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…

2016 resolutionWith our feet firmly in 2016, we now have a chance to recover from the holiday revelry while helping to craft our new version of normal complete with some proactive adjustments for the new year. Whether it is crafting some new goals from scratch, finally implementing that routine that seemed so alluring for the past four months or dusting off the tasks from last year that didn’t last until February, the time for a new resolution is upon us. Some of us, hopefully many of us, may be etching some expectations for ourselves that include some environmental benefit. If that is true, I would offer the option of doubling down on those goals for 2016–not only push yourself to stick to them, but convince someone else to do it as well.  Continue Reading…

Reviewed: The Third Plate

By: Dan Barber

One Line:

A bold vision of evolution looking both backwards and forwards to build an ecological map for how our country grows and prepares its food.


Some could look at the 20th century as an era of achievement for American agriculture. Advancements in the crops we grow and how we grow them has bred an industry that can harvest more yield per acre than ever before. Companies have streamlined the processes of maintaining and harvesting produce to be ready for an […]

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Well building standard[Editor’s Note: Below is a guest post from Jessica Glicker. Currently a Brooklyn resident, Jessica is the Special Projects Coordinator at COOKFOX Architects and a LEED Accredited Professional.]

As environmental standards for the built environment continue to become increasingly relevant and more frequently pursued, the once small pool of available building certifications has grown into a plethora of tools each with slightly different goals and degrees of intensity. This surge in options can help broaden the lens of sustainability and allow many different groups of professionals to simultaneously research, pursue and refine criteria for sustainable improvement. At the same time, a growing breadth of acronyms, ratings, points and authorities can run the risk of confusing potential participants from understanding the benefit of such certifications and also keeping the pool of programs transparent and legitimate. The tempering of market recognition with innovation is a careful yet important balance that needs to be explored with new systems that help keep our methods on pace with our capability. Continue Reading…

Reviewed: Food Foolish

By: John M. Mandyck &Eric B. Schultz

One Line:

A fresh utilization of data from many sources helps to underscore the gravity of a global dilemma of food waste while falling short of the path and implementation of solutions.


Authors John Mandyck and Eric Schultz peel back the rind on the issue of food waste to showcase the gravity of its effects on not only the environment, but economic and cultural realities across the world. Together, the authors frame our propensity of wasting food as a truly global dilemma, leaving virtually all cultures around […]

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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…

ecomodernist manifestoAs we wade deeper into the century more eyes are turning to changes that continue to appear around us in the biosphere. Increased focus combined with more powerful tools have allowed us to study increases, decreases, anomalies and misalignments with new degrees of accuracy that allow us to assess the magnitude of some environmental problems as far greater than previously realized while finding others that we did not even know existed. A growing consensus in the environmental community is that human activity is increasingly drawing on nature’s resources faster than the collective ecology can replenish them, resulting in calls to address how we interact with the world’s natural systems. Continue Reading…

Reviewed: Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs

By: Ellen Dunham-Jones &June Williamson

One Line:

A valuable overview of the challenges facing the outmoded nature of the American suburban landscape and analysis of the crucial first steps to be taken towards the next stage in the evolution of our development patterns.


The American development pattern of suburban planning has reached a level of maturity that allowed for a more thorough critique by the design community. Beyond its original goals of increasing home ownership and fostering living potential outside of city centers, the full effects of suburban planning are clearer now than ever before. It would be […]

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