Rocky Mountain Institute

Carbon Free Buildings Initiative

The Growth in the use of the word “must’ has become notable as a belief in something that is certain Examples in use are we must:

  • Construct only zero-carbon buildings
  • Retrofit 5% of buildings annually
  • Ensure electric and efficient appliances

Note the increased use of the Future Perfect Tense in response to “must.”  Examples are by 2030 we will:

  • Retrofit large numbers of existing buildings to be all-electric, grid-interactive, and efficient.
  • Create building industry platforms to support technology dissemination, supply chain development, and business-led interventions.
  • Raise public awareness of health and climate costs of fossil fuels in buildings.
  • Design and advocate for carbon-free building policies in 20 key US states representing 70% of direct gas use.

The Secret Life of Materials

Goals Leading to Design and Construction Choices

Objective: Percent reduction embodied carbon in building materials

The following resources offered by RMI address specific performance specification, use of sensors on time, money, material, circularity in recycling, sequestration, and technology

Low-Cost, High-Value Opportunities to Reduce Embodied Carbon in Buildings

Giving America’s Infrastructure a Clean Start

Concrete Solutions Guide

Reducing Embodied Carbon in Buildings

Policies Leading to Projects and Priorities

The US Federal Government Takes the Lead on Low Embodied Carbon Buildings

U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) approved a series of procurement principles to shift to low embodied carbon building materials and approaches.

Colorado Passes Embodied Carbon Legislation

The bill requires the office of the state architect and the department of transportation to establish policies that include the maximum acceptable global warming potential for specific categories of construction materials.

Don’t Look Up

It wasn’t mortifying George, it was liberating! www.monbiot.com

For every concerned adult, it is the same old story and it can cause emotional collapse.

“I was reminded of my own mortifying loss of control on Good Morning Britain in November. It was soon after the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow, where we had seen the least serious of all governments (the UK was hosting the talks) failing to rise to the most serious of all issues. I tried, for the thousandth time, to explain what we are facing, and suddenly couldn’t hold it in any longer. I burst into tears on live TV.”

Losing It Posted: 10 Jan 2022 02:20 AM PST. Following is what reminded him of tragic pointless action.

The incredulous air of a planet death film. We die slow, so duh! The planet can too. ACT!

How do you process bad news? What is your sense of urgency? Have a look at: “My Represent Us Story,” and the “Unbreaking America” video with Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Silver. Nearly two million people saw it by February 2019.

The following 12 minutes is the answer.

It has succeeded west coast and northeast. Our friends in Michigan, Nebraska, Arkansaw, Missouri, and all over the South are working. Are you? It is just 12 minutes. Get the verticle line answer.


Mandatory Inclusion

The image above is clipped from the NYC Zoning Resolution

The Voluntary Inclusionary Housing Program (VIH) provides a bonus floor area if the developer creates permanently affordable housing. A maximum of 20% of the Residential Floor Area must be set aside to tenants at 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI)., the project must be located in the Inclusionary Housing Designated Area to qualify for the bonus floor area. The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Program (MIH) requires permanently affordable housing to be provided to obtain alteration or new building permits from the Dept. of Buildings. The MIH affordable housing options are detailed below; each area will apply specific options. The maps and suitable alternatives can be seen in Appendix F of the NYC Zoning Resolution.

The Developers Choices

Option 1: 25% of the Residential Floor Area needs to be set aside at a weighted average of 60% AMI, with at least 10% set aside at 40% AMI

Option 2: 30% of the Residential Floor Area needs to be set aside at a weighted average of 80% AMI

Option 3 (Deep Affordability Option):20% of the Residential Floor Area needs to be set aside at a weighted average of 40% AMI

Option 4 (Workforce Option): 30% of the Residential Floor Area needs to be set aside at a weighted average of 115% AMI, with a least 5% set aside at 70% AMI and 5% set aside at 90% AMI

Affordable Housing Contribution

Project developers with less than 26 residential units and 25,000 sq. ft. FAR have the option of contributing to the affordable housing fund. Projects with ten residential units and 12,500 sq. ft. of Residential Floor Area are exempt from the MIH requirements.

The MIH units may be used to satisfy other affordable housing program requirements. Several firms are involved, from design to the Completion Notice administered by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

A “My Neighborhood” post (here) will follow a vacant city-owned lot to follow a real-world example. A broader discussion of what it takes to produce a creative place is (here).

Resources: Look for Data

As the options list above suggests, this is New York City and everything is negotiable. A common criticism of the MIH approach to equity and fairness is the rents remain “too damn high.” However, the argument by housing advocates for additional resources such as Section 8 rental assistance for families can be made if local activists work with data and technical service providers to bring added data/value to the table, reflecting a greater need. Examples are plentiful; however, the following are a good place to decide if the “deep end” is for your organization or if new partners may be the way to get a better handle on the problems that need solutions.

  • The Urban Institute’s rental assistance prioritization index enables housing authorities and providers of rental assistance to find vulnerable communities.
  • The Census Bureau hosted a 12-week sprint with university-based leaders and Census data experts to find ways to disseminate Census data more equitably. The best examples for NYC are CityBuilder and Data to Go.
  • Google and Carto partnered with HUD to create an online map to demonstrate a mix of census data, rent data, and Google’s mobile device data. State and local government officials can navigate the map to analyze COVID-19 migration patterns across the U.S., gauge the effects of movements, and identify where additional resources are needed.

Amidst all of the chaos, hoops, and hurdles of the above is more complex than straightforward, clear you head by listening to a person that sees the earth and density in a very positive way.

Planning Hazard

Other than the occasional declaration of a national park, housing produces the largest demand for land. Land acquisition and regulation in the public interest for urban development and renewal, on theother is one of the hottest buttons ever legislatively produced and upheld as law. It may be time to rework this established foundation for managing new challenges aimed at sustaining the welfare of the nation and its people.

The impact of climate change on real estate development has stimulated anticipation of a new combination of eminent domain rights and land-use zoning useful in de-stimulating investment by location. This authority, however, will follow, not lead new industry trends focused on climate impacts. New price-mechanism led by mortgage bank lending and insurance company practices are rapidly reshaping the regulatory environment.

Hazard Assessment

The heightened assessment of climate impacts has begun. It will alter state and local protection of the nation’s watershed. The question is will it be in the interest of the general welfare. The wilderness urban interface will be focused on fire and flooding hazards more sharply than ever. The four early indicators examined here are instructive of two possibilities. First is whether an up from the grassroots leadership will emerge with effective, replicable legislative solutions. Second, whether obstructions to an effective national land-use policy will reduce the plausibility of a timely response.

  1. Recently U.S. Congress introduced legislation to require the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) to provide rules for finance disclosures examining climate change impacts. (here) and pubic responses (here). Federal legislation lacks consensus as  law makers remain willing to “wait it out” leaving the hazard guess work to the industries involved.
  2. The Federal Housing Finance Agency also has published a Request for Information for public input on this topic and collected numerous responses (pdf here)
  3. The Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB)(here), is an international consortium of businesses and NGOs, who publish annual guidance on accounting for climate risk in financial statements. The CDSB has yet to establish a “risk-standard” useful for the protection people in flood hazard areas.
  4. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maintains Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) identify Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). SFHAs are into divided into different flood insurance rate zones based on the magnitude of the flood hazard.

Hazard Awareness

While the legislators seek consensus, federal agencies request public input, and the international community struggles to lead, we find FEMA. It is a post-trauma agency. Their maps often are out of date regarding the ongoing production of single-family housing by an average of five years. Why? The maps establish plans for disaster readiness. They have an indirect influence on local land use and zoning policies. In this regard, FEMA estimates that thirteen million people in the United States (2020) — four percent of the population — live in SFHAs, the high flood-risk areas. On the other hand, The National Insurance Journal research identified 29 million flood risk properties outside the official flood zones (here).

About one million single-unit structures are part of the 1.5 million built in the United States each year (pdf here). The demand for housing still connects directly to flood-hazard areas. A mortgage and insurance may not be available; however, development loans will continue based on off-site collateral. The onus of risk by the occupants has accepted policy. What is becoming a concern is due to the growing number of households willing to be a risk yet require a public response.

David Burt is the founder of Delta Terra Capital, a climate risk intelligence agency aimed at institutional investors. In his testimony submitted to the Senate Special Committee on the Climate Crisis (3.20.21), he wrote:

“the damages to residential real estate will be roughly .85% per year, 58% higher than the amount collected by insurers to cover it.”

The risk assessment shared with large investor clients is vastly different than that shared with Joe Public looking for a house. See the deep end data drill down using Freddie Mac STACR 2020-DNA6 Credit Risk Transfer (CRT) securitization. (here).

Get Examples

The following example of the public response to addressing flood-hazard risk involves six watersheds west of the Hudson River in New York State. Funding combining city, state, and federal sources began in 2011 following the flood impact of Hurricane Sandy and more recent impacts such as the extreme rainfall of Hurricane Ida. The NYS watershed environments provide fresh, forest-cleaned water to over twenty million people without filtration. As a result, Flood-hazard analysis and related climate change impacts have become vital to the retention and resilience of this resource.

The Local Flood Analysis Program (LFA) served fourteen municipal areas preparing mitigation plans. The Stream Management Implementation Program (SMIP) examined design/construction activities, regulating implementation through a Local Flood Hazard Mitigation Implementation Program (LFHMIP). While voluntary, the City-Funded Flood Buyout Program (FBO) provides at-risk property holders with eligibility for a FEMA buy-out as well as assistance for those not eligible. In addition, New York implemented two other programs to engage the public and professionals with long-range planning with public funding. These are the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program and the Sustainable Communities Planning Program.

Data is requested on Hazard Assessment, Awareness, and Local Examples and the connection to housing affordability: (initial locational sources in NYS (here).

The White Chair

The White Chair Prompt

The photographer’s relationship to architecture equips us with a possibility — an agreement of care for the immense impact of density on human life.

The artist’s eye on urban density requires an exploration of beauty with the planet in mind. Michael Wolf’s favorite photograph of Hong Kong (here) may not be this landscape from his website homepage. Still, it reveals the opportunity for reflections on intensely urbanized life and the wildness of that white chair. With his help, one can explore a series of graphic landscapes (here) that force quality of life thinking with visceral effect. The sense of humanity in his pictures discovers shades of life’s transparency (here). His portraits reveal the beating heart of society.

Imagine the white chair as an opportunity to gain perspective on the purpose of architecture. What do we reveal if the spread of these apartments became small buildings spread across the hills and valleys below? Is it possible to slip into the ground space among these structures to discover an abundant sense of warmth and protection, art and entertainment, education and training, fresh garden foods, children laughing, the soft bounce of a ball? Are the hallways, corridors, doors, and elevators equally comforting? These questions dismiss judgment of architectural mass for a higher level of contemplation on the quality of dense urban life.

Favela Policy

“The demonizing rhetoric of the various international wars on terrorism, drugs, and crime is so much semantic apartheid: they construct epistemological walls around gecekondusfavelas, and chawls that disable any honest debate about the daily violence of economic exclusion.” 

Mike Davis in Planet of Slums

War has matured from violent mechanization into routine political practices during the last century. All of them are tightly organized into specific spatial groupings. The roots of this application of power are well understood as the feudal, colonial, and postcolonial geographies of domination. The range of its influence on policy today requires revocation for one reason. It is a destroyer of cities. A good place to prove that a repudiation of the favela policy and a positive alternative is possible can be found in the neighborhoods of NYC. The damaging option is the long list of slowly enlarging favelas and poverty-occupied regions across the global city.

Practical perspectives from a progressive city like New York observes its urban world as a global entity. The phrase “core-periphery spatial structures” used to describe this view is academic but valuable when looking at the location of housing development sites that explain the attempt to meet human needs or fail to do so in the urban world.

The persistence of poverty has a place name in every country.

Housing Discussions

The following paragraphs introduce other posts in The Report on the subject of housing. First, it introduces access to resources that examine the world’s “shantytown.” Second, it looks at the failure of the built environment professionals to “step it up.” as leaders. Finally, two other articles focus on the idea of strategic exactions in housing development and the other on the crisis of “rent” in New York City as a bellwether for the nation. So here they are:

The Informals

Like the instruments of war, similar practices in the formation of political structures use spatial organization in a direct attempt to control people as capital. “Informal Settlement” is a standard description for the construction of this capital. It is a phenomenon that is considered an organic condition brought about by a long list of market failures. A short introduction to them will be found (here) for a more intensive global location examination. These are places where subsistence economy suffering is collective, but the observer will also discover many compelling examples of the creative human spirit at its finest. In many cases, the failure to find access to capital flow hierarchies, often identified as the property of the powerful, fails all of us.

Creating a Living Place

A more extensive examination of the causes is placed on the doorstep of the professional facilitators (here). It is not unfair to call out the lack of a professional moral compass among the building investor professions. This failure is not from the viewpoint of individuals but the institutional nucleus of their domains. The membership of the built environment institutions has not been one-tenth as capable of addressing the issues that cause human suffering as those of health and law. There are exceptions that prove efforts to fix this problem, have occurred thru failures. The Report includes a post entitled Brooklyn is Charitable (here). In it, there is a small list of organizations and institutions that are attempting to push and pull urban planning, architecture, and engineering into the world of social and environmental justice.

Strategic Exactions

The introduction of new urban housing and the question of affordability is highly complicated. Will the introduction of a “gentry” encourage the displacement of lower-income who rent? Will higher-income people, regardless of skin color, remain silent in defense of the vulnerable members of a community? A post is entitled “Castling” and examines this medieval structure as a classic metaphor for power. It examines many of the anti-displacement strategies for New York City neighborhoods (here). It also looks at the American urban version of the favela, politely referred to as geographies of the city where “persistent poverty” is the issue. Detailed examination of cause is addressed but awkwardly separated. Finally, this post looks at “exactions” with the name community benefits agreement and ideas about alternatives such as “strategic exactions.”

The Rent Crisis

A detailed look at housing malfunctions is (here). One of the points made in this post is how an organization was founded in 1937. The genius of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council (CHPC) is how the five rooms of an apartment can represent the five costs of development. These are 1) construction, 2) taxes, 3) land, 4) money, and 5) operating costs. CHPC points out that of all five costs, only one has the most significant impact on rent. Answer: the cost of money is the primary factor. Today a change of one percent in the average interest rate from development through permanent financing could alter rents significantly. Attempts to manipulate all of the other costs yield minimal impact on rent.

Freddie Mac estimated at the end of 2020 that the United States was 3.8 million housing units short of meeting the nation’s needs. Combine that with the surge of millennials into the housing market — they represented more than half of all mortgage originations last year — as well as the insatiable appetite of investors, who now snatch up nearly one in six homes sold in America. The contours of a new, lightning-fast, permanently desperate housing market come clearly into view.”

New York Times, 11/12/2021

No Limits Preservation

Review the designation reports and a citywide map of all city landmarks (here).

Report PDF (here)

On September 18, 2007, the school at 2274-86 Church Avenue became a New York City Landmark. The designation report includes “The Town of Flatbush,” “Public Education in Flatbush,” and a description of the campaign to build the now-demolished school. The information also includes a brief biography of the building’s architect John Culyer whose contribution to the development of New York City is unquestioned. That vanished historic structure is in the upper right corner of the map at Church Avenue and Bedford Avenue. Except for the image (above) and the designation report (here), the building became a story, not a place in 2016. Its future as a place that respects the past is now in question.

On March 2, 2016, Sarah Crean wrote its brief epitaph, “Demolished: Landmark Flatbush District #1 School” (here). Although the building lost its structural integrity, the cause of its demolition was a deficiency of interest from potential investors coupled with the lack of initiative by its city government managers.

The Albemarle-Kenmore Terraces Historic District is part of this community’s historical legacy. However, the building loss speaks to what it takes to save a landmark. In late 2021 the construction of Nine DeKalb Avenue (Brooklyn’s First Supertower) neared completion at 73 stories. It will offer over 400 condominium apartments for sale and occupancy in 2022. It seems unlikely that this massive structure would express historic preservation values, but there is a story here.

In 1932, the architects Halsey, McCormack & Helmer designed the hexagonal structure of the original building on the site as a bank. Due mainly to the building’s impressive atrium and the decade in which it is a part, it became a New York City Landmark in 1994. With the permission of the city’s Landmarks Commission, the new architects  (ShoP) integrated the bank into the final design. The initial debate on this development is whether integrating the original design into the building is appropriate.  From an architectural critic’s point of view, it has succeeded.

Nevertheless, from a “development as social change” perspective, the debate could not be more heated or significant. Turn the page.

Rainfall Flooding

“Hurricane Ida devastatingly impacted our area, the urgency to understand this kind of threat and determine the risk it poses became abundantly clear.”

RPA

Use the link below to see a full version of this map and the article. A strategy to protect the community from the likelihood of more intense rainfall is available now. Question the integrity of the E21 Street catch basins due to recent construction. (E21 Post) This is a reasonable first step. Would you explore Portal 311 (here) on this issue?


Source: RPA Measuring Flood Risk in New York City Housing and Basements

About 180,000 small residential buildings in NYC are vulnerable to rainfall flooding – 168,000 have basements, 123,000 below grade. In addition, the community is susceptible to “nuisance flooding,” however, the city’s data is incorrect regarding the “below grade” data.

Issue: The community has been made more vulnerable due to concrete and other material dumping into the catch basins at Kenmore and Albemarle. As the map suggests nuisance and deep flooding surround the historic structures of the community, along with new multi-story construction. An investigation may be needed. Mitigation may be essential. However, AKNA, the school, and whatever the new Church-Bedford site will yield ad “development” would likely be at the lower end of a very long list of remediation actions under the heading of flooding resiliency for this city. Assurances are needed with all new construction.

A 311 Portal is available to call out this problem. A good first step has been to question the data. Note the new build (existing and proposed) is not on the map, and second, call out trouble with the catch basins on the East 21st. Street and wherever you see a problem. I have observed three dumping acts that could have compromised catch basins along E21 Street. They were, 1) during construction of the new building on E. 21st. 2) during construction on Albemarle Terrace and 3) during sidewalk repairs along with the Dutch Reform Church. Only the new E21 construction was reported.

Take a Moment to Examine the Big Picture

Focus on Priorities

Every Problem is a Housing Problem

Providing community-based development organizations (CBDO) with insight into strategies of service for specific client constituencies is a constant challenge. The day-to-day tasks of program leaders and staff engage a variety of pre-determined reasonably funded activities. Executive Directors and program staff involved in social services intake need an analytical agent to help them describe existing conditions that could become critical. Here is an example of how such an assessment could work:

The Furman Center has produced multiple resources on housing issues with statistical evidence by neighborhood, as well as, combinations that reveal a wider spread of city-wide concerns. The array of eviction data from Furman is vast, requiring many hours of review on the predictive, mitigating, and direct service demands possible. The benefit of a summary of these resources is essential. It applies to an organization’s mission, operational issues, strategic outlook, track record on the subject, and the subsequent choice of tactics. A temp with planning research and analysis experience is economical yet strategic in its importance.

The following posts explore approaches to housing issues.

The overall distribution has remained roughly unchanged since 2016, as the order of the top five and composition of the top ten remained the same. The map above illustrates the concentration of high average property tax bills in the Northeast. In contrast, southern states (with the exception of Texas) boast some of the lowest RET bills for their resident homeowners. See post below.

Power is in the hand of the governed.

Housing Economics

Even Texas, the state that added the most housing units, showed decreases in more than half (52.4%) of its counties — reflecting the concentration of housing unit growth in larger metropolitan counties, with declines more common in smaller non-metropolitan counties.

Spend some time looking through the 2020 Population and Housing State Data. The priority within the Bureau will remain in this area as it will direct the addition and subtraction of political representatives. The increase in metropolitan county density in states like Texas will reveal housing as a massive engine for growth. The lack of criticism for the quality of place-making should be observed very carefully as 2020 data rolls on to the nation’s micro-marketing platforms.

For example, criticism for using an archetypal housing structure (below) is warranted. The data on how housing production produces jobs and supports industries is important. That the data also reveals a metropolitan shift across the country is more so. The focus on jobs and industry is useful. however, the design of the new and restored communities is how lasting value is established in the new world of climate change roulette. Revealing the preference for the areas of the country that are becoming increasingly wet or dry under rapidly changing barometric domes of atmospheric heat threatens these gains. A shift in focus away from individual structures to the way entire communities produce jobs, support industries, and remain resilient is the core challenge.

In this context, the vast wealth of American households is generated by where Americans want to live or are forced to live. This is followed by the type of structure available and the cost of acquisition. The result remains a choice limited by income and the transfer of equity from one generation to the next. Thousands of other factors are involved, all of them well documented. The issue remains the general unwillingness to build a different society.

A national policy regarding the location of home equity is strengthened by a metropolitan strategy where inclusion is sustained as a high priority. The urbanization of the New York and Houston metro areas presents an important basis for comparing land-use policies that yield the greatest benefit. One example built into the libertarian argument of Texas where the idea of historic preservation was attacked by a lawsuit suggesting it violated the city’s “no zoning” rules –turning that city into a sprawling megalopolis of virtually uncontrolled land uses (here).

The numeric change at the state measure is vast, while the metro comparisons are statistically similar. The opportunity to understand metropolitan development in the context of climate change and resilience, public cost, and private benefit will be found in these two dynamic housing environments.

State and Core Based Statistical Areas

New York State
Population Density (2020): 428.7 people per square mile
Total population (2020): 20,201,249
Total population (2010): 19,378,102
Numeric change (2010–2020): 823,147
Percent change (2010–2020): 4.2

New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metro Area
Total population (2020): 20,140,470
Total population (2010): 18,897,109
Numeric change (2010–2020): 1,243,361
Percent change (2010–2020): 6.6

Texas
Population Density (2020): 111.6 people per square mile
Total population (2020): 29,145,505
Total population (2010): 25,145,561
Numeric change (2010–2020): 3,999,944
Percent change (2010–2020): 15.9

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX Metro Area
Total population (2020): 7,122,240
Total population (2010): 5,920,416
Numeric change (2010–2020): 1,201,824
Percent change (2010–2020): 20.3

Thanks! I ripped this one into text like a bandage, and fixed most of it, but thanks again.

The Climate Requirement (II)

The current public investment scheme is labeled the American Jobs Plan (here). A primary purpose of jobs through the proposed infrastructure framework is a contract to build or rebuild something. But, unfortunately, what Congress has written is a catalog of pointlessness entitled “The Same Old Story.”

Every urban planner and economist must recognize this public investment proposal as a misallocation disaster. An effective plan for jobs that includes resilience must include unbuilding. Without a deconstruction approach, the commission to ‘build back better” is a vulnerable policy offering little more than sustainable corruption. The single reason for this is not merely old story politics. It is the ridiculous relic of state boundaries represented.

The Infrastructure Framework establishes a bias towards known projects like roads and bridges because they are profitable for the builders. The environmental benefits are, at best, arguable. At worst, an acceptance that nothing changes but the slices of bacon. Positive results require decades to measure, not terms of office. The addition of jobs will be meaningless if the same world is rebuilt for future generations. The serious problem is not choosing new things to do but stopping what we have done.  Here is an example.

Sources of U.S. Electricity Generation – 2020

Based on 4.12 trillion kilowatt-hours in 2020

Electric vehicles will run on coal and gas. Not including nuclear power, fifty-nine percent of the electricity generated for electric vehicles is from fossil fuel. Add a source of dangerous radiation, and the percentage rises to 79%. However, two positive factors are possible.  The first is a centralized source of production capable of a conversion to clean sources. The second is revealed in the basic lessons learned by making room for human-powered vehicles.

The Alternatives are Coming

A straightforward, low-cost green infrastructure policy would be to re-imagine and re-invest in existing rights of way through deconstruction alongside effective investments in social change. For example, the goal demanded by the Climate Requirement (here) is to create fast, efficient mobility services to high-value locations. Its achievement is fueled by investing in infrastructure that leads to social change. The foundation that will help demand this kind of investment is to confirm an inherent human right to the freedom of movement. The objective to prove progress in achieving this goal is to provide more choices in ways to move.

Planners and economists recognize the high value of places created by service concentrations in dense urban settings. For instance, technological cultures, university campuses, health facilities, and business hubs serve large regions with highly prized specializations. In addition, the economic demand for these goods and services is strong enough to produce transit centers linking multiple forms of movement. An effective green plan would recognize the high value of city-center to city-center mobility by recognizing well-established competitive differences. The problem is identifying the high cost of free parking due to the sheer expense of dependence.

The “center-to-center” specializations are not limited to dense urban settings offering high-value services. Effectively re-imagined, a similar place to place destination service could include access to a world of forest trails, lakes, and natural environments. Trips lasting hours, days, or weeks for recreation provide the nourishment that only large open spaces can provide when untouched by private vehicles.

Making it Persuasive

  • Creating fast, efficient mobility services to high-value locations provides for the management of human environmental impacts. But, more importantly, managing that investment includes where public funds are not allowed. Examples are along river basins and their flood plains, green fields used for food production, forest and wildlife habitats, even the simple pleasure clean natural sources of water.
  • The USA benefits from biodiversity. However, infrastructure is the primary driver of habitat destruction. To reduce conflict, a creative, re-crafting of American transportation is far more than saving a species of butterfly. It is about bringing lives of quality to future generations who will meet the challenge of living in new ways.
  • The builders of structures in low-density environments between city centers will recognize a significant center-to-center investment policy as a threat. For example, there are fifteen transit-linked places between Boston and New York. A federal, regionally structured infrastructure strategy will offer “as is above, as is below” resources designed to produce fast, efficient transit services within these sub-regional centers.
  • High-speed linkages between NYC, Boston, Newark, Washington DC, and Philadephia have similar links. A stop at Newark could have the same connections planned for communities throughout N.J.  Transit sizing existing roadways would link an range of neighborhood downtowns where the same degree of specialization could occur between small businesses, local cultural offerings along the shore, and into the hills of the Garden State.
  • Supply-side incentives and demand-side subsidies would illustrate how to increase value by undoing a long list of practices that will weaken reinvestment in the decades ahead. The policy does not threaten low-densities, it produces a powerful center-to-center alternative.
Amtrak’s Proposed Northeast Corridor NextGen High-Speed Rail Lines in 2040

The basic transit example is an undoing of single-purpose roadways designed to serve everything everywhere using cars and trucks. Instead, a federally led regional infrastructure plan offers a competitive alternative.

The stylized map above shows comfortable high-speed rail through the region. A similar approach can produce clean energy, water, and fresh food. It does not directly undo what is being done, but it establishes a competitively new way to Transit-based living with a few practical examples. Yet, without a national policy, that is all they will become. Creating more center-to-center choices utilizing the well-understood functions of regions can sustain the quiet life of low-density neighborhoods while providing unlimited opportunities for growth through density.

Deep-End

The reshaping of the urban landscape is a high priority. Therefore, it should not be surprising that organizations focused on changing will come from Infrastructure.org for a complete review of everything capable of changing the roadway. You can find insight into a simple question: Will the infrastructure bill 2021 make my subway/train service better? This article from a transit specialist in Portland, OR will show you how very hard that will be to discover (here). Or from Streetsblog.org this comic gem on the deep-end mess of the car culture. Voting is closed, but have a look (hither).

The transformation of roadways into multiple vehicle service corridors began in post-war Europe.  The fastest way to establish a sense of this right-of-way change is by watching three short videos on how the bicycle transformed three cities. Next, I included a look at the deep end involving hundreds of other vehicles. Finally, I selected a few to examine the potential of small vehicles in dense urban settings.

Amsterdam

Groningen

Utrecht

Other Payload Alternatives

Citroen Ami 

Renault Twizy

Point A to B

All of them demand smooth roads. More data on the long-term savings accused to their management and maintenance. Stumble through the following. Somewhere, there must be a thread of principle in the following:

The Climate Requirement I

Dr. Christopher Jones is a Professor at UC Berkeley and the Director of the CoolClimate Network. Like many who have examined the climate crisis thoroughly, he has told everyone the truth. The problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand. In other words, we know what to do. However, a more useful definition of the problem is to find out why global implementation will not occur.

The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.

EPA

After a half-century of work by esteemed scientists, the paradox of self-interest continues to allow for thousands of successful micro-projects to be funded. Yet, at the same time, the implementors consistently agree to a global failure. Despite tangible micro-efforts and these life-affirming successes, it seems the global breakdown is not regulatory, nor is it architectural or engineering. It is not due to the inadequate investment in technology or the lack of enforcement. The truth is far more fundamental.  Members of the fossil fuel industry passively accept a different path regarding global action on climate change. They will play the barometric-bomb game on a rapidly spinning climate roulette wheel. This is a strategic business decision well outside of tactical public controls. Perhaps a nonstrategic approach is an essential complement to the required response of science. After all, since the very first crack of lightning threw Homo sapiens to the ground, wind, rain, and thunder have been numinously controlling.

Now that sustainability is lost, what is being done? First, the psychology of resilience is supported as a hedge on all standing and proposed assets. Second, four business drivers provide an evaluative framework for daily decisions. These monitor 1) regulatory changes, 2) litigation trends, 3) technological transformations, and 4) specified barriers linked to market operations associated with climate change. Third, these steps involve advanced practices associated with the large businesses undergoing consolidation against significant dislocation threats and climate risk. The top example involves the operations of 20 fossil fuel companies linked to a third of all GHG emissions in the modern era. With precise data, the mysterious Doppelgänger of Climate Change is presented. The climate requirement is to grapple with this knowledge. We are not in the presence of weather as an expression of divinity – it’s twenty fuel companies.

Fingers and Toes Solution

A fingers-and-toes acquisition is available to reset reinvestment patterns to 100% clean energy. This is not a radical step. According to Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute, as reported by Matthew Taylor and Jonathan Watts for The Guardian, twelve of the 20 companies are state-owned. Climate accountability is possible because the problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand.

Actual climate impact costs are embedded in evasion processes. They are challenging to discuss openly due to the presumption of confidential business information and its exposure. The solution at hand is an eminent domain style acquisition of the industry. Acquiring one-third of the industry would eliminate the complaint of unstandardized metrics within and across GHG-producing fossil fuel industries. The global acquisition resolves the data obfuscation problem and reduces portfolio risk factors associated with environmental and social issues. A global taking of just one-third of the industry is possible as mitigation today, as it is inevitable and dispositive. The requirement is to force recognition of three facts. The problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand.

Fingers

The global and national policy framework states all people live with risk. That policy includes recognizing a scale that exhibits risk levels by location, occupation, socioeconomic conditions, and many other factors. This, too, is an evasion process. The actuarial tables are available to anyone capable of conducting a premium price check by zip code. In a grueling process, a team of public-interest research individuals can work with web-crawling sites such as Policy Genius to analyze sophisticated pricing that obscures the public cost.

Toes

The American Risk and Insurance Association (ARIA) is a worldwide group of leaders in insurance risk management. Reading the “walking papers” of the two presenters tells a story between the lines in their 2019 Annual Meeting presentation entitled: Rethinking Risk and Resiliency (here). Large swaths of the country are not hazard insured. FEMA, the national guard, and other public entities are the single-payer in this system. The federal and state agencies are the ones who will be called to that number on the roulette wheel in response to a hazard. In all cases, the response will be too little, post-trauma, neatly administered under the Grace of God policy banner regarding your place on the climate change roulette wheel.

Solution

Once again, the problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand when research (here) proves that 20 fossil fuel companies account for 480 billion tons of GHGs, representing 35% of carbon emissions since 1965. Yet, as the climate continues to collapse, the current policy allows individuals to perish alone in that notch on the roulette wheel. Next, it will be whole neighborhoods and island nations. It is a trend. Searching for research papers on the subject reveals how and why public policy is weak. One of those papers will be found here.

The climate requirement is clear. Conduct an appropriate remix on the mathematic and the mysterious. Some insight into the remix issue is (here). It is an examination concerning how people live is about where they live. Added motivation on this point is (here) on the issue of fire and the stumbling leadership in architecture (here) that includes a modest pitch for hope from Peter Calthorpe.

On the other hand, this new assignment has aimed at the writers, videographers, policy wonks, and strong modern activists regarding the existential crisis handed to succeeding generations. Thank all of you for sharing (here).

Fire

“Bring Your Own Brigade” HERE

Lucy Walker captures the horror of California wildfires and explores the “global fire crisis” in a CBSN two-hour documentary.


After the first hour, the horror of fire is well established. Then another source of horror in the documentary begins. Reconstruction with the presumption of resilience with new re-building standards accompanied by comprehensive resistance to all forms of mitigation. Only the fire is permanent. Everything else can be taken to ash.

Embers function like a virus.


Destruction produces an unusual libertarian contract that Ms. Walker describes as a form of “self-immolation under the mantra of personal freedom,” Her European values are carried in no small part due to two horrifying wars of fire. This American reaction made her California experience seem “insurmountably foreign.”

Last word. The Westcoast fires may seem insurmountably foreign in the Northeast as well, but it is not.

Megawatts for Megabytes

“New Yorkers, if the ride isn’t killing us; the megabytes might.”

These three books are among many that challenge our understanding of the world and the sense of place that we need. Builders still hope for a complete urban place, but face terrifying possibilities of failure. The cause of the troubles that David, Peter, and Charles attempt to define have one thing in common — the megawatts we want for megabytes? It is a conundrum – it is both the solution and the problem.

The megawatts needed for megabytes could become a serious source of Green House Gas (GHG). Wally Broeker would know. He is the Columbia University chemist who coined the phrase “global warming.”

“The climate system is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks.”

Wally Broecker (here)

God rest his soul. There is the more optimistic Peter Brannen’s, The Ends of the World: (Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions) who says,

“Life on earth constitutes a remarkably thin glaze of interesting chemistry on an otherwise unremarkable, cooling ball of stone, hovering like a sand grain in an endless ocean of space.”  

He was an optimist about life, not humans.

The consciousness-raising chronology of Earth Day 1963 to the recent present (here) began with Earth-rise — the Apollo 11 photo of the earth from the moon. Earth Day reminds us that our sense of place today is about a tiny cooling 4.5 billion-year-old rock. Our sense of time on this rock has become the last few “seconds” on a geological clock. The place and time of the earth are now defined by the warming of that glaze of chemistry we call air. To change that from the negative it appears to be today to a positive in the future would be a first in all these billions of years. There is nothing like a “first” to get humans interested in change.

The density of urban life lowers energy costs per capita, and the energy systems put in place will become containable and capable of 100% GHG capture as renewable sources bring increasing promise. Nevertheless, the world of 5G energy includes acknowledging the cost goes up to 1,000 times. Energy is a design problem in energy use, and solutions are evident when the dense urban world is measured separately. This simple step of separation puts a significant portion of the world on a renewable, reinvestment, and resilient path. It sets up good examples for replication. An excerpt, from “Density,” describes growing recognition of the earth as a whole due to the Apollo photographs (here).

Concerns over energy efficiency are occurring in conferences about 5G deployments, and methods for reducing energy consumption have begun, only after the facts. Even the political forces surrounding net neutrality are those that seek to create price structures connected to solving this problem, but there are no laws on the subject. It therefore slumps into the demand for resetting priority. The most well known is the call to eliminate the rank unfairness in the world’s social structures defined by the newest indicator of stress. That would be access to data and the capacity to share our common problems.

In brief, it is possible to recognize devices whose energy consumption scales with traffic, and devices (including the end accessories) measuring energy intensity in energy per data and in energy per time (i.e., power only) as load. An electrical load is carried by a component that consumes electricity.  Internet energy intensity (energy consumption per data transferred) have estimates differing from 136 kWh/GB (Koomey et al., 2004 – here) down to 0.0064 kWh/GB (Baliga et al.,2011 – here), a factor of 20,000.

Reviewing this literature through 2020 is similar to the tobacco lobby talking to Congress, the discussion is different, but the addiction is similar. Finally, it is in the Uninhabitable Earth that David Wallace-Wells says we have assembled, “out of distrust of one another and the nations behind the ‘fiat currencies’, a program to wipe out the gains of several long, hard generations of green energy innovations.” He was talking about the immense energy requirement world is demanding from the full implementation of 5G to the operation of electric vehicles. We are addicted, but as full implementation is likely by 2050 the world can read about 200 million climate refugees at 20 Gig per second or more. Silly, are we not?

Income <=>

Obama defines the problem extremely well.

He actually answers the question about how and why we are in this fix.

This one looks at implementing a political agenda to reverse the trend where self-interest economics has lost its ability to reinvest. This is thirty minutes on the growing demand from the ordinary person for progressive solutions. The business community had better get involved.

EPA Saved Cities

11 Ways the EPA Has Helped Americans

March 17, 2017 by

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

The budget proposal Donald Trump’s administration announced yesterday will slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding by nearly a third, crippling an agency that has played a key — but often unnoticed — role in American life for nearly a half-century.

The main target of the president’s ire seems to be the agency’s programs that address climate change. “We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at a press conference. But cuts so large won’t just affect climate change-related programs — they will trickle down, affecting all of the agency’s work and the state environmental protection offices it supports.

Even Scott Pruitt, Trump’s climate science-denying EPA administrator, seems to feel Trump’s cuts go too far. When an initial budget proposal surfaced slashing the EPA’s funding from $8.2 billion to $6 billion, Pruitt expressed concern about the effect a reduced budget would have on programs aimed at cleaning up and repurposing toxic and polluted sites, a function of the agency that he supports. The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush and Coral Davenport report that Pruitt lobbied Trump to rethink the cuts, but his appeal, apparently, didn’t work: Trump’s finalized budget flouts his EPA administrator’s wishes by calling for even deeper cuts than initially proposed, slashing the agency’s budget to about $5.7 billion.

That budget isn’t final. It will still have to get through a Congress where even Republicans who have staunchly opposed the agency in the past are worried about what the funding cuts will mean for their districts. So, given that some in Congress might be deciding if and when to take a stand, we thought it would be a good time to take a look back at some of what the EPA has accomplished over the last 46 years since Richard Nixon signed an executive order in 1970 bringing the agency into existence. These successes were, almost unanimously, won despite the strenuous and well-financed objections of recalcitrant polluters, and are, almost unanimously, now taken for granted.

1. Patching the Ozone Hole

Remember the ozone hole? We don’t really either. But ozone concerns were front-and-center in the ‘80s when, frighteningly, scientists discovered that pollution was causing the part of the upper atmosphere that protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation to deteriorate. The issue came to a head when, in 1985, British scientists announced that an expanding hole had formed in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

The president at the time was Ronald Reagan, a zealous proponent of deregulation who did not seem to have strong feelings about environmental protection. But he surprised his advisers by vigorously backing the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty between 197 nations that banned chlorofluorocarbons, a chemical that was used as a refrigerant and was also found aerosol sprays, and was to blame for the hole. (Why did Reagan take up the cause? No one is quite sure. One theory is that Reagan’s own experience with skin cancer made him particularly sensitive to the topic.)

Once the Montreal Protocol was signed, Congress amended the Clean Air Act to give the EPA the power to enforce a ban on chlorofluorocarbons and protect the ozone layer. The agency’s success in doing so, along with the efforts of environmental regulators worldwide, helped the hole begin to repair itself — and also, it turns out, lessened climate change. Though scientists didn’t realize it at the time, chlorofluorocarbons contribute to global warming. If not for the Montreal Protocol, climate change’s effects might be twice as bad.

2. Cleaning up America’s Harbors

When the EPA was created in 1970, the water around America’s cities was in a notably different state than it is today. Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River was, famously, so thick with combustible industrial chemicals that it often caught fire. Manhattan was dumping some 150 million gallons of raw sewage into the Hudson River each day. Around the same time, a failing wastewater treatment plant in Boston was also spitting out huge amounts of sludge, leading health officials to warn that anyone who fell into Boston’s Charles River or the harbor it emptied into should go immediately to the hospital to be assessed by a doctor.

It was the EPA’s job to deal with these problems. The Clean Water Act of 1972 charged the agency with cleaning up America’s waters, and provided billions of dollars to do so. Among other responsibilities, the EPA was tasked with laying down minimum standards for wastewater treatment before cities could release it. The EPA was also responsible for regulating city sewer systems so they didn’t overflow, spilling sewage into the streets during heavy rains.

This made a big difference in America’s cities. New York brought a large, new sewage treatment plant online in 1986, solving Manhattan’s dumping problem. In Boston, a series of lawsuits prompted federal action. “Secondary treatment of sewage is a national standard, which means no more Boston Harbors,” said Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell, who, as a former commissioner of Massachusetts’s Department of Environmental Protection, worked hand-in-hand with the EPA to clean up the water around the city. Boston Harbor is now one of the cleanest in the country.

3. Cracking Down on Lead

For years, industrial players who used lead fought regulation, with disastrous effects for Americans. A 1985 EPA study estimated that as many as 5,000 people died each year from lead-related heart disease. Tackling lead poisoning was one of the agency’s founding agenda items, and it did so over strenuous objections from the industries that put it in their products. The metal is now virtually illegal, leading to dramatic improvements in public health.

Legislation in the 1970s effectively banned lead from paint, and a 1985 EPA order required that the amount of lead in gasoline be cut by 90 percent by the following year. Five years later, a 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act demanded that lead be completely removed from gasoline by 1995. The EPA also reduced the amount of lead that could be emitted by smelters, mines and other industrial operations, leading to an 85 percent decrease in the amount of airborne lead pollution between 1990 and 2015.

The effort, of course, was imperfect. A December 2016 Reuters report following Flint, Michigan’s lead crisis found 1,100 areas around the country where lead levels were regularly four times what they were at the peak of Flint’s contamination. Many, like Flint, were in poor regions neglected by state and federal policymakers. Unlike other toxic chemicals, lead does not break down over time. But the agency’s efforts did have an enormous effect. A 2002 study found that the level of lead in young children’s blood fell by more than 80 percent from 1976 to 1999, and that IQs increased as a result.

4. Making the Air Safe to Breathe

The agency also cracked down on other forms of air pollution, leading to a decrease in particulate matter and chemicals in the air that cause asthma. Their efforts meant a visible decrease in the smog that often choked cities in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

To do this, the agency cracked down on vehicle emissions and the pollutants coming from the smokestacks of factories and power plants. As the number of miles Americans travel per year has steadily climbed and the amount of power Americans consume has grown, emissions have fallen.

That saved hundreds of thousands of lives per year, and meant millions fewer cases of asthma and respiratory diseases. According to a peer-reviewed EPA study, these regulations in particular meant 165,000 fewer deaths per year in 2010 than in 1990 and 1.7 million fewer cases of asthma. One recent study found that, thanks to these air pollution controls, children in Southern California have lungs that are 10 percent larger and stronger than children’s lungs were 20 years ago.

5. Cleaning Up Industrialism’s Legacy

Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, residents of Love Canal, New York noticed an odd smell coming from the 99th Street School. And they noticed that odd things were happening too: Childrens’ sneakers melted to the pavement; dogs burned their nose when they sniffed it. Turns out, the school was built on top of a toxic waste dump. The “canal” for which the town is named was filled with toxic waste by the Hooker Chemical Company for three decades — 22,000 tons in all — before, in 1955, the area was paved over and a school was built on top of it. The chemical company had sold the property to the city for $1 — part of the deal, the “Hooker clause,” was that the company would not be liable if anyone got sick or died in the school.

When residents of Love Canal uncovered this sordid history, it provoked national outrage. Efforts to regulate toxic chemicals had already been in the works — in 1976, Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act as part of an effort to respond to concerns about illegal, toxic dumping, and the Toxic Substances Control Act, which gave the EPA the authority to protect public health by regulating toxic chemicals. But in 1980, largely in response to Love Canal and other toxic disasters that garnered headlines, Congress established a program to make use of a “superfund” that would clean up America’s most toxic places, and throughout the ’80s the EPA put the money to work, cleaning up heavily polluted sites from landfills to oil spills, factory fires to sludge pits, throughout the US. A program for less-urgent but still important cases, the Brownfields Program, was launched in 1995, tasked with cleaning up sites where contamination was an impediment to putting a vacant property to better use.

These programs, taken together, amounted to a formalized, government-supported environmental justice initiative, improving toxic sites that were unjustly distributed across America’s poor and minority neighborhoods. But, in recent years, shrinking appropriations from congress have slowed cleanup efforts.

6. Making Water Safe to Drink

In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, giving the EPA the ability to regulate the water that came out of Americans’ taps. The agency ended up banning more than 90 contaminants from the water supply and cracking down on companies whose business practices poisoned Americans.

The EPA also issues “revolving funds” to communities to for improvements to the infrastructure that brings water to homes and to water supplies.

7. Controlling Pesticides

The EPA has also played a role in regulating pesticides, which helps keep our food safe. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, a law that dates back to the Progressive Era, was put under EPA’s responsibility in 1972.

One of the agency’s first acts was to ban DDT, a pesticide that first came into use in the 1940s but poisoned wildlife and humans as well as bugs. The chemical’s effects were, famously, documented in Rachel Carson’s 1962 New Yorker serial Silent Spring, but the chemical industry, lead by Monsanto, fought bitterly to keep it in use. The EPA’s decision to ban it was a major environmental victory.

8. Attacking Acid Rain

We heard a lot about acid rain in the ’90s but don’t so much anymore. Congress took up the issue in 1990 — George H.W. Bush had, in fact, campaigned on addressing it. Despite opposition from electric utilities, Congress passed an amendment to the Clean Air Act so that the EPA could regulate the chemicals that were to blame: sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

It worked. “Despite the doomsday warnings from some in the power industry that the regulations would cause electricity prices to spike and lead to blackouts, over the last 25 years, acid rain levels are down 60 percent — while electricity prices have stayed stable, and the lights have stayed on,” former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote in 2015.

9. Paving the Way for Indoor Smoking Bans

Back in 1993, the EPA, in response to overwhelming research, classified secondhand smoke as a pollutant likely to cause cancer. At the time, this position was braver than it might seem today. Tobacco companies had waged a multidecade-long campaign to keep Americans smoking by questioning the link between cigarettes and cancer, even going so far as to suppress their own internal research that indicated otherwise.

The following year, tobacco CEOs admitted in testimony before Congress that cigarettes were dangerous, though their lobbying efforts against regulation would continue for years (a PR effort spearheaded by, among others, Myron Ebell, who resurfaced on Trump’s EPA transition team). But the EPA’s decision prompted a wave of city- and statewide indoor smoking bans; the majority of states now have them in place. And in the decade and a half following the EPA classification, the number of Americans who smoke — and, in particular, the number of high school-aged Americans who smoke — decreased dramatically.

10. Building a Cache of Public Data

One of the EPA’s greatest resources is the vast supply of information it has collected over four decades, some of which is available to the public through the internet. This data provides excellent documentation of the threat posed by climate change, but it isn’t limited to that. Spread across dozens of databases, the numbers include such information as the chemical compositions of various toxic pollutants and the locations in the US that those pollutants affect. The databases document the trends in air and water pollution, acid rain and the health of beaches and watersheds. It tracks which companies have been inspected and cited for enforcement.

Scientists are worried about the fate of this data under Trump, and have been scrambling to preserve it. “There is no reason to think the data is safe,” Gretchen Goldman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, recently told The Guardian. “The administration, so far, hasn’t given any indication it will respect science and scientific data, especially when it’s inconvenient to its policy agendas.”

11. Beginning to Address Climate Change

The US government’s effort to address the greatest climate threat to face the modern world will — at least for the time being — be cut short. But during Barack Obama’s second term, the EPA began the work of figuring out what serious US efforts to address climate change would look like. In the face of an intransigent Congress, Obama ordered the agency to take the lead, and under Administrator Gina McCarthy it did, drawing up plans to, among other things, raise the number of miles per gallon gas vehicles were required to achieve and to cut pollution from US power plants.

Both of those initiatives will be tossed out by the Trump administration. While they were on the books, they were enough of an indication of America’s commitment to dealing with the climate crisis that other large polluting nations — notably China — came to the negotiating table in good faith. That lead to the Paris Agreement, a pact that the US looks likely to either pull out of or ignore, but that the world appears likely to continue to uphold without us.

The Vehicular Pedestrian

Making way for the Vehicular Pedestrian will be more than a critical mass issue due to significant changes in dense urban land use and dimly recognized design problem that must be solved. As a result,  Personal Urban Mobility Assistants (PUMA) and power assist vehicles (HPV) will begin to reshape urban design decisions the hard way. Unfortunately, the city remains poorly prepared for this change.

For some time, the rule demanding the separation of vehicular and pedestrian traffic has required extensive revision.  The reason is the emergence of the “vehicular pedestrian”  in small, lightweight vehicles. As they continue to arrive on the roads far more quickly than the current supply of re-designed or de-vernacularized roads can manage, trouble is inevitable. Moreover, HPVs and PUMAs are ecologically appropriate and efficient for urban use yet confront a dangerous interface with the American fascination with the truck chassis beneath a sports utility vehicle.

HPVs and PUMAs are well-known as bicycles, in-line tandems, and power-chairs. They now include power assist recumbent, side-by-side tricycles, and standing boards.  These and many others fly along the roads with impressive power and speed.  All are causing urban designers to examine a brand new set of “right-of-way” challenges. Regrettably, they are not successfully awakening the need for lawmakers to pave the way. Transit leadership has responded with paint for lanes, moved auto parking a bike lane away from the curb, and posted “share the road” signs. The campaign has included not-so-subtle reminders on bus ads that tell you that it is a felony to knock a person of a bicycle. If the speed is over 30mph, the rider’s death is more likely. Finally, NYC took a “Vision Zero” view of NYC’s speed, lowered the limit to 30mph and then to 25mph, and added speed cameras with priority placements near public schools.

Only a tiny part of the regulatory way is established in the American Disabilities Act (ADA).  Practical, if not elegant, design solutions serve physically disabled travel on pedestrian routes and “low-speed roadways” where various wheeled “cart” vehicles are available.  Use does not require registration or licensed use. Still, much is unclear about proceeding from this modest standard of care framed by the ADA.  These design solutions have made it easier, but the problem remains well beyond improving access. New forms of mobility will completely reshape the way we live in cities with more ways to move to get things done as individuals, families, and businesses.

New forms of mobility will completely
reshape the way we live in cities.

The mobile web is built on mobile devices with processors running on faster networks that access cloud services described in thousands of publications entitled the internet of things (IoT).  The two most common outside of the home, the smartphone and personal vehicles. 

The Mobile Web

The mobile web changes everything. Finding your way, the acquisition of connected things nearby translates into dramatic changes in business technology toward user-centered design in the context of every possible use.

For decades, development practices and residential investment behaviors have produced what the planners, urban designers, and architects often refer to as “non-place” landscapes.  They are deeply intertwined with the public’s demand for personalized transport – a car. 

These vehicles offer multiple destination flexibility, abundant storage, and varying levels of self-expression, from practical to exuberant.  With this as a given, it is logical to seek ways to encourage movement from a school campus to a train station, hospital or shopping district by other means such as walking or cycling. The destination should determine the choice of vehicle if the option was available.  To do that requires an improvement in public policy on mobility systems driven by the mobile web.

Vehicular Diversity

Vehicular diversity is controlled by the pathway offered. The vehicle is of little use without a public right of way. The power to alter it should be shared equitably, but it is not.

The planning and urban design approach involve partially or completely de-vehicularized roads or routes that add alternative vehicular capacity.  This dual approach is gaining added attention for two key reasons.  First, it serves public safety due to the increase in human-powered-assist vehicles (HPVs).  Second, mass transit can accommodate the addition HPVs. They are as benign as folding bicycles or power boards, but it stops there.  Therefore, the problem includes encouraging the routine use of HPVs as life-affirming, turf-sharing, circulation, and vehicular portage.

The demand for HPV route designs is significant. So much so that the lack of “parade” permits has been used to prevent “future now” or “critical mass” expressions by cycling interests eager to demonstrate for added safety.  The image below is drawn from a Community Design Center in Arkansas (see website: here). 

The Yellow Brick Road in Arkansas

The “mall culture’s” unintended social and environmental consequences reveal opportunities to expanding access to destinations that increase urban development and density. The demand for transportation options between “big box” retail exposes mass parking lots as “ex post facto” land uses.

Perhaps the most visible choice of personalized vehicle is the fully-powered Segway and competitors serving security at the “mall.” At this point, they are classified as neither a motor vehicle nor a consumer product. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a preliminary opinion that they should be considered a “consumer product.” Therefore, they remain unregulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This designation will change as more personal mobility devices become common due to necessity.

The initial result driving the change envisioned in Arkansas was market-driven regulation arising at the state level to protect citizens.

  • Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation allowing the use of Segways.
  • Five states (CO, CT, MA, ND, and WY) have no legislation permitting the use of Segways.
  • Two states (AR and KY) have no statewide prohibitions against Segways, but local regulations may exist.

Choices that do not require new regulations or added government oversight are broadening rapidly in the HPV/PUMA business in general, thanks to the aggressive marketing efforts of Segway. The range of vehicles entering the market is, in fact, staggering.  A review of what Segway and others are launching is aggressive, only hampered by the CPSC list of recalls. The NHTSA’s focus on adding automobile connectivity can reduce collisions, but the NHTSA has yet to focus on alternative vehicles. The following runs through a brief search of what’s “out there.”  The short answer is not much.  Not yet.

The B-cycle has gone electric in its locations, the Citibank’s bike has captured NYC and remains human powered.

The B-cycle offers a “what if” link that is based on zip codes.  At one time, a researcher could experience a marketing effort for New York City. Put zip-11368 on the website, and you are asked if you want Flushing or Corona, Queens.  Choose Flushing, and the program tells the reader is in an area with just over 1 million people that could use about 380 bike stations and nearly 5,000 bikes.  It suggests that if just 10% of residents participated for just 30 miles per year, the following dramatic results would occur. 

The vehicle miles traveled would be some 3.5 million.  This translates to reducing carbon emissions by about 1,700 tons; it would save over 170,000 gallons of gas and produce $2 million in savings for other expenditures.  In addition, the use of an HPV would help reduce traffic by over 100,000 cars, and the users would burn around 162 million calories or the equivalent of 47,000 pounds lost or 0.403 pounds per cyclist.

This particular “bike-share” idea is a partnership of three industries. Humana. Trek Bicycle Corporation and Crispin Porter + Bogusky.   A health services corporation and a bicycle manufacturer combined resources on the bet that people are looking for new ways to move around their city. However, people are being motivated by the vague influence of climate change data, the addition of health providers, transit planners, and urban designers are seeing an opportunity to make the roads human again.

Market-Driven Change Failed

The big boys on the block all also have their ad-eye on the advancement of HPVs.  These companies are directly tied to selling more stuff in more ways than ever with ads called faces.  HPV stations and bus shelters meant getting faces on more places as close to eye level as possible. When web-connected, each face could project the newest stuff, like rain gear that enhances the joy of a wet bike ride.

Cemusa, Clear Channel and Decaux

JC Decaux reported over $5,000,000 in losses related to its Paris bike-share fleet over eighteen months.  Some have suggested this is a negotiating ploy for aid from local governments eager to earn green points.  Another leading company the expressed an early interest in the bike-share field is Clear Chanel.  In the mid-1970s, this industry claimed a significant share of New York City’s public space.  At the time the New York was in a recession and severe financial crisis.  They offered a share of ad revenue from “faces” on bus shelters that Clear Channel would provide and maintain.  Unfortunately, their shelter design and management solution proved to be a failure on many levels.  Cemusa has recently taken the NYC market share with a bus shelter and/or newsstand upgrade and new technology. They are also interested in the placement of bike-share kiosks or stations as sites for ad space.

Opinions, from the average person to the head of the Federal Reserve, the more stuff we buy, the better off we will all be, except for the contradiction that over the long term, this is not possible.   Confronting inherent contradictions in wealthy society is difficult. Exponential growth cannot go on forever in a finite world that demands adherence to sustainability principles. Those who promote the idea of exponential growth are either quite mad or economists, as Kenneth Boulding once noted.  But, it was Marshal McLuhan that reminded us that only the little secrets are protected. The massive ones are kept secret by our own incredulity. The one we live with now is that our economic system must fit itself into the ecological system.

Yes, buying more and more stuff may not be good, yet reversing life to spiritual self-fulfillment, is not as easy as riding a bike. Does it come down to something as simple as an HPV and the new kinds of urban environments they would shape?  It is not about more stuff but choosing more rightly in a newly designed “waste nothing” world.  Therein lies the classic contradiction when company sponsors use bikes to encourage consumption. An HPV minimizes consumption to maximize rider well-being—leadership in advancing the law on landscapes for public health and safety is needed. The investment compromise is obvious, and it is possible to list where ads are allowed on what retailers call “faces” and expand the use of slower places for riders.

Public Interest Design Explorations

In 2008, a modest step in the direction of encouraging bicycle use was taken by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and Transportation Alternatives.  The promotion of the CityRacks Design Competition admitted a need above the existing 5,000 bike racks in the city.  However, tossing more bikes onto the streets is not placemaking.  While welcomed, the entire process missed a key point addressed by the Forum for Urban Design.  The Forum is a New York-based membership organization to advance awareness of best practices and confronting urban design challenges. The New York Bike-Share Project was one of its initiatives.  Here, place-making was emphasized as a “bike station” for personal bike storage and bike rentals in the Red Hook Competition.  In turn, this opens the discussion productively in the “best location” area and, after that, to the public responsibility to promote placement incentives.  Perhaps, the lesson to date would find an “urban design” and an industrial design process beginning the more supporting community design process is not developing well.   

Test Cases

Today, cities have a few slightly heavy, modestly well-branded bikes free for 30 minutes round trips but rentable for any “station-to-station” travel.  Beyond the initial hype, they are a feel-good utility in the service of touring hotspots. Still, they are unlikely to shift the paradigm to general public use of HPVs as viable or zero-carbon transport for modern urban living.  So if leadership in this area delivers ad companies, what are the other choices?

Advancing good business practices by outfits such as  Sustainable Business Consulting offer an understanding of the metric tons of carbon dioxide produced by staff activities.  The reduction of harm is beneficial. It sets goals and measurable objectives for CO2 reduction reducing water use or sending zero waste into landfills.  The steady flow of metrics into the process is an appropriate push on public policy.

The New Equity is Energy Used Well

The interplay between transport systems and urban design is evident. Whenever a system can deliver 9,000 people to a place per hour, the responsibilities go well beyond appropriate circulation and way-finding.  It is exhibited everywhere, from suburban sprawl to new cities that have adopted transit-oriented development. 

Adding alternative transportation concepts to the system has begun.

  • The power to provide “the way” is in the public domain.
  • Making way for newly competitive low-cost public transit from HPV to a bullet train only requires two components: lanes and destinations.
  • In older urban centers such as New York City, transit-stationed neighborhoods are equivalent to entire towns in other parts of the nation.
  • Efforts to produce transit-oriented villages remain in the planning stages.  In New York City, multiple public transit hubs are recognized for robust economic returns.

The lesson learned by newer places such as Portland or Seattle is to add value by defining transit stations as whole places.   The American Public Transportation Association’s (TPTA) work on Transit Oriented Development (TOD) develops in various local and international case studies. The central issue is how to frame development benefits sufficiently to assuage the perceived loss of market share by reducing auto parking to minimal yet reasonably accessible levels.

Measuring the public benefits more broadly (i.e., carbon cap and trade systems) will be helpful, and legislation has stumbled for over a decade.   Nevertheless, improvements in the health of the walking/cycling community are genuine savings.  Ultimately, the household pocketbook issue remains central to effective change.

Infrastructure Change is Too Slow

Put Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) into any search engine, and the data for nearly every website concerns trucks and cars. Not cool.

September-October 2008 issue of World-Watch explored alternative transportation ideas. Gary Gardner wrote When Cities Take Bicycles Seriously (World Watch 11, no. 5 (1998): 16-22) cited increases in bike commuting and its growing prestige. He suggested that if five percent of the 1.5 trillion miles consumed each year in cars and taxis were taken by bicycles, it would save its consumers $100 billion. Moreover, if ordinary people could safely choose five percent of their trips using an HPV, it would easily and consistently move upward in urban areas alone just that five percent is the break-even point on the investment, more on the subject (here).

When redefined as urban “hubs,” the train or subway station becomes a prime asset.  Obviously, they cannot all be “grand central’ in character yet sufficiently equal in charm to encourage social capital and enhance the public’s sense of well-being.  NYC’s lesson from these newer urban cities is less about real estate value than effective leadership in five-point placemaking. 

  1. Efficiency: The average cyclist travels at about 12 mph.  This is faster than the average driver during peak hours anywhere in New York City. The peak is around 2:30 PM and bracketed by the morning and evening rush.
  2. Equity: The low infrastructure cost of cycling is obvious.  An HPV uses one-twelfth of the mid-sized car space. Transit systems with infrastructure for all forms of HPVs generate more efficient point-to-point destination volumes.
  3. Exercise: Biking uses more muscles than walking. It invokes the release of endorphins — natural renewable energy that includes a strong sense of well-being.  Riding as little as five miles each day improves health.
  4. Affordability: A bicycle is more than affordable.  Public transit in NYC cost fours dollars round trip (2009) and $5.50 (2020) and rising steadily.  Three months of bicycle use for commuting would equal the average acquisition cost of a bike and now deductible as a business expense for employers.
  5. Sustainability:  Public knowledge of sustainability concepts will grow if walking and HPV are used to acquire goods and services.  Extending new access modes to regional centers expands competitive positions.

NYC Planning Department website describes mandated bicycle parking in privately-owned public spaces (here). Grasping the budget and regulatory pressures in New York City is difficult. Why does it take over 25 years to get 70% of the way toward increased HPV use and safety? The 1997 Bike Master Plan, by the City Planning, set a goal for 1,800 miles. The Department of Transportation celebrated getting to 1,000 miles in 2020 (described here). For a brief comparison, spend a moment or two on the Tokyo bike storage system for up to 10,000 bikes.  

The (Bike) Path Ahead

A place HPVs creates a highly strengthened transit-oriented system.  European examples abound in this area.  The Tokyo system is one example. In the United States, the empirical insights of Jane Jacobs remain a compelling argument for the diversity of use inherent to the dense urban grid.  

This is because the city makes the bicycle and HPV vehicles extremely useful. Therefore, policies that make the city more efficient in this way will release design creativity.  Three locations in NYC are manufacturing sites for HPVs.  The only element missing to bring this market forward are places for the vehicles on the streets of NYC.

Policies that make a more human-powered city:

  • Ban or reduce automobile traffic lanes from streets: Just three lanes of Manhattan’s north/south avenues could serve over 100,000 bicycles per/hour per/block.  Steps for increased HPV/bicycle safety require a design solution.  In NYC, a street closing caused stress.  The strain of a complete conversion is spread to all north/south streets can be made permanent by the current design.  HPV dedicated cross-town routes can work as well.  Imagine pleasure riders but see a vast increase in business-to-business deliveries. Extend the policy to the boroughs.
  • Replace car lot space with bike lot space: Obviously, bicycles are a better fit. A law to provide a tax-free pricing system for bikes can be absorbed by increasing rates for cars.  Is there room for “bike stations”. 
  • Increase tax on trucks/cars: The gas tax in Europe is five times the USA.  Congestion pricing to push truck deliveries into night schedules is common.  While regressive in the short term, it is worthwhile to stimulate “pedestrian-oriented” cities across the nation.   Places like the Netherlands have thousands of miles of a dedicated bike path. Still, they are New York City’s routes growing correctly – to assure success?  Have you been “doored” lately?
  • Walkable city: Reduced auto use increases transit and design efficiencies once well-placed mass-transit development centers are identified.  Where is the leadership at this point in NYC?  The term “woonerf” is Dutch.  It describes streets as dominantly pedestrian.  These are tree-lined routes with culvert drainage systems and “neck-downs” open enough for local traffic and emergency vehicles.  Implemented for residential life, they were quickly adapted to commercial settings.
  • HPVs for long or short-distance transit routes: Trips from Midtown Manhattan to Downtown Brooklyn, as “HPV ride would add seats to the train. Mass transit needs the low-impact of the vernacularized rider. 
  • Arrivals and Departures: Zoning bonuses and related tax incentives should emphasize space for showers and bike storage. More people would ride a bicycle to work if they could do so in a designated bike lane, park their bike in a safe place, and clean up a bit on arrival. 

Existing urban design solutions promote “pedestrian and bicycle-oriented” travel reasonably well.  A row of parked autos protects pedestrians. The same solution now serves human-powered vehicles.  Turning the dominance of the automobile readily available to manipulate into a source of added HPV use.  The college campus or other large regional parks already also offer clear bike transit that does not require reinventing the wheel. All that is needed is safe passage and the opportunity to build a brighter, cleaner, sustainable neighborhood, city, and world.

An excellent summary of the issues associated with the “critical mass” bike ride occurrences in NYC and the response of the NYPD was prepared in 2006 by the New York Bar Association.  The Association criticized the legislative role of the NYPD on HPV.  It advised the City Council to discourage using the police power to pre-determine constitutional issues based on vague rules defining “a parade.”

Legislation based on basic economics, triple bottom line science, ecological footprints, happiness indexes, and accurate cost accounting are emerging.  All seek the means to press for more sophistication in measuring and confirming sustainability principles in the city.

Climate Central

Changes in weather or global averages in sea levels and temperature from year to year are popular tangents for discussion but only as useful as a local sports talk show. The real news is how improvements in energy generation demanded by the dense urban environment are now responsible for most GHG emission reductions. However, the motivation to change urban conditions in response to climate change remains weak, but envisioning tools by Climate Central that show logical sea rise levels is a step foward.

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The threat alone is not enough. The word “climate” is also used to define a human relations condition of importance in community development. For example, New York City produced 48.02 million tons from all energy sources to reflect a 19% reduction from 2004 to 2013 in three main categories. The main GHG producers are buildings plus street lighting, transportation of all kinds, GHGs connected to urban wastewater treatment, city landfills, and solid waste removal out of the city categorized as fugitive.

climate

Solutions come from the urbanization of energy.

Cities are effective at measuring and then decreasing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) into the atmosphere. The urban focus on energy varies by economic sector and social choice. The choice of fuels that reduce carbon intensity remains economic. However, the lack of choice in controlling external factors is the most problematic. External factors that control the amount of energy needed are population growth by location and the weather in “degree days.” Still, the distinctions between energy and its users are diminishing rapidly for the first time in human history.  Energy use includes the ability to visualize a set of futures based on fact.  The presentation below is not sophisticated climate science. The elevation above sea level is “a,” and the sea-level rise or a storm surge is “b” a long list of coastal cities will have seawater as predicted.

The political readiness for the advent of a new ocean/human/earth “oneness.” is the most disconcerting due to the “fear itself” effect.  The extreme sea level via a vision reveals more than the risks. It exhibits the lack of capacity for a public decision-making process in a privately-held world.  The hidden data involves changes in value. The effect can go one of two ways.  It can push every investor of every square foot into climate change denial for the lack of any other plan, or it can draw every investor into a plan with the capacity to confront the paralysis embedded in such projections.

Given these conditions, the demand for an evidence-based, performance-measured, and outcome-driven protocol that can reach the local need for global effect is now an indispensable policy requirement. People can understand basic units for analysis such as building floor area and total population and apply a per unit/per capita analysis to provide a reliable basis for trend and regression analysis. Energy coefficients established during study periods help determine the change in carbon intensity for each energy source in each sector to yield the percentage of each source contributing to the GHG inventory.

While dense urban cities are the largest producers overall, they offer the best environment for protocol analysis and comparison among all other resilience/mitigation measures that may have an impact on global conditions. Three “get started” sources are here:

  1. GPC – Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  2. LGOP – Local Government Operations Protocol
  3. Climate Central – Download the free Surging Seas CRS Guide

Index Density

Personal growth is the main stimulant of culture and a balancing agent against the excesses of power. We slowly realize the stimulants are here and now when this growth is offered to all people freely. The next fight for freedom will be to sustain our ability to share what we know. The very first place to test for truth will be right outside your front door and where you can walk from there.

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Isolated this song may sound like a warning, for those of the dense urban world it has a joyful tension.

The Ranking

A broad new set of factors injected into the urban scale expresses a numerical value such as “top ten” as if a place has a price, and therefore comparable. These factors are used to index urban “livability” across the rapidly changing structure of cities. The index aid policymakers in rating the sensibilities of ordinary working people or retirees about those who seek to profit from their labor, skill, insight, capital, and productivity.

Two ranking styles are popular; the first puts a high value on economic and financial services supporting trade in material resources and economic measures. The second index lists environmental pleasures such as the climate, interesting scenes, cultural experiences, and the general absence of discord. This yields the appearance of objective criteria to implement a marketing response to a specific human need or general desire regardless of wealth or station.

Search “Livability” for Thousands of Ranking Agents

The demand for policies that measure and react in short, precise cycles has begun. As a mathematical matter, the city’s economic value now includes specific environmental conditions such as costs associated with aesthetic perspectives. Voila! More parks, green streets, more room to walk. The mathematical value associated with vibrant or viable space is different than sustainable or resilient or secure and stable. Aesthetic measures associated with sociocultural conditions such as recreation and entertainment are used as a ranking. The mathematics of such ratings on all of these things center on the idea of weight, whether weighted equally or in a framework for preferences.

Undoubtedly, these value conditions continue to produce a dense urban form for people, yet it remains an abstraction of consumption weighted by per capita spending. The new flurry of numbers means one new thing, “they know” and “we know they know,” so now what? What is the impact? Measures of equity will become highly visible. It is now possible to index racism, even sexism, by place for scoring.

The driving factor for these new index factors will involve three-quarters of the earth’s population, who will have an urban life of some description by the year 2050. Most will be holding smartphones. The demand for an urban life has created this 3:1 ratio of “attraction,” leading to self-fulfilling urban development that continues without checking for the balance required. For example, the demand for a set of values that express diversity as one cherished over the concentration of wealth would be useful. Those who remain far outside the urban region may be recognized as those most important to sustaining that realm and keeping its ability to be wild as its stewards.

Density Favorites

Our one purpose is to participate in a forum on the complexity of urban density and examine its makers worldwide. In the research for Density, we are reading hundreds of websites, books, and articles. Most are online.  We are not stepping completely away from the dead tree press, but new opportunities are exposed with more than one thing in hand at a time. This is wide open network team. Privacy remaing permanent. Expectations are listed below.

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  1. The objectives implied by this purpose will require the expertise of many contributors with various skills and thousands of locations. For example, the development and use of KML code will add an important online function.
  2. Our team envisions regionally and city-based writers willing to establish a long-term research effort on opportunities created by urban density, The product will describe the problems density helps to solveby analyzing issues, various approaches, and action ideas.
  3. The partnership aims to produce a continuous, worldwide exploration of dense urban environments’ successes (or failures).
  4. Additional excerpts from a working draft of Density includes an offer to join in developing this “partnership project.”
  5. Begin by sending an inquiry below or for a different approach on the policies and politics of Density see Writers Wanted


Posts: New to Old

The White Chair
Michael Wolf The White Chair Prompt The photographer's relationship to architecture equips us with a possibility — an agreement of care for the immense impact of density on human life. …
Road Density
The Global Roads Inventory Project (GRIP) dataset describes 60 geospatial datasets on road infrastructure worldwide, covering 222 countries and over 21?million?km of roads. The dataset is split into 5 types: …
Urban Mobility
Artists of various urban futures are fond of envisioning the easy movement of people and goods as a visually exciting urban benefit. We see crowded, yet free-flowing shoulder-to-shoulder sidewalks, sweeping …
Evacuation
Don't run, just know where to go. The zones vary Most observers know from experience that the low cost of land and lower population densities occur from the center of …
Create 2,000 Dense Places
I have a plan for 2,000 dense urban places, with 20,000 people each connected to high-speed communication systems. Each is an urban core offering specific opportunities for unlimited growth in a …
Seven Declarations
Declarations develop an emotional capacity for change on behalf of family and community, a town or city, a state and nation, province and commonwealth. The following declarations describe qualities of …
The Unlimited Inside
Unrestrained Outside & Unlimited Insides. How does density save the wilderness, support sustainable agriculture, and do not harm purpose?  If the problem is defined within the global colonization and destruction …
Networks
Human cognitive mapping abilities are well documented. The addition of GPS devices to this research yield maps of everything that moves in the urban world among the stuff that doesn't …
Limited Expansiveness
Sirius, 2006, by Lita Albuquerque, photo by Jean de Pomereu (Domus) From 1800 to 2000, planning, engineering, and architecture, served to create a vast expansion of the urban world. It …
Zoning GHG
New York City's newest set of proposed zoning changes will re-write rules to remove impediments to constructing and retrofitting buildings in every land use. The objective: reduce urban energy consumption and …

Posts: Old to New

Earthdays
Metro = Megacity/Megacorp + OBDCEarthday, urban land use, and management in the 21st century Without a national land-use …
Planet of Cities
This history of human settlements is a story of continuous growth and increasing urban densities that reduce per …
One Bryant Park
In thoughtful research reporting, the requirement, to sum up, should become a higher priority. In Skyscrapers and the …
Zoning GHG
New York City's newest set of proposed zoning changes will re-write rules to remove impediments to constructing and retrofitting …


    Road Density

    The Global Roads Inventory Project (GRIP) dataset describes 60 geospatial datasets on road infrastructure worldwide, covering 222 countries and over 21?million?km of roads. The dataset is split into 5 types: highways/ primary/ secondary/ tertiary/ local roads. It is used by organizations such as GloBio to monitor human impacts on biodiversity. The GRIP dataset consists of global and regional vector datasets in ESRI file geodatabase and shapefile format and global raster datasets of road density at a 5 arcminutes resolution (~8x8km).RLC

    Data gathering such as this may appear to be a process like that of an embalmer, given the rate of change in biodiversity and the increase of global warming gases, largely facilitated by the expansion of roads and what the lead to for our use. But, could it be that simple? Would it be possible to end road construction?

    The Global Roads Inventory Project (GRIP) dataset was developed to provide a more recent and consistent global roads dataset for global environmental and biodiversity assessment models such as GLOBIO. The GRIP dataset consists of global and regional vector datasets in ESRI file geodatabase and shapefile format and global raster datasets of road density at a 5 arcminutes resolution (~8x8km).

    The United Kingdom has a national land-use policy like most of the EU. However, the UK is a dense island nation represented by a core of residential, institutional, and commercial urban centers in Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. While the relationship with the Republic of Ireland is improving, it is deteriorating with the EU due to Brexit and complications with Northern Ireland.

    The urgency of sustainable energy or a zero-waste world is well defined philosophically, but the question of successful implementation is unanswered.  On the other hand, the UK might be the first place of significant size where implementation will offer some hope.

    In the United States and the EU, economic policy distributes energy resources to accomplish affordability while anticipating a period of increased scarcity extending through the twenty-first century. 

    The increase in “green deals” and the promotion of tech innovations focus on all levels of new urban development.  Alternative bio-energy/hybrid systems design materials based on re-use as the sustainable alternative addresses 10% to 20% of the problem. This is roughly equivalent to the rate of new products entering the market.  The remaining 80% to 90% is represented by the world that is already built.

    The issue is neatly symbolized in the United States by the high-speed train.  Thousands of rail mass transit miles in older urban centers offer a century of trial and error development of enormous value to successful urbanization.  For example, the New York City transit service area is just 321 square miles serving its 8 plus million residents who, over the course of one year, will travel nearly 12 billion miles. 

    (See the National Transit Database for your region).

    Older mass transit systems are examples of how government absorbs private economic development in the public interest.  Based on where and when the goalposts are set, “a penny saved” and “payback” investment in the existing dense core should encourage the holders of real estate to invest mightily to save millions. Still, the capital continues to move to greenfield opportunity (AKA – nice flat farmland) and in the American drylands (mid-to southwest areas), where substantial new development has occurred.

    As of the beginning of the 21st century, nothing compels investors to “future-proof” past the wonders of a solid ROI.   Doing so will require new forms of public investment to move the dime on the zero-sum question by limiting development outside of the present urban core with various disincentives.

    Similar limitations are outlined in the vital areas of the social economy.   The social security systems of European and American origin drew a safety line around everyone.   These health, education, welfare, and defense investments borrowed extensively on continuously advancing “productivity” technologies.  Is it reasonable to protect the high cost of long life and civil society, or is it more responsible for funding a permanent state of global warfare in various combat settings?

    The only threat to analysts becomes increased social and economic dysfunctions contained within “regions.” The bet on technology, a reasoned quality of life contract, and a way to end the confrontational conditions caused by the poor allocation of energy resources require a serious look at the lines of demarcation.

    DATASETS & INDICATORS

    The following list of “road datasets” suggests how important investors assess this large public function. Conduct a simple search test of the dataset titles [in brackets] below to confirm this impression. Report back via comments and published papers, musings and so on. Thanks


    Road density (km of road per 100 sq. km of land area) [IS.ROD.DNST.K2]
    Roads, goods transported (million ton-km) [IS.ROD.GOOD.MT.K6]
    Roads, paved (% of total roads) [IS.ROD.PAVE.ZS]
    Roads, passengers carried (million passenger-km) [IS.ROD.PSGR.K6]
    Road sector diesel fuel consumption (kt of oil equivalent) [IS.ROD.DESL.KT]
    Road sector diesel fuel consumption per capita (kg of oil equivalent) [IS.ROD.DESL.PC]
    Road sector energy consumption (kt of oil equivalent) [IS.ROD.ENGY.KT]
    Road sector energy consumption per capita (kg of oil equivalent) [IS.ROD.ENGY.PC]
    Road sector energy consumption (% of total energy consumption) [IS.ROD.ENGY.ZS]
    Road sector gasoline fuel consumption (kt of oil equivalent) [IS.ROD.SGAS.KT]
    Road sector gasoline fuel consumption per capita (kg of oil equivalent) [IS.ROD.SGAS.PC]
    Motor vehicles (per 1,000 people) [IS.VEH.NVEH.P3]
    Passenger cars (per 1,000 people) [IS.VEH.PCAR.P3]
    Vehicles (per km of road) [IS.VEH.ROAD.K1]

    Black Rock

    Black Rock City

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is harveywood.png

    In 2010, Black Rock City (aka Harveywood) was the fourth largest city in Nevada, but only for a short while. The total population was 51,515 paying guests as the marker, not including a couple thousand undocumented, smuggled in amidst the art. Larry Harvey’s motivations vary for having this big party. They change with each new experience, annually repeated since 1986. Perhaps that is why he wears an unusual hat. He is a designer and an architect, a friend and observer of life.  He is tightly wrapped by the kind of humor that only a real sense of tension can produce. While its control has surpassed the management capacity of the few unique people that began it all, its epitaph remains incomplete. But one part has been written. Long live Harveywood, but from now on, we will cap this party at 50,000 souls.

    Without a doubt, any discussion of establishing a super urban density and a pure wilderness is likely to engage the subject of living in the desert wilderness of northwestern Nevada for a short while as an event. This idea confronts a void, fills it with art and design, and then goes away. Just beneath the surface, there is a lot of responsible talk and action about taking only pictures and leaving only footprints, and thus the Black Rock City party’s actual theme is revealed. It offers real proof of how messy humans will be to make a point. The point is a big one. No matter how temporary, that bit of dessert will always have a mark, and it is a warning.

    Diversity/Density

    SPHERE 2

    Twentieth-century urban and technological development events represent immense power. Yet, whether they are judged superficial, highly significant, or isolated and irrelevant, all share the common ground of small self-interest groups nested into their environments with various needs, interests, and concerns. Diversity is good for density.

    The city makers and builders might control great wealth for scanning vast expansion opportunities. On the other hand, the makers could implement simple actions such as confronting crime abuses with more sophistication than a neighborhood watch. The deep and complex range of these events are measures of the urban place and experience. They are like the frequencies used to describe the technology of communication. Whether the event source is the long reach of a real estate investment trust or a modest urban infill project, the impact, whether top-down or up from the bottom, is less relevant than the diversity of methods applied by these actors and thereafter the regulators of events in response.


    Envision a set of human occurrences in single-family homes on half an acre, tree-filled lots and compare that activity to what might occur in rows of multiple-story apartment buildings resting on commercial service and retail establishments, a school, and a couple of train stations.


    Accounts of the action contained in urban spaces allow us to define unique spheres of influence. For example, a market analyst or urban demographer might apply the gravity model (wiki) to examine the economics of the actions and events within these places. Still, the actual forces involved are not dissimilar to that between the earth, our moon, and the solar system in which we are contained. The wonder of the billions of small moments involved in this system is that now it is possible to imagine taking stock of all of them, and there are many examples.

    The so-called “smart-city” already lives in the imaginative eyes of those who are now trying to build them, and they might call upon an IBM data system called “Watson” to examine options, and so on. The need to build “a safe camp” or ‘a good city’ or “a flourishing earth” is a process that succeeds best when the action is community-motivated and understood as such. Individual self-interest behaviors are well known, and extraordinary work on interpersonal communication and behavior continues to advance. This makes the main problem very clear, but it is no longer a camp or a city. It is the earth. It is not something we can build like a camp or a city, or is it?

    Nearly eight billion people form the earth community. Comparatively, small groups know the spatial implication of this. Yet, while each is capable of great accomplishment, they prove to be painfully ineffective in solving ‘whole earth’ problems. Yet, we also know the most successful responses to changing conditions, both social and natural, are buried in these small actions.


    What are the connective tissues that would make a whole earth strategy workable?


    In our minds-eye, a few practical examples in three segments are crawling into view that might become whole earth networks aimed at human dignity. The armature for building this vision is built on the grid, the second segment deals with the nature of consumption within the grid, and the third examines the urban brand or vision so formed.

    The Infinite Grid

    Ring on Grid

    Alongside the expected order of the urban grid stands its shadow. Grids demonstrate an infinite matrix, a system for moving forever outward over the landscape. But, equally, the complexity of the movement developed for the use of all grids brings forth the novelty essential to what Alfred North Whitehead describes as the “what else” question.

    We require knowing what is possible now. Science and engineering disciplines inject the grid with service components like mass transportation, steel construction, and the elevator. The grid provides unlimited electric power within all spaces, and with it, the presumption of certainty such as living is about thinking up new ways to live. The unique human capacity for campfire innovation is effective and responds to challenge well. Then suddenly, the urban question changed from how can we “make cities better” to “can we stop cities” and we all know why.

    From basic urban reform to anti-sprawl, today’s global conditions are born of grid technologies that have begun to threaten life and community, but it still holds the novelty we seek. The same way the stars were once seen as sparks from the fire, the city’s vision as unending expansion will also change. Yet, we face one single great problem. Will the unlimited potential of the sphere bring balance and containment to the infinite grid?

    Containing Consumption

    food city

    Materialism is associated with human well-being toward the negative. It tends to reduce positive-social behavior on interpersonal levels. We also see materialism as a major contributor to ecologically destructive actions defined globally as “overshoots” and “footprints.” Worsening educational and social outcomes occur when focusing on the supremacy of personal preference and pleasure over other values. Finally, excessive materialistic behavior is associated with unmanageable debt, often linked to a broader range of pathologies. While these are negative outcomes, the economic arguments dismiss these criticisms as unfortunate behavior while denying the cancerous downside of growth. Containment will require a new kind of intelligent abundance.

    The economic growth of nations and the foundation of most revenue schemes depend greatly on the two forms of physical consumption. The overall economic condition is clear; it will drive spending to high levels by encouraging the purchase of “materials,” but that includes all required to provide or buy an “experience,” and therein lays the novelty we seek. As spending shifts away from physical products toward acquiring personal experience, it offers a unique step toward sustainability. It could build a society with the capacity to recognize the power of introspection and limits.

    The Creative Asset

    point

    Cities have a brand heritage often leveraged as history along with a set of cool stories that firmly establish their urban product. One of the most important or useful of these narrative brands is the ability to cross-cultural borders with food, social norms, sensibilities, clothing, patterns, color, and experiences you might not acquire otherwise. However, when ‘professional urbanists’ seek to change an existing condition thought of as bad to something good, they have not successfully targeted their target audiences for the lack of one ability — to shift perspective.

    Narrowing the professional focus to a single project or program is a step toward failure unless it can be consistently, if now relentlessly infused, with a new view up from the bottom, or from alongside, the top, or via a simple pan inward across the entire creative landscape. The capacity for superlative focus in response to a violent storm or fire is well known.  It is a power to be tapped in new ways as its purpose is to force an element of lateral “death and life” Jacobian creativity in every action (after Jane Jacobs, 1969).

    For another example, the creative application of an oblique strategy is one of the best ways to shift views and see new opportunities.  Please take a moment to explore. Then, post it in the comment section below if it works—a personal reference via BBC podcast here (30 minutes).


    The oblique strategy phrase that started the three indulgent and digressive paragraphs below was: “Make a “blank” valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame.”


    Due to the above reference to Jane Jacobs, I will put a regional development policy idea aimed at increasing non-auto access to places in an exquisite frame. As a result, various multi-use districts would gain advanced levels of market strength given three new frames of regional urban development policy.

    • First, I saw employment growth in these beautiful business clusters created by land-use policies that discouraged job dispersion. Then the potential for these sleek competitive regional economy trains emerged.  They were blue.
    • These trains controlled the direction, if not the physical quality of development or the stability of growth, but each cluster and the train riders had enormous power.
    • Next, a portrait of the funding agents for quality urban form found my frame.  My blue transit system (rail, light rail, and bus) connected combinations of government services, knowledge-based employers, and major universities and medical centers, including “entertainment-based” cultural institutions with finely targeted retail offerings.

    The “branding” idea of strong, dense centers connected to other strong, dense centers is an elegant picture.  The next frame captured traditional agricultural areas, watershed protection zones, and other natural resource functions, including older auto-oriented retail centers and other large warehouse and distribution centers reliant on trucking. These outliers (currently dominating my landscape) will gain the opportunity to be financially supported to defend an expanding natural environment through stewardship. Equally, the dense core structure offers an environment where the toxins of human activity are contained and eliminated with zero-waste policies, but I digress.

    Summary: Choose How Your World Works

    That little “oblique” exercise above is a method to take a personal experience (my education, training, career) and think about how the world should work. The concept works equally well in the organizational development of small groups, especially when there is a breakdown.


    This brief essay on frequency and diversity is a simple example of individual thought and ideas. It needs to fit somewhere like a thought bubble among other people to conclude this way.


    Government should pay for the essential stuff like keeping the nation on a permanent war footing or to help corporations and great big banks cover losses, oh, and spying lots of spying to protect old lines in the sand. But, then again, maybe it (that would be we) should pay for health and environmental protection, affordable housing and public transportation, and lots of education and training.

    I know the former is a well-known path to economic distrust and collapse and the other, an intentional step away from madness toward human dignity. Yet, paradoxically, the former policies may be drawn by “rampart survivalists” as the way it has always been and requires us to circle the wagons. The latter may want to “occupy” new economic priorities by causing a re-energized, democratically digitized, public networking process. Both are “small group” formations – the former is a small group of large organizations and the other a large group of small organizations.  The thing on offer in this example is to launch a quest for balance instead of power.

    The former can be overly defined as the one or two-percent groups with great financial power, global corporate structures, and a managed “public good” regime on the balance sheet. The latter is composed of lots of small groups with chaotic, tentative goodness rules because they are working on new theories of financial power and economic change. One is informed by a small group press and media that the few need and read to solve information problems. The latter works to solve the integration problems of small groups, and they read about ways to build new education process networks. These two forces are at work to change the other. With both in play, something exciting might happen in the region of balance.

    Examine the following examples of that large group of small organizations struggling to find new ways to build their small individual stories into a larger and globally efficacious narrative.

    Social Change

    1. The Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project. Connect people to their personal and community ecosystems. To create a way forward, this value is held as the guiding all others. This force identifies and eliminates all elements that contribute to ecological collapse and, in doing so, design and implements a biomimetic future. This alternative is known as the new intentional pathway.

    Science and Technology

    1. Ask Nature challenges everyone to reexamine every aspect of how we use nature to make stuff, think and store ideas, and manage waste. It will produce a massive catalog of nature’s solutions to human design challenges.

    Consumption and Well Being

    1. The Good Guide (now dead or dying) wanted to provide people with safe, healthy, green, & ethical product reviews based on scientific ratings of some 250,000 products. The idea remains important, but it will take more the effort made by University of California-Berkeley professor Dara O’Rourke,

    Education and Training

    1. Kahn Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2006 by educator Salman Khan to provide “a free, world-class education for anyone.”

    Participants are asked to expand this list in the comment section below to help develop new main headings, indexing, and groups. The main criteria being the information, and in some cases, the services provided are free. Voluntary donations may be requested.

    Climate change events and displacement impacts threaten water, land, and food security. These security questions link directly to culture as defined by race and spirituality, wealth and poverty, and so on. A thousand questions rise to decide whether or not a proposed practice such as treating carbon dioxide as a regulated pollutant or whether a financing scheme such as “cap and trade” fits into how your world works when it comes to the cost of food, energy, water, transportation, and housing for people.

    Whether it is the “company store” or cooperative alternative, the question will remain clear. Is there an equitable transition made by this decision that increases human dignity opportunities and reduces the potential for ecological disruption and catastrophic resolution?


    “If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against.  The struggle between “for” and “against” is the mind’s worst disease.”  

    Sent-ts’an, c. 700 C.E.

    Van der Ryn and Cowan

    Challenging smart-growth-talk has seemed impotent until recently. Perhaps this is why it might change.

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ecological-Design.png

    A decade ago, Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan contrasted sustainability defined technologically and ecologically in their book Ecological Design. They pointed to the hubris embedded in the tech-solution approach unless it was fully tethered by how David W. Orr describes the higher priority of ecological principles. (See one through four below.) Technology is zero-sum +(but not net-zero) when placed in a priority higher than these four principles of real change.

    • First, people are finite and fallible. The human ability to comprehend and manage scale and complexity has limits. Thinking too big can make our human limitations a liability rather than an asset. (Citicorp, AIG, and the rest…)
    • Second, a sustainable world can be redesigned and rebuilt most successfully from the bottom up. Locally self-reliant and self-organized communities are the building blocks for change. (something that every small successful business knows well)
    • Third, traditional knowledge that co-evolves out of culture and place is a critical asset. It needs to be preserved, restored, and used. (duh, the 2008 election)
    • Fourth, the true harvest of evolution is encoded in nature’s design. Nature is more than a bank of resources to draw on: it is the best model we have for all the design problems we face. (climate change is as more message as measure)

    Technology is zero-sum when placed in a priority higher than these four principles of real change. The position of Sustainable America by John Dernbach (et. al) is direct: Sustainable development will make the US livable, healthy, secure, and prosperous. The book runs through 28 areas of human behavior that need to change using 100 actions taken within five to ten years and thematically summarized as follows:

    The position of Sustainable America by John Dernbach (et al.) is direct: Sustainable development will make the US livable, healthy, secure, and prosperous.  It was published on January 12, 2009. One can order from Island Press here. For more information, See Dernbach’s website. See “Booksand papers for lists.

    The book runs through 28 areas of human behavior that need to change using 100 actions taken within five to ten years and thematically summarized as follows:

    1. Ecological footprint system integration
    2. Greenhouse gas reduction programs
    3. Stimulate employment for unskilled persons in environmental protection and restoration
    4. Stimulate NGOs to play a major role
    5. Organize government initiatives using sustainability principles to prioritize
    6. Expand options for sustainable living choices to consumers
    7. The advancement of public and formal education to higher levels
    8. Strengthen environmental and natural resources law
    9. Lead international efforts on behalf of sustainable development
    10. Systematically improve access to data for decision making

    News Source

    The major networks C-Span, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, etc., are plentiful. Those who broadcast to the nation for free (with ads) are asked to follow the fairness doctrine. But, on the other hand, cable television can produce strange “entertainment news” and misdirect, position lies, and step as close to incitement of insurrection as possible. Other online sources range from subscription-based and highly expensive free, slightly odd, smart, and hopeful.

    I live in the center of Brooklyn, just south of Prospect Park. I believe there is a need for a political review channel that is purely local. It would cover Congressional Districts 7, 8, and 9 led by Nadia, Hakeem, and Yvette as major contributors to the influence and effect the federal government might have on the lives of the residents from year to year. These three districts have about 2.1 million people.  A few hours a month could fund their campaigns with a 20 share of that audience. The combination of experience and personal styles would be interesting. Our representatives have YouTube tidbits worthy of listening if you take a seasoned “What are they saying?” attitude. Solid local reporting on the workings of Congress by our Congressional Representatives could consist of City Council and state representatives.

    Stronger together, but all of this is impossible. One cable station New York One (Spectrum), produces a few issues specific to Brooklyn and the rest of the boroughs. It requires a subscription. It should be free.

    Watch and Listen to Achieve Confirmation Bias OR

    Media on “politics, people and issues’ has suddenly become vital within the realm of “confirmation bias.” Look it up, the Wiki is a good place to start. Please weigh in on the following political outlets and make your thoughts known regarding a “none of what you read/half of what you see” approach for getting to good questions.  Also note, the bias here is to the left, and it is proving difficult to find center/right examples.

    Brookings is one of the original “think tanks. “  Its review of issues has been tagged “liberal” by the American Enterprise Institute largely because of its positions on urban policy. The United States has become a metro nation.  For this reason, they advocate for an urban policy agenda focused more on “metro-regions” than “States.”

    John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei left The Washington Post to become The Politico‘s editor in chief and executive editor. Politico

    The Humanist Report is a retake of a week’s news.  It circulates socio-political and religious news stories with what sounds like a politically progressive commentary.

    MoJo is a politically progressive American magazine that does independent and investigative reporting on politics, the environment, human rights, and culture. Clara Jeffery serves as editor. Monika Bauerlein has been CEO since 2015

    Huffington: A news aggregator and blog have localized and international editions founded by Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer, Jonah Peretti, and Andrew Breitbart. Despite the last name, the information is a progressive accumulation, reflecting the overall tenor of reporting justice and fairness issues.  The wiki biography links are a good place to decide.

    Viewers and supporters of The PBS News Hour will recognize Amy Walter’s commentary and analysis and her role as the anchor on Washington Week.  The Cook Political Report includes a subscription that provides good detail on local congressional issues for $350.00 and only $1,400 for five subscribers. Something to keep in mind as the New York Delegation: Indivisible builds a base.

    Moyers is well-known. He is one whose life as a journalist is to make sure we understand the principles of democracy and see the erosions of liberty. This site has 1,000 archived programs.

    The National Journal says it equips government and business leaders with the information, insight, and connections they need. Most DC-based organizations have higher followings and engagement rates on Facebook than on Twitter. However, Facebook remains more of an entertainment platform than a news platform. #DCInfoAge

    The next step would be to examine local independent broadcasters to help aggregate national issues into a local impact presentation. There is an unending media explosion.  It will end with a number – those who will listen. This is probably good because ever since POTUS-45 declared it “the enemy of the people,” far too many people pick a “media” to follow in a silo, even though it might kill you, get you into prison,  It just makes choosing difficult.  Help choose.  Peace.


    “Believe none of what you read and only half of what you see. It frees you to ask good questions.”

    My Dad

    You have to listen to be heard.

    Want to add a source? Go to Contact

    Book Act

    The authors in the following (long list) visit New York City routinely.  Perhaps they would enjoy a conference…a workshop.   All of the works listed below are a decade and a half or more. The question to you as a reader is who among them made sense of the “design” for change? Who remained persuasive enough to see implementation? Use the form below. Thank you so much for your attention and participation. One example from personal experience has been the lasting contribution of Robert Gutman to encourage architects to engage in social change through design.


    Global Challenge Questions

    Architectural Practice: A Critical View by Robert Gutman

    Thousands of practitioners in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry may have been influenced (albeit briefly in a classroom) by Robert Gutman’s ratio of professionals to the urban population (Princeton Arch Press 1988). The central point was about 98% of the population never gets to meet or talk with an architect or engineer – ever.  

    I would like to recall Robert Gutman to start off. The point is, to define measures of inequality in design practice.

    The intellectual rigor of Putnam’s research has much to offer. In Architectural Practice, he established useful controls for a wide range of factors such as poverty, residential mobility, and education that affect “life in architecture.”

    To set a relevant tone for making urban design a comprehensive AEC contribution to sustainable earth, re-read and update the legacy of Robert Gutman.  Then work to address questions such as the following to people such Adolfo Carrin Jr.,  White House Office of Urban Affairs (a planner) (Twitter), or Shaun Donovan, an architect (HUD) currently looking to my NYC’s Mayor. (Twitter) and their global counterparts. Believe me, and they are both very familiar with “bottom-feeding” architecture and planning. A key question is whether they continue to find it an acceptable part of the overall community development puzzle as generational or merely transitional/

    Question One: How possible is it to locally (if not globally) alter fee structures to represent a new set of values such as carbon reduced, energy saved, life cycle defined.? When will new levels of public leadership effectively encourage changes in the “live-work/play” behavior of humans over the next century that enhance their safety and self-esteem, and well-being? If not, why not? Get a handle on that, and the second question might be fully definable within AEC.

    Question Two:  Without a doubt, we live in a house that we all build, but unlike the other service professions, AEC produces places for hundreds, even thousands of private domains interspersed with poorly linked and unevaluated public realms.  It has the name SLAP, for space left over after planning! How can this industry change the existing contours of civic representation in AEC?  AEC is tragically invested in so few that it seems illogical not to address a greater sense of balance in the public goods market if not, a broader social system for non-litigious support and participation.

    The first stage of a humanitarian crisis is generally denial. As a result, defining the first question offers hope for finding and accepting new methods for living sustainably on the earth.  The second question is aimed at biological beings facing an ecological crisis that is not short-term. It must be made clear that a focus on the technology of  “life: work/play” will not effectively define these ecological problems. Essentially, there is no fix without establishing a vastly broader sense of responsibility.

    Given this foundation, several other questions require development: What policy changes within New York would the following folks recommend? (fiscal, land use, zoning) How would they implement a regional strategy?

    Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

    Position: Consumer-driven change will work, given the right iPhone-type app at the right time. To understand the full impact of a single consumption choice, the question “Is this good for Earth?” is impossible to answer for the lack of life cycle data. The moment of consumption is well past design or production and ahead of use and disposal.  Daniel Goleman defines this “being good” problem in his book, Ecological Intelligence and describes “industrial ecology” as a way to act ecologically – confronting a complex global challenge that is embedded in personal consumption choices and, in doing so, alter the forces that drive design and production, as well as, demand new cycles of responsible disposal and retention.

    The Entropy Problem

    Beyond advancing the bounded rationality embedded in individual consumption choices, the backbone of consumption is the connection between railways, expressways, and the power- and water grids.  The body held by this backbone is considered infinite. Will the ecological intelligence approach improve the quality of decisions that will make the 50,000 miles of national expressway infrastructure functional, or the 225,000-mile national rail system more useful, or keep 200,000 miles [? distance traveled by light in one second] of national grid power from routine catastrophic failure or plug up a very, very leaky water grid? Simple answer — no f’n way.

    The scale of coordination among states to address these questions is well beyond the power of individual consumer choice. The mega-city structure of these regions and mix of private, government, and public benefit corporations serving as ad hoc regulatory bodies do not appear to have a capacity for rational thought, let alone ecological intelligence.

    Sustainable America by John Dernbach

    Position: Sustainable development will make the US livable, healthy, secure, and prosperous.  Ten themes are developed by Dernbach as follows:

    1. Ecological footprint system integration
    2. Greenhouse gas reduction programs
    3. Stimulate employment for unskilled persons in environmental protection and restoration
    4. Stimulate NGOs to play a major role
    5. Organizing government using sustainability principles to prioritize
    6. Expand options for sustainable living to consumers
    7. Advance general public and formal education
    8. Strengthen environmental and natural resources law
    9. Lead international efforts on behalf of sustainable development
    10. Systematically improve access to data for decision making

    Released 1.12.2009: Order from Island Press.  Also see: Stumbling Towards Sustainability

    With the Ten Items Above in Mind

    Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan said it best in Ecological Design when they contrasted sustainability defined technologically as opposed to ecologically (pp. 18-23) Here they summarized David W. Orr’s position on ecology.

    • First, people are finite and fallible. The human ability to comprehend and manage scale and complexity has limits. Thinking too big can make our human limitations a liability rather than an asset.
    • Second, a sustainable world can be redesigned and rebuilt only from the bottom up. Locally self-reliant and self-organized communities are the building blocks for change.
    • Third, traditional knowledge that coevolves out of culture and place is a critical asset. It needs to be preserved, restored, and used.
    • Fourth, the true harvest of evolution is encoded in nature’s design. Nature is more than a bank of resources to draw on: it is the best model we have for all the design problems we face.

    Technology is zero-sum when placed in a priority higher than these principles of real change.

    Peter Droege also believes the question of technology is probably secondary.  He is the author of The Renewable City: A Comprehensive Guide To An Urban Revolution and offers up the tool kits on city greening that have been around since the 1970s. The kicker is they were not implemented for the lack of “payback” and other reasons.

    Mitchel Joachim seeks to integrate ecological design, but Dr. Joachim wins Time Magazine’s Best Invention (2007) for work with Smart Cities Group Compacted Car. As a partner in the nonprofit design organization Terreform, Fab Tree Hab project, and so on, he baits the Sprawl vs. Urban Center debate as a choice: is it better to spread over the landscape or produce dense, compact cities. Aside from the “unstoppably both” answer and the more jargon than juice issue, is anything going on here other than too much talent chasing after too much money, or is it more hubris?  I’m talking about the kind of technology embedded in Tom Perkins’ Maltese Falcon (the $100M sailing ship that one person can sail). Even he is embarrassed.

    Mike Davis would seriously disagree about the “urban solution” to the “global challenge” question in Planet of Slums.  As an urban theorist, Davis takes a global approach to the poverty that dominates the planet’s urban population.  The list is growing from Cape Town and Caracas to Casablanca and Khartoum. Davis argues health, justice, and social issues associated with gargantuan slums like Mexico City’s estimated population of 4 million seem invisible in world politics.  He writes, “The demonizing rhetoric of the various international wars on terrorism, drugs, and crime is so much semantic apartheid: they construct epistemological walls around gecekondus, favelas, and chawls that disable any honest debate about the daily violence of economic exclusion.”  Statistics showing the number of “mega slums” or “when shanty-towns and squatter communities merge in continuous belts of informal housing and poverty, usually on the urban periphery” have been forming since the 1960s. Davis paints a bleak picture of urbanization’s upward trend and a severely negative outlook for urban slum-dwellers.

    Matthew Kahn wrote Green Cities: Urban Growth and Environment to frame the process of rapid urban growth and sprawl as a source of concern about economic exclusion and environmental health.  Are they mutually exclusive? Most policies pursue both, but Kahn suggests it is naive to do so.  Is Kahn the best for asking the tough questions about the costs?

    Douglas Farr’s recent publication, Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature (2007): Wiley (and a whopping $75.00 and 304 pages) is his admitted first “draft.” The debate is open, and case studies are available, but the initial steps toward a neighborhood-based “excellence” process on the long list of techniques worthy of implementation are outlined well.  Doug will be the first to tell you that it is “hell” out there, especially after spending a decade on a relatively simple process of trying to make it easy to walk from one place to the next. New Yorkers know intuitively that so many solutions to the problems of the glog lie quietly inside our tiny realm of islands.  (glog? – the blogged globe).

    Peter Newman and Isabella Jenning’s most recent work is Cities as Sustainable Ecosystems, Principals, and Practices. (2007) This book explores urban design as a resource for streaming energy, materials, and information into a new urban system.  Newman and Jennings recognize that “a system” can only be described in larger, more complex systems.  In this brief introduction (296p), urbanization as a system presents a series of human/non-human “man against nature” interactions inexorably overwhelmed by the larger ecosystem. Nevertheless, Newman and Jennings make a case for an urban solution to the compelling global challenge.

    Christopher Leinberger’s recent work is The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream. (2007)  Chris is within driving distance of Detroit and must therefore be compelled to write a book with this title.  Top on his list of problems is the lack of affordability in communities where walking to most services is available and mass transit for the remaining specialized services is affordable and comfortable. Concerns regarding recent land-use policies in NYC now support as many as nineteen different forms of “drivable sub-urbanism” in New York City that seriously challenges the existing walkable urbanism structure. Local leadership is failing as developers (who only know how to do it their way) continue to be very pocketbook persuasive with policymakers. What is that other book – Retrofitting Suburbia?

    Kim Moody has prepared a detailed summary of political/fiscal policy From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City 1974 to the Present. (2007). The book summarizes the transformation of political and fiscal power by the Financial Control Board following the 1974 Fiscal Crisis.  Since then, the New York City Planning Commission and the Department of City Planning’s budgetary powers are in the hands of the New York State government, whose “fiscal order” has become a national embarrassment.  Several questions require development as follows: Even though he believes it is “nearly too late” to make policy changes that would effectively address the economic “bifurcation” of New York, we are compelled to ask what might be done?  How would he implement a regional strategy that also recognizes older urban centers’ impoverishment throughout the region?

    Other options:

    Collaboration in Urban Design and Planning was recently extolled in Part III “The Design and Planning Components (Levels of Integration)” in the second edition of The Built Environment: A collaborative inquiry into Design and Planning (2007), edited by Wendy McClure and Tom Bartuska, Washington State University.

    Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe wrote An Inconvenient Book (Threshold Editions). The tough solutions to problems such as global warming, poverty, and political correctness are described.  Many weeks on NYT bestseller list.  I suggest following it up… via James Lovelock vs. James Hansen? Panel and workshop?

    ULI’s Army (always used their Dollars and Cents series but this caught my eye)

    Getting Density Right: Tools for Creating Vibrant Compact Development. The compact development tools are in place for New York City, yet walkable communities remain strangely incomplete.  What is missing? According to NMHC, the key to improvements will be better leadership from local officials and neighborhood activists. The “frontline” obstacles to compact development are many. A review of this resource is needed.  Get it, read it, report and review.  It was $40 with a DVD of start-up presentation materials.

    Robert Wright in Nonzero – The Logic of Human Destiny (New York: Pantheon Books 2000) draws parallels between the trials and errors in the evolution of life and the determination of human culture to form a moral architecture.  The competitiveness for “place” through manipulating resources ultimately demands a social, if not a moral, trade and exchange framework.

    For the most part, this relationship is the stuff of embedded knowledge that we “just know” but don’t talk much about in our day-to-day discourses.  Wright suggests this social data frames the trajectories of the community through selection.  Well examined, these processes become predictable and will ultimately lead to nonzero.  Why? Our capacity to produce increased system complexity is grounded in the reality of trends and organic form evolution over thousands of years. It is also a confirmation of the inevitability of convergences in the emergence of civilizations.

    As we know, life emerged from the inorganic to organic, to biological, and ultimately to physiological specializations producing the psychological – the mind.  In this continuum, the next stages of human history will be defined by the globalization of trade and communication technologies. Yet, is the human transcendental destiny defined by expanding our potential to shop?  Is this a world with meaning? Is it worth having? Where is the glue to bind these survival and pleasure imperatives to a moral reality? The argument in Nonzero is the application of design as the teleological determinant.

    The nearly irredeemable corruptions of systems that would process and manipulate physical material, including DNA, are balanced best by seeding human capacity with the information management resources to see, feel, and define the interwoven refined transformations into these choices. We are now entitled to answer “of what community am I a member?  We should also be entitled to ask and answer “of what community will I become a member by the making of these choices?”

    Witold Rybczynski

    In Makeshift Metropolis, Witold Rybczynski allows his teaching ability to lay down a lecture without admitting that at this stage in human history — people really need to be protected from what they want — Americans especially. Like other top-level designers who succeed in a big way, I think Rybczunski writes to compromise with this success’s realities as a teaching moment.  You see it in the choices he makes to think once again on his own terms, or at least free of his client’s terms in a way that justifies the work of being incremental in the urban landscape.

    The urban world is a physical and intellectual experience that fuels periods of vast prosperity, civic responsibility, investor confidence, and an intangible sense of “pride of place†regardless of economic status. Cities are catalysts for millions of experimental expressions of human thought and desire. They range from the myopia of projects for rapid capital returns to civil self-reforming society’s grand visions. Within these many experiments, perhaps the greatest question confronting the expansion of global urbanism is whether it is capable of containment. Is the city a physical entity that can stop expanding?  Were this possible, it would give the city entity a new ultimate purpose to focus on humankind’s intellectual capacity and to recognize one key priority.  Protecting the diversity of the wilderness requires separation.

    We tend to forget that the market is never right until it corrects what some call the race to the bottom in corporate governance. It also suggests that the aggregate of individual decisions eventually becoming overwhelming in every system.  Turn the econometrics of this fact on the earth as a whole, and the rate of resource consumption is approaching the equivalent of 1.4 earths per year.  It now (11.30.2011) takes approximately 18 months for the Earth to regenerate what we use in one year. The level of correction suggested in this model is painful to contemplate.

    Like so many before him, I fear that Witold Rybczynski will force himself or will be forced into the survivalist fringe of Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti or the anarchy of Larry Harvey’s Black Rock City to be true to his word. One is physical proof of intellect. The other is a call to the intellect for proof. Both illustrate how messy humans (OK, just architects) will get to make a disjointed point.

    More?

    See Writers Wanted if you would like to continue this punishment.

    As you’ve scrolled to the end breezing through all of the great thoughts of the thoughtful and yes, nothing has happened in the physical world, save a few hints here and there.

    People all over the world select great readings and reviews to share. An architect, engineers, and construction filter for this summary of “human condition writers” are built on one question. What kind of earth are we building? Please submit similar networks that use similar filters. An occasional joint session with “same bubble” choices could produce excellent results. Please consider participating in the development of this resource.

    The main ability to learn is new ways of thinking is due to an initial agreement. Every idea is carefully coupled with a resonant resolve to stimulate a rejection of it in trade for a larger union.  This practice is both intellectual and anti-intellectual, and it is healthy. The following agreement accepts the idea that communication will not occur without the willingness to persuade or be persuaded.

      If you are near one of these towns 50,000 to 100,000 people and want to do this, just drop us a line

      The Point of Data

      In 1968 the Citizen’s Housing and Planning Council of New York (CHPC) produced a little sixteen-page booklet on the housing problem with a five-room apartment on the cover. The presentation’s genius is how the five rooms (image here) represent housing development production problems. They were labeled 1) construction, 2) taxes, 3) land, 4) money, and 5) operating costs, and then pointed out of these five, lowering the cost of money produced the only substantial impact on rent. A post on the subject of housing and CHPC is in the Malfunctions series is here.

      The Furman Center has produced one of the most comprehensive lists of all the ways government and the private sector are attempting to produce affordable housing. As it stands now, the resource to look at first is in the digital library — here. It is great for the Housing Geek Squad, but the site would do well to break it down into CHPCs five rooms for the ordinary person with interest, perhaps a seat on a CDC neighborhood board.

      If you took a quick look at it, what happened to you is called MEGO for my-eyes-glaze-over. I am known for always one thing regarding data: no one is as smart as all of us, so a little MEGO is OK. There are a lot of people working very hard to produce housing. Simplicity is offered in the self-assessment strategy section (here). There is a short version and a longer one if the “short” sell moves your needle.

      Policy Map

      In addition to producing enough detail for a nuclear scientist, the Policy Map (here) will take the user to regional MSAs throughout the United States for a regional context and a housing report. The thing to do with a lot of information is to enjoy knowing it is there so that if a question is posed, places like this often provide suitable answers. The image above represents the edgelessness of urbanization and the location of where it has the greater density. Were it to develop a real edge; housing production might have a chance.

      The counties of the NY metropolitan area, like that of New York State, produce a GDP similar to Canada. The report outlines the fine detail of housing affordability and how it will not survive economically if every dollar earned is taken for rent by the shelter owners. The formula used now is to produce the minimum proportion required to house low- and moderate-households fully.

      Another excellent, low-BS source comes from the Independent Budget Office on a wide range of problems confronting New York City residents.

      If you look at the snapshot, you will see how the proportions of affordability production are developed for public distribution. It is not the minimum required by any reasonable standard. However, it is an effort of value embroiled among manly other metro areas in the United States dealing with the failure of a robust national housing policy.

      All Analysis Leads to One Big Question

      When will a growing proportion of new and rehabilitated housing be financed through direct grants for construction and long-term operation?

      Within the second decade of the 21st c., the need for a fully-funded public production role in housing will be more than apparent to policy-makers. It will be a necessity. A plan to prepare for this will be required. The public will have to come to terms with several facts.

      First, there is a reasonable amount of affordable housing, but a vast portion of it is in the wrong place, poorly built, and in several regions throughout the nation that present significant environmental dangers associated with climate change.

      Second, as it plays out in the general bigotry of people, racism has produced a series of geographic aberrations such as the concentration of poverty, massive disinvestment in public housing, once considered transitional, but today traps for the elderly and people of color.

      Third, the “us vs. them” problem. Diversity works in dense urban areas – people of mixed economic backgrounds can easily share an apartment building, the subway, services, and shopping. Diversity in areas of low density is far more seriously ghettoized. Public investment in housing can work to pay the green premium and retain affordability in dense metro areas. It will have a much greater problem making the same investment in locations without a transit-based strategy linking small metro-locations.

      However, there are other issues as the political choices stand for Americans in this decade. The three listed above are essentially non-negotiable. Listen again. The song is fun to hear.

      Personal growth is the main stimulant of culture and a balancing agent against the excesses of power. When this growth is offered to all people, and we are slowly coming to realize the stimulants are here, and it is now, the next fight for freedom will be to sustain our ability to share what we know, but the very first place to test for truth will be right outside your front door and where you can walk from there.

      A broad new set of factors to the urban scale expresses a numerical value such as a price level of something compared to something else. When used to index urban “livability” across the rapidly changing structure of cities, the index will aid policymakers to rate the sensibilities of ordinary working people about those who seek to profit from their labor, skill, insight, and productivity.

      Two ranking styles are popular; the first puts a high value on economic and financial services supporting trade in material resources and political and cultural matters. The second index lists environmental pleasures such as the climate, interesting scenes, and the general absence of discord. This yields objective criteria and a means to implement a measured response to a specific human need or general desire regardless of wealth or station.

      A city’s economic value is a mathematical matter, and only recently have specific environmental conditions been added as costs associated with aesthetic perspectives. The former is a mathematical value associated with sustainable or viable, resilient or vibrant, secure or stable. Aesthetic measures associated with sociocultural conditions such as truth and beauty or governance services such as law are also. The mathematics of index ratings on all of these things center on weight, whether weighted equally or in a framework for preferences. The demand for policies that measure and react in short, precise cycles has begun.

      Without a doubt, these conditions of value continue to produce a dense urban form for people, and yet it remains an abstraction of consumption. The new flurry of numbers means one new thing, “they know” and “we know they know,” so now what? The driving factor for these new index factors will involve three-quarters of the earth’s population who will have an urban life of some description by the year 2050. The demand for an urban life has created this 3:1 ratio of “attraction,” leading to self-fulfilling urban development that continues without check. Those who remain outside the urban region are the most important to sustaining that realm and keeping its ability to be wild, safe.

      Reasons

      The Charter Revision of 1977 created community planning boards in NYC when the decentralization of authority was a popular idea. It aligned with social change forces seeking civil rights and social justice, equality, and human rights in the United States.

      Concurrently, the mainly white upper-income population since the late 1950s found a small government easy to talk to in their newly built suburban enclaves. The population in New York City, on the other hand remained diverse and residents sought to build the resource of self-determination into the city’s community districts. This neighborhood government idea has become a gesture for expanding participation, it added transparency, but not to the power sought. Now is the time for improved strategies. Click the arrow, watch the slides.

      RLC – OCCUPY

      As of

      November 2018

      Community Board Members will serve no more than four consecutive two-year terms.

      The Community Board (CB) staff is a skeleton.

      It is barely able to support members and manage schedules.

      Community Boards see themselves as part of the problem, and they like it.

      “If all they will let is do is protest, then we will protest.’

      Why is a hammer the only tool?

      Why is the CB a shed for hammers? Many other skills are on offer.

      The squeaky wheel powers of CBs can strongly influence some city agencies’ project development practices, but not in a good way.

      Unhelpful, unhealthy “blame-the-victim” methods prevail.

      Community Boards

      (usually upper-income)

      can successfully impede

      a public or private project.

      Community Boards

      (usually lower-income)

      sense new projects as an attack.

      Efforts to gain consensus fail.

      What can be done to solve this problem, clarify the issues? First:

      Community boards were originally called community planning boards.

      Today a Community Board is treated as a multi-purpose government entity.

      Judgments are sought on everything, from cargo bikes to billions in private housing development.

      The structure makes Community Boards appear dysfunctional.

      Members can be “vision people” and have fun with that foresight to define and solve problems.

      For everything else, an up or down vote is the only expression of power. So be it, but:

      An opinion (up or down) vote will not reduce the sense of political manipulation and administrative misinformation.

      Doing nothing is not an option.

      Put strategic planning back into local efforts in a proactive partnership that solves problems.