Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Tim De Chant's Posts

Comments

Can you build a house for less than a Macbook?

The winning design.Photo: Ying chee ChuiLots of things cost $1,000 -- a sweet new bike or a svelte 11" MacBook Air, for instance. But a house? Even that brilliant 16-year-old punk who built a tiny house in his parents' backyard had to shell out $12,000 for his shack. I must be kidding, right? Well, sort of. Two years ago, MIT architecture professors launched the 1K House Project, a design competition challenging students to come up with a home that could be built for $1,000. 14 designs emerged from the studio, and Ying chee Chui's Pinwheel House came out on top. …

Read more: Cities

Comments

Phenomenal cosmic skyscrapers — itty bitty environmental savings

People have an innate desire to build higher and higher, and modern skyscrapers seem to scratch that itch pretty well. They capture our imaginations, showcase human ingenuity, and look pretty damn cool to boot. (Exhibit A: The Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The thing is over half a mile tall!) High-rises make some compelling economic sense, too: They cram a ton of floor space into expensive real estate markets like Tokyo and New York City. Economist Ed Glaeser, in his book The Triumph of Cities, goes so far as to say they're the saviors of our cities. If you worship at …

Read more: Cities

Comments

Better bus lines follow worker bees

Image: Erich FerdinandIf you're like most people, you navigate to work in the hazy fog of your early morning stupor. Autopilot. Imagine if one day your normal bus route was taken away and replaced with something utterly different. You'd probably be baffled, or pissed, or both. Well, that's exactly what the brave folks at Tallahassee's StarMetro did to surly commuters one morning this summer. After decades of buses tracing the same routes from the outskirts to downtown and back, planners took the old map, threw it in the garbage, and replaced it with something they thought would more efficiently connect …

Comments

Tombstone, with sewage backups

Not that kind of ghost town.Photo: Pascal BovetThe story begins with a setting fit for the Wild West: Down a lonely road in dusty New Mexico lies a ghost town. But unlike in Western movies, this one won't be filled with brittle old saloons, horse corrals, and tumbleweeds. This will be a modern ghost town, complete with apartments and offices, houses and highways. Though it could house 35,000 people, its only visitors will be scientists and engineers working to coax our cities toward a smarter, greener future. The town has yet to be built, but when it's completed it will …

Comments

Dirty 'hoods: Is your neighborhood bad for the climate?

It's no secret that cities produce fewer greenhouse-gas emissions per person than suburbs or rural areas -- and some cities are better at keeping emissions down than others. Take New York City: Its dense urban structure and well-developed mass transit system keeps emissions well below somewhere like the sprawling and car-dependent Houston. But cities are more than just monolithic entities; factors like climate, manufacturing, car ownership, and wealth work differentially between cities and within city boundaries to influence greenhouse-gas emissions. A review paper published in Environment & Urbanization dug into per capita emissions data for 100 cities from around the …

Comments

Bikers, beware the door zone

City bicyclists know the dangers of the door zone: In this three feet of road closest to parked cars, it's not uncommon for careless drivers (or cops -- see below) to swing their doors open without looking. The ensuing collision of metal, glass, and flesh can be disastrous, and since most bike lanes are nestled up against parked cars, the door zone also effectively cuts many bike lanes in half. There are a number of better ways to design bike lanes, but redesigning a street costs money -- something most cities are short on these days. In bike-centric cities like …

Comments

How dense: Tea Party rages over smart growth

Photo: Thomas HawkNot content with bringing the gears of government to a grinding halt or holding the global economy hostage, the Tea Party now aims its sights on another target: regional planning commissions.  Three years ago California passed SB 375, a bill which calls on cities and metropolitan regions to reduce vehicle emissions by fostering denser urban areas, linking transit systems, and coordinating land use. As you might imagine, this made many Tea Partiers both apoplectic with rage and filled with fear. The rage comes from the government trying to do anything productive; the fear comes from a United Nations …

Read more: Cities, Urbanism

Comments

The curse of the exurbs

Yorkville: a quiet rural community until the McMansions sprouted.Photo: Liza PThere's nothing more depressing than having to stay in a hotel surrounded by acres of parking lots, arterial roads, and freeways -- unless you're caught in the permanent-housing equivalent of an airport hotel: the exurb. Sprung from its predecessor the suburb, these even farther-off 'burbs lie scores of miles away from big cities and are often filled with houses and little else. They boomed during the housing bubble, but took a terrific tumble in the crash. They were based on three simple but ultimately flawed premises: housing prices will continue …

Read more: Cities, Sprawl

Comments

Minneapolis? More like Bike-opolis

The Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis.Photo: livewombaIf you've never been to Minneapolis, you're missing out: It's populated by unrelentingly friendly folk, oodles of lakes surrounded by city parks, and a bike network on its way to becoming second-to-none. Just last month, Bicycling magazine named it the top city for bicycling, and a few months before, the League of American Bicyclists gave it a gold medal. These days, bikes are a big deal in the bigger of the Twin Cities. These accolades aren't exactly unexpected: Minneapolis has put a lot of effort into bolstering its bike-friendliness. Money from the U.S. Department of …

Read more: Biking, Cities

Comments

Levitt to Beaver: Suburbia gets a mixed-use makeover

A sign at an open house for the designers’ Levittown retrofit. (Photo by Dave Pinter.) Retrofitting suburbia to support mixed-use and car-free lifestyles is a sticky wicket. Rambling ranch homes and wide-wide-wide roads seem to discourage the walkability and local commerce people desire. But that hasn't stopped architects, designers, and the like from pitching their proposals. The latest comes from Dutch design group Droog and New York City-based architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro. The pair set out to retrofit the most suburban of suburbias -- Levittown, N.Y. Most suburban retrofit plans involve plopping accessory buildings in front of or …

Read more: Cities