Cities

HOUSE RULES

For green homes, should energy trump everything else?

Pam Worner runs a business near Seattle helping home builders adopt “green” building practices. She’s fond of the phrases “tangled up in green” and “I don’t care what your countertop is made out of.” There’s a lot packed into those sayings—the first pinpoints a classic problem with green building, while the second suggests a solution.  “Tangled up in green” gets at the overwhelming array of eco-friendly building options.  A given structure might have high-efficiency appliances, state-of-the-art insulation, a solar water heater, eco-certified hardwood floors, a permeable driveway, indigenous plants in its landscaping, easy access to a light-rail station and grocery …

A lesson from Denmark

Carbon neutral caution

There’s been a lot of ambitious talk lately about carbon neutrality. It’s exciting stuff, but it’s worth pausing to consider just how huge that challenge is. And what, precisely, does it mean? Zero emissions, or lots of offsets?  I thought it was interesting to take a look at the climate action plan from the city of Copenhagen. It’s certainly a contender for the title of the greenest and most progressive city on earth, and it’s a city that has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025. But what you find is that even for the Danes, carbon neutrality is more …

autoneurotic

Streetfilms: Fixing the car-centric city [video]

“Fixing the Great Mistake” is a new Streetfilms series that examines what went wrong in the early part of the 20th Century, when our cities began catering to the automobile, and how those decisions continue to affect our lives today. In this episode, Transportation Alternatives director Paul Steely White shows how planning for cars drastically altered Park Avenue. Watch and see what Park Avenue used to look like, how we ceded it to the automobile, and what we need to do to reclaim the street as a space where people take precedence over traffic. For more of this fantastic series, …

Pimp my double wide

McMansion modular

Remember when modular homes were going to be part  of the “green” future?  In the post-Dwell, post-postmodern architecture era, pre-fab was going to be cheap, green, hot and hip.  Yes, finally, an antidote to McMansions and an affordable alternative to ballooning home prices.  As if that were not enough,  these stylish boxes were set to erase our previous connotations, where modular meant mobile home and pre-fab equaled Lubbock double-wide. Photo: Heather Lucille FlickrExcept it didn’t happen.  Modular homes, like all homes, suffered the housing crash, though as we reported last year, there never was quite enough demand to make modular …

PAINT A BRIGHTER PICTURE

We all know how bad it can be. How good can it be?

A few reader comments worth highlighting from this story on envisioning a sustainable future: davefinnigan: We need a film, 2 hours in length, with a plot and story line, that shows the world in 2050 if we do what we know we should to solve environmental problems. Who could produce that? George Lucas, James Cameron? Saucerman: Well, we have the 90-minute polished film that shows the world in 2050 if we DON’T do what’s needed – it’s called the Age of Stupid http://vimeo.com/6143388 davefinnigan: @Saucerman But it is precisely because of all the DOWNER films that we need one we …

Some guy in L.A. says...

Your street is fat

These California designers and their imaginations. Steve Price shows people what their towns might look like if they were rebuilt along Smart Growth principles. At Narrow Streets: Los Angeles, David Yoon takes comically overbuilt streets in L.A. and Photoshops them down to a human scale. Here’s his reinvention of Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park: On Yoon’s site, when you click the fat version of a street the skinny image pops out alongside. It’s fun. He also takes location requests. “I’m not saying that Narrow Streets is meant to be taken literally,” Yoon says. “I think of it as concept art, …

meet me at the food court

A Cleveland mall turns lost retail space into farm stand

Photo: Fast CompanyShopping malls, those bastions of American consumerism, have not been immune to the recent economic downturn. In a recent piece by our own Greg Lindsay, we looked at the impending decline of the mall, which is part of the “single-use environment” category of real estate development that will slowly disappear over the next thirty years, according to one developer. But what will replace these environments, and more importantly, what will happen to the massive malls of today?   One possible solution can be seen in Cleveland’s Galleria mall. The mall lost many of its retail shops over the …

hip to be square

Modern modular done right

Photo: Treehugger A lot of lessons have been learned over the last decade as architects and manufacturers try to make modern green prefab affordable and accessible to a wider audience. A new entry into the market is Challenger, a modern architect-designed line of houses from Manitoba, Canada’s Conquest Manufacturing. They recently displayed a new model, the Cube, at the National Home Show in Toronto.   Our friends at Treehugger have four reasons (and more photos) proving why the Challenger line does just about everything right.

Can Farming Save the Motor City?

Demolishing density in Detroit

Photo: Fast Company So it’s come to this: Unable to provide basic services for all of his constituents, Detroit mayor Dave Bing is drafting plans starve his city down to a manageable size. Using proprietary data and a survey released by Data Driven Detroit, Bing and his staff will pick “winners and losers” amongst the city’s neighborhoods and seek to resettle residents from the losers, those deemed most unlivable. With Detroit’s tax base withering from the implosion of two-thirds of the Big Three, the housing crisis, and an ongoing exodus, Bing believes he has no other choice. “If we don’t …

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