demolition stoop urban ruin

Simple Policy Can Discourage Building Reuse

Density plays a key role in the creation of a walkable, pedestrian-oriented, sustainable community. Though there are examples of denser development patterns that are not walkable, it is hard to create walkability without hitting a certain threshold of units per acre, so bolstering the streetscape with new buildings can be important for the sustainable aspirations […]

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Reviewed: Dark Age Ahead

Dark Age Ahead By Jane Jacobs In One Line: Well known for her voice of calm critique, Jacobs examines the necessity several pillars of cultural vibrancy as well as why our failing to maintain them could levy an age of cultural deficiency for modern day North America that compromises defining aspects of who we are. […]

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maroma resort beach

Vacation Doesn’t Need to be From Sustainability

When most of us manage to carve out the time, money and effort required to clock out of the daily grind for a while, the top priority is stepping away from the nagging mundane worries that are waiting for us every morning. Vacation spots excel at helping to push thoughts of the job, the commute, […]

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Are Communities Born or Made?

trees, sidewalk, people, streetThis was one of the underlying questions within the discourse on a recent webinar that targeted how designers can engage in progressive community development. I had the pleasure of being joined by fellow panelists, Christine Modor and Fleur Timmer with moderation by author David Thorpe. Titled: Urban Architecture and Building Better Communities, the discussion fielded questions on the role of architects and landscape architects in helping to craft useful and coveted community spaces. Continue reading

Solving the Recycling Cost Gap is About Value

recycled bottlesWithin the realm of broad sustainability efforts in this country, recycling could be considered one of the veterans. Recycling programs have existed in America since the 1990’s, but despite their longevity, they still have not yet reached their maturity, falling short of refined systems streamlined for maximum impact at minimum cost. In most places, recycling programs are still a net cost for municipalities that host them. Though it is not to say that environmental programs like recycling are not worth costs to accomplish their goals or that any should be expected to “turn a profit”, it’s possible that some programs are operating far below their potential and broadcast a bloated image of expense that is ripe for improvement. Continue reading

Reviewed: Walkable City

Jeff Speck WalkabilityWalkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

By Jeff Speck

In One Line: From broad strokes to streetscape specifics, the author covers the deficiencies of modern street planning that hinder the pedestrian experience as well a coordinated attack to solve them. 

In the age of millennials, walkability is all the rage. If you’re talking to people born after 1975 then chances are giving planning preference to bikers and walkers will get you some head-bobs or thumbs up. The data continually points to younger populations being less interested in automotive access and more keen on what can be accomplished within the radius of walking or riding. There’s plenty of great reasons for that, but it also means that conversations can get propagated with reoccurring lessons that eventually ascend to border on truism. Continue reading

Density is Great, But Walkability Needs More

Manhattan Beach Pedestrian StreetAchieving density and creating public circulation space that is centered around pedestrians are both key components to fostering a walkable environment. Both are things that the typical American, suburban model lack. With homes spread so far apart–from both each other and any non-residential destination–walking becomes senseless in communities that are beholden to the car down to the very fabric of their planning. Raising the number of residential units per acre and designing space for pedestrian travel that would  otherwise be devoted to roads can be important strides in making options other than driving more attractive and plausible. However, walkability hinges on more than only these variables alone and their inclusion does not guarantee success. Continue reading

Reviewed: Sustainable Urbanism

Douglas Farr Book DesignSustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature

By Douglas Farr

In One Line: A well-crafted overview of sustainable planning strategies with a broad lens that is valuable for a range of readers as a foundation to a library of stewardship. 

The complexity of sustainability is one of its worse enemies. Our modern attempts to condense information can run counter to helping others understand the intricacies of our biosphere. With only portions of information the solutions can see deceivingly easy, mistakenly small in number or both. Some of the stronger voices end up being the ones that can package complex issues with clarity and brevity for retention in a broader audience. Continue reading

The Growing Shadow of Self Storage

self storage roadAs January comes to a close most of the presents of the holiday season have probably found a place in our homes. Shelves are a bit heavier. Closets are a bit fuller. Unclaimed space is a bit rarer. The success of the retail industry shows itself in our collective burgeoning homes and as the spring approaches there will be Americans looking to find new homes for possessions they can’t fit, but don’t want to part with. Similar to the growth of digital space in the cloud, the displacement of our excess stuff to an out-of-sight location can be perceived as utilizing an endless amount of space with little repercussion, but this strengthening trend has fueled an industry in the business of taking up space while giving little back. Continue reading

Reviewed: Explosion Green

book sustainability LEED USGBCExplosion Green

By David Gottfried

In One Line: A low-stress read for an informative look behind the curtain from a key figure responsible for the start of the green building movement. 

For over two decades the USGBC’s LEED rating system has been an undeniably important part of the story of sustainability entering into the industries responsible for our built environment. Thanks to the work of countless individuals and organizations LEED is now a term known broadly outside of the cadre that designs and constructs buildings as well as far beyond the borders of the U.S. It is a great story, but it’s not the entire story. In Explosion Green David Gottfried shares the history of a world before the United States Green Building Council and the dedicated efforts of those that helped to make it a reality. This unique memoir follows the setbacks, revelations and achievements for one of LEED’s earliest advocates.

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