Los Angeles' Green Building Program: A Grand Statement or Grand Gesture?

As the second most populous city in the United States, Los Angeles is determined to become a sustainable model for all metropolises by reducing carbon emissions via the 2008 Private Sector Green Building Plan. It is not hard to see why this task has been particularly challenging for Los Angeles, considering that the city has grown outward as opposed to upward, but LA still plans on removing 80,000 tons of greenhouse emissions from the atmosphere before 2012 by mandating that all projects of a certain size reach the LEED Certified level.

Here is the biggest question – how exactly is the Green Building Program (GBP) going to reduce vehicle miles travelled (VMT) so significantly in a city that is so dependent on the personal automobile? Though it has been well over a year since the ordinance was signed by Major Villariagosa, there has not been a substantial increase in the number of LEED projects completed in Los Angeles, as suggested by the U.S. Green Building Council directory. While some might suggest that this is because design and construction take longer than a year and a half to finish, it can also be attributed to the fact that zoning regulations limit the scope of the GBP to certain regions such as Downtown and Westwood. By limiting the physical regions that are affected by the program, the city will not be able to connect the already dense areas to more suburban neighborhoods such as South Los Angeles.

Another issue that must be brought to light is that the LEED system is not at all the best way to reduce VMT. As a LEED Accredited Professional, I know firsthand that certification does not imply transit-oriented development. While the new LEED V3 places more emphasis on transit location than previous guidelines have, the system of credentials is more highly dependent on energy efficiency within the building itself, so much so, that it is possible to obtain Certified status without incorporating any significant access to public transportation. Furthermore, any project which was submitted for review before June 30th of this year does not need to meet the new regulations. This is not to say that implementing minimum LEED requirements in new buildings is not a good idea in general, but rather irrelevant to the topic that Villariagosa is combating. Studies from the California Integrated Waste Management Board calculate a total savings of $48 per square foot over the life of a Certified or Silver building. But are energy savings enough? Clearly, any positive fiscal production will be regarded fondly, especially given the national economic slump. While it is possible to treat multiple problems with one program, this plan must attack VMT before we praise it for financial reasons.

Now back to the topic at hand--carbon emissions. The mentality of planning officials in Los Angeles is in need of a dire change. Instead of using the GBP as a method of publicizing how sustainable our city is, policy makers should be formulating a plan that will actually work, even if this means accepting a foreign model as superior. In this situation, we could best follow some of the most successful transit models and incentivize the public to actually use ours. Because it is completely impractical to reverse what sprawl has done within Los Angeles, the most realistic move is to target public transportation instead of density. Take Curitiba for example—the city reports that over 70% of commuters use BRT as their primary means of transit. What makes this system so successful is not difficult to replicate in Los Angeles. Passengers in Curitiba pay prior to boarding the bus, which decreases transit time. Additionally, buses have their own lanes and run in 2-minute increments. However, LA drivers do not honor the “Bus Only” lanes that we have running through Downtown. As someone who takes the Dash to and from work, it becomes clear that enforcing the use of exclusive lanes will make the ride shorter and more attractive to drivers.

Additionally, the retrofitting of the Los Angeles bus system will create jobs and revenue. By increasing the quality and frequency of buses, the Metro will attract more users. Studies from independent interest groups such as GRITS assert that for every $10,000,000 invested in public transportation, a savings of $15,000,000 in transportation costs occurs. Another pro is that both white and blue collar jobs will be created. Nationally, over 350,000 individuals are employed in the operation of public transportation, while related fields such as mechanics/engineering also grow.

Returning to the Green Building Program, its most notable distinction from a transit-based plan is quite simple. Because the city is not directly funding the GBP, we cannot count on action; however, private developers, who must pay larger upfront costs for their projects, are the funders of this initiative. Most of us realize that there have been budget difficulties for the state and local governments, but a plan that completely removes government aid from the picture is bound to fail. Though the city will expedite inspections during the construction process, the USGBC’s directory of LEED projects proves that this is not enough to encourage private entities to invest in large projects.

This is not meant to suggest that an increase in taxes through revisiting the decisions made by bad policy, for example Prop 13, is necessary to fund transit changes, though it is does become a relevant point in any community planning debate. What I mean to expose is that funding meaningful initiatives is not easy to accomplish.

Building usable public transit takes time, money, and effort, and Los Angeles city planners know this. In tough economic times, it may seem like the best option to create a financially feasible program, such as the Green Building Plan, even though it may not reduce VMT. Since we hope to become a leader in sustainable development, let’s focus on making evocative changes instead of grand statements.


Product Design: Creating Sources of Green Energy

While my previous entries tend to emphasize the greening of buildings, sustainability in development does not always start with the structures themselves. Sometimes it is the smallest or unseen innovation that causes the greatest transformation. Currently, a sizable portion of our country's scientific effort is allocated to creating new sources of renewable energy for the post-oil era. Even on an international level, the need for change is apparent through competitions such as the 2009 Delta Cup and FuturArc's green architecture contest. There is no shortage of ideas that involve powering the nation's real estate. I have previously discussed how solar panels and wind turbines are being used in recent projects, but as a society, we are always looking for new concepts that involve energy efficiency. Using the blogosphere, I found two posts that discuss less publicized advances that may aid future real estate projects in terms of renewable power. The first item discusses a new use for dead batteries that can be practiced on an individual level. In "Eco Gadgets: Energy Seed Lamp Glows on Trashed Batteries", software engineer Anupam presents a concept design for a sidewalk lamp that runs exclusively on old batteries (see photo right). On a grander scale, Alex Pasternack discusses another theory model that can benefit entire cities rather than single units. In "Renewable 'Energy Islands' at Sea to Power Cities, Produce Fresh Water, and More", the respected writer goes on to describe the advantages of using ocean thermal energy conservation as a primary source of power. These are just two examples of the endless attempts to retrofit our nation in a resourceful manner. Although these schemes have yet to be physically constructed, their realistic possibilities are another step towards worldwide sustainability. Along with providing personal feedback at each respective blog, I have added my comments below.

"Eco Gadgets: Energy Seed Lamp Glows on Trashed Batteries"
This is a great device to promote given the current need for products that save both money and energy. It seems that this design can redefine what it means to recycle batteries. Considering most households are unaware of how to recycle batteries and their potential harm, this lamp will be beneficial for the education of people and the longevity of the environment. My concerns arise when I think about who will purchase these lamps. Chances are likely that if an individual is conscious enough to buy this environmentally friendly product, they already know how to properly disposal of harmful materials. On the other hand, if these were to be installed in public areas by the cities, do you think that citizens would actually bring their old batteries to these fixtures? I would argue that the latter is the best option because the product only drains the batteries, but does not recycle them. In this case, the city's sanitation bureau could be in charge of collecting the battery shells after they have been drained and discard them. Still, the product only "indirectly" promotes the healthy liquidation of these entities. Like you mention, "If proper care is not taken in disposing the batteries used by the lamp, it would still have the same dreadful effects on the environment." Another drawback to this design is that it does not seem to indicate when each battery is fully depleted. It only takes about 2 volts for the bulb to light, but if the combined total of the energy supply is less than this, every battery will probably be trashed considering it will become a tedious and untimely task to determine which battery still has juice left. Despite the flaws of this prototype, I believe that this product will have a huge impact on sustainability in real estate. It can potentially spare land from being exposed to the content's harmful effects and provide a new source of power for artificial lighting. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on its impact in this realm.

"Renewable 'Energy Islands' at Sea to Power Cities, Produce Fresh Water, and More"
This island is a unique concept in the progression of renewable energy (see rendering left). It is promising to see a proposed idea being calculated down to monetary and feasibility levels. The way you have presented the content in your entry is very helpful, as you provide facts, opinions, the pros, and the cons. For someone like me who was previously unaware of this idea, it is quite helpful that you detail exactly how the islands will generate energy. Most importantly, you address a few of my major concerns with this design. First, the cost of building the project is rather discouraging. You mention that these "energy islands have an estimated price tag of $600 million" Additionally, you state that the exported electricity cost will be slightly higher than that of wind turbines and almost double that of coal. I agree that it is not necessary to build these just yet considering the vast amounts of energy that can be harvested at a much cheaper price on land. Another concern that you somewhat mention is the safety of these islands. Although the islands do float, rising sea level will not be the only pertinent meteorological worry. Do you believe that such projects will only be successful in certain parts of the oceans where they are not prone to hurricanes or tsunamis? It would be a shame to invest 600 million dollars into each island only to have them destroyed. Despite my worries, such products will no doubt serve multiple purposes. But their credibility as tourism hot-spots is rather implausible. Even though inventors suggest that a cluster of these solar isles can create new destinations for tourists, I question whether or not people will choose them over natural islands. You mention the "awesome aqualife" and water sports, but what about the atmosphere that island visitors expect? The fact that they float terminates the possibility for beaches and greenery, while water sports and sea life can be found at any tropical vacation spot. Personally, I think that the concept is groundbreaking, but for the time being we should focus on the single purpose of providing power. I am glad that you have continued to report this story as it develops and I will be keeping my eye out for the final product.


Defining Sustainability: Rebuilding New Orleans' 9th Ward

Throughout this blog, I have referred to sustainability in terms of environmentally effective design. In New Orleans, the word takes on a different meaning due to Hurricane Katrina. Even three years after the storm, many families are left without a home and with little hope for the future. In an attempt to turn this around, actor Brad Pitt started the Make it Right Foundation whose goal is to rebuild the city's Lower 9th Ward (see photo right). Having visited this part of the city, Pitt realized the cultural devastation was almost insurmountable. He also noted that this was not the first natural disaster to hit the region. In 1965, Hurricane Betsy displaced hundreds of families and left behind an estimated twelve billion dollars in damages. Pitt's vision for his foundation exploits architecture and design as a tool for creating a lasting community. For the ward's residents, sustainability did not mean using solar power or recyclable materials--it meant creating structures that would survive future storms. Author and historian Douglas Brinkley specifically defines the problem, arguing that the broken levies "did far more than flood thousands of homes--[they] forced houses and families off their foundations." In a figurative and literal sense, the groundwork of the entire neighborhood was left in pieces. Since the organization was founded in 2006, architects have been exploring innovative ways to create permanency for the Lower 9th Ward, and while it has taken over two years for the first phases of the project to near completion, the ground-breaking schemes apparently will help to maintain this district for years to come.

One of Pitt's ideas for rebuilding the ward is to stray away from repetitious structures while keeping the units affordable. Through personal and public donations, the group was able to hire a series of local, national, and international architects. Such strategies made sure that each building maintained a sense of uniqueness. Even though some of the designs are seemingly wild, they will add to the distinctive cultural background of New Orleans. One of the most prominent features of the new homes is that they will be hoisted above ground level (see photo left). Using stilts, this tactic will protect houses if a future storm ever causes flooding. Not all of the buildings will stand on poles, but some will be elevated using garages or lofty foundations. Pedestrian infrastructure will also be tailored specifically for the location. Permeable concrete will stop rain from pooling up on the sidewalks and relieve stress on the ward's pumping system. Lastly, every house will also be fortified to withstand winds up to 130 mph. Before this program, many public officials doubted whether they should invest in the renovation of the 9th Ward considering equally vicious storms are inevitable, but opposition to its reconstruction dwindled after the unveiling of these concepts. Patricia Jones, president of the Lower Ninth Ward Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association, recalls, "In the beginning, people were saying that no one would ever be coming back" to the area. Likewise, resident Gloria Guy remains hopeful thanks to the program, stating, "I used to have okra, squash, cauliflower, sweet potatoes – you name it. And next spring I'll be planting them again." Despite the physical success of the project, there will be a great amount of post construction controversy. It is still undecided how to prioritize who will acquire each unit. This is because the project went straight to the development phase. It does not necessarily follow property lines of the city before Katrina, which makes it difficult to determine what structure falls on whose land. Consequently, the neighborhood was annexed by the city, leaving it up to the private sector to decide who will live where. It is logical for New Orleans to take land in this situation since with their control, programs such as Pitt's will benefit residents. The real problem will arise when determining who is in the greatest need of the 150 houses that the program plans to build.

With the issue of permanent houses under control, the foundation is able to incorporate other sustainable features into the homes. Solar panels and energy efficient appliances will be installed in all of the units. Even though these luxuries do not aid in the permanency of the structure, Make it Right's executive director Tom Darden asserts that, "the difference between having to replace your solar panels or having to replace your home is night and day." By incorporating these facets, the idea of a sustainable house is accomplished on all levels. They also support tenants economically by saving money. Specifically, energy bills are expected to drop around 75% for the development's residents. According to project adviser Kathrine Grove, there are three simple steps to achieve maximum efficiently in design: make sure daylight can reach every room, insulate in compliance with the weather, and reduce water loads. A formula like this is practically homogeneous and can be used to reduce energy costs in any design. In a sense, Make it Right is setting a precedent for all future dwellings. Still, the sustainable features being used are not solely new and inventive. The organization plans to recycle salvaged materials from the previous community. By means of refurbished items such as mantles and light fixtures, each project will remain like no other. The Washington Post goes on to list the structures' other green qualities: "interiors feature nontoxic materials, such as paint with low VOC (volatile organic compounds) and natural-fiber carpeting. Bathrooms feature dual-flush toilets, [and] windows are double-paned." Such features might be beneficial, but to the people of the 9th Ward, sustainability is best defined as long-lasting. It is commendable that Pitt chose to focus his effort on the hardest hit area in New Orleans, but the success of the Make it Right Foundation will truly be determined after the next Katrina.


New Infrastructure: Designing for Green Transportation

Last week, I discussed how retrofitting the nation's infrastructure with sustainable resources is one option for stimulating the economy. Similarly, carrying this concept through individual real estate projects is being tested. Like cities, developments are planned with transportation in mind. The difference being that they revolve around parking while cities are influenced by streets and highways. Forming green transit systems is the most difficult task considering new urban ideals look down on oil-based transportation. This idea tends to fail because it does not coincide with the general population's dependence on automobiles. Since the necessity of movement is arguably the most important aspect of design, it is vital that we begin promoting change on both the macro and micro levels. As a result of change in transportation, a foundation for maintaining sustainable communities will be created. Using the blogosphere, I found two relevant posts that discuss green infrastructure and further investigate the issue. The first entry is titled "LEED and Parking - Lessons Learned", and it discusses the blogger's process of incorporating privileged parking for environmentally efficient cars into his building scheme. This specific piece is almost a forum where the author asks for advice from developers facing similar issues. Although the writer's identity is well-hidden, there is an obvious amount of knowledge that he shares through his personal experiences. To compliment the microcosmic piece, I reviewed a post that explores a general outlook on transportation. "At Least Some American Infrastructure Investment Doesn't Involve Cars" gives Lloyd Alter's view on the nation's current rail transit. In addition to writing for Treehugger's blog, Alter is a successful architect, developer, and inventor. Although he uses a single case study, his conclusions are generalized for a nation-wide perspective. I have added personal feedback via comments at each blog, but they are also displayed below.

"LEED and Parking - Lessons Learned"
Your project exposes some interesting difficulties that surface when providing restricted parking. I appreciate that you share the information that was found while researching in addition to your opinions. As a student studying real estate development, I have found that these guidelines are becoming more important as sustainability becomes a larger issue. You mention that "less parking than is typically required [and preferred] parking for both carpoolers and Low-Emitting Vehicles" will be offered. Is this to encourage the purchase of fuel efficient cars or do building codes allow less parking if more privileged spaces are available? I believe that your audience can better infer the motive if you mention the building typology. The scheme is described as "an enormous building", but stating what the structure will be used for might be helpful for readers. Whether or not the intention was to promote using efficient methods of transportation, this parking tactic suggests its importance. Additionally, the photograph that you have selected to compliment the text is a great resource (see photo left). It gives a visual reference and shows exactly what you have in mind in terms of painting as opposed to purchasing 200 costly signs. It is commendable that you are thinking about conserving materials. Despite the research that you have provided, defining low-emitting vehicles is still rather unclear. The average driver probably does not know what SmartWay Elite Certification or the American Council's rating system entail. Consequently, do you think that an honor system will take effect? It is obvious that a Prius is more likely to meet these standards than a Ford F250, but I think that a lack of general knowledge may lead to misuse of this privilege. Initially, I too thought of using MPG as a regulation, but the counter-argument that you present is strong. What do you think about using stickers similar to those which allow vehicles to use carpool lanes or handicapped parking spots? On a similar note, I am curious to know how carpool parking spots will be enforced. Is this too an honor system? I look forward to hearing your responses and kudos for the informative summary of a lesser known topic.

"At Least Some American Infrastructure Investment Doesn't Involve Cars"
I am thrilled to see more and more attention being given to non-vehicular transportation. It is great that your post has attracted meaningful responses from its readers. Although you offer a limited amount of text, I believe that your background and unique insight allows for this style of round-table discussion with the audience. In addition, I find that the images support the content nicely. Specifically, the rendering of the Poughkeepsie railroad bridge as a pedestrian overpass is vital in understanding the project's goal (see rendering right). While the thoughts behind the change are respectable, I hesitate to think that it will draw a crowd "equivalent to the Eiffel Tower, or the Golden Gate Bridge". Giving some input on this assumption might alter the way the project is perceived. It is credible that local residents will take advantage of the walkway, but difficult for me to believe it would draw worldwide attention. I would like to hear more personal opinions considering you have an extensive knowledge of the industry. I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on the rebirth of the rail system. You mention that we need to start "thinking of every railway bridge and right-of-way as a national asset to be maintained and restored, and not left to rot." It seems to me that the railway system is not fixable based on public perception. Do you think that it is possible to encourage people to take advantage of a restored rail system, let alone invest millions for its rejuvenation? On the other hand, it is commonly accepted that trains can be helpful in displacing "fuel-inefficient [service] trucks." Here in California, Proposition 1b demands the construction of a high-speed railway that will run from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Being a student in Southern California, I have heard few, if any, who oppose the idea. Will creating a new system be as effective? It is necessary to turn to alternative modes of transportation, but preserving railroads on a national level seems costly and may yield less-than-desirable results. Perhaps I am simply unaware of its demand. Thank you again for presenting an informative post and I will be anticipating your future entries.


Green Policy: Public Reform's Affect on Sustainable Development

With the United States' economy in shambles, it is natural to believe that green design will be left on the back burner in favor of financing affordable housing. The recent 700 billion dollar bailout seems like a great resource for enticing investors back to the real estate market, simply because banks are going to have more money to put into projects. Despite an increase of funds, this answer is not beneficial for developers. Instead, existing loans are being purchased by the federal administration, leaving institutions to be more cautious when approving future loans. This lack of monetary supply will be coupled with a low demand for new houses. In order to fund the bailout, an increase in taxes may be implemented and if so, these middle-class taxpayers, who account for the majority of real estate's demand, would be left with less money to invest. Still, the bailout is only one example among many that affect the viability of the real estate business as failed sub-prime mortgages have forced many homeowners into foreclosure, which adds to the economy's instability. The dwindling market notwithstanding, sustainability in design is being strongly encouraged via recent public policy changes.

Recent government procedures promote using alternative energy sources for fiscal compensation. One of the less publicized reforms of the bailout states that tax credits will be given to developers, companies, and home owners who produce wind or solar energy on site. For instance, the installation of a solar panel system can yield a credit of up to 75,000 dollars. Policies like this are intended to increase demand for environmentally sound services while helping to stabilize parts of the economy. For example, JA Solar and SunPower stocks have remained relatively consistent during recent fluctuation in the market, which can be attributed to the government's backing of solar energy. Federal reforms have created "440,000 permanent jobs and [added] $325 billion in private investment in the U.S. solar energy sector," according to Solar Energy Industry Association President, Rhone Resch. In a similar manner, the credits will financially secure wind energy companies. Many businesses have already started to make changes in order to take advantage of the codes. Chipotle Mexican Grill is opening a new franchise in Gurnee, Illinois with an on-site wind turbine (see rendering above left). In addition to the tax break, 10% of the structure's energy needs will be generated by wind power at no cost after deployment. Supplementing wind power, only Energy-Star appliances and efficient bathroom fixtures are being installed. The company is seeking LEED approval (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which is the United States Green Building Council's highest recognition for sustainable structures. Chipotle believes the concept will not only attract customers, but also support a lifestyle change in general. Even though the economic situation has prompted action, the controversial bailout reveals mixed results for development. Chipotle is able to act on the new regulations because of its size, but for the average family, these actions have made it more difficult to finance a loan, let alone spend on green design.

Economic hardships have also stimulated creative thinking for using bionomic strategies to avoid crisis. Blogger Van Jones of The Huffington Post argues for what he calls a "green bailout." According to Jones, following the recent Wall Street rescue with an environmentally friendly version will be an effective tool in moving out of recession. "[With a] $350 billion investment, we absolutely and positively could retrofit and repower America using clean, green energy--and create millions of new jobs, in the process," he asserts. Unlike the arbitrary amount of 700 billion, Jones claims that his plan is calculated and results are certain. A series of reports from the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Political Economy Research Institute explain that investing in sustainable business can create over three million imperishable jobs during these sensitive years. Jones uses these studies to advance the argument in his recently published book, The Green-Collar Economy, which analyzes this denouement. With only half as much money as was allotted to the bailout, an undeniable economic resolution is plausible. Other ideas incorporate different fields of sustainability. Specific to real estate, Green for All is proposing a Clean Energy Corps, whose mission is to dress the nation's infrastructure and buildings with sources of clean energy (see diagram right). Through creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, Clean Energy Corps would be able to promote sustainable design while deterring the economy from collapsing. Policies such as these will aid in resolving market crises rather than providing a quick fix. Additional billion-dollar investments are required to implement such programs; however, the ends justify the means. The nation is currently in need of new industries to preserve its financial system and the realm of real estate offers an obvious solution. By investing in environmental development programs, multiple problems will be reduced cohesively. In contempt of the media's generally negative depiction of the economy, its state is presenting new incentives for citizens to go green.


Seeing Green: The Internet and its Influence

After researching for my previous entries, I noticed that there is a shortage of sources that combine the fields of real estate development and sustainability. This week, I searched the web extensively in order to find useful materials that cover one or both topics. Along with adding these sources to the linkroll (right), and to ensure their validity, it is important to critique them using the Webby and ISMA criteria.

The world of online real estate offers a variety of influential materials. BLDG BLOG discusses contemporary issues in architecture, landscape, and urban speculation. It is well researched, thought-provoking, and maintains an assertive tone. Although it can be inferred that the author is well versed on the subject matter, credibility could be heightened by including personal credentials. In this sense, The Real Estate Bloggers also falls short. Despite copious amounts of knowledge that are developed throughout his entries, he is not directly related to the real estate field. While these blogs denote specific opinions of their writers, professional news sources depict stories in terms of facts. The real estate homepage of Forbes.com focuses on the industry in terms of business. Forbes offers a variety of in-depth content, but it becomes overpowered by animated ads which clutter the page. Likewise, washingtonpost.com boasts an informative real estate management section. And like Forbes, its weakness can also be found in terms of aesthetics. By presenting news stories in lists instead of exploiting a visual layout, a hierarchical problem is formed between important articles and everyday stories (see photo left). Finally, New Urban News is a monthly newsletter dedicated to planned urban developments, which was explored in the previous post. Despite its rather amateur look, all of the presented stories are taken from an actual publication and written by legitimate authors.

A wide selection of items is also available about sustainability. The CNET news blog, Green Tech, discusses an entire spectrum of earthly issues-- from presidential candidates' views on clean technology to modern fuel efficient cars. Green Tech attracts a large amount of comments, which is partially due to the effective integration of relevant photos within the text. Another blog, Inhabitat, seems to rely too much on pictures, while forcing readers to navigate away from the main page in order to read full entries. It is arguable that this strategy may be beneficial. Inhabitat reports on unique product and architectural designs, meaning that the illustrations can show more than text alone. Distinctive content can also be observed at Treehugger. It also provides easy navigation to its various subtopics via icons at the top of every page. Despite having a plethora of categories, Treehugger does not generate a great amount of reader responses. Unlike these other blogs, WorldChanging is a conglomeration of industry professionals whose goal is to offer solutions to environmental problems. At least the mission statement proclaims so. While exploring, many interesting articles are found, but not a significant number are specifically dedicated to solving problems. Here is where WorldChanging will lose its target audience. Leaving the blogosphere, Time Magazine has an entire section devoted to sustainability. Going Green is Time's interactive page that allows visitors to choose between watching and reading the news. The only drawback is its tedious process of locating old stories. Going Green only shows twelve articles per page. Similarly, in American Public Media's sustainability network, the only way to browse previous reports is to search using specific titles. The site does give the government perspective on many ecologic issues. Because their opinion is influential for the progression of green policies, it is informative to know what exactly the public sector is reporting. This being said, The California Integrated Waste Management Board reveals positive results of these policies. But if there was no .gov, it would not be as credible of a resource due to minimal functionality and displeasing visuals. In terms of content, only the strengths of California's rules are reported, most likely because it is regulated by biased public administrators. Interest groups are also working for change, which is the goal of The Green Power Market Development Group. Their goal is to create energy efficient working environments through technology and financial education. The homepage is difficult to navigate, but once the information is found, it becomes clear that the group's web page is tailored to their specific goals.

A surprising amount of locations maintained an equal balance of both subjects. Jetson Green blog is dedicated almost exclusively to sustainable architectural case studies and creates a usable forum to provoke discussion of its current and little known topics. This is an excellent model of ISMA guidelines (see photo right). Rather than using case studies, GreenSource reports on the progression of green development through factual stories. Guests are able to engage flawlessly with the site in terms of visuals and navigation. Additionally, The Green Home Guide combines technology and ordered structure to maintain an all-around pleasurable experience. Here, the United States Green Building Council states its guidelines for what constitutes as sustainable real estate. A pleasing mixture of content and layout is not always easily achieved. For example, GreenBuilding.com proclaims that it contains "everything you want to know and more about green building", but minimal information is found. This flaw is masked by a highly interactive and exciting homepage, where one can scroll over the graphics in order to receive tidbits of the trade. Not all helpful resources divulge news stories and how-to's. GreenSage is an online business that sells recycled products for the home. As a small private company, the website comes across as a little plain and unprofessional. Still, it remains usable as a store. Along similar lines, Green Building Solutions directs its users to sellers of sustainable construction materials for building or renovating green homes. Like GreenSage, the aesthetic arrangement of Green Building Solutions lacks originality and has an abundance of unnecessary white space. At these websites, the visuals do not reinforce the professionalism of each company. Putting forward a different type of guide, Green Homes for Sale gives the most extensive list of eco-friendly houses for sale across the country. In this case, simplicity works favorably due to its countless methods of searching through the listings. Overall, researching to find a variety of sources has led to new inspiration for this blog.


Planned Development: The Foundation of a Sustainable Community

After exploring the Olympic stadium case study, turning to the sustainable community seems like the proper step in revealing recent solutions of many green-conscious developers. Before environmentally-friendly design was an issue, cities grew according to the suburban sprawl model where high density in cities forced families to move to the outskirts (see photo right). Because of this, a geographical separation between work and home has been formed that remains in most modern cities. Consequently, these conditions have previously forced urban planners to design cities for cars rather than people. With the environmental problems that plague cities today, it is apparent that they need to be planned so that when they do expand, they grow in a manner which is sustainable for both the environment and its population. Many cities are turning to urban planners in order to create sustainable communities. The specific goal of these urban planners needs to be to create a planned development that has the ability to be self-sufficient. This can generally be achieved through designing mixed-use projects and making changes in zoning codes. While researching the results of planned urban development, I came across two blog posts that I believe strengthen this argument. At these two well-researched blogs, I decided to offer my opinion on the subject. The first post, California Uses Zoning Changes to Cut Carbon Emissions, is written by Joshua Rosenau, a doctorate student of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at the University of Kansas. His post discusses the benefits of planning urban design around efficient infrastructure, and specifically how recent changes in California zoning codes will reduce carbon emissions and promote a healthier lifestyle. The second post focuses on a more macrocosmic view of planned development. In Improvement of Environment in Urban Cities: Green Cover with Planned Developments is Key, engineer Partha Das Sharma outlines the necessary key concepts for creating ecologically efficient urban cities. In addition to posting my comments on each blog respectively, I have also posted them below.

"California Uses Zoning Changes to Cut Carbon Emissions"
I would like to thank you for giving extensive insight into how California's zoning changes will in fact make a difference in the realm of urban development. I am interested in the way that you present infrastructure as if it is the foundation for sustainable projects. I agree that in many cases, infrastructure is an afterthought, but many times that is because planners are able to distinguish important destinations later on in the life of a sub-city. This is why I agree that planned development is the perfect compromise when it comes to integrating transportation into urban planning. Although your original assertion is that carbon emissions will be reduced by these zone changes, you continue to exploit the human benefits of planned urbanism. Specifically, you give the example of how planned urban development will allow people to walk to the market, decrease the amount of food they purchase, and in turn have the ability to purchase fresher food since trips to the grocery store become more frequent. This change in infrastructure from cars to foot creates a sustainable city while encouraging a sustainable lifestyle for the individual. This lifestyle change is one result of progressive urban development that I may have never considered if I had not read this post. I also found your argument to be credible in the sense that the results have changed your perspective on urban development, considering you seem to experience the benefits of progressive development on a day-to-day basis. The integration of facts among your personal account supports your argument on both a macro and micro level. At the end of the post, you mention that in less dense communities, private grocery stores are "economically inefficient." Although it seems plausible, it would help your assertion to provide the statistics or to "paint a picture" of how dense is dense enough to support this development style. Additionally, the title of the post suggests that the blog will discuss zoning codes, but the bulk of the text is dedicated to exposing the benefits of pedestrian infrastructure. Your post gives valuable personal insight into the difference between car and pedestrian traffic, and the title could draw attention to this.

"Improvement of Environment In Urban Cities: Green Cover with Planned Development is Key"
Thank you for offering such a thorough outline of the conditions that will allow a city to evolve with recent (though not mandatory) environmental standards. By presenting your argument as an outline, you allow your audience to see the steps individually and expose the major benefits that can be produced from changing one aspect of a communities design. Since I have begun my blog, I have found that there is a limited amount of sources that merge the realms of sustainability and real estate development, but this post offers an extensive amount of information in these areas. I appreciate that you take the time to explain the cultural factors of sustainability as well as the physical. While I have explored the importance of creating sustainable structures, your post has highlighted the necessity of sustainable communities, including the social effects of green park space in a project. My target with this comment is to specifically discuss the importance of planned urban development. It is beneficial to your argument when you note that urbanization is irreversible, and thus, it is important to make sure that the urban planning remains sustainable in the future. This being one of the biggest problems with the sporadic and quick development practices of the past decade. This is a perspective that I had not thought to analyze until reading your post. Additionally, I find that mixed-use projects should be the basis of these planned developments. By integrating business and shopping districts into residential projects, the city becomes about the individual rather than the car (see photo above left). Like you mention, this will also impact the environment via the reduction of pollution. Although you present your solution very precisely, I believe that it would strengthen your argument to mention the political influence on projects in addition to planning problems. Zoning regulations can prevent mixed-use developments or the amount of green space that a project may contain. Do you believe that city legislation should unconditionally allow these types of projects? Additionally, I am curious to know whether or not you see the guidelines that you present being used in the urban planning of today's most rapidly growing and progressive cities such as Dubai?


London 2012: Sustainable Vs. Recyclable

With the passing of this summer's 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, it is evident that the Olympics have become more than a series of athletic competitions. The games have become a symbol of worldwide unity and human progression. Every aspect of the Olympics is scrutinized, from the host city down to the participating athletes. With such a mixture of international cultures and perspectives, controversy can only be expected. London's 2012 Olympic Games are no exception. A worldwide energy crisis and an increasingly green lifestyle have set the bar extremely high for the message that the next Olympic Games will send. This message is being convoluted by the (literally) largest icon of the games, the Olympic stadium.

When the design for the stadium was initially unveiled, the project boasted one of the most progressive designs in terms of sustainability (see rendering above left). In fact, the concept is based entirely on sustainability and the ability to reuse the stadium after the Olympics. HoK Sport, the chief architecture firm of the project, is attempting to create an entirely recyclable structure. 80,000 seats will be installed for the 2012 games, but 55,000 of them are temporary. The post-Olympic plan is to remove these extra seats and create a 25,000 seat venue for community use. Additionally, the accepted design includes fabric stadium walls, another first in this building typology. HoK believes that the fabric walls will be reusable and will ensure that the stadium is in fact a sustainable structure. Specifically, the firm envisions creating souvenir tote bags out of the fabric to help earn funds for the structure. Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, goes so far to say that it "must be the most environmentally sustainable stadium ever constructed anywhere on the face of the planet".

The problem is there is nothing sustainable about a building that costs 525 million British pounds. For the sake of simplicity, that converts just over 900 million U.S. dollars. This cost estimation is more than twice in initial budget proposed by the London's Olympic Committee, and all costs have not been accounted for. Surprise costs will be added to the budget as construction progresses. Additionally, this prediction does not take into account the cost of the twenty-two buildings and the 600,000 tons of soil which had to be removed in order to make room for the stadium. In comparison, the Bird's Nest, which was constructed for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, is estimated to have cost 500 million U.S. dollars and has a maximum capacity of 91,000 seats (see photo below). This is just over half of London's current budget and can hold more people. This cost also included the state of the art Solar VP system produced by Suntech Powers. Arguably, the 2008 stadium is more sustainable than 2012's seems to be. It must be noted that even though London's stadium is recyclable, that does not make it sustainable. The difference being that any building can be stripped and salvaged to some extent, but truly sustainable architecture will reap benefits in its present. Without proclaiming, the Bird's Nest has sustainable qualities that make it constantly efficient. Additionally, it has become an international icon as a well-balanced blend between aesthetic design and green development, a quality that many of London's critics will notice absent in 2012.

The extent to which the stadium is reusable is also in question. First, additional structures on the immediate property, such as food and concession stands, have not been given final approval by the London Development Agency (L.D.A.). The current proposal will make these smaller structures temporary and removable, but officials are hesitant to expand the projects budget in order to accommodate this consistency. Developers are faced with a lose/lose situation; choosing between spending more money to create a truly recyclable project, and saving money, which in itself is a sustainable quality, but inconsistent with the thesis of the project. If the cost to renovate the surrounding area post-Olympics is substantial, it will take away from the project's ability to be easily reused. Second, the final design for the post-game stadium has not been resolved beyond the fact that the 55,000 extra seats and tarps will be removed. There is still the issue of what will be done with the steel beams that support the tarp walls. Steel is easily and cheaply recycled, but the post-game plan questions removing the beams at all. Since the beams will have no purpose after the tarps are removed, recycling them would add to the projects legitimacy. Finally, there is no long-term guarantee that future events will be held at the stadium. This will ultimately label the project as a failure in terms of sustainability. The entire idea is to recycle the stadium, but the city of London has yet to lease it to a sports team or event committee. The stadium has been found unsuitable for any specific sport because of the permanent track and field fixations. The L.D.A. recently admitted that the stadium might not have a future in athletics. According to L.D.A., the proposed design is specific to the Olympics, where versatility is required. Consequently, if there is no lease after the games, there will be no revenue to pay off the structures massive debt. The L.D.A. has even publicly suggested demolishing the stadium after the Olympics to prevent it from becoming a "white elephant". The very same day this was reported, an advocate for the mayor stated, "[London envisions] a long term future for the Olympic stadium. Expensive facilities should not be built unless they have a viable future". Livingstone continues to argue for the longevity of the project, saying that once potential leasers see the finished project, the offers will pour in.

It is obvious that the L.D.A. has lost sight of the true mission for this project. An honest sustainable structure is cost efficient, easily maintained, and long lasting- none of which are definite in London's 2012 Olympic Stadium. Despite the failures that are present with London's main stadium, the Olympic Delivery Authority (O.D.A.) has set new standards in construction and sustainability which they hope will continue in future Olympic development projects. Some of the key components to these new guidelines include: creating renewable energy which is partially generated on site, using design to advantageously reduce waste, recycling water, and designing for the pedestrian. But by excluding the most prominent structure from these guidelines, the message is simply not as strong. It would seemingly be beneficial to exploit them in a permanent and sustainable stadium. Instead, the L.D.A. has left it up to the discretion of the individual to determine whether or not the pursuit of sustainability is important.
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