Archives For Political

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.

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…

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…

storefront retail doorWith summer behind us, New York City has tightened its stance against commercial entities leaving their front doors open to the sidewalk while providing air conditioning to the space inside. Though already against the law in the five boroughs, the new amendment to the existing legislation requires the display of the code stipulation in some cases and levies steeper penalties for those found to be avoiding compliance. Continue Reading…

international green construction codeIf the goal is to limit the overcrowding of cars on the street, is it a better solution to dilute density in order to spread people out or to foster the ability for more people to carry out more of their day via alternative transit? Is the best way to avoid excessive signage and light pollution to forcibly segregate all commercial program or might it be easier to simply regulate sizes for signage and candlepower for lighting? In an effort to limit the amount of cooking odors disturbing nearby residences, would it make more sense to remove proximity of all retail business or to set standards for the design and location of cooking exhaust?

Questions like these draw into focus the difference between two mindsets for planning and design, prescriptively restrictive vs. performative. The deeper question is whether it makes more sense to guide design and development by prescribing solutions with an (educated) guess as to how they may perform over time or by simply setting standards for testing how things should actually perform? While the former has proven to be easier for governing bodies in many cases, the latter can be built on what we actually have rather than an idea of what could occur. Continue Reading…

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…

USGBC version 4Although the latest incarnation of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system has been around for almost a year, projects have still be able to enjoy the more familiar likeness of LEED 2009. However, the window of time for the grace period of the system transition continues to close with all new projects needing to apply for LEED v4 after June 2015. As designers and engineers begin to focus more on the effects of the imminent change ahead, it begs the question as to whether or not the system is simply changing or actually improving. Continue Reading…

international renewable energy agencyLooking to the near future, the next phase of economic evolution of the developing world in the globe’s poorest continent is on the horizon. Africa is now attracting international investment in its stores of natural resources that contribute to its ability to lift communities out of poverty. At the same time, history–even recent history–has shown that there are inherent dangers associated with periods of rapid growth. Continue Reading…

climate change president talkLeading up to last week I was excited about the prospect of getting excited about the President’s new climate change plan. Given the level of secrecy and surprise that created all of the build-up to the plan that would map out the environmental goals of the administration’s second term, I was waiting eagerly for a chance to help spread the seeds of environmental progress around the digital ecosystem.

And then it came and went. Continue Reading…