Engineers and architects are rethinking the current design of architectural and environmental infrastructure, in favor of regenerative systems that are capable of harnessing wasted energy and resources and redistributing them where needed. Whether converting the kinetic energy from foot traffic into electricity or recycling grey water for other residential uses, these closed-loop recycled resource systems help deliver greater efficiencies that lower resource consumption and cut back on costs.
Gary Hack, a celebrated urban planner with experience directing large-scale revitalization projects like NYC’s West Side highway and Rockefeller Park at Battery Park City in lower Manhattan, has most recently lent his expertise to a crowdsourced plan in Bogota, Colombia called MyIdealCity. He believes that the future of urban planning is in recycled resource systems:READ MORE >>
The term ‘waste’ is a social label. Waste only exists when we don’t know what to do with resources. Finding new ways to use every bit of energy and resources that find their way into the city can lead to a new economy.
Bio Design by William Meyers surveys recent design and art projects that harness living materials and processes, presenting bio-integrated approaches to achieving sustainability, innovations enabled by biotechnology, and provocative experiments that deliberately illustrate the dangers and opportunities of manipulating life for human ends.
As the first publication to focus on this new phenomenon and closely examine how it fits into the history of architecture, art and industrial design, this volume surveys this shift and contextualizes it through comparisons to previous historic transitions in art and design practices, clarifying its implications for the future.What inspired you to write Bio Design: Art + Science + Creativity?
I was inspired through studying the history of architecture and design at the School of Visual Arts in the master’s program in design criticism. My thesis project, which I developed with the help of the faculty and with the input of fellow students, became the basis for the book. Also, I was inspired by my own discoveries while becoming an amateur brewer and baker, in learning how to utilize yeast to make my own bread and mead.One could say that human beings have been altering nature for centuries. However, biodesign brings to the forefront the idea that now is a unique time in human history for these types of interactions. What reasons might there be for a paradigm shift in this direction at this moment in time?
I think there are two factors driving this shift that are most important: The first is that frequent and fundamental advancements are occurring in the field of biology. READ MORE >>
Seattle's new Bullitt Center—which will house eco-conscious tenants such as the International Living Future Institute and the University of Washington Integrated Design Lab—is the brainchild of Bullitt Foundation president Denis Hayes. He's the guy who coordinated the first Earth Day, which, not surprisingly, will serve as the grand opening date for the center. Hayes spent more than two years sourcing materials for the office building as part of his attempt to build the largest structure to qualify for the Living Design Challenge.
The solar panels dangling over the downtown Seattle sidewalks and the composting toilets on the sixth floor have gotten most of the publicity as the Bullitt Center has grown skyward. But there's more to sustainability for a 50,000-square-foot structure than net-zero energy usage (check), onsite wastewater treatment (check, check), and harvesting rainwater (check, check, check): The builders have tried to filter out all toxic chemicals from the construction process. Here's how. READ MORE >>
Once upon a time, the average office worker was able to find out whether or not his or her building was LEED certified and to what level (if they even understood what that meant), but finding out anything useful in plain English such as why it is or isn’t energy or water efficient and whether the daylight or indoor air quality is any good has been difficult.
Now, however, that is changing. Using a new tool developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) referred to as the Green Building Information Gateway – essentially a search engine for green building – anyone will be able to find out what energy/water savings measures are in place, whether or not building materials have been obtained from sustainable sources, what aspects of the building make air quality and cleanliness excellent or not so good as the case may be, and lots more. READ MORE >>
Nice session from last fall's CityAge conference in Kansas City: featuring Jean Quan, Mayor of Oakland, BNIM's Bob Berkebile, Tim Duggan of Make it Right Foundation, and Simon O'Byrne, Vice President, Urban Planning, Stantec.
Due to its inescapable relationship with the earth and natural ecosystems, agriculture offers ripe grounds for testing the potential of biomimicry to transform our world into a cleaner, healthier place. The Biomimicry Institute 3.8 is currently keeping tabs on a number of food- and agriculture-related biomimicry projects in its AskNature database. These include a closed-loop Colombian coffee farm system that takes inspiration from tropical and soil ecosystems to repurpose 99.8% of the coffee plant that typically goes to waste in the coffee-making process and turns it into a mulch with which coffee farmers grow shiitake mushrooms.
Perhaps the most promising case study of innovators imitating nature in order to solve agricultural issues is the Land Institute’s Natural Systems Agriculture project. Here, the Land Institute is using prairie ecosystems as a model for food production in which natural systems and processes obviate the need for pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and similar inputs. Specifically, they have been experimenting with wild, deep-rooted perennials like mammoth wildrye and maximilian sunflower in an effort to develop a polycultural agriculture system in Kansas that mimics natural prairie ecosystems. READ MORE >>
Discarded building materials represent a remarkable portion of the waste stream in the United States—as much as 40 percent of the total volume. The nature of construction materials—wood, metals, and minerals fastened to one another—often makes their recycling or reuse dauntingly cost-prohibitive. Rebuilding Exchange, a Chicago nonprofit founded in 2009, has nevertheless discovered a niche, extracting usable materials from both condemned-area buildings and the waste stream of manufacturing companies like Horigan Urban Forest Products, Central Steel & Wire Company, and Vermont Natural Coatings.
Rebuilding Exchange’s new RX Made initiative took root during a 2011 job-training program for professionals and those with barriers to employment, to educate them in building deconstruction and the reuse of construction materials. READ MORE >>
Historic preservation is a green building strategy. A new guidance manual, LEED for Neighborhood Development and Historic Preservation, outlines strategies (and reasoning) geared towards helping project teams incorporate historic resources into their developments. This new recourse connects reuse and rehabilitation of historic resources with energy, water, waste, and infrastructure efficiency. It identifies the ways, some explicit and some nuanced, that the LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) rating system encourages preservation.
LEED for Neighborhood Development and Historic Preservation identifies LEED-ND credits and prerequisites that directly address historic preservation as well as credits that incorporate typical characteristics of historic buildings. READ MORE >>
For those of us who still claim an allegiance to the nonprofit sector qua nonprofits as opposed to alternative visions of nonprofits as sort of second-rate for-profit wannabes or as arms and outposts of government, Joe Nocera’s op-ed in the New York Times is so welcome. Relying on a clearly generative conversation he had with urban redevelopment author Roberta Gratz, Nocera looks at the rebuilding of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and, after the more recent Superstorm Sandy devastation, the Rockaways in the New York City borough of Queens.
Nocera reminds us that after Katrina, city leaders—and we should note, though he didn’t, foundation leaders who participated in their planning efforts—concluded that the Lower Ninth Ward should not be rebuilt, but set aside as green space. Given that much of New Orleans is below sea level, that conclusion could have been slapped down on much of the city, but it was aimed at the very low income Lower Ninth Ward. Katrina had accomplished the desired urban redevelopment—or “urban renewal by removal”—that some politicians had long wanted.
The green space plan didn’t go through, but, as Gratz told Nocera, the big money for redevelopment went to the tourist areas, not neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth. Nonetheless, people trickled back into the neighborhood, despite admonitions that the neighborhood should never be rebuilt. People worked together through neighborhood organizations and other nonprofits, such as Brad Pitt’s Make It Right, to restore the neighborhood in environmentally sensitive and pragmatic ways. Government is now responding to the Lower Ninth, not because it was in the grand plan, but because the presence and activism of neighborhood residents are making it impossible not to do so. READ MORE >>
American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU) have announced a research collaboration to support AIA efforts through the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Decade of Design, a measure focused on improving the health of urban communities. As the global population continues to shift toward urban environments, urban conditions of the past century have become too outdated to address the increase in population and pollution. In order to advance the state of city livability, professionals in the design and planning fields must reconsider how urban environments need to be designed to work optimally in regards to social, economic and health challenges. MIT’s collaboration with the profession-based organization of the AIA allows the school’s research to reach the professional world for application and development. READ MORE >>
A scene from Mardi Gras. Credit: James A. Reeves
I bought my first car two weeks ago from an old Cajun mechanic named Dub. For $2500 I got a gigantic white 1997 Lincoln Towncar with a plush burgundy interior, a cassette player, and the phrase ‘Executive Series’ written in cursive on the side. This thing turns heads, particularly when I attempt to parallel park. On Mardi Gras day, I foolishly attempted to drive across town. As drums and horns boomed from all directions, I ran into closed road after closed road. Some were officially barricaded or blocked by a patrol car with flashing lights, others were filled with people, lawn chairs, and barbecue grills. Soon I was trapped in my ridiculous piece of Detroit metal on a side street in the Treme, swal-lowed up by feathers, umbrellas, and cheers as the Zulu parade began to roll.
At its heart, Mardi Gras is a citywide pedestrian revolt against the car. READ MORE >>
Cities around the country are starting to realize the economic—to say nothing of environmental—benefits of this shifting reality. A recent analysis by New York City found that green roofs and bioswales could help meet water-quality goals with savings of more than $1 billion compared to conventional infrastructure; the Chesapeake Bay could reduce nitrogen loading at less than half the price by using cover crops instead of upgraded wastewater plants. The City of Philadelphia found that the net present value of green infrastructure for storm-water control ranged from $1.94 to $4.45 billion, while gray infrastructure benefits ranged from only $0.06 to $0.14 billion over a 40-year period. And using a system of wetlands, North Carolina could minimize storm-water runoff for 47 cents per thousand gallons treated. Using conventional storm-water controls, this figure jumps to $3.24 per thousand gallons.3-5
An emerging hypothesis in environmental management settings is that investment in ecosystem-based green infrastructure solutions provides economically superior environmental quality outcomes when compared to investments in technology-based or “gray” infrastructure. READ MORE >>
Studio Gang Architects—run by Jeanne Gang, 48, and her husband, Mark Schendel—moved into the gritty Chicago neighborhood of Wicker Park in 2002. Initially, they shared their floor, above an Aldo shoe store, with a personal injury lawyer, a communist bookstore, and a poetry group. As these neighbors moved on and Gang’s reputation grew—she won a MacArthur Fellow “genius” grant in 2011—Studio Gang took over. Inside, research specimens line several of the orderly studio’s walls and windowsills: mushrooms, rocks, bent baseball cards, and various samples of wood. “A lot of the stuff we do involves testing materials or making big, giant mock-ups,” says Gang, who is slim with light gray eyes, a wavy chestnut bob, and an uninhibited laugh. “There’s a lot of craftsmen out here, people who fabricate things for us. It’s almost like a whole ecology.”
Among Gang’s intentions is to invite a “more wild version” of nature into cities, using what she refers to as “green infrastructure” to support and enhance urban landscapes. “Nature as we see it in cities is created, it’s man-made, it’s redesigned in a certain sense,” says Gang. “I think it’s important not for romantic reasons, but for practical and experiential reasons, to extend biodiversity within the ecosystem.”
This fall, Chicago broke ground on Gang’s biggest designed wilderness to date: Northerly Island. The plan, devised by Gang in collaboration with the landscape architecture firm SmithGroupJJR, fashions a public park out of Meigs Field, a former airport on a 91-acre man-made peninsula just off the southern tip of downtown Chicago. READ MORE >>
New Experientia videos, showing the Ecofamilies and Stories projects respectively, focus on monitoring domestic energy consumption in different areas of Europe.
The Ecofamilies video (in French with our English subtitles) is a feature on the project by France’s TV France3. For Ecofamilies, Experientia partnered with the Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment (CSTB) of Nice, France, and a series of other agencies, for a French sustainability project, aimed at the development of a web platform for a pilot house to monitor domestic energy consumption.
From March-June 2012, Experientia conducted participatory co-design workshops with 30 volunteer families. The workshops aimed to discover the real behaviours, attitudes and needs of families when it comes to energy consumption.
The project produced an innovative technological solution that allows families to have a concrete understanding of their energy consumption, and of the choices that are available to reduce it, with personalised tips, and detailed, useful information on household energy use. READ MORE >>
Spatial Agency is a project that presents a new way of looking at how buildings and space can be produced. Moving away from architecture's traditional focus on the look and making of buildings, Spatial Agency proposes a much more expansive field of opportunities in which architects and non-architects can operate. It suggests other ways of doing architecture.
In the spirit of Cedric Price the project started with the belief that a building is not necessarily the best solution to a spatial problem. The project attempts to uncover a second history of architecture, one that moves sharply away from the figure of the architect as individual hero, and replaces it with a much more collaborative approach in which agents act with, and on behalf of, others.
In all the examples on this website, there is a transformative intent to make the status quo better, but the means are very varied, from activism to pedagogy, publications to networking, making stuff to making policy - all done in the name of empowering others. In Bruno Latour's terms, critical attention is shifted from architecture as a matter of fact to architecture as a matter of concern. As matters of fact, buildings can be subjected to rules and methods, and they can be treated as objects on their own terms. As matters of concern, they enter into socially embedded networks, in which the consequences of architecture are of much more significance than the objects of architecture.
This website is an extendable repository of examples of Spatial Agency. The database is sortable into broad thematic areas that group the motivations (why?), locations (where?) and means (how?) of Spatial Agency. READ MORE >>
Well-designed classrooms can improve the academic performance of primary school pupils by 25 percent according to a new study undertaken by the University of Salford and UK architects Nightingale Associates.
The year-long study assessed seven schools in Blackpool, where researchers surveyed pupils about age, gender and performance in maths, reading and writing. They also evaluated classroom environments by measuring factors such as natural light, noise levels, temperature, air quality and classroom orientation, before comparing the two sets of data.
"It has long been known that various aspects of the built environment impact on people in buildings, but this is the first time a holistic assessment has been made that successfully links the overall impact directly to learning rates in schools," said Peter Barrett, a professor at the University of Salford. "The impact identified is in fact greater than we imagined." READ MORE >>
Sometimes, a skyscraper isn’t just a skyscraper. It’s a community gathering space, a building that offers respite from typical stale indoor office environments, a model of sustainability for others to follow, a breathing--but not living--entity. PNC Bank’s new 33-story global headquarters, set to be built in Pittsburgh, is that place.
Today’s "green" high-rises can be placed in two categories, according to Hao Ko, a senior associate and design director at Gensler and the lead on the PNC project. They’re either bicycles that use onsite resources and are only as big as the site will allow, or they’re hybrid SUVs, basically just normative high-rises that have fancy technology added to make them high-performing.
Bicycle buildings like the Cascadia Center Bullitt Foundation and the Council House 2 can only climb six to eight stories, while hybrid SUV buildings like One Bryant Park don’t have a great MPG, to keep the analogy going. Ko hopes that the Tower at PNC Plaza can be like the Tesla of the green skyscraper world: slick, fun to drive, and efficient, too.
Ko defines a green building a little differently than most people: It’s a building that isn’t just energy efficient, but people-focused as well. In a sense, that takes a building beyond just sustainability into the realm of resilience, where having connections to neighbors and the larger community is key. READ MORE >>
Nathan Phillips steps out onto the roof of Boston's Prudential Tower and looks down at the city 50 stories below. Up here, the rush of the wind has replaced the cacophony of car horns, screeching brakes and conversations filling the streets. And the rarefied air carries none of the odours that wrinkle an urban nose. The roof is “essentially a different atmospheric environment from the rest of the city”, says Phillips, an ecologist at Boston University in Massachusetts.
That rarefied air is what brings Phillips to the top of the tower. He has set up four book-sized collectors, one at each corner of the roof, to capture air blowing across the city. Black tubing carries the air samples to a tank inside the building, where a computer analyses their levels of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and water vapour.
Like most cities, Boston brews up a blend of gases that covers the urban area like a dome. The top of the Prudential Tower is inside or outside this metropolitan atmosphere, depending on the weather. From his rooftop eyrie, Phillips looks towards three other sampling sites around the city and another some 70 miles west, in the green hills outside the pollution zone.
Phillips and his colleagues are using data from these sites to model how carbon dioxide and other gases move through the city, and how the mix differs from the air in rural areas. The work is part of an interdisciplinary project to study Boston's 'metabolism' — how elements are exchanged between natural and human systems. Phillips and his team are now focusing on atmospheric carbon — particularly carbon dioxide and methane. Next, they plan to look at carbon in the city's soils and water, and to track the flow of water, nitrogen and pollutants. “The goal is to understand the function of a major city,” Phillips says. READ MORE >>
Overlooked this excellent piece from Design Intelligence, April 20, 2012 - and worth re-posting here:
By Bradley Horst
Information technology strategy increasingly means enabling engagement. The cloud, mobile, and social platforms can take you there.
The A/E/C professional practice environment continues to change, challenge, and evolve our organizations dramatically. I often ask myself how this is changing us and where is it leading. Both are difficult questions to answer, although I think there are clues all around us, sometimes in adjacent industries. What was once considered impossible from a computational standpoint is now possible and affordable through modern technologies and innovations. Long-held assumptions about what a professional services practice could be or should be, how it should look, and how it should behave are changing, especially in light of solutions built around the cloud, mobile, and social computing platforms. If ever there was a time for your firm to have a clear and deliberate forward-thinking information strategy, this is it.
The connective tissue that ties together the cloud, mobile, and social platforms is information, or as some might call it, Big Data. I like to think of it as information rather than Big Data because information holds within it a degree of context that makes it more meaningful than mere data. To take this a step further, add expertise to information and you get business intelligence, which leads to even better customer experiences. The argument might look something like this:
- If, Big Data + Context = Information
- And, Information + Expertise = Business intelligence
- Then, (Big Data + Context) + Expertise = Better intel (i.e., a better customer experience)
Intuitively, I think we all know that the proactive management and strategic deployment of digital information (or intel) holds the potential to grow a firm’s knowledge and expertise exponentially throughout the practice over time. So what does it all mean and how do we use it to our business advantage? READ MORE >>
Great infographic via Rocky Mountain Institute's Reinventing Fire campaign:here.
THE LIVING BUILDING CHALLENGE is a Semifinalist in the $200,000 FOCUS FORWARD Filmmaker Competition and is in the running to become the $100,000 Grand Prize Winner. It could also be named an Audience Favorite if it's among the ten that receives the most votes. If you love it, vote for it. Click on the VOTE button on the right side of the video player. Note that voting may not be available on all mobile platforms, and browser cookies must be enabled to vote.THE LIVING BUILDING CHALLENGE
...reform—of transportation, food systems, and so many aspects of the way we live—is no longer about adding bike lanes or buying veggies from a local farmer; the time has come to re-focus on large-scale culture change. Advocates from different movements are reaching across aisles to form broader coalitions. While we all fight for different causes that stir our individual passions, many change agents are recognizing that it is the common ground we share—both physically and philosophically—that brings us together, reinforces the basic truths of our human rights, and engenders the sense of belonging and community that leads to true solidarity.
Even when we disagree with our neighbors, we still share at least one thing with them: place. Our public spaces—from our parks to our markets to our streets—are where we learn about each other, and take part in the interactions, exchanges, and rituals that together comprise local culture. Speaking at PWPB, Copenhagenize.com founder Mikael Colville-Andersen made this point more poetically when he said that “The Little Mermaid statue isn’t Copenhagen’s best monument. I think the greatest monument that we’ve ever erected is our bicycle infrastructure: a human-powered monument.”
Our public spaces reflect the community that we live in, and are thus the best places for us to begin modeling a new way of thinking and living. We can all play a more active role in the cultural change that is starting to occur by making sure that our actions match our values—specifically those actions that we take in public places. READ FULL ARTICLE >>
If information is the currency of the world, then many cities have under-leveraged assets buried deep in their data on urban conditions and city operations. The promise of releasing this big data to the people is a new approach to understanding cities by making them more legible. Now it is difficult, if not impossible, for someone trying to read the “big picture” of a city. Legible Cities ties together data, outdoor displays, sensors, wireless networks, data visualization and ways of accessing information to make cities more navigable, legible, and livable for its inhabitants. Legible Cities mediates physical and virtual space through installations, digital signage, mobile apps and online and off line programs.
In Legible Cities time is used to measure and report the “now”, for events, locations, communications and services that range from real-time bus schedules to virtual land use planning and more. Providing an historical lens into the city’s past will inform the present into the future. This is a revolution in measurement. “…There are now countless digital sensors worldwide in industrial equipment, automobiles, electrical meters and shipping crates. They can measure and communicate location, movement, vibration, temperature, humidity, even chemical changes in the air.” READ MORE >>
Nina Simon, executive director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, designs and researches participatory museum experiences. As author of The Participatory Museum, she continues to explore how Web 2.0 philosophies can be applied in museum design through her blog, Museum 2.0. [Thanks to Dan Hellmuth of Hellmuth+Bicknese for pointing me to Nina and her amazing work!]
In "Dreaming of Perpetual Beta: Making Museums More Incremental", she writes:
When I started this blog in 2006, I made a multi-media introduction to the concept of "museum 2.0" based on Tim O'Reilly's four key elements of Web 2.0:
- Venue as content platform instead of content provider: the museum becomes a stage on which professionals and amateurs can curate, interpret, and remix artifacts and information.
- Architecture of participation with network effects: each person who participates contributes something meaningful and lasting. Visitors' interactions allow them both to personalize their museum experiences and to engage with other visitors through their shared interests. The museum gets better the more people use it.
- Perpetual beta: the museum is always in flux, incrementally releasing new versions, refining procedures, and responding to audience desires.
- Flexible, modular support for distributed products: inviting people to plug-in their own creations, whether those be DIY audio tours, pop up events, or co-created exhibitions.From 2006-2011, I focused almost entirely on #1 and #2, playing with ways to invite visitors to actively participate with professionals to co-create powerful experiences around museum objects.But in the past year and a half as a museum director, I find myself increasingly interested in #3 and #4. In a lot of ways, our successful turnaround at the MAH has been driven by both embracing incremental change and opening up clear opportunities for community organizations and individuals to "plug" their cultural brilliance into our space. We're using #3 and #4 to achieve #1 and #2 in the Museum 2.0 playbook. READ MORE >>
In collaboration with the biologists at Biomimicry 3.8, HOK designers explored innovative, place-based solutions to water, energy, materials, social and economic issues that were inspired by local flora and fauna of the temperate broadleaf forest in a new report called the Genius of the Biome.CREDIT: HOK
Genius of the Biome describes the strategies and designs adopted by living organisms found in a worldwide region of similar climate and vegetation. It describes the biological principles and patterns common to organisms and ecosystems within a biome. This biology is then translated into design principles that can be used to inspire innovations or identify more specific criteria for place-based design. READ MORE >>
In an Australian first, Adelaide has decided to plan its future by working together across boundaries. No other capital city has drawn together its councils, the state government and the Australian government to work jointly. And no other capital city has found a way to involve 74 organisations like community groups and professional peak bodies. And no other has chosen to take a people-first, design-first approach.
This is what makes the Integrated Design Strategy special. It uses a design-based approach to explore issues that often get locked in win/lose arguments. But by harnessing designs capacity to ‘synthesise’ competing interests we’re developing a more inclusive and - compared to traditional planning approaches - innovative roadmap for our collective future. READ MORE >>
Buildings that generate all their own energy on site are all the rage these days. But which net zero building is the best? The Architecture At Zero 2012 competition — hosted by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and AIA San Francisco, in collaboration with UC Merced — aimed to find out, and now the winners have been announced. READ MORE >>