Infrastructure

No, green buildings will not harm your health

Tuesday, Julian Pecquet published a howler of a story on The Hill's energy and environment blog, E2 Wire. The headline says it all: Report: 'Green' buildings could harm your health The piece is based on a lengthy report from the National Academy of Sciences, so it must be accurate, right? Yeah, well, don't start ripping out your double-pane windows and attic insulation just yet. The original report was actually on the negative effects that climate change will have on health in indoor environments — not green buildings. In fact, the title of the report is, helpfully, Climate Change, the Indoor …

Urbanism

The new New Urbanism: Fast, nimble, flexible, and tactical

Creating the new New Urbanism, on the street in Madison, with plenty of beer.Photo: Aurash KhawarzadLast week, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) held its 19th annual meeting in Madison, Wisc. You may not have heard of the CNU, but you have almost certainly seen its influence in American development. The movement — which actually kicked off 30 years ago in Seaside, Fla., the town that later served as a set for The Truman Show — isn’t so new anymore. Its ideals of density and walkability, with their attendant environmental benefits, have been absorbed into the planning practices of …

Europe’s ‘solar tunnel’ is a high-speed rail line with solar panel topping

Europe’s new rail innovation is the solar equivalent of a Good Morning Burger. We take two miles of Belgian high speed rail tunnel, soak it in rich creamery butter, and then we cover it with a shelter to protect it from nearby old-growth trees, eliminating the need to cut them down. Then we top it off with 16,000 solar panels. We call it Europe's first "solar tunnel." Here's a video of the beast: "For train operators, it is the perfect way to cut their carbon footprints because you can use spaces that have no other economic value and the projects can …

Infrastructure

‘Walkerville’ tent city springs up in shadow of Wisconsin’s grand Capitol

The Wisconsin State Capitol Building.Photo: Sarah GoodyearI wrote back in January about the importance of public space and urban design in the Egyptian revolution, and more generally about the role it plays in the ability of people to protest the actions of their governments and demand political change. Well, last week I was in Madison, Wisc., for the conference of the Congress for the New Urbanism, and just a few blocks away from the convention center is the Wisconsin State Capitol Building, designed by George Browne Post and completed in 1914. This magnificent edifice and the gracious park that surrounds …

Great places and the element of delight (plus lasers!)

This is part five in a series on “great places.” Read parts one, two, three, and four. This great place will delight you. Place enthusiasts (I really need a better term for that) are prone to lapsing into the wonky language of engineers or city planners: transit-oriented development, mixed-use buildings, etc. So let’s not forget, one of the things that makes a great places truly great is simple delight. They aren’t just efficient, effective, and productive; they also surprise us, please us, make us smile or exclaim. Seattle’s Fremont troll, clearly delighted.If you’re like me, when you think of delightful …

Biking

The biggest, baddest bikeshare system in the world: Hangzhou, China [VIDEO]

A couple of weeks ago, I rode the Capital Bikeshare system in Washington, D.C., and I was some impressed. With 1,100 bikes, it’s currently the biggest in the nation, and it makes getting around Washington much easier than it has ever been before. But the bikeshare in Hangzhou, China, a city of 6.77 million, blows anything in Europe, Canada, or the U.S. out of the water. Streetfilms went there recently to document the situation. Hangzhou has 50,000 bikes at 2,050 stations around the city. People make an average of 240,000 trips a day on the bikes, which are completely integrated …

Roads cause traffic

Yeah, it actually does need to be said. Folks with an investment in expanding highway infrastructure like to act as though the only way to relieve congestion is to build more roads for those cars to ride on. But a soon-to-be-published study shows that traffic expands to fill the space allotted. More roads don't mean more room — they mean more cars. There are a few reasons for this, but mainly it's that people drive more when it's easier. It's not that we need to have a certain number of cars on the road, and that number just happens to …

Reviving a river in Mexico City

Mexico City has treated its rivers badly: They tend to be paved over and filled with sewage. But Elías Cattan, a green building leader in Mexico City, wants to turn one of these f*cked-under resources back into a healthy, flowing river. Under Cattan’s guidance, the trash-clogged Río Piedad would become a viable waterway with a park on its banks and a transportation infrastructure dominated by walking, biking, and mass transit. Just give him two years and $1 billion. The city government does not share Cattan's enthusiasm and is more inclined to target less toxic and more easily mended rivers. (Río …

Buildings that make more energy than they use gain steam

If every building made more energy than it uses, would all the world's power plants pack up and go home? Maybe education would be fully funded and the military would be forced to have a bake sale! But really: There is a building in Bellenberg, Germany that produces more energy than it consumes, mostly by being super energy efficient in the first place. It also has solar panels for electricity and ground-source heat pumps for heating and cooling. It doesn't just produce a little more energy than it uses, either: It's making 80 percent more juice per year than it …

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