Archives For progressivetimes

solar panels, window turbines, clean power

[Editor’s Note: Below is a guest post from Jesse Glicker LEED AP. Formerly, the Special Projects Coordinator at COOKFOX Architects, Jesse is currently a Masters Candidate at UCL’s Energy Institute studying Economics and Policy of Energy and the Environment.]

There is no shortage of news headlines about upcoming changes in the U.S. With the presidential inauguration only just behind us, we are already seeing intense shifts in policy targeting changes in the health care system, immigration reform and the renegotiation of trade deals. In this time of transition it is important not to lose sight of what this means for the environment and the U.S.’s role in fighting global climate change. Under the old administration, climate change was an accepted fact and U.S. environmental policy reflected that.

The Paris Agreement, considered the most ambitious global climate change efforts to date, was signed by 195 nations in December 2016. The agreement shows how serious the international community is about combating climate change.While the United States often claims the position of a leader in global policy, its waning commitment in the transition to a low carbon economy leaves it open to become outpaced by other world powers. The U.S. must remain focused on staying competitive in the high-growth industry of renewable energy and assess the options for doing so with or without federal support in order to remain a leader in this global effort.

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render, infrastructure, ecology, permacultureThe majority of the developed, American landscape has been crafted around automotive transport. As auto technology matured, increasing amounts of resources and area have been devoted to expanding and solidifying our road network. The result has often been environments that are built for a monoculture of cars and their passengers rather than an ecology of transit that supports a variety of mobility options. In order for our streetscapes to evolve to cater to pedestrians more than cars, so too must the car-oriented infrastructure evolve in what kinds of services it provides to its municipality. A broader array of roles can allow infrastructure to improve quality of life in multiple ways with systems that complement each other.  Continue Reading…

vermont, wood, furnitureIn the new millennium, Urban planning trends have consistently embraced the practice of turning old industrial areas into new opportunities for residential and commercial development. While this methodology has ushered in the birth of many new neighborhoods, the results of industry-free urban locales may not be purely positive. As we see more communities age through similar transitions and observe their development over time, the fallout of industrial segregation should prompt a second look at the value of industrial program in maintaining a vibrant, diverse and sustainable urban realm.

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village view ecology

Photo by EFFEKT

The rate and degree of evolution for building types and development patterns around the world may be one of the most critical decisions facing the fate of the biosphere over the next century. While a growing number of voices can point to the decidedly unsustainable nature of the settlement patterns of many different cultures, proposals that offer a significant step towards the dynamic equilibrium of sustainability are harder to come by. One developer/architecture team has recently rolled out a vision that does more than toggle the mainstream model, but proposes the framework for a cultural shift built around goals of balance.

Together, entrepreneur James Ehrlich and Danish architecture firm EFFEKT have created the ReGen Village as a model for small communities that utilize planning and technology for some bold steps towards self-reliance while minimizing its negative environmental impact. Continue Reading…

cut shell growth spiralThroughout the evolution of western society the idea of growth has been a cornerstone of both economic and political metrics. The image of success enjoyed by developed countries has helped to champion the practice of feeding expansion that cause economies and populations to grow with the promise of success as a reward–an idea that the developing world has been quick to subscribe to and implement.

Without a doubt, there are many examples of why growth at all scales has improved the quality of life and security for billions of people, but we have reached the point where there are numerous examples where rampant growth models can disregard quality or safety for the sole attribute of feeding themselves. In some instances, the nature of goals crafted around growth can evolve into restrictions that necessitate additional growth not for continuous improvement, but merely for survival–a spiral of perpetual growth for its own sake. As we enter an age of technological maturity and reach a population of over 7 billion people, the time has come to reassess the dangers of not only fostering, but promoting unbridled and unproductive growth. Continue Reading…

DCP retail bambinoOne of the results of an increasingly national, if not international, economy is the rise of larger organizations to outbid smaller competitors with standardization and greater access to resources. We can see it everywhere from the clothes we wear, to the homes we buy and the food that we eat. One vibrant battleground is the retail environment where more and more small business owners can wind up being unable to compete with larger entities for survival in the face of rising rents. Contrary to popular belief, in order for more privately owned shops to survive (and the contribution they provide), neighborhoods need proactive measures of support rather than counting on market forces to do all the heavy lifting. Continue Reading…

automated parking It would be fair to say that the baseline of sustainability in building construction is rising. Whether it is due to improving technology, updated building codes or the slow but steady growth of consumer demand, we are in the process of making buildings tighter and smarter. At the same time, the nature of proactive lobbying in the beginning of the millennium has led to many of today’s common measures being attributes that are easy to fight for with limited resulting gains. For all the time spent on toggling technologies of a systems-oriented approach to sustainability, there are still simpler aspects of building design that could bring large lifecycle savings to resource use. One of them is parking.    Continue Reading…

nyc zoning astoriaHistorically, zoning codes were written to help guide development with broad strokes of organizational strategy. In dense urban environments this could be to help toggle building height and setbacks to maintain adequate light and air to the street. For suburban areas, zoning has grown to build in aspects of space and privacy by spreading buildings apart. In either case, zoning can have a profound effect on the outcome of the built environment.

When sitting down to map out zoning guidelines, the sky is literally the limit with all manners of stipulation available to codify the amount of space needed for residential units or discourage the adjacency of certain program types–like say residential and manufacturing. However, once zoning resolutions are voted into law they can be very difficult to change, leading to many municipalities that have hardly changed their zoning at all since their inception. Though there are arguments to be made for the existence of zoning codes, it is important that they be thought of as living documents that help facilitate how we live (a reality that is, in itself, constantly in flux). There could be a new breed of zoning code that promotes its own evolution as the landscape fills in with uses driven by the community. Continue Reading…

new york snow blizzardLast week’s snowpocalyspe for the Northeast underscored the growing need to address issues of resiliency across all development patterns. The combination of fast-tracked growth in new communities, an aging network of infrastructure and the possibility of increasingly frequent severe weather events continues to put the spotlight on the ability of municipalities to operate safely throughout unplanned disruptions. Though the focus often leans towards building systems and infrastructural safety, walkability can be a key component of a resilient community that can help keep neighborhoods functioning normally. Continue Reading…

high voltage wiresWhat was once a broad system of cutting edge technology has grown into an antiquated system that we rely on implicitly. In many ways, the evolution of modern society has outpaced our means for the production and distribution of power to leave the state of our world’s infrastructure punctuated by a list of shortcomings. We are still overly dependent on fossil fuels for power production. There is a growing resistance to the new centralized infrastructure where utilities can rise to a monopolistic opportunity of being the only game in town. The changing nature of our global climate highlights needs for quality and resiliency, a benchmark of performance that much of our landscape cannot currently meet. Not to be forgotten is that we still have upwards of 1.7 billion people in the world without any access to reliable electricity. While there are numerous attempts to try and bolster the breadth of the grid by fixing pieces as they wear down, there is an alternative to making a bigger and more powerful grid: making a series of smaller grids that are more agile, more robust and more adaptable. Very small. Micro.  Continue Reading…