Study Points to Bright and Dark Spots in Corporate Sustainability

Our dedication to the corporate engine that runs our consumer culture makes corporate perspectives on sustainability unavoidably important. It is not uncommon in this country to have localities where the vast majority of residents are diligently proactive on sustainability efforts (say recycling for example) while the participation of businesses remains tepid. With the amount of man hours and resources that companies use in order to do business, they have to be part of any equation that leads to a better outcome.

McKinsey & Company recently released results to a new survey searching for the pulse of sustainability within the world of corporate executives in the global economy. While the tone of the release is cast in a positive light, the survey results point to both the good news and the bad news relating to progress for sustainability in the corporate environment. Continue reading

Transforming the D.C. Navy Yards with Transit Oriented Development

Existing Navy Yard BuildingAs one of the country’s oldest cities Washington has a lot to see and, as a result, a lot one can miss. Amidst the migrating swarms of people milling around for the 4th of July festivities, the nation’s capital recently provided me with some top quality dining, refreshing beverages, art museums, monuments and even some transit oriented development complete with dash of adaptive reuse. I was fortunate enough to walk around the evolving landscape of the D.C. Navy Yard. This post-industrial area continues to undergo a series of remarkable changes that have been in the works for over two decades and will hopefully make it a great example of maximizing transit-oriented sites for a new generation of walkable urban streetscapes. Continue reading

The Ground Up Sustainable City

Desert Dormitory FosterOf the many things that the Middle East has historically been known for, sustainability has not usually been at the top of the list. The clash of Western values with the harshness of the local climate can wedge sustainability between a lot of sand and a hard place. Though there is a broad critique of the unsustainable attributes of the region’s development path, for years there has still been the budding prospect of Masdar City in the heart of the United Arab Emirates. Despite years of slow progress and still having a healthy way to go, Masday City still has a wealth of potential to offer to the world of green urban planning, vying to be the planet’s most sustainable new city. Continue reading

Transit Oriented Development Needs More than Just Location

Public Square WestwoodAt the apex of Interstate 93, Interstate 95 and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, a new project is underway touting its focus on Transit Oriented Development (TOD). The term garners support (and rightly so) from designers and planners for its methodology of building denser communities around existing mass transit corridors as an alternative to sprawl. The site for University Station in Westwood, Massachusetts has all of the key components for a successful TOD project.

However, as the project has developed its direction has become a better example of how design and planning choices can compromise even the best of existing site conditions. Despite the fact that close proximity to transit corridors is the most important component of TOD, it is not enough to guarantee success. Location alone will not ensure a vibrant community geared towards transit. A look at the project pulls out some clear examples how development next to transit can go out of its way to orient itself towards something else. Continue reading

Sobering Fact: Plenty of Asbestos Still Sold in the US

loose sbestos insulationMost people that have conducted maintenance on a home or apartment in the last two decades have probably bumped into asbestos. Asbestos is a fibrous material whose strength and resistance to fire and decay made it a popular choice for numerous products in the first half of the 20th century including floor tile, adhesives and building insulation. Continue reading

Drifting in a Cloud of Amenities

indoor pool amenityMost architects care to believe that people will recognize a well-designed space when they see it and that the nuances of a successful design process will be ascribed value in the eyes of potential occupants. However, what seems to be increasingly often, there are extra features and accoutrements that are added to the package outside of the inherent quality of the living space in order to sweeten the deal for payors and entice them to cough up that little extra something. These property amenities are emerging as an interesting barometer for how our culture is ascribing value.

But of all of the glitzy add-ons to high-end real estate, how many of them are really adding that much when it comes to quality of life? How many of them are simply just wasteful pieces of program included for no other reason than an expectation that they represent an image of exclusivity– regardless of whether or not they are used once the project is actually occupied? Continue reading

Green Buildings: 300 Lafayette Street

CF Lafeyette Rendering SidewalkOur culture’s current efforts in sustainability can usually be divided into one of two groups. The first group is trying to add efficiency and/or decrease the negative impact of the way that we do things now. Given its inherent benefit of requiring minimal change to the way people are already operating, this method is unsurprisingly popular. Examples include hybrid cars, LED light bulbs or printer paper with recycled content. These products help mitigate the negative repercussions of our current lifestyle.

The second group is changing a paradigm, archetype or cultural norm in order to operate in a more sustainable way—challenging the baseline to redefine the standard rather than tweaking an existing solution. Examples of this direction would be more in the vein of transit-oriented-development, designing spaces around more natural light or entirely paperless offices. One could argue that the first train of thought is looking for a better answer, where the second one is challenging the underlying question. Do we need to universally rely on automobiles? Do we need so much artificial illumination? Do we need to print things? Continue reading


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