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Low-Income Sustainable Housing: South Bronx, NY

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on October 22nd, 2010

Source: The Ecologist

From “Greening the Big Apple: how building got sustainable in the Bronx” by Gwen Schantz

In 2008, in an effort to raise money in the face of a crippling budget deficit, the New York City Housing Authority announced that it would sell off several acres of public land in the South Bronx. Rather than simply giving the land to the highest bidder, however, the city prioritised developments that would incorporate sustainable design and give affordable housing a modern green face. Blue Sea Development Company was one among four firms with winning proposals, and will break ground this October on the Forest Houses development, a beacon of green building set among 15 ageing brown-brick public housing towers in the neighbourhood of Morrisania.
This new building will raise the bar for New York’s green building sector as a whole. Inside and out, the structure is designed to maximise efficiency and exploit green materials and techniques. Energy savings add up bit by bit throughout the building, from the smallest energy-star household appliances to the direct-drive lifts that use as much as 60 per cent less energy than conventional ones.
In addition to energy-saving systems and design for healthy living, the development will be a showcase of green building materials. The apartments will feature durable faux-wood flooring made from 70 per cent recycled vinyl content, common areas will be laid with recycled nylon carpet tiles and doormats made from recycled tyres, and vinyl panelling made with 53 per cent recycled content will cover interior walls.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of this new development, however, is the 10,000 sq ft hydroponic greenhouse on the roof that will tie into the efficiencies of the building, utilising waste heat while insulating the top storey against heat and cold. Photovoltaic panels will supply electricity to the greenhouse and power air conditioners in the summer, cooling the greenhouse during the hottest times of the day. Additional cooling will come from passive design that maximises air flow and incorporates shade cloth and evaporative cooling pads.

The greenhouse will collect and filter rainwater to grow hydroponic vegetables year-round, yielding 10-20lb of fresh food per square foot. The rooftop structure won’t be carbon-neutral, but according to Benjamin Linsley, whose firm Bright Farm Systems designed the greenhouse, the energy draw of an urban rooftop greenhouse ‘is tiny compared to putting a greenhouse on the perimeter of the city’, because it benefits from the rising heat that constantly radiates from below.

Read the full article by Gwen Schantz for more details on the construction, including systems for heating & cooling, and reducing pollution-related illnesses for the residents.

Low-Income Nations: Becoming Climate Resilient

Posted in Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on August 3rd, 2010

Source: Worldchanging

From “Leapfrogging into a Carbon-Light Future: The End of High-Carbon Prosperity and How Low-Income Nations Are Becoming Climate Resilient” by Martin Wright:

The idea that Africa could somehow leap to a boom economy will strike some as hopelessly wishful thinking. But the seeds of this possible future already exist.  The combination of solar power, mobile phones and IT, for example, is already transforming the economic prospects for villagers across the continent. A simple piece of software enabling the transfer of small amounts of money instantly and cheaply by mobile is plugging remote rural backwaters into the global economy as never before. Millions are saving money, time and their health by switching to clean, efficient sources of energy – from solar to biogas, biomass to hydro. Agricultural innovations, too, are mushrooming, from water harvesting and hydroponics to the precise application of fertilizer and irrigation via GPS.

All such breakthroughs have one common characteristic: they are low-carbon technologies. The phrase has a rather worthy feel – especially when applied to developing countries. But it masks an intriguing possibility: that low-income nations could outflank the industrialized world, skipping the heavyweight, fossil fuel-dependent economic model and leapfrogging into a carbon-light future.

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