Posts tagged with "Sustainability":

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The Green Hive Looks for Its Sweet Spot in LA

Last month we learned that the Green Hive, a non-profit supporting green building and eco-friendly ideas, was kicked out of its future home in Downtown LA by the LA Community College District. So we were wondering: What are they doing now? First the backstory: A top building official with the LACCD last year signed a $190,000 contract “on behalf of” the district’s executive director of facilities planning and development, Larry Eisenberg. Eisenburg worked with The Green Hive’s two business partners, Kris Kimble and Kim Robinson, and LACCD spent over $1 million in district money to help The Green Hive design its 6,000-square-feet office space at 811 Wilshire Boulevard. But this April, the president of LACCD’s board of trustees informed Kimble and Robinson that the project was never approved. This notice came as a surprise since The Green Hive has “five binders of correspondence between it and district officials,” reported the Daily Breeze. Without the 811 Wilshire location, The Green Hive lost its business model and its corporate sponsors cannot be utilized, Kimble told The Architect’s Newspaper. And here’s what’s happening now: Kimble has been able to connect with organizations in Orange County, Sacramento and San Diego. They are interested in either hiring The Green Hive as consultants or uniting forces. The Frontier Project, a nonprofit seeking green alternatives, is interested in co-branding with the group. Kimble said The Green Hive will help them build their resources in their facility, but this potential brand partnership will not dissipate The Green Hive’s original business model, which--at the moment--has been put on hold indefinitely. “We’re just trying to stay alive,” Kimble said. Without office space, this green idea will rot even though it has over a dozen corporate sponsors and funding for eight internships. Even though the complete come-see-and-touch business model has been put on hold, Kimble said he still champions the green movement and urges those in the corporate and private sector to donate to The Green Hive Foundation so that The Green Hive could continue providing online resources.
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White House Turns Green at GSA and HUD

If last week's story on the apparent shortcomings of the Office of Urban Affairs may have shaken your hopes about the Obama administration's commitment to cities, planning, and urban policy, fear not. As we tried to point out, these things are happening, just not necessarily at the White House office whose name is synonymous with it. Case in point, two major announcements were made this week concerning sustainability, one at the GSA, the other at HUD. Yesterday, the General Services Administration announced that it had created its first Chief Greening Officer (terrible name, great news), whose job it would be to pursue sustainability initiatives throughout the agency's massive portfolio of buildings, some 350 million square feet. Taking over the new office is Eleni Reed, the former Director of Sustainability Strategies at Cushman and Wakefield, where she undertook a similar task of greening the company's vast office holdings. And on Monday, the agency submitted its sustainability plan to the White House with a target of a "zero environmental footprint," though a timeline for that is not clear. Meanwhile, over at Department of Housing and Urban Development, officials announced today that HUD would start scoring its grant applications for their compliance with LEED-ND, the U.S. Green Building Council's new neighborhood rating system. “Using the ‘LEED-ND’ green neighborhood rating system…it’s time that federal dollars stopped encouraging sprawl and started lowering the barriers to the kind of sustainable development our country needs and our communities want," Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a press release. It is not unlike one of the programs mentioned in last week's piece, about how the Office of Management and Budget is weighing its budget calculations in favor of programs that incorporate sustainable and pro-urban initiatives.
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In Riverhouse Lawsuit, Not Easy Being Green

Despite its slow gestation, Battery Park City is widely considered a resounding success today, particularly in the areas of sustainable design, which was required of many of the complex's latter day projects. Standing out among even these green stalwarts is the recently completed Riverhouse, designed by Polshek Partnership and shooting for LEED Gold, though the project now provides a bit of a cautionary tale for ambitious developers. According to the Journal, two tenants recently sued the projects' developers for $1.5 million for breach of contract and fraud because the building was deemed not as green as it had been billed. Among the issues:
[The suit] says the owners' engineers "found a deviation of 49%" over the LEED standards "in the cumulative size of holes and cracks allowing infiltration of cold air." The complaint also alleges that air temperature for heating the apartment was too low, which the owners say is a sign that the building isn't maximizing energy efficiency.
The paper goes on to suggest that the suit may simply be a means to get out of the now exorbitant $4.2 million three-bedroom apartment. The more important lesson, though, may be on the strengths and weaknesses of sustainability in general and LEED in particular. After all, Riverhouse had once been aiming for the crown of first Platinum-rated residence in the city, yet now it has settled for Gold, a sign of the difficulty in meeting such standards. And yet the findings by the plaintiff's engineers that the project is not even performing at that high level are both surprising and not -- for rarely, if ever, are these buildings tested after the fact. (Then again, who needs to test a building's efficacy when you've got Operation Green to make your case?)
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Lights Out for Chinese LED Plant in Cleveland

Marketplace had a downright enlightening segment the other day about the potential and peril of using sustainability as a tool for economic development. New York and Chicago have been doing this with some success, and now Cleveland's mayor wants in on the act. But instead of simply promoting sustainability through tax credits, development bonuses, and mandates, Frank Jackson took a clever approach, saying whomever built a LED plant in the depressed Rust Belt city would get the contract to outfit it with all its civic lighting needs. It was a brilliantly shrewd move, until it all fell apart. Listen in to find out what happened.
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LA Gets Gold (Energy) Star

LA is rarely thought of as the country's greenest town, what with all the traffic and sprawl, but it's doing a lot better than you think, as the News informs us. For the second year in a row, Los Angeles has been ranked number one in terms of energy efficient buildings, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star ratings. LA made it to the top of the list by having the most rated buildings—ones that use 35 percent less energy than the average—with 293. The top five include Washington, D.C. (204), San Francisco (173), Denver (136) and Chicago (134). This does not exactly mean it is the most efficient period, given that there are so many more buildings in LA—usual suspects like Seattle and Portland are missing from the top five, as is New York, which we'd like to think is missing because it's so dense, though probably the real issue is that it's so old an inefficient to begin with. Still, no matter how you look at it, this is a step in the right direction for all of us.
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No Green in Green?

Is it really possible to make your house too green? California may not think so, but a Harlem brownstone is finding that to be the case. Last week, Curbed spotted 151 West 122nd Street, which the realtors declare to be the "greenest house in Manhattan." While there are a few others that might argue for that throne, this one holds the title by apparently being the first standalone townhouse in the borough to achieve a LEED rating, Silver to be exact, courtesy a Better Homes and Gardens makeover. But all that green cred is not translating into green credit, as the building's price has fallen from $4.05 million some 17 months ago to $2.79 million. At least one critic, gadabout blogger Harlem Bespoke, has complained that the problem is the project has forgone its charm for slick environmentalism—there's no brownstone left in this brownstone!. Could this be the case, as ArchNewsNow turned up more green backlash today? Or is it simply the fact that no one is willing to spend this kind of money, no matter how nice a house, in Harlem?
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Rail Picking Up Steam

California, Florida, and Illinois are receiving the largest pieces of the federal high speed rail pie. According to the a release from the White House, California will receive  $2.32 billion for a forked line running from San Diego to Los Angeles and splitting in Northern California with spurs to San Francisco and Sacramento. Florida will receive $1.25 billion for a new line from Tampa to Orlando, with an additional line connected Orlando to Miami as a part of a "long-term vision." “By investing in high speed rail, we’re doing so many good things for our country at the same time," said Vice President Biden, according to a statement from the White House . "We’re creating good construction and manufacturing jobs in the near-term. We’re spurring economic development in the future. We’re making our communities more livable—and we’re doing it all while decreasing America’s environmental impact and increasing America’s ability to compete in the world.” Illinois will receive $1.13 billion to upgrade its corridor to St. Louis, far less than the $4.5 billion the state sought. While this may seem like a set back from Illionis, the Midwest region as a whole received several other significant grants, which should eventually link to a hub in Chicago. Wisconsin and Minnesota will received $823 for a new line from Milwaukee to Madison, WI, with projects laying the "foundation" for a line connected from Milwaukee to Chicago and a "long-term vision" for a Mineapolis to Madison line. Michigain/Illinois/Indiana are receiving a $244 million grant for upgrades along a line stretching from Chicago to Kalamazoo to Detroit to Pontiac, MI. Ohio will be granted $400 million for a new line conntecting Cleveland to Columbus to Dayton to Cincinatti. The Northeast Corridor, with the nation's largest existing rail ridership, is receiving a comparatively small grant of $1.91 billion in funding, spread across nine states and the District of Columbia. According to the Boston Globe, the complexities stemming from multi-state enviornmental impact statements hindered the region's bid.
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Charge Me Up

As automakers vie to release the next generation of plug-in electric cars, many eco-conscious drivers have wondered about the lack of charging infrastructure in dense urban environments. Unlike in, say, London, where charging points are being planned within one mile of every citizen by 2015, New Yorkers have heard little about curbside electric pumps. Well, if you’re looking for a place to plug in your GM Volt, one company’s vision of the future has arrived. This week, Brooklyn-based sustainable energy company Beautiful Earth (BE) unveiled their new solar-powered electric vehicle charging station, the first in New York and one of just a few in the world. Designed and built by BE from recycled steel shipping containers, the off-grid station sits on a lot near the company headquarters in Red Hook, collecting the sun’s rays with a roof of Sharp 235-watt photovoltaic panels. With a battery bank that stores electricity around the clock, the 6-kilowatt station can charge a car even at night, and could potentially feed unused electricity back into the grid. For now, the new station’s larger impact is more symbolic than practical: It’s only being used to charge BE’s company electric sports car, a BMW Group Mini E (though it would work just as well with any electric vehicle). A full charge gives the Mini E a little over a 100-mile range and takes about three hours, but shorter charging times are well within reach. “As the technology advances, easy charging stations will become increasingly realistic,” said Amanda Cleary, BE’s manager of sustainability.
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How Green Is It?

Coming out of City Hall today, we stumbled upon a press conference reaffirming the groundbreaking green-ness of the new green buildings measures first unveiled on Earth Day and due to pass the council this week. Measures that include a new energy code and more efficient lighting, energy benchmarking and training for building operators. But one measure no longer included, according to a rather damning story in the Times this weekend, is mandatory decennial energy audits for commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet, which would be required to replace inefficient building systems if they are not up to current standards. The main culprit, as with many things these days, is the recession:
“It’s another unfunded mandate, and this is just not the time for it,” said Stuart Saft, chairman of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums, an opponent of the plan. “Come back in five years when we’re past this recession. At this point it’s just a slap in the face.”
Hence the press conference today, though it was not being hosted by the building owners and operators opposed to the bill but half-a-dozen environmental groups in favor of it—big ones at that, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, NRDC, and the Urban Green Council (aka USGBC NY)—along with as many council members, who will be voting on the green building legislation Wednesday. This group was not there fighting for the reinstatement of the missing measure but instead bowing to its removal while arguing the package of bills would still set New York on a historic path. "This is fair and responsible," James Gennaro, chair of the Environmental Protection Committee, said. "We'll get to 30 percent one way or another." Let's hope so.
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Harlem In Bloom

A crumbling row of ten Renaissance Revival apartment buildings, which were once the first black-owned property in North Harlem, are about to be remade again as one of a growing number of affordable, sustainable housing complexes sprouting up across the city. The project, which according to the Daily News, is set to begin by year's end, is being tackled by affordable housing guru Jonathan Rose and his Smart Growth Investment fund, who bought the buildings in January as the fund's first acquisition in its cheap-and-green portfolio. Dattner Architects, experts on both affordable and sustainable housing, is responsible for the retrofits [PDF], which include a photovoltaic array on the roof, efficient energy systems, lighting controls, new windows and insulation, and sustainably sourced materials. In addition to making it a more conscientious project, it also makes it a more feasible one, as these features open it up to stimulus and HUD moneys targeted at sustainable buildings—to the tune of $3 million.
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Shrubhenge

If you've passed by One Bryant Park in the past month or so, you may have noticed what looks like a kind of leafy-green Stonehenge clustered in the lobby of the Bank of America building. The three monoliths and twenty-five foot tall archway are made of galvanized steel frames seeded with thousands of ferns, mosses, and lichens, an installation designed by a team from Wallace Roberts & Todd, led by designer Margie Ruddick and sculptor Dorothy Ruddick. The piece is meant as a reminder of the building's green cred, as the Cook + Fox tower achieved LEED Platinum. Unlike the original Stonehenge, we don't have to wonder how this one was built. In fact, you can watch it being assembled in the above time-lapse clip, which compresses the entire 42 hours of installation into a mere 30 seconds. Watch as the mysterious shruboliths rise before your eyes, and check some photos after the jump.
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Taking Green Footsteps

Planetizen published an interesting piece over the weekend looking at the relative disconnect between sustainability and starchitecture, or how form may have gotten futuristic of late, but not with the future in mind. The article's a little plodding at times, though the argument is valid and clear:
Many contemporary buildings embody the age-old conflict between individual expression and the common good, while some appear almost antagonistic towards the environment. Frank Gehry's aluminum billows and Daniel Libeskind's tilted spires are largely aesthetic accents that use computer-aided design to create forms unbuildable, if not unimaginable, even a decade ago. The sheer expense of iconic libraries, concert halls, and corporate headquarters contradicts environmentalism’s drive for efficiency.
As if answering the call, the Rocky Mountain Institute launched a new site today, Green Footstep, designed to help architects calculate the carbon impact of their buildings. According to Victor Olgyay, a principal at the institute, their calculator is different than predecessors because it helps determine the building's footprint over the life of the building, not simply at inception, something most buildings—including in the LEED spectrum—fail to take into consideration. Having never designed a green building ourselves, we can't speak to the efficacy of the site, but it certainly look impressive and operates intuitively, so it's worth checking out. Should you do so, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.