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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Cities of 2030, Today

Cities can grow to defy our current perceptions of plausibility. In the future, each spire in a collection of gleaming, vertical towers could harness density through a mixture of use types from working to living to growing food. Not only could each building produce its own renewable energy, but the excess could be pumped back into the city around it to help power the seamless public transit system ranging from lighted bike paths to high speed trains that allowed people to sail from one urban core to the next. Air quality would rise, water use would fall and the cultural affordability would compliment density with diversity. In a word, Oz. Continue reading

Reviewed: A Country of Cities

Country of Cities CoverA Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America

By Vishaan Chakrabarti

In One Line: Nice graphics tell a familiar urban story more fit for casual readers than seasoned design professionals.

In the midst of a global economy that is already migrating towards cities, Chakrabarti adds his voice to the drumbeat of density in a pitch for focusing development towards our urban cores. Pulling on some of the usual suspects for data, the author focuses his sermon on why dense urban centers are the smart future for human civilization—an unspoken but heavily implied slight to what has become the American status quo of sprawling, suburban/exurban development. The pro-urban message of the text combined with the choices of precedent projects come at little surprise given the author’s partner status at SHoP Architects, currently one of New York City’s most prolific architecture firms. Continue reading

Architects Hail from NYC and Europe to Talk Urban Resiliency

Center for Architecture ResiliencyContrary to the statements of some and the hopes of many, there are no silver bullets for solving challenges surrounding sustainability. Part of this is due to the complexity of the problems, some is due to the fact that there are so many points of view for problem solving and a piece of the responsibility falls on the fact that there are so many different situations around the world with unique contextual conditions, making their problems in turn unique. As a result, collaboration makes a world of sense as we approach sustainable goals and the best solutions can come from components that span cities, countries and even continents. Continue reading

Testing the Numbers on Recycling of Recyclables

single stream recycling truckBy now, most of us know the drill for washing out glass and plastic containers and placing them the blue or green bins rather than bundling them with the rest of the trash. It has been decades since residents were first able to separate out recyclables from other waste for curbside pick-up. What started out as smaller local trends are now mature municipal services in some of the largest cities across the country. However, despite the millions of tons of waste that has been diverted from landfills for a life of reuse, we have certainly not reached the point where we are recycling everywhere in the U.S. and the places that do recycle are often still trashing considerable amounts of waste that could have more life to live. Continue reading

Energy Conservation at Home Needs Real Time Data

Home energy management softwareIn the United States, sustainable progress most often takes the form of ways to engineer a more efficient version of the status quo. Products that allow for a reduction in net resource use while allowing customers to live the same way are seen as a win/win. To be fair, the small advances we can take through greener product choices are a first step and certainly better than nothing, even if course-altering impacts towards a sustainable culture will require the underlying lifestyle to evolve. If greener consumerism is one of the paths that Americans are responding to then the products need to do more than provide a promise for eventual savings. The more that people can connect choices of product usage to resource repercussions in real time, the better the chance that lifestyles can alter to maximize the use of more efficient products. Continue reading

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