peter Budge tells me the conditions are perfect for the plants: the warmth from the supermarket’s heating and lighting systems comes up through the roof, sparing the seeds the worst of the frosts – and there are no slugs or snails, while marauding pigeons are deterred by CDs hanging from the perimeter fence. “It might seem mad that we’re growing things up here,” Budge says, “and it is. But it really works.”


Read the full article by Laura Barnett on The Guardian.

A sign of the cities to come – 2 reports into Australian cities

Posted in Research, Sustainable Cities by Rob Eales on January 12th, 2011

Article by Sara Phillips via ABC Environment blog

Image by buiversonian via flickr under this Creative Commons license (the description of this image on flickr is great)

Two reports about Sustainable Cities in Australia (not so recent but still interesting). The interesting thing about these reports is the context in which they were researched and the organisations that commissioned them. One is through the Australian Conservation Foundation and the other was undertaken by KPMG on behalf of Built Environment Meets Parliament, the lobbying arm of a collection of planners and developers. The context of the reports was “…that if we want an understanding of how sustainable we are as a nation, we need to look to our cities.”

The article includes,

The ACF report measured publicly available information across 15 separate parameters. Predictably, for an organisation originally established to protect Australian flora and fauna, the ACF examined such measures as amount of land given over to parks, and ecological footprint – the theoretical amount of land required to create the goods and services used each day by a city’s citizens.

What is most interesting, however, is that the ACF also included measures of economic prosperity. They looked at debt levels for households and employment data. The inclusion of these measures, according to Matthew Trigg, report co-ordinator from the ACF, was because even the greenest city is not sustainable if its economy is not.

“Sustainability is not just about the environment. Economic issues become environmental issues and environmental issues are wrapped up in economic issues. The two are intertwined.”


Meanwhile, KMPG, which does not have a reputation for being a firm overrun with dreadlocked hippies, included many measures of environmental sustainability in its report. Taking its cues from COAG, KPMG reviewed cities’ plans for “social inclusion, productivity and global competitiveness, climate change mitigation and adaptation, health, liveability, community wellbeing, housing affordability and matters of national environmental significance.”

Read the rest

Urban Heat Island Effect: Research & Collaboration

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on September 8th, 2010

Source: Environmental Research Web

From “Urban cool” by Roland Ennos:

Cities are hot, noisy places with poor air quality that are prone to flash flooding during storms. In cities we are guilty of using huge amounts of energy for cooling in summer, heating in winter and transport the whole year round. Making cities more pleasant and sustainable places in which to live is therefore one of the key goals of environmental research, and it is one that physicists are ideally suited to contribute to, since most urban environmental problems are best understood in physical terms.

Physicists across the world, particularly those working in environmental physics and meteorology, are now collaborating with scientists from other disciplines to study the environmental performance of cities and establish how “green” these urban environments are. One particularly important environmental characteristic of cities is the “urban heat island”, whereby urban areas are hotter than their surrounding countryside. This is a real problem, which will be made even worse by climate change. It has therefore become a prime focus of research.

The urban heat island

Cities are typically about 4 °C hotter than the surrounding countryside and the larger they are, the bigger the difference. To understand why, we must consider the energy balance of the two areas (figure 1). Although heating, air-conditioning and transport all produce energy in cities, this is a surprisingly small component of their heat balance – only about 50 W m–2. Except for in winter, this is dwarfed by the energy we receive from the Sun, which even in the UK peaks at more than 800 W m–2. The difference between temperatures in a city and the surrounding countryside is therefore mostly due to what happens to the Sun’s energy in the two environments.

In rural areas, vegetation reflects about a quarter of the incoming short-wave radiation (visible light or shorter wavelengths). Of the three-quarters that is absorbed, much of the energy is used to evaporate water from leaves – a process known as “evapotranspiration”. This cools the vegetation, which therefore radiates little long-wave radiation (infrared), and even less energy remains to heat the air by convection and to heat the soil by conduction.

In cities, where vegetation has largely been replaced by buildings and roads, the energy balance is dramatically altered. Dark, artificial materials reflect less – and absorb more – radiation than vegetation. This lower “albedo” means that only about 10% of the Sun’s radiation is reflected; this figure is even lower in high-rise cities where light is reflected down into urban “canyons”. Almost all of this energy goes into heating the dry roads and roofs, where it is either stored in bricks and mortar or heats the air above, thus raising daytime surface and air temperatures well above those of the surrounding countryside.

At night the difference in temperature between the countryside and the urban heat island can become even more pronounced. Cities cool down more slowly because there is more heat stored in its buildings, which continues to dissipate into the night; there is more pollution to trap long-wave radiation; and within urban canyons less of the cool sky is visible, so less radiation can escape.

All this causes major problems for city-dwellers. The rise in urban air temperature above that of the surrounding countryside, which can reach 7 °C in a metropolis like London, makes cities less comfortable places to live in during the summer months. Soaring temperatures increase ill health and can even kill people during heatwaves: it is thought that more than 35,000 people died in Europe as a result of the 2003 heatwave, most of them in towns and cities. The urban heat island also makes cities less sustainable, since it increases the amount of energy used for air-conditioning – energy that is pumped into the open air and just makes the situation worse. Fortunately, physics shows that two very different methods could be used to alleviate the urban heat island: using “cool surfaces”; and using vegetation, or “green infrastructure”.

Read the rest of this informative article by Roland Ennos on Physics World.

Seedbombing and the Guerilla Gardening Movement

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on August 11th, 2010

Source: Worldchanging

This article from Worldchanging provides a good insight and relevant links into the growing (sorry) Guerilla Gardening Movement, particularly in the USA:

The popularity of guerrilla gardening is growing. National Public Radio recently covered two stories on the subject, one on American seed bombing and another on night-time planting in London. We’ve covered guerrilla gardening at Worldchanging before (as well as the related topic of public food foraging and mapping), so we thought you might be interested to know about a new guerrilla gardening tool: tech savvy seed bombs that use biodegradable casings and are available at Etsy shops, ice cream trucks, grocery stores, and even vending machines! You can find seed bombs with local varietals categorized by geographic regions in the U.S. at Visualingual’s Etsy shop and at Anthropologie.

Common Studio founders Daniel Phillips and Kim Karlsrud have given new life to Karlsrud’s father’s old gumball machines and turned them into seed bomb dispensaries in a project they call Greenaid. For a quarter and a turn, the Greenaid vending machines dispense seed bombs made up of clay, compost and seeds to guerrilla gardeners in California, Minnesota, Illinois, and North Carolina.


Read the full article by My Tam Nguyen and Amanda Reed.

The Nature of Cities: Film

Posted in Visions by Kate Archdeacon on December 9th, 2009

Source: How It Grows

Image: Congress Avenue Bridge, by jessicareeder via flickr CC

University of Virgina professor Timothy Beatly premiered his new film, The Nature of Cities, at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Gillette Forum on October 29th. The film is an interesting overview of various ways in which nature and sustainable architecture are being incorporated into European and American cities. Geared towards people outside the design and science community, it’s a great introduction to the concept of urban nature.  The film has several interesting vignettes, like a car-free development that is so eerily quiet you can follow the sound of waves to find a nearby beach. Or a week-long bio-blitz of a canyon in San Diego that allows kids who were previously warned about the ‘danger’ of the local canyon to explore it and identify the native plants and insects.

The most striking story in the film features the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas, famous for its bat colony. The city has gone from trying to torch the bats under the bridge to setting up a protected area where crowds of people assemble to watch 1.5 million bats emerge in the evenings. Now, new bridges in Texas are being specifically designed to house bat colonies. Imagine if more of our buidings and infrastructure were built this way! It’s fascinating to see the shift in construction from environmentally harmful, to environmentally neutral, to environmentaly positive.

Source: How It Grows

Green Cities 2010: People, Places, Performance

Posted in Events by Kate Archdeacon on November 25th, 2009

Source: Green Building Council Australia (GBCA)

greencities copy

Green Cities 2010 – People, Places, Performance – is now taking bookings.

“Join us in Melbourne from the 21-24 February 2010 at the largest and most influential green building conference in the Asia Pacific region. Bringing together green building innovators and leaders from around Australia and internationally we will explore new ideas and share practical knowledge in the expanding sustainable building industry. ”

  • Hear from renowned global green building experts including: Malcolm Smith – Director of Integrated Urbanism, Arup UK;  Jerry Yudelson – Principal, Yudelson Associates USA
  • Learn about the latest industry developments, techniques and strategies
  • Network with global and domestic sustainability leaders
  • Visit some of Melbourne’s latest Green Star certified buildings including CH2, The Gauge and Goods Shed North
  • Brush up on your professional development at a Master Class

Re-Imagining Urban Spaces: PARK(ing) Day 2009

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on September 23rd, 2009

Source: Inhabitat

Image: rebar

On September 18, in cities around the world, artists, activists and citizens temporarily transformed metered parking spaces into public parks and other social spaces, as part of an annual event called PARK(ing) Day.

Originally invented in 2005 by Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, PARK(ing) Day challenges people to rethink the way streets are used and reinforces the need for broad-based changes to urban infrastructure.

“In urban centers around the world, inexpensive curbside parking results in increased traffic, wasted fuel and more pollution,” says Rebar’s Matthew Passmore. “The strategies that generated these conditions are not sustainable, nor do they promote a healthy, vibrant urban human habitat.

PARK(ing) Day is about re-imagining the possibilities of the metropolitan landscape.”

Read the rest of this entry »