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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…

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…

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…

Even with the progress that both designers and governmental offices have made in bolstering the ecological stewardship of our new building stock, the average baseline of construction is still notably far from the realm of consistently viable options we have at our disposal, let alone the cutting edge. All too often, too many aspects of our new buildings have more to do with the past than the future. The call for sustainability in the built environment has undeniably gained in strength and continued to garner support from municipalities that raise the minimum standard of building codes. Still, sustainability has faced the same headwinds in the design and construction of buildings that it has in other areas of business as well as the social and political arenas. Continue Reading…

Sidewalk PedestrianSince the beginning of America’s suburban experiment, it has only been recently that effort and interest has welled behind the ideas of walkability and alternatives to a car-centric life outside of cities. While movements like New Urbanism that promote re-investigating the suburban model have swelled with support over the past decade, these projects still represent a minority in development outside of urban centers. Even when aspects like tenets of New Urbanism are employed, the goal of increasing walkability in American suburbia faces an uphill battle until more substantial steps can be taken to alter the parameters for both construction and mobility. Re-orienting the suburbia we know for the pedestrian is inherently fighting against its own DNA. Continue Reading…

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…

night mumbai lightsEven as real estate markets in most of the United States are still in the early stages of recuperating from the throes of the recession, there are still developing countries that are riding an economic wave of a real  estate boom. These changing cities bring an opportunity to explore how the density of the urban environment can adapt and evolve to different environmental resources and climatic restraints around the world—what some designers would see as an inherent recipe for variability and evolution. The problem is that all too often these new versions of urban space are merely copies of western norms, lacking the site-specificity needed to link them to their surroundings.  Continue Reading…

los angeles traffic jamsAdvocates of alternative transit are often trying to lobby for new infrastructural systems so that increased access can create opportunities for a new rider base that move away from relying solely on automobiles.In designing a pedestrian-oriented space, success not only comes from making pedestrian access an easier option, but making it the easiest. The same can be true for all modes of transit. Reaching parity with cars in terms of convenience isn’t always enough to alter people’s use patterns. Sometimes this could mean not just opening up new avenues for transportation, but constricting old vehicular ones as well. Continue Reading…

home blueprintThis is a guest post by Steve Lionais, owner of YellowBlue Designs. They market green house plans and blog about all things sustainability for the home.  Steve’s not an architect, but he’s passionate about design and living sustainably by partnering with architects and designers who truly offer a higher standard of green living. 

As the goal of a more sustainable residential fabric begins to seep deeper into the quiet streets of suburban America, the finer points of how to get these greener ideas to a consumer public remain up for grabs. A new potential homeowner is left with the choice of securing the services of an experienced architect (a decidedly uncommon route for most Americans) or going it alone for a sustainable house adventure by purchasing a pre-designed plan to be constructed. Tyler Caine and I recently had a discussion on the merits of both custom house designs and stock house designs. We discuss the pros and cons of each approach here in thinking about how we can achieve our green house goals. Continue Reading…