Smart Cities

Environmental education center built out of recycled materials

An LA-based design think tank called APHIDoIDEA has an idea about how to build an environmental education center that practices what it preaches. The designers imagined an Environmental Center of Regenerative Research & Education -- or eCORRE -- Complex that would teach visitors about green ideas like solar energy and passive cooling techniques. It would have classrooms, offices, an exhibition hall and a public plaza. Here's the cool part: the building would be made of 65 shipping containers.  

Smart Cities

How smart growth reduces emissions

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Rob Steuteville has posted a terrific analysis on the New Urban Network rebutting the claim by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) that “the existing body of research demonstrates no clear link between residential land use and greenhouse-gas emissions.” Rob responds with Todd Litman’s excellent research and writing [PDF] on the subject, along with the great mapping from the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) of CO2 emissions per household for every metro area in the U.S. As Rob points out, CNT’s research shows a very consistent geography in just about every region: The …

New Orleans proves passive houses work just as well in hot climates

New Orleans might be turning into an island, but by God, it will be a stylish, energy-efficient one, if some Canadian architects have anything to say about it. We already knew passive houses were all kinds of awesome, capable of staying warm in even harsh winters without any kind of heating at all. But NOLA is hot as hell and only going to become more so. So the architects’ mandate was to create a passively cooled shotgun-style home. They came up with a design that marries the air-circulating powers of a traditional shotgun shack to the privacy concerns of the …

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 …


Great places: smart density as part of economic flourishing

Bring people together in a great place and great things happen.This is part four in a series on “great places.” Read parts one, two, three, and five. So far I’ve written that great places are green and groovy. (Yeah, I said groovy.) Lest I make the whole notion sound like a smelly commune, though, it’s worth noting that great places are also fecund: They generate economic and social capital. Done right, density can be an engine of prosperity. Business executives should love great places just as much as hippies like me do. Here’s the basic idea: When smart, skilled people …


Washington’s bikeshare is a capital idea

Capital Bikeshare gives you access to 1,100 bicycles around the city.Photo: DDOT DCDo you know what it means to be “dockblocked”? (Don’t worry, that’s a “D,” not a “C,” fellas.) If the answer is yes, you are probably a regular user of the Capital Bikeshare system in Washington, D.C. Dockblocked is what you call it when you can’t dock your bikeshare bike because all the spaces are full in the station where you want to stop. It’s one of very few glitches in a system that has proven popular beyond the hopes of city officials who launched it last fall. …

Smart Cities

Great places: dense, wired, and sustainable

This is part three in a series on “great places.” Read parts one, two, four, and five. Part of what makes great places great is ecological sustainability. So what’s the best way to reduce our per-capita resource footprint? Typically you hear one of two stories. One is about technology: making gadgets, appliances, vehicles, and factories leaner and more efficient. The other is about conservation, i.e., consciously choosing to use less stuff. Neither of those stories captures the biggest opportunity and the best strategy for reducing consumption and waste, which is, quite simply, density. Density is the sine qua non of …

Energy Efficiency

Behavioral nudges on electric bills could save three coal plants worth of emissions

Smarter electric bills make smarter consumers.Over the years, I’ve written quite a bit about social psychology, behavioral research, and how they can be used to encourage energy efficiency and conservation. I’ve also written quite a bit about Opower, a company that uses behavioral insights to help utilities communicate more effectively with their customers. (See links at the bottom of this post.) So it’s nice to see EDF releasing a study of Opower’s work: “Behavior and Energy Savings: Evidence from a Series of Experimental Interventions” [PDF]. The results are promising. The study tracks the use of “Home Energy Reports,” which are …


The man who thinks Manhattan isn’t dense enough

New York City may not be the best example of a place that hasn’t lived up to its potential for greater density.Photo: Randy von LiskiCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. New York County, which comprises all of Manhattan, is the densest county in America at 71,166 people per square mile. It is twice as dense as No. 2, Brooklyn (which, incidentally, is followed by two more New York City counties, Bronx and Queens, at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively). Manhattan is over four times as dense as No. 5 San Francisco. This makes me wonder about Ed Glaeser, a …

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