All posts in Sustainability

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Texas Strong

Texas pushes ambitious $61 billion resiliency plan after Hurricane Harvey
A wide-ranging $61 billion proposal by Governor Greg Abbot and other Texas leaders for rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey was released last Wednesday, and is already being met with uncertainty by Washington, D.C. officials. Two-and-a-half months after Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 storm, the official damages estimate has risen to $180 billion while residents and institutions are still struggling to adjust. Calling for enhanced infrastructure measures to prevent future coastal flooding, coupled with buyouts for homes in vulnerable areas, the governor’s request goes far beyond just rebuilding what had been destroyed. Future-proofing the Gulf Coast will mean building detention lakes, dredging canals, and maybe most ambitiously, the construction of the “Ike Dike,” a $12 billion series of “coastal spines.” Meant to mainly protect the Houston-Galveston area, the three large coastal barriers have been proposed to both prevent incoming storm surges as well as allow water to be pumped out more easily. As Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S., home to one of the largest ports in the country and situated near a high concentration of petroleum refining plants, the area is uniquely exposed to flood risks. With a major hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast every fifteen years on average, the governor’s office has placed precedence on hardening critical coastal infrastructure. But over $1 billion is also set aside for buying out properties in the most vulnerable areas, similar to New York State’s post-Sandy acquisition program meant to turn destroyed residential areas into waterfront buffers. Despite only being one-third of the predicted total reconstruction cost, government officials have demurred when asked about the price tag, the Houston Chronicle reported. “We're working on a number. We don't have a number,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). He remarked that coming up with such a large funding request is difficult at a time when so many other states are also asking for disaster relief coming off of a particularly active hurricane and wildfire season. Texas is currently facing years of recovery as designers have called attention to the historic residences, businesses and cultural institutions damaged during Harvey. With state and local governments outlining their plans for disaster mitigation, it will be worth watching to see how Texas moves forward. Read the full Rebuild Texas plan below:

Texas Harvey Presentation by Houston Chronicle on Scribd

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Dutch Delta

The 2018 International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam asks designers to confront climate change
Instead of the traditional call for projects, the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) has released a call for practices for its 2018 and 2020 editions, which will share a common mission and focus on the environment. The biennials, collectively called The Missing Link, tackle the role of design in confronting climate change. The curators want participants generate actionable responses to some of the UN’s sustainable development goals, which were released after the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. IABR curators are asking designers and others to engage renewable energy systems, water management, sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, and resource management within cities to provide research and design rubrics that encourage positive change in these fields. The Missing Link will proceed in three stages. The 2018 edition is framed as a "work biennale,” while the years between the 2018 and 2020 biennials will be devoted to research on shifting these ideas into practical use, and the results will be shared with the world in the 2020 program. IABR hopes that the three year process will establish a "community of practice" that results in a shared biennial to be presented in both the Netherlands and Belgium. The curatorial team includes Floris Alkemade, Leo van Broeck, and Joachim Declerck. The trio of Belgian and Dutch curators will work on both biennials. The base of operations for the entire project will be the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta in the Netherlands, a site the curators chose for its connection to cities and the natural environment. At the confluence of three major rivers, the delta links together a series of major ports including Rotterdam, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Vlissingen, and Ghent. IABR 2018 will debut on May 31 and run through July 8, 2018, and IABR is scheduled for spring 2020. Applications for IABR 2018 and 2020 are open until November 22, 2017.
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Praise the Roof

Can Elon Musk's solar roof tiles replace fossil fuels in housing?
At the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in July, Elon Musk claimed that the U.S. can run solely on solar energy. “If you wanted to power the entire U.S. with solar panels,” he said, “it would take a fairly small corner of Nevada or Texas or Utah; you only need about 100 miles by 100 miles of solar panels to power the entire United States.” In October 2016, Musk unveiled Tesla’s latest products: a solar roof and an updated Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2. Tesla, Musk’s electric car company, acquired photovoltaics company SolarCity in 2016 for $2.6 billion. The deal merged the two companies, allowing the tech millionaire to sell and advertise Tesla products and solar roofs for a fully integrated solar home. Energy gathered from the solar roof will be stored into a Tesla Powerwall, a 14 kWh battery for residential homes (it is scalable up to nine Powerwalls in one unit). During the day, the solar shingles will generate electricity and recharge the batteries, which will then provide power at night in place of a traditional utility grid. Each unit has enough capacity for a day’s worth of power. The Powerpack 2 is meant for commercial use and is limitlessly scalable. The solar roof system integrates the photovoltaic (PV) cells, which are covered with color louver film and glass tiles, inside the structure of the roof. There are four tile options hydrographically printed to resemble classic roofing materials. Tesla also offers a solar panel designed to be aesthetically innocuous to attract those who would otherwise be put off by typical solar shingles. In July, Tesla began accepting orders and released price points for a roof with a mix of active solar tiles and inactive glass tiles. As the ratio of active to inactive tiles varies, so does the cost. A 34 percent mix is only $21.85 per square foot, well under the $24.50 threshold that Consumer Reports sets in order for the roof to be price competitive with standard residential roofs. Tesla’s Solar Roofs were rolled out this August and the company claims that each roof will pay for itself in electricity savings over the course of the 30-year warranty. If the solar roof is truly this affordable, then it could become very attractive to the mass consumer. The acquisition of SolarCity is Musk’s answer to the fossil fuel industry, which he has said needs to be replaced by solar energy. In 15 years, Musk proclaimed at a TED 2017 conference in April, it will be unusual for a house to not have solar roofs. His visionary zeal—he also claims that it’s possible to colonize Mars in the next decade—is spreading. YarraBend, an upcoming mini-suburb in Australia, will have Tesla Powerwalls and solar panels in all of its houses. Nicknamed “Tesla Town,” it could be a model for planning around the combination of solar energy, home battery packs, and electric vehicles.
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CLIMATE CHANGE

Specsheet >Customizable HVAC systems and innovative weather barriers
CÔR WI-FI THERMOSTAT Carrier
The latest version of the Carrier Côr wi-fi thermostat is enabled to work with Apple HomeKit. Users can utilize iOS-enabled devices to control their Côr thermostat from anywhere with the iOS 10 Home app or Siri on iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. The HomeKit technology is end-to-end encrypted with authentication between the heating and cooling system and the iOS device.
SKYLINE SLIM TILE FACADE Neolith These thin tile facades feature large Neolith slabs with near-zero porosity, making them resistant to changes in temperatures and extreme weather conditions, sun exposure, scratches, graffiti, and warping. The tiles are also surface-treated with a Pureti coating to reduce the effects of pollutants and decrease long-term maintenance costs.
 
VRP Friedrich Friedrich recently launched a variable refrigerant packaged (VRP) heat pump system, a total HVAC solution that also incorporates air and humidity controls. It includes a precision inverter compressor that reduces sound, and combines variable refrigerant flow designed for hospitality, multifamily, and commercial applications.
SMART VENT Keen Home Keen Home is introducing a wireless, app-enabled zoning system that redirects airflow to regulate individual room temperature. Powered by AA batteries, the Smart Vents conveniently create a Zig-Bee mesh network controlled via a smartphone app. The app provides open-close controls that can be programmed with daily schedules to close vents based on room occupancy. Aerodynamic airfoil louvers ensure quiet operation and airflow.
LONGOTON TERRA-COTTA RAINSCREEN FACADE SYSTEM Shildan/Moeding Longoton is a high-performance terra-cotta facade panel system that can be incorporated in horizontal and vertical configurations and also function as a rain-screen. The panels are available in 16 standard colors, custom colors, custom glazing, and standard and varying finishes and profiles.
TDP05K Ruskin Eight moisture-resistant flex sensors and multiple velocity and temperature points make these thermal dispersion airflow and temperature measuring probes super-accurate. The TDP05K probe can measure a velocity range of from 0 to 5,000 FPM and will display the flow and temperature at each sensing point.
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Green City

New York City targets greenhouse gas emissions of buildings in new plan
Inefficient architecture and infrastructure is among the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings account for 39% of CO2 emissions in the United States and consume 70% of the nation's electricity. In New York City, fossil fuels burned to provide heat and water to buildings are the number one source of emissions – 42% of the city's total. This week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new plan to drastically reduce the emissions of aging buildings across the city. Despite Trump's hasty withdrawal from the 2016 Paris Agreement, de Blasio pledged to adhere to the treaty and accelerate New York City's action to cut its fossil fuel emissions. If approved by the City Council, owners of buildings larger than 25,000 square feet must invest in more efficient infrastructure (including boilers, water heaters, insulated roofs and windows, etc.) by 2030. This applies to around 14,500 private and municipal structures across the city. Owners of buildings that have not complied will face penalties beginning in 2030, ranging from fines of $60,000 a year for a 30,000-square-foot residential buildings to $2 million for a 1 million-square-foot buildings). Penalties may also include restrictions on future permitting for noncompliant owners. The plan also aims to produce 17,000 middle-class "green jobs" by 2030, including plumbers, carpenters, electricians, engineers, architects, and energy specialists. The announcement has given climate advocates a much-appreciated boost of public support, but also raises concerns for homeowners and renter advocates. The New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition tweeted at Mayor de Blasio that the city's promise to "stop landlords ... from displacing tenants or raising rents based on the cost of improvements" was only really possible if rental laws were changed to begin with: What does this all mean for architects working today? This latest development might be applied to provide a new standard for new structures built between now and 2030 (and long after) to incorporate more common-sense energy efficiency features. The Mayor's office has not responded to AN's query on whether this program or its penalties will apply to buildings constructed from 2017 onward. This new legislation marks the first major step by New York City to work toward the goals outlined in the de Blasio administration's 80 X 50 Roadmap – which commits to reducing the city's greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. Donna De Costanzo, Director of Northeast Energy and Sustainable Communities at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) remarked on the plan: “Reducing the amount of energy used in the buildings in our city will put money back in New Yorkers’ pockets while improving air quality and creating jobs."
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Back to School

Cornell Tech campus opens with three high-tech buildings
Yesterday Cornell Tech's campus opened on Roosevelt Island, a strip of land between Manhattan and Queens perhaps best known for housing medical institutions and mental hospitals. This development definitively stakes a new identity for the island. Created through an academic partnership between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the project is the winner of a New York City competition for an applied-sciences campus initiated by the Bloomberg administration. The campus spans 12 acres and houses three new buildings by Morphosis, Weiss/Manfredi and Handel Architects. So far, what makes the buildings stand out is their aim to be among the most sustainable and energy efficient structures in the world. The four-story, 160,000-square-foot Bloomberg Center, designed by Morphosis Architects, serves as the heart of Cornell Tech. With its primary power source on-site, it is one of the largest net-zero energy academic buildings in the world. Smart building technology developed in collaboration with engineering firm Arup includes a roof canopy supporting 1,465 photovoltaic panels designed to generate energy and shade the building to reduce heat gain, a closed-loop geothermal well system for interior cooling and heating, a rainwater harvesting system to feed the non-potable water demand and irrigate the campus, and a power system conserving energy when the building is not in use. Another striking element is The Bloomberg Center’s facade, which is comprised of a series of metal panels designed to decrease the building's overall energy demand. The Bridge, designed by Weiss/Manfredi, is a seven-story “co-location” building intended to link academia to entrepreneurship. It houses a range of companies from diverse industries that have the opportunity to work alongside Cornell academic teams. The loft-like design of the building encourages dialogue between the University's academic hubs and tech companies. The building orientation frames full river views and brings maximum daylight into its interior. At the ground level, the entrance atrium opens onto the center of campus extending into the surrounding environment through a series of landscaped terraces. The House, designed by Handel Architects, is a 26-story, 350-unit dormitory for students, staff, and faculty. It is the tallest and largest residential passive house in the world, meaning it follows a strict international building standard to reduce energy consumption and costs. The House is clad with a super-sealed exterior facade created from 9-by-36-foot metal panels with 8 to 13 inches of insulation which are projected to save 882 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Yesterday’s opening comprises just the first phase of the campus development project at Cornell Tech. 
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Only In The U.K.

IKEA now sells solar panels and home battery packs

IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant known for selling cheap, do-it-yourself furniture, is now offering solar energy systems (only these products aren't quite cheap and definitely aren't D.I.Y.).

IKEA has partnered with energy technology company Solarcentury to launch its Solar Battery Storage Solution, which features solar panels and home batteries, in the U.K. Solarcentury, one of the U.K.’s biggest solar panel providers, will produce the panels.

IKEA’s home storage battery works in the same way as Tesla’s Powerwall, storing energy generated from the solar panels instead of selling excess energy back to the grid. The home batteries are compatible with existing solar panels or as a part of a combined storage system.

There is a bit of a sticker shock for those used to IKEA’s affordable prices—the upfront cost for both panels and battery is £6,925 (about $9,034 in U.S. dollars)—but the company estimates customers will make their money back within 12 years and their electricity bills will be cut by up to 70 percent. 

Solar panels and home battery systems have been making big waves thanks to Tesla's recently-announced offering. While still expensive, IKEA's solar system has an advantage in that its starting price is much lower. Just the batteries will cost £3,000 (around $3,900) as opposed to Tesla's price of £5,900 (about $7,684). However, location, type of building, and size of roof, also affect the final cost.

“We believe IKEA and Solarcentury are bringing the most competitive package to the market yet so more people than ever before can profit financially and environmentally by producing their own energy,” Susannah Wood, head of residential solar at Solarcentury, said in a press release.

This news comes on the heels of two big announcements for the U.K.’s energy industry. Just last week, the U.K. government unveiled a plan that will allot £246m of funding (that's around $320.48 million) for battery technology research. British gas owner Centrica also revealed that it would be increasing its energy prices 12.5 percent, despite promises to lower costs.

If you live in the U.K., IKEA’s website offers a free estimate on how much installing its Solar Battery Solution will save you.

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Game Changer

Tesla's solar roof will cost less than normal roofs
While the oil companies struggle to maintain their environmentally disastrous stranglehold on the market and the planet, there are some very realistic technologies that threaten to disrupt the status quo. One of the most dangerous for the oil companies is the Tesla solar roof, an off-the-shelf consumer system of tempered glass tiles. Last week, Tesla began accepting orders for the product and released pricing, which is comparable to normal asphalt roofing. The system is a mix of active solar tiles and inactive simple glass tiles, and as the percentage varies, so does the eventual cost. A 35 percent mix would cost $21.85 per square foot, and according to Consumer Reports, the tiles need to be under $24.50 per square foot to compete with normal tiles. That math doesn't even take into account the energy savings over time, which should allow the tiles to pay for themselves. Tesla released a savings calculator when they announced sales, and they are also offering a lifetime warranty. “We offer the best warranty in the industry—the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first,” a Tesla rep told Inverse. https://www.instagram.com/p/BT7HVS3AZ4q/
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Carbon Loading

How green are Apple's carbon-sequestering trees really?
Apple is planting a forest in Cupertino, California. When the company’s new headquarters is completed later this year, 8,000 trees, transplanted from nurseries around the state of California, will surround the donut-shaped building by Foster + Partners. The trees are meant to beautify Apple’s 176 acres (dubbed Apple Park). But they will also absorb atmospheric carbon. That’s a good thing. Carbon, in greenhouse gases, is a major cause of global warming. Almost everything humans do, including breathing, releases carbon into the atmosphere. Plants, on the other hand, absorb carbon, turning it into foliage, branches, and roots—a process known as sequestration. That’s why, when architects, landscape designers, and urban planners concerned about climate change talk about their work, they often mention sequestration. These days, seemingly every project that includes greenery is touted as reducing atmospheric carbon. But how much carbon can one tree, or even 8,000 trees, sequester? I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the answer. Among my sources is a 2016 article from the journal Landscape and Urban Planning titled “Does urban vegetation enhance carbon sequestration?” Its authors, several from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, examine efforts to quantify the sequestration capacity of urban flora. For example, a study of a Vancouver neighborhood found that its trees sequestered about 1.7 percent as much carbon as human activities produced, while in Mexico City the figure was 1.4 percent. The results were worse in Singapore. Overall, the authors write, “The impact of urban vegetation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions directly through carbon sequestration is very limited or null.” Very limited or null. Another study seemed especially applicable to Apple. In 2009, researchers at California State University Northridge studied carbon sequestration on the university’s 350-acre campus. Students inventoried all 3,900 trees by type and size. Using data from the Center for Urban Forest Research, a branch of the U.S. Forest Service, they estimated the amount each tree was likely to sequester. The average was 88 pounds per tree per year. (By contrast, the average American is responsible for emitting about 44,000 pounds of carbon annually.) Then they compared total sequestration to the amount of carbon emitted by campus sources. (Those sources included the production of electricity to power campus buildings—but not transportation to and from campus.) The result: The trees sequestered less than one percent of the amount of carbon released during the same period. Put another way, the amount of carbon sequestered, at a school with 41,000 students, equaled the carbon output of eight average Americans. Are things better at Apple Park? On the emissions side, there is good news: The new building will rely largely on natural ventilation, reducing the need for air conditioning. (Note, though, that promises a building will perform a certain way often prove overly optimistic.) On the other hand, the campus is being designed with more than 10,000 parking spaces for some 12,000 employees, suggesting that the vast majority of employees will be driving to and from work. And those spaces are in garages that require lights and elevators. And the news gets worse. At Northridge, researchers looked at the trees as if they had always been there. But a reasonable approach to measuring the benefits of Apple’s trees would consider the carbon emitted in growing them off-site, bringing them to Cupertino, and planting them. Driving a flatbed truck 100 miles can release 100 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere—and Apple trees’ require thousands of such trips. And, since it wants the campus to be picture-perfect, Apple is using mature specimens. These are no seedlings; some are so large they have to be lowered into place by crane. And mature trees, because they aren’t growing much, hardly sequester any carbon. (Worse, when trees die, their carbon is returned to the atmosphere.) And keep in mind that many of Apple’s trees were already growing in other locations, meaning the carbon sequestered on the Apple campus would have been sequestered anyway. That suggests that any estimate of carbon sequestration at Apple Park should be reduced by at least half. In the plus column, grass and shrubs also sequester carbon, though not merely as much as trees, with their thick trunks and extensive root systems. So how much carbon will Apple’s trees sequester? The figures used in the Northridge study suggest that Apple’s 8,000 trees will remove some 700,000 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year. According to Apple’s submissions to the city of Cupertino, the new campus can be expected to produce 82 million pounds of carbon annually. That means that the carbon sequestered will be less than one percent of the carbon emitted. In short, Apple’s decision to plant 8,000 trees, whatever its other benefits, won’t have a significant effect on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The campus, even with a very green building at its heart, will emit more than one hundred times as much carbon as its trees absorb. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep planting trees. But it does mean that, as with so many issues related to global warming, there is no quick fix. Thinking there is could keep us from making the tough decisions climate change demands.
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Imminent Urban Commons

Alejandro Zaera-Polo: Urban planners must rethink how they approach cities
The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) has partnered with urbanNext—a multidisciplinary platform for design promoted by Actar Publishers—to share articles on common topics every two weeks. This week, we’re pairing the urbanNext article below with AN’sHow Can Cities Double down on the Climate Change Fight?” The article below was authored by Alejandro Zaera-Polo, an architect and co-founder of London/ Zurich/Princeton based Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Maider Llaguno Architecture (AZPML).
Since the eighteenth century when the Western world became human-centered, humankind has not ceased to evolve, and so too has the very concept of the human. In 1933, Le Corbusier and a few other members of the CIAM issued The Athens Charter, a document aimed at orchestrating the emerging technologies of the built environment into a proposal for the future of cities.[1] A classification of human activities became the vertebral spine of this proposal, structured around four urban functions: work, residence, leisure, and transport. This functional classification has structured urban planning policies ever since, but its human-centered approach appears now to be unable to address the problems of our age.
In the Anthropocene, humans have become capable of modifying natural ecosystems, geological structures, and even the climate; we have become so powerful that it is increasingly difficult to delimit the natural from the artificial. As the most populated human environment, cities are a central focus of these transformations, and yet, none of these concerns seems to have permeated the tools that we use to plan cities. The urban planning disciplines remain primarily conceived around human functions, despite the fact that the crucial questions they need to address—air pollution, rising water levels, drought, the heat island effect, deforestation, biodiversity, food security, automated work, inequality…— are primarily driven by concerns that, for the first time in history, transcend human societies and threaten the very survival of the planet. The economic, political, and technological drivers of modern urbanism—the mass integration of production, employment, and consumption; the separation of work, dwelling, recreation, and transportation; the division between the natural and the artificial—are no longer effective at addressing the urgent questions cities are facing today. Likewise, the traditional urban instruments such as plazas, streets, and neighborhoods have been commodified by neo-liberal practices and have become ineffective at addressing the new urban collectives and constituencies, both human and nonhuman, which populate contemporary cities.
Posthuman Cosmologies The agency that cities have in the construction of the Anthropocene is something that can no longer be ignored. We are assisting in a veritable paradigm change, one that requires a reformulation of the cosmologies upon which the contemporary tools of urbanism have been constructed. Arcane technologies and rituals of the urban were often based on mythological references. Ancient cosmologies were mechanisms of comprehending the natural world which enabled cultures to understand and operate within the natural environment. The oldest ones predated human settlements and were aimed at explicating natural phenomena and regulating the modes of relation between humans and nature. As the urban environment became increasingly controlled by human agency, cosmologies were discarded as systems of urban knowledge and governance. Typology and monumentality became primary tools for urbanism, with the structure of human relations prevailing over the physical and material determinations of the environment. The affairs of cities (politika) became an entirely artificial endeavor. The current prevalence of artificial environments and politics—cities—has tended to naturalize technology while de-politicizing nature. However, the pressing nature of ecological concerns and the scale of technological developments call for the imminent city to re-politicize both nature and technology and construct new urban cosmologies which can support the development of new urban sensibilities. An entirely new set of urban technologies have since appeared, radically transforming urban protocols and experiences: smartphones, GPS, electromobility, and biotechnology. Yet, these technologies still remain largely outside the practices of urban planners and designers, which remain trapped in the humanistic precepts of modern urbanism.Far from producing urbanity, urban functionalism has dismantled the commons and undermined urban democracy. Clichés, such as the relevance of public spaces as guarantors of urban communities and urban democracy, are as problematic as the inability of architects and urban planners to quantify the implications of density and urban form in the energy consumption or the determination of urban micro-climates. The idea that architects and urban designers can find effective agency in the distribution of human functions—such as work and domesticity—is at best naïve. Cities have become sources of extreme inequality and environmental degradation (in contempt not only of the demos, but also of all of the nonhuman constituencies that exist in cities), and these are even threatening the subsistence of cities and are pointing at insurmountable contradictions at the core of the current modes of economic integration. Theorists like Jeremy Rifkin and Paul Mason argue that we are already entering a post-capitalist world in which politics are shifting from a focus on capital and labor to a focus on energy and resources, and they have proposed new economies: shared economies of zero marginal costs driven by new technologies: peer-to-peer organizations enhanced by pervasive computation, sustainable energy sources, and carbon-neutral technologies.[2]
As the largest human habitat, cities have become the epicenters of global warming, air pollution, and a variety of ecological malaises. Naomi Klein has pointed at the fundamental opposition between capitalist growth and the limited natural resources of the earth, and questioned the capacity of capitalist regimes to resolve an imminent ecological catastrophe.[3] The decline of capitalism has loaded urban ecologies and technologies with unprecedented political relevance. Cities have now become a crucial intersection between ecology, technology, and politics where the equation between wealth, labor, resources, and energy has to be reset to address the shortcomings of neo-liberal economies.
Ecologies and Technologies Rather than Functions Does this scenario, determined by the rise of the Anthropocene and the crisis of neo-liberal capitalism, imply that the work of urbanists and architects has become futile? That the new commons will be entirely developed within social media? Has urbanism been expelled from politics, and is it now at the mercy of securitization and capital redistribution? On the contrary, some economists[4]argue that urban planning, housing, and real estate hold the key to resolving urban inequality.[5] Cities precede the installation of political systems, and have systematically outlasted them, often constituting themselves in mechanisms of resistance to power. For cities to become devices for the common good rather than instruments producing and implementing power structures (and often inequality or ecological destruction), urban practices need to locate resources and technologies at their core. Rather than splitting urban life into functions easily captured by power, we should try to identify first where the imminent urban commons are and how to reconstruct them as instruments of devolution and ecological awareness, constructed transversally across technologies and resources. We have tried to outline what those might be, and how they may become the source of a revision of urban practices.
This article originally appeared as Imminent Urban Commons on urbanNext. [1] Le Corbusier, Jean Giraudoux, and Jeanne de Villeneuve, La Charte d'Athenes (Paris: Plon, 1943). [2] Jeremy Rifkin, The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism (London: Macmillan, 2014. Paul Mason, Post Capitalism: A Guide to Our Future (London: Allen Lane, 2015); and Paul Mason, “The End of Capitalism Has Begun,” The Guardian, 17 July 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun. [3] Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014). [4] Matthew Rognlie, “Deciphering the Fall and Rise in the Net Capital Share,” BPEA Conference draft, March 19–20, 2015; http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/projects/bpea/spring-2015/2015a_rognlie.pdf, accessed 5 October 2016. [5] Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press, 2014).
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Going to Waste

Architects used to design industry and infrastructure—that needs to happen again
The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) has partnered with urbanNext—a multidisciplinary platform for design promoted by Actar Publishers—to share articles on common topics every two weeks. This week, we’re pairing the urbanNext article below with AN’sChicago digs deep to fight flooding, but the city’s geology may provide another solution.” The article below was authored by Hanif Kara, a practicing structural engineer, the Pierce Anderson Lecturer in Creative Engineering at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and Visiting Professor for Architectural Technology at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, since 2008.
As the world’s population rapidly expands, the need for architects’ engagement in the industrial and infrastructural realm becomes increasingly urgent. Yet, with the exception of a few cases, architects remain conspicuously absent from the conception, design, and implementation of such projects. WHY ARCHITECTS? Today architects play a minor role in the design of industrial and infrastructural projects. Yet this was not always the case. The history of modern architecture, intricately tied to the rise of industrialization from the mid-18th century on, is rife with architects’ contributions to the industrial realm. Innovative creations such as Thomas Pritchard’s Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale, England (1775–1779)—often cited as the first single-span cast-iron structure—purportedly set the stage for later developments, including Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer’s seemingly weightless Faguswerke factory in Alfeld on Leine, Germany (1911–1912), which is hailed as an embodiment of an early 20th-century industrial aesthetic. Likewise, across the Atlantic Ocean, Albert Kahn utilized reinforced concrete to design a series of wide-span automotive plants, ideal environments for the efficient assembly-line production, or Taylorization, for which Henry Ford’s factories became known. These are but a few of the many architects who worked on industrial architecture alongside businessmen and engineers in the early 20th century. In the years following World War II and as the global economy moved toward recovery in the 1950s and 1960s, architects continued their involvement with industrial projects. The United States saw architects such as Eero Saarinen and the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) engaged in industrial work, notably with their contributions to the burgeoning industrial campus complex type. In Europe, architects such as Angelo Mangiarotti in Italy, Fritz Haller in Switzerland, and Norman Foster in England began enlisting prefabricated modular building systems, which allowed vast, flexible, open-span factories to accommodate a variety of manufacturing setups. These prefab systems, which could be erected more quickly and more economically than previous industrial buildings, became a widespread alternative to individually designed factories. Not surprisingly, the building owners’ desire to cut costs coupled with the efficiency of prefabricated modular systems to steadily eclipse the architect’s role in industrial building design. Mass production and “industrialized systems” hastened the rapid construction of many different building types during this period. Simultaneously, seeing fewer opportunities for creativity in such “mundane” or “ugly” work, architects turned their attention away from industrial and infrastructural projects. Additionally, the growth of other disciplines gave rise to engineers and project managers, who legitimately claimed to be able to produce buildings rather than “design” them, further undermining the role of the architect. Despite the shift to service- and knowledge-oriented industries in the latter 20th and early 21st centuries, a time marked by the emergence of widespread economic and ecological changes, architects’ contributions to these building types have remained conspicuously absent. Yet this need not be the case. Architects bring much to the conception and creation of such projects, beginning with a holistic approach that extends beyond functionality to embrace the physical, social, and environmental issues that affect each project. By virtue of education and experience, architects hone the ability to devise creative spatial configurations to address real-world problems. Furthermore, architects are trained to design not just for the present, but for the future ways in which buildings may be used. This skill in particular figures prominently into our contemporary landscape, where in many cases a building’s physical presence may long outlive its initial purpose. And, as numerous examples in our past and present demonstrate, such industrial buildings do not have to be ugly. The past few decades saw a minor eruption in the adaptation of redundant existing industrial buildings and large-scale infrastructures for public use. Projects like the Tate Modern (England, Herzog & de Meuron) and the Hamburg Philharmonic (Germany, Herzog & de Meuron); the Rosario Museum of Contemporary Art (Argentina, Ermete de Lorenzi); the Zollverein Power Station (Germany, Rem Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture, B.ll and Krabel); the High Line (United States, Diller Scofido + Renfro); the Contemporary Jewish Museum (United States, Studio Libeskind); and the Modern Museum of Malm. (Sweden, Tham & Videg.rd Arkitekter) have captured the public imagination and become new architectural touchstones. Note that many of these readapted structures exist in developed areas that have transformed from industrial to service societies (a cycle likely to repeat in the future). In addition, these projects involve not only the reuse of materials, but also a respect for the old while infusing the new. They are complex projects that encourage cultural interactions and multiple programs in spaces previously conceived for singular functions and occupied by only a few individuals. These buildings and structures were initially created to serve a specific use; yet through architectural interventions, they have been successfully repurposed as cultural icons. Architects introduced unique skills and perspectives to these transformational projects, all largely well received. In turn, these adaptations have bolstered their architects’ reputations. We believe that architects can add similar value to, and likewise benefit from, the design of industrial and infrastructural projects. In particular, we are focused onWaste-to-Energy (WtE) facilities, which are much needed in both developing and developed societies. Along with global population growth and increased urbanization comes an exponential rise in the production of solid waste. In 2012, urban populations generated roughly 1.3 billion tons of solid waste. By 2025, the World Bank estimates that this number will likely increase to 2.2 billion tons. How do we address this mounting volume of waste? This question becomes all the more pressing when we consider that landfills—currently (and historically) the most prevalent means of waste disposal—are quickly becoming less plausible due to space restrictions, environmental concerns, mandates to close existing sites, and legislation that prevents the creation of new landfills. Waste-to-Energy facilities offer a proven and increasingly attractive solution for dealing with solid waste. Indeed, far from the pollution-spewing industrial behemoths of yore, WtE plants are an environmentally conscious option for coping with garbage. Strategically placed near or within urban areas, WtE plants can generate alternative energy for local use and eliminate the need to transport waste to rural areas or across state lines, thus reducing travel-related emissions. And as we will later discuss in detail, WtE infrastructure offers a range of beneficial possibilities for future development, including opportunities to develop hybrid programs that positively impact their communities. Such innovative arrangements are already in operation in Sweden, recognized as a leader in WtE use, as well as other countries. WHY WASTE-TO-ENERGY? There is little doubt that, as the world’s population grows, local WtE infrastructure will be increasingly needed in cities. As densities increase and consumption patterns change, WtE will continue to emerge as an acceptable and affordable source of renewable energy alongside a portfolio of other sources, such as solar, wind, and biomass. As additional WtE infrastructure is conceived and constructed, architects’ involvement will help ensure the best functional, social, and aesthetic results. Indeed, a handful of high-profile architects, including Bjarke Ingels and Zaha Hadid, have recently engaged in WtE projects, signaling a shift in thought regarding the desirability of and value generated by architects’ involvement in such projects. With these ideas in mind, we selected WtE facilities as a means to re-engage architects and interdisciplinary design with industrial buildings and infrastructure. We conducted design research on novel and effective ways to rethink the relationship of architecture and waste—a (re)planned obsolescence. THE WASTE MANAGEMENT HIERARCHY The Waste Management Hierarchy is an internationally recognized ranking of the various waste management practices in the order from most to least preferred with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. Priority is given towards the prevention and reuse of waste followed by recycling, energy recovery, and disposal. Energy recovery from the combustion of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is a critical component to this hierarchy because it diverts and ultimately decreases the total volume of waste that would have otherwise been destined for landfills. The WtE Design Lab chose to narrow the focus of design speculation around the method combustion—as opposed to pyrolysis and gasification—because it is the most widely implemented. Ranked a tier above natural gas but just below solar photovoltaic, the energy produced by this renewable energy source has a reduced carbon emission record—as compared to petroleum and coal—by offsetting the need for energy from fossil fuel sources and reducing methane generation from landfills.

This article originally appeared as Architects, Waste and Design Research on urbanNext.
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Blue and Green

Cincinnati builds what will be the country's first Net Zero Energy police station
The City of Cincinnati has recently put the final touches on perhaps the country’s most sustainable police stations. Recently certified LEED Platinum, the District Three Police Station is set to become the first Net Zero Energy police station in the country. Designed by Cincinnati-based emersion DESIGN in close collaboration with Messer Construction, the project was conceived as design-build from the beginning. The team was responsible for the architecture, interior design, structural engineering, sustainable consulting, and public engagement. Landscape design was handled by Cincinnati-based Human Nature. The new station was a long time coming. The former District Three Police Station was over 100 years old, and the city as a whole has not built a new police station in over 40 years. In replacing the station, the city looked at 27 different sites and 14 neighborhoods in the district to find the most impactful location. The site the city chose is in the West Price Hill Neighborhood Center, which has been pegged for transformation. The hope is the station will help spur development, and add to the area's improved pedestrian and bicycle focus. The project team held a series of community charrettes and the design aims for a physical connection with the nearby area: a colonnade in front of the station corresponds with 14 identical columns located throughout the district. emersion Design used various energy models to test the project's orientation, massing, fenestration, and thermal envelope qualities. A compact building footprint, advanced storm water system, and extensive drought tolerant landscaping opens the project to the public and showcases its sustainability goals. Other sustainable technologies used include a roof covered in photovoltaics and 40 geo-exchange wells. The construction process was also carefully planned to reduce waste. A total of 80.34 percent of the project’s construction diverted waste away from the region’s limited landfills. The design also called for recycled and local materials, and 97 percent Forest Stewardship Council certified wood. The District Three Police Station is the City of Cincinnati’s way of setting a benchmark for other civic buildings in the city and across the country.