Cities

Visions of the Green Future

California students take Refract House to Solar Decathlon

The Refract team recycled used billboards to create waterproof walls for the home.Courtesy Santa Clara University Adjacent to a three-story parking garage on the Silicon Valley campus of Santa Clara University, workers are busy building a contemporary wood-clad home that wouldn’t look out of place in the pages of Dwell or another shelter magazine for the po-mo, Tesla-driving, little-square-eyeglasses-wearing set. Which is exactly the idea. The home is California’s entry into the U.S. Department of Energy’s biannual Solar Decathlon and is a collaboration between undergraduates at Santa Clara University and the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Twenty …

Humbly lining up behind Thoreau

Blood, sweat, and vision: The JP Green House in its ugly duckling phase

Innovation in progress. Excuse our dust. For more images from the JP Green House, visit Leise Jones Photography.I was bringing two new friends down the street for a tour of the JP Green House last week. “Now prepare yourselves,” I warned, as I always do, “it’s not bright shiny green yet. You’ll need to use your imagination.” We rounded the corner and there it was: A hulking, gray house with a strange triangular shape on a prominent streetcorner.  Gray shingles were falling off the exterior. Plastic tarps covered the gaping window-openings. In the garden, the grass grew tall around the …

Off the rails

Washington Post features rail hack job from Robert Samuelson

This post originally appeared on Streetsblog DC. This is the big problem with Ed Glaeser’s New York Times posts purporting to analyze the costs and benefits of a high speed rail system. Despite Glaeser’s acknowledgment that his “back-of-the-envelope calculation” doesn’t “[represent] a complete evaluation of any actual proposed route,” the posts are sure to be read and regurgitated by rail opponents uninterested in having an actual debate on the merits of high-speed rail investments. Today, the Washington Post’s lame excuse for an economics columnist, Robert Samuelson, used numbers from Glaeser’s analysis in writing an extremely regrettable piece arguing that investments …

Will Skyscrape for Wind

Portland’s newest high-rise has wind turbines on the roof

The cermonial urban-turbine installation.indigo12west.comTwo weeks ago in Portland, Oregon, a new 23-story building added something you don’t usually see in an urban setting: a series of four Skystream wind turbines, with a total capacity of 9.6kW. There are several reasons why wind turbines are a rarity atop highrises — beyond the obvious one: our power infrastructure makes changing from traditional sources of electricity difficult, expensive, and seemingly unnecessary. (As long as you can convince yourself that the planet isn’t really warming and that 15,000 Americans don’t die prematurely each year from breathing in filthy air from coal-fired power plants, and …

It's sprawl over?

Alabama city backing away from destruction of ancient Indian mound?

Following local protests and international outcry, the city of Oxford, Ala. appears to be backing away from plans to destroy an ancient and archaeologically significant Indian mound in order to use the dirt as fill for a new Sam’s Club, a retail warehouse store operated by Wal-Mart. A local landowner says his property will now serve as the source for construction fill dirt, according to the Anniston Star: Landowner Charlie Williams confirmed to The Star Wednesday that Oxford-based Taylor Corp. is negotiating with him for dirt for the Sam’s site. The company has the contract to do site prep work …

Laws of physics were made to be broken

Competition dreams up new ways to harass suburbanites

Dwell magazine and Inhabitat have teamed up to sponsor a “Reburbia” competition in which designers re-envision suburbia in ways that make environmentalists seem as scary and dingbatty as possible. The finalists include a lot of inspiring ideas, but my favorite by far is the proposal to have menacing 3,000-foot-tall robots stomp into suburban villages, rip the homes out of the ground, and install them in bleak, Matrix-like hives. “By radically retrofitting suburbs, the old methodology of horizontal sprawl is supplanted with a scheme of vertical-core sprawl freeing the suburbanite from the demands of automotive travel.” Unless, of course, the suburbanite …

Getting schooled

Top 20 green colleges

Sierra magazine has just released its third annual list of what it calls “the most eco-enlightened U.S. colleges.” It ranks schools based on the results of a questionnaire sent to sustainability experts at hundreds of institutions across the country. Scores were assigned in eight categories: efficiency, energy, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, and administration. The rankings come at a time when two-thirds of college applicants say a school’s green record would influence their enrollment decision, according to a Princeton Review survey [PDF]. Below we’ve got the dish on Sierra‘s top 20 picks. (Schools that also made the Princeton Review’s …

Placemakers

Tim Halbur on sprawl, propaganda, and Obama’s approach to urban issues

This marks the first of a series of interviews with people working to make U.S. communities smarter, greener spaces. Got a suggestion for an interviewee? Send it our way or leave it in the comments section below. Tim Halbur’s career has included a stint as a journalist for NPR, co-producer of an environmental-justice driving tour of California’s I-5, and founder of an online media production company whose clients ranged from HarperCollins to the American Institute of Architects. With a masters in urban and regional planning, Tim puts his obsession to work every day as managing editor of Planetizen, which recently …

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

Neighborhood stores: An overlooked strategy for fighting global warming

Our new neighborhood fresh food market.What I find most striking about my mother-in-law’s memories of the neighborhood where I live, and where she spent her childhood in the 1940s, is how many businesses our little residential section of town once boasted. Back then, there was a grocery store, hardware store, barber shop, two drugstores, a tailor, and several corner stores. Those businesses all disappeared in the following decades, as the streetcar lines were dismantled, families acquired cars, and shopping migrated out to supermarkets and, later, malls and big-box stores. At the low point, my neighborhood hosted little more than a …