Families turn old police station into sustainable co-housing

January 1, 2021 by  
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Belgian design firm  Polygoon Architectuur  and Jouri De Pelecijn Architect have brought to life the dream of four local families: a sustainable collaborative housing project that maintains sufficient privacy while providing shared functions. Dubbed Living Apart Together, the four-unit co-housing development is located within a former police station in  Antwerp . The adaptive reuse project emphasizes sustainable design by integrating energy-efficient systems, renewable materials and a green roof. Located within cycling distance of the city center, the Living Apart Together project features shared bicycle storage as well as  car-sharing . As a result, the area along the street side that was originally dedicated to paved parking spaces has now been transformed into a front garden with lush greenery for the benefit of both the inhabitants and the surrounding neighborhood.  The architecture studio converted the former Antwerp police station into four equal-sized family units that are segmented with an extra dividing wall that bisects the original middle bay. Since the environmentally friendly design was a construction goal from the very beginning, the architects took care to preserve the building’s internal arrangement as well as the  brickwork  architecture seen on the front facade. Though each dwelling is roughly the same size, each unit features a slightly different structure; the outer units, for example, include an extra extension on the first floor.  Related: Zaha Hadid Architects turn an old fire station into a sparkling port headquarters for Antwerp In addition to reusing existing materials, the architects crafted the co-housing project with a materials palette comprised mainly of renewable resources such as wood and cellulose. The multi-family residence also includes a  green roof  and rainwater harvesting systems, as well as solar water heaters to reduce the property’s environmental footprint. Garage boxes that were located in the original courtyard have also been demolished to create a spacious common garden viewable from the residents’ dining rooms, adding “a breath of fresh air in busy Deurne.” + Polygoon Architectuur Images © Frederik Beyens, Jessy van der Werff and Stijn Bollaert

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Families turn old police station into sustainable co-housing

MVRDV unveils sustainable Chengdu Sky Valley masterplan

November 24, 2020 by  
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MVRDV has revealed designs for Chengdu Sky Valley, a competition entry for the Future Science and Technology City, which is a planned district on the outskirts of Chengdu, China. Guided by sustainable and placemaking principles, the masterplan seeks to differentiate itself from the country’s other high-tech cities with an emphasis on retaining the existing agricultural landscape, promoting self-sufficient lifestyles and designing with site-specific analyses in mind. Developed as part of Chengdu’s Eastward Development Strategy, the planned Future Science and Technology City will be developed on a rural swath of land adjacent to the new Tianfu International Airport with access to the city’s Metro Line 18. Rather than raze the rural area, the architects sought to retain and enhance the existing landscape — characterized by agricultural fields, rolling hills and scattered villages — while embedding new areas of development in between preserved farming areas.  Related: MVRDV designs a sustainable “urban living room” for Shenzhen “The dichotomy between the existing rural landscape and the future science and technology campus demands a solution that balances tradition and innovation, past and future, young and old, East and West, technology and agriculture,” MVRDV explained. “The design therefore preserves the agricultural valleys, incorporating this activity as a key component of the Future Science and Technology City. New buildings are clustered on the hills, and shaped in a way that amplifies the valley skyline, augmenting the appearance of the Linpan landscape.” MVRDV’s tech taskforce, MVRDV NEXT, developed a series of digital scripts to analyze the site’s topography. The site analyses informed decisions on several parts of the design: which areas should be designated for agricultural zoning versus new building development; the optimization of pathways and bridges to ensure accessibility across the entire site while never exceeding a slope of 4%; the shape and height of human-made hills; and building height limits. As a result, the design features three main valleys — the Knowledge Valley, the Experience Valley and the Venture Valley — around which seven mixed-use developments will be clustered. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV and Atchain

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How Utah cities are pursuing 100% renewable energy

November 20, 2020 by  
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How Utah cities are pursuing 100% renewable energy Emily Elizabet… Fri, 11/20/2020 – 01:00 In the absence of federal action on climate change in the United States, local communities have taken on the responsibility of reducing their greenhouse emissions. To date, more than 150 cities, counties and states across America have passed resolutions to commit to 100 percent net-renewable electricity in the coming years, defined as meeting the city’s total electricity demand with the gross amount of electricity generated and purchased from renewable sources, such as solar, wind and geothermal as well as energy efficiency, demand management and energy storage. Six cities already have achieved this goal: Kodiak Island, Alaska; Aspen, Colorado; Georgetown, Texas; Greensburg, Kansas; Rock Port, Missouri; and Burlington, Vermont. In Utah, 23 cities and counties have resolved to adopt 100 percent net-renewable electricity by 2030, representing about 37 percent of Utah’s electricity load. How did a politically conservative, coal-dependent state such as Utah achieve such a commitment? We recently published a study in the journal Sustainability (access is free) exploring how it began with Salt Lake City, Park City and Moab, the first Utah cities to enact 100 percent net-renewable electricity resolutions in 2016 and 2017. Through interviews with the key players involved and secondary sources, our research uncovered the initial key obstacles facing the cities’ renewable electricity goals and the strategies they have initiated to resolve them. How did a politically conservative, coal-dependent state such as Utah achieve a 100% renewable energy commitment? The biggest hurdle was convincing Rocky Mountain Power, their existing fossil-fuel-dependent utility monopoly, to develop and provide the communities with sufficient clean, renewable electricity resources — not renewable energy credits or supplies from existing sources — and to retire fossil-fuel assets. The other significant challenge was securing buy-in from all city residents and businesses to accept 100 percent net-renewable energy, especially given that the costs for the transition were unknown. Would citizens voluntarily adopt renewable electricity under these circumstances, or would the cities have to mandate participation? Engaging the utility We found that the cities collaborated with each other (along with Summit County, which eventually passed its own resolution), each playing different roles to bring Rocky Mountain Power to the table. Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski initiated talks with the utility, and with the help of State Representative Stephen Handy, negotiations resulted in landmark legislation, the Community Renewable Energy Act (CREA) of 2019, which authorized the utility to procure renewable electricity resources and create a renewable electricity bulk-purchase program for participating cities. The Community Renewable Energy Act of 2019 Rocky Mountain Power required that the additional costs associated with procuring the renewable electricity would not increase rates for customers outside the program. Consequently, CREA stipulated that any new costs and benefits associated with renewable electricity procurement would be designated only to the cities receiving it. CREA also set a deadline for other Utah cities to join the bulk purchase program, and this resulted in 23 Utah cities and counties in total coming forward to take the renewable electricity pledge. These additional cities and counties included some of Utah’s most populated, including Salt Lake County, West Valley City, West Jordan, Orem and Ogden, totaling about 37 percent of the state’s electricity load. Finally, CREA specified that all participating cities’ residents and businesses would receive renewable electricity by default, with a provision for customers to have the opportunity to opt out if they so desired. Park City had found that automatic enrollment in its own WaterSmart conservation program resulted in very high participation rates among its citizens with few choosing to opt out. Thus, the automatic enrollment provision was a critical component of CREA. Academic research suggests that people typically accept defaults as a social norm, so the expectation is that few Utahns may opt out of the renewable electricity program. We argue that CREA may be a model for other cities and communities across the nation implementing 100 percent net-renewable electricity resolutions. Nevertheless, the next major challenge will be holding together Utah’s coalition of cities and counties in the coming years as the costs of the bulk renewable electricity program and its benefits to ratepayers become better understood and accepted. Preventing the coalition from unraveling In 2017, Salt Lake City-based Energy Strategies was commissioned by Park City, Salt Lake City and Summit County to evaluate various cost impacts for each community to achieve 100 percent net-renewable electricity. The studies concluded that electricity rates could be 9 percent to 14 percent higher (?$15 to $17 increase in a typical resident’s monthly electricity bill) over the standard rate should the cities transition to 100 percent net-renewable electricity by 2032. This amounted to about $200 more per year. In our study, officials of the small town of Moab in southern Utah expressed concerns about how these added costs could affect its town budget and residents of modest means. More recently, the city of Ogden announced that it is reconsidering its participation in CREA over fears of potential high costs and rate impacts on the city’s most vulnerable residents. Many cities in the coalition seek ways to offset implementation costs through third-party funding and grants as costs become better understood to minimize their impact on lower-income customers. Rocky Mountain Power seeks renewable electricity sources to fulfill the needs of the bulk purchase program and is developing its own cost estimates that must be approved by the state’s Public Service Commission. While it is a fact that the final costs of CREA by 2030 remain unknown, it is also true that the cost of Rocky Mountain Power’s standard fossil-fuel rate in 10 years is also unknown. Consequently, cities participating in CREA are grappling with these risks. Since the initial 2017 Energy Strategies’ cost studies, wind and solar prices have continued to fall, becoming increasingly cost-competitive with and in many circumstances, less expensive than traditional fossil-fuel electricity sources. Indeed, a key economic benefit of renewable electricity is its price stability because the “fuel” for wind and solar is free and not susceptible to the price volatility of the boom and bust cycles associated with fossil fuels. By 2030, renewable electricity may be the most fiscally responsible, price stable and least risky electricity choice. By contrast, fossil-fuel power plants face strong headwinds in the form of reduced subsidies and the prospect of carbon taxes. While the U.S. does not have a national carbon tax, 13 states do and several more are considering one. The forthcoming Biden administration already has signaled that it plans to cut federal subsidies for fossil fuels and will re-engage the U.S. in global efforts to protect the climate. In a world that is increasingly facing up to carbon emissions, fossil fuels are a risky and expensive bet. In short, by 2030, renewable electricity may be the most fiscally responsible, price stable and least risky electricity choice. Recent polling shows that Utahns want a stronger transition to cleaner energy and air. To date, CREA and its coalition of 23 Utah cities and counties representing 37 percent of the state’s electricity load is the state’s best opportunity to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions substantially, given that the state of Utah does not have a mandated renewable energy portfolio standard (it does have a voluntary standard of 25 percent by 2025). The challenge is keeping that impressive coalition of Utah cities and counties from unraveling before CREA’s costs and benefits are clearly understood vis-à-vis the future costs and expected emissions inherent with fossil fuel-generated electricity. The Utah experiences profiled in our research provide insights about the hurdles facing the implementation of 100 percent net-renewable electricity and the strategies cities are using to engage them that may help other communities chart their own paths toward a cleaner future. Pull Quote How did a politically conservative, coal-dependent state such as Utah achieve a 100% renewable energy commitment? By 2030, renewable electricity may be the most fiscally responsible, price stable and least risky electricity choice. Contributors EdwinRStafford Roslynn Brain McCann Topics Renewable Energy Community Resilience Partnerships Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Old bathhouses get new life via NPS adaptive reuse program

November 19, 2020 by  
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After Rose Schweikhart, an avid homebrewer, settled in Hot Springs,  Arkansas , she began to wonder if the mineral-rich hot spring water that made “Spa City” famous could be used to brew beer. Since the springs are government-owned as part of Hot Springs National Park, she called the park superintendent to ask permission to use the water. Next thing she knew, she was filling out the long application to be part of the National Park Service’s adaptive reuse program for the crumbling, once-opulent bathhouses that line the city’s main drag, aka Bathhouse Row. Now, the 9,000-square-foot  Superior Bathhouse  finds new life as a restaurant, event space and the world’s first microbrewery to use hot spring water for brewing beer. This project represents one of the success stories revitalizing both the town of Hot Springs and the overlapping national park. Water is the soul of Hot Springs As you could guess from its name, the town wouldn’t exist without its natural hot springs.  Hot Springs National Park  is tasked with protecting 47 springs in the downtown area. “We’re really strict about the park,” said park ranger Ashley Waymouth as she led a walking tour of Bathhouse Row. “We don’t use herbicides. We don’t use pesticides. We’re really conscientious about what we do. Because we know everything that goes on the ground ultimately makes its way into the  water .” Waymouth explained the long route the water takes, how time, depth and pressure heat the water for thousands of years before it bursts through a geologic fault line in the park. Rain from ancient Egyptian times now comes out of the hots springs 4,000 years later, Waymouth said. “It really instills in us long term thinking.” Keeping that water safe requires daily monitoring by a team of hydrogeologists. Archeological evidence shows that people used the springs here for thousands of years, and early inhabitants considered them a neutral ground and a place of healing. Many Americans first learned about the springs when President Jefferson sent the Hunter-Dunbar expedition to check out this part of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase in 1804. Explorers returned with news of the wonders of Hot Springs’ healing waters, which soon began to attract people from all over. In 1832, the U.S.  government  proclaimed the area a federal reserve. Related: These adaptive reuse hotel suites in Amsterdam are built inside old bridge houses By 1900, Hot Springs was a major  health  destination. In addition to bathing, some of the bathhouses offered gymnasiums, physical therapy and medical professionals who would prescribe hikes and other exercises. The surrounding area was cultivated as a beauty spot, with gardens in front of the bathhouses, a series of trails groomed on the hills behind and cute little parks dotting the town. The earliest bathhouses burnt in fires. Built between 1892 and 1923, the eight huge buildings standing today feature a mishmash of Spanish, Italian, Roman and Greek styles. The Fordyce, built for the town’s wealthiest visitors, features sea-colored stained  glass  and carved Neptune heads on its facade. The Ozark is mission style, in a possible nod to the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, who searched for the fountain of youth. Hot Springs accommodated a variety of people, though facilities often reflected issues of the time. While the town hosted a free government-run bathhouse, Black visitors could only use a segregated bathhouse until the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed. Of course, there were also upscale options for the rich and famous, especially those with an ailment they hoped to heal. Australian-born international opera star Marjorie Lawrence made  Hot Springs  her home after contracting polio. Gangster Al Capone also frequently visited, hoping to cure his syphilis. But over the course of the 20th century, enthusiasm for public bathing faded. By 1980, Americans preferred to relax in backyard hot tubs than public bathhouses. All bathhouses but the  Buckstaff  closed down, some remaining vacant for decades. Since Bathhouse Row is part of Hot Springs National Park, the Park Service had to figure out what to do about the empty buildings. On one hand, the buildings were historical, architectural and cultural treasures. On another, they were hulking behemoths ranging from 9,000 to nearly 30,000-square-feet inside — expensive to retrofit, heat and maintain. In 2004, the National Park Service devised an innovative adaptive  reuse  program that has preserved the bathhouses, drawn more visitors and enriched their experience, and reinvigorated downtown Hot Springs. Hospitality and adaptive reuse Of the eight bathhouses, only the Maurice remains empty. The Buckstaff has continuously operated since opening in 1912. The other six have either been repurposed by the  National Park  Service itself or entered into public/private partnerships. Fortunately, the park had the foresight to turn the opulent Fordyce into a bathhouse museum. The men’s wing is much grander than the women’s, with a stained-glass skylight featuring topless mermaids and a statue in the center of a kneeling Native woman presenting de Soto with a jug of water. The best part is all the weird and fascinating hydrotherapy equipment. While this equipment — such as steam cabinets where people sat with just their heads sticking out, and a hydroelectric tub that somehow combined electricity with water for stunning results — must have been cutting edge in its day, it now looks more like a  medical  torture chamber. At the Superior Bathhouse Brewery, Rose Schweikhart has worked wonders with both the old bathhouse and the water itself. Under the NPS adaptive reuse program, Schweikhart got a 55-year lease on the  building . Built in 1916, the Superior is the smallest bathhouse on the row, but it still has 9,000 square feet that had to be improved and now require maintenance. Currently, Schweikhart is saving for a new roof. Since the building is a historic structure in a national park and has the federal government as a landlord, Schweikhart needs approval before changing the structure. “Usually they say yes, because a vacant building isn’t doing anyone any good,” Schweikhart said. The building closed as a bathhouse in 1983 and sat empty for 30 years before Schweikhart gave it a new life. Still, the NPS drew the line at letting her install a roll-up door. This meant Schweikhart had to carefully bring all the brewery equipment through the front  window , the historic building’s largest opening. “I had to get the manufacturer to measure everything very carefully,” Schweikhart said. The water is piped in at about 144 degrees, then heated to 160 degrees to make the beer and sell it locally in growlers. It’s a bathhouse-centric operation with no canning, bottling or distribution. So, you’ll have to go to Hot Springs to experience the Superior’s Goat Rock Bock or Desoto’s Folly. Next door, Ellen and Pat McCabe repurposed the Hale Bathhouse into a nine-room boutique  hotel  with a beautiful dining room open to all. The duo incorporated touches that appeal to aficionados of historic buildings, such as exposed rough brick walls and the original pine floors. But the  Hotel Hale’s  modern touches make it a very comfortable place to stay — coffee service delivered to your door at your chosen time every morning, signature orange-vanilla scented toiletries made by a local soap maker and, best of all, hot spring water piped into your own private bathtub. Hotel Hale is also known for laying out a fabulous brunch. If you’re really lucky, the McCabes might unlock a door in the corner of the dining room and let you peek into the old natural steam room cut into the mountain. It’s hot, muddy and too much of an insurance liability for modern use, but is a fascinating glimpse back into Spa City’s history. The  Quapaw  reuse project remains truest to the original bathhouse spirit. Constructed in 1924, the 24,000-square-foot Spanish Colonial building is now a modern  spa . Its 2007 makeover earned a LEED Silver certification and won the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas’ 2009 Excellence in Preservation through Restoration Award. The Quapaw offers both private services like massages and facials and public bathing in a series of shared pools of different temperatures, ranging from comfortably warm to roasting. A visit to either the Quapaw or the even more historic Buckstaff baths is the closest visitors can get to the old days where everybody from movie stars to gangsters made healing pilgrimages to Hot Springs. Images via Teresa Bergen

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Niraamaya Retreat honors traditional design with local materials

November 19, 2020 by  
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Located in Vayitharamattom, Kumarakom in the lakefront region of Southern India, the Niraamaya Retreat is a haven for wellness and rejuvenation with sustainable design elements throughout. A product of Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd, an award-winning architectural practice based in India, the 65,000-square-foot retreat offers a contemporary feel while still honoring the traditional style of the region with locally sourced building materials. The boutique resort is spread across seven acres facing Lake Vembanad and includes 27 independent luxury villas, two restaurants, a health club, a wellness center and a spa. The spa features multiple treatment rooms, a pool and yoga pavilions, while the business center contains meeting rooms and an amphitheater. Related: These charming timber cabins in South India are a retreat for nature lovers What sets this stunning coastal escape apart from the rest are the nods to classical Kerala architecture, a design style that incorporates traditional elements like sloping roofs, Mogappus and Charupadi, a type of built-in, ventilated porch bench. Locally sourced materials such as clay tiles for the roofing, granite pavilions and dados, laterite and wood are featured in the construction work. According to the designers, one of the biggest challenges for the project came in the form of high rainfall and water stagnation due to the site’s unique contours. To combat this, they enabled a network of natural bodies of water to allow for smooth surface runoff , even in the event of heavy monsoon showers. The landscape can only be described as tropical yet well-groomed, with native trees and plants leading to the onsite river. The intimate villas are scattered thoughtfully about the property, connected with peaceful pathways that wind through the lush surroundings. Each villa is about 100 square meters in size and includes a private moot pond, an open shower, a portico and bed facing the lake as well as a semi-open private landscaped area. + Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd Images via Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd

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Architects envision a lush, solar-powered oasis to cool Abu Dhabi

November 13, 2020 by  
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Abu Dhabi’s Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT) has named European architecture firm Mask Architects’ palm tree-inspired Oasys proposal one of the 10 winners in ‘Cool Abu Dhabi’ . This global design competition sought sustainable solutions for mitigating the urban heat island effect . The winning design calls for a solar-powered refuge with modular, palm tree-like structures that would provide protection from the elements and respite from the heat with solar-powered misters and lush landscaping. The multipurpose, pop-up spaces could also be used for a variety of functions, from cafes and and retail stands to exhibition spaces. Mask Architect’s Oasys proposal draws the eye with its massive palm tree-inspired structures that the architects said would be topped with solar panels and integrated with lights and nozzles that spray a cooling mist into the air. Dubbed the Artificial Breathing Palm modular structure system, the design includes a “foundation base” that conceals all of the technical equipment — including water and electric lines as well as solar batteries — as well as five triangular module types of varying sizes. The modules can connect together in different configurations to fit a variety of settings, while lush landscaping would be planted around the modules to give the space more of an oasis-like feel. Related: Abu Dhabi Flamingo Visitor Center blends into the landscape “The ‘Oasis’ design concept has been influenced by the need to create a greener city as well as creating a real oasis in the middle of the city,” Mask Architects explained. “Besides the the flexible and replaceable design line, any outdoor functions are adapted easily into ‘Oasys’ conceptA mechanism that can be replicated easily to form a network of hubs and centre points in which they act as islands of rest places, socialising and sociable communal for the collective and community.” The ‘Cool Abu Dhabi ’ global design competition concluded earlier this year and received over 300 entries from nearly 70 countries. The 10 winning entries were announced online and each received $10,000 each in prize money.  + Mask Architects Images via Mask Architects

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Vellabox delivers natural, artisan candles to your door

November 13, 2020 by  
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Subscription boxes can be a great way to treat yourself each month or surprise a loved one with a thoughtful, curated gift. As we spend more time at home than ever, these monthly boxes can break up the monotony of daily life, too. With sustainability and affordability in mind, Vellabox delivers candles and eco-friendly goodies to your door, and it is a perfect little act of self-care. Plus, who doesn’t love the coziness of a freshly lit candle this time of year? Vellabox is a Columbus, Ohio-based company that offers handmade, natural wax candles in its subscription boxes. Each month, new scents are available in 4- or 8-ounce glass jars with metal lids that are 100% reusable or recyclable . Prices range from $10 to $30, with the $10/month box offering a 4-ounce candle and sustainable product, the $20/month option offering an 8-ounce candle and gift, or the $30 box offering a 4-ounce and an 8-ounce candle plus the surprise gift. Related: How to make soy wax candles for a cozy, autumnal home The Vellabox  packaging  is simple and sustainable. The cardboard boxes have no packing peanuts or bubble wrap; instead, the candles are secured in cloth bags in perfectly sized boxes to keep them safe. Every element is reusable or recyclable. The only plastic in my first box was the packaging for the sunflower seed butter. I tested the Ignis Box ($20/month) and the Vivere Box ($30/month) and was honestly impressed with both. The Ignis Box included a large Pumpkin Spice candle by Aster Candle. I’ve smelled a lot of pumpkin spice candles in my day, and I loved that this one struck the balance between too spiced (I’m not a huge fan of the overpowering scent of cinnamon) and too sweet. Truthfully, this one was less potent in smell and didn’t dissipate throughout my home as much as the other candles I tested, but it still smelled lovely. The company, Aster Candle, is based in Rhode Island; the owner, Catherine Kwolek, hand-pours each soy candle, and the  cotton  wicks are lead-free. My Ignis Box also included a package of 88 Acres Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter. While the taste wasn’t exactly my cup of tea on its own (coming from someone who definitely enjoys a spoonful of peanut or almond butter on the regular), I blended it into a  dark chocolate-cherry smoothie  as recommended on the card included in the Vellabox package, and it tasted great this way. The second box had two candles by Lustre + Bloom. The larger of the two was an Aspen Woods scent. I’m picky about woodsy scents, as they can often be too strong or too musky for my taste. Honestly, I was bummed when I saw that scent in the box — that is, until I unscrewed the lid and took a whiff. It smelled like a walk through a  forest  in the best way. All the elements you’d expect here — leaves, moss, bark — blend beautifully with a touch of spice. Lighting it made a dreary day in the city feel slightly more in tune with nature. The second, smaller candle was a scent called Greenhouse. I wasn’t sure what to expect; I’ve definitely never encountered a candle with the scent of a  greenhouse , but it turned out to be my favorite of all the Vellabox candles I tested. Greenhouse reminded me of the very specific smell of eucalyptus in the shower, although the scent profile is technically “agave, aloe, chrysanthemum, green leaves.” It’s earthy and peaceful. This candle was the strongest of all three; even sitting across the room with other candles lit, I could only smell Greenhouse. Lustre + Bloom is a natural candle company based in Denver, Colorado. Mandy Candice, the shop owner, started making  non-toxic  candles after her son was born. She wanted to ensure she was only burning candles that were safe for the family. With these two candles came a bundle of Lunchskins, which are compostable, toxin-free sandwich bags meant to replace  single-use  plastic bags. When I was heading into the office every day, I always packed lunch and often used reusable silicone bags for my sandwiches. I actually have no immediate need for sandwich bags these days, but I’m excited to try these out, perhaps on a picnic or long drive. So far, I love that they have a cute avocado print across the bag. Although I received these boxes as editorial samples, I’ve already subscribed to the Vivere Box (I’m a sucker for natural candles, what can I say). I also have a few people on my list that I’ll be sending gift subscriptions for the holidays. Overall, I am thrilled with the candles. I loved all three scents despite being picky about candles, and the smells, especially Greenhouse, carried better than many of my other candles and wax melts. Although I was a little iffy on these particular bonus gifts , I am looking forward to seeing what other surprises are included in my future boxes. + Vellabox Images via Paige Bennett / Inhabitat

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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

November 12, 2020 by  
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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people? Alan Hoffman Thu, 11/12/2020 – 00:01 Are your transportation plans letting you down? Regions everywhere have adopted ambitious goals for their long-range plans, from climate change to land use to reductions in automotive dependency. Yet even with decades of spending on creating new transit and bicycle infrastructure, many cities still struggle to see the kinds of changes in their travel and growth patterns that point toward resilience and sustainability. COVID-19 has highlighted these issues, upending travel patterns and choices with what may be permanent reductions in office commuting, as well as big impacts on transit and shared ride services. At the same time, COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink our use of public space, much of which has been dedicated to automotive movement (roads) and storage (parking). Transportation planning can lead to better outcomes by focusing on three parallel strategies: Identify what solutions look like Invert the order of planning Update your computerized planning models 1. Identifying solutions Too often, transportation projects are pushed through with no clear sense of whether they will be able to solve the problems for which they are intended. Planners and politicians jump to efficiency and expansion before effectiveness can be established. Once planners learn how to produce a desired solution, then they can engage in value engineering by asking how they can achieve desired results more efficiently. A perfect example of this is Curitiba, Brazil, famed as one of the innovators of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Curitiba didn’t set out to develop a BRT system. What it did was identify, up-front, what its ideal transit network should look like. In its case, it was a subway (metro) system with five arms radiating out of downtown and a set of concentric ring routes surrounding the center. Curitiba’s “solution” to creating an effective transit network was based on five major corridors radiating from downtown and a set of concentric rings linking major transfer stations (“integration terminals”). Subways are incredibly expensive to build. So Curitiba’s leaders asked themselves how they could replicate the functionality of their ideal network as quickly as possible with available resources. They decided to create their ideal subway system on the surface, running extra-long buses along dedicated transitways in the centers of their major roads. Enclosed stations with level boarding were spaced every 500 meters (three to a mile). Major integration terminals, about every 1.2 to 1.9 miles apart, serve surface subway lines, an extensive regional express network, and local buses. They also feature government services, recreation centers, shops and eateries. This transit corridor in Curitiba features a dedicated center-running busway with auto traffic and parking relegated to the sides of the boulevard and to parallel roads. Besides moving passenger loads normally associated with rail systems, the strategy was tied to a land use plan that placed most of the region’s denser land uses within one block of surface subway lines. Use of transit for commuting rose from about 7 percent in the early 1970s to over 70 percent by the 2000s. As a look at the skyline of Curitba reveals, the city literally and conspicuously developed around its transit network. By restricting high densities to “surface subway” corridors, Curitiba literally grew around its transit system. Besides preserving more land for single-family homes, this strategy reduced the impacts of new growth substantially. 2. Invert the order of planning The order of planning reflects the priority assigned to different modes as solutions to your goals. It is fair to say that most regional strategies today embrace the importance of modes such as transit and bicycling, yet this is rarely reflected in the order of planning. Most cities begin or center their transportation planning by focusing on optimizing their automotive systems: expanding capacity; improving signaling; building new roads, often dictated by where road congestion is at its worst. The logic is impeccable: the auto is the primary mover of people, and too many new transit and bicycle projects have shifted only a relatively small number of trips, highlighting popular preferences. Once the automotive system is optimized, transit planning is then asked to fit around the automobile. In most places, transit either shares the right of way with cars or is delayed by traffic signals and cross traffic. In some cases, corridors are identified which could support rail or BRT infrastructure. Pedestrian circulation is then asked to fit around car traffic and transit. Finally, the bicycle is asked to fit around everything else. This bicycle lane along an 50 mph expressway in California puts cyclists at great risk from distracted drivers. The alternative is to engage in Advanced Urban Visioning, a process that identifies what optimized or ideal systems look like, much as Curitiba did decades ago. You get there by inverting the order of planning. You begin with transit, allowing an ideal network to emerge from a detailed analysis of urban form (how your region is laid out) and trip patterns. An optimized transit system focuses on three key dimensions: network structure (how you connect places); system performance (how long it takes to get from origins to destinations); and customer experience (essentially, what a person feels and perceives while moving through the system). The goal is to connect more people more directly to more likely destinations in less time, with an experience that makes them feel good about their choice of transit. The transit network at this point is still diagrammatic, a set of nodes and links more than a set of physical routes. Even so, it likely looks little like your current transit plan. This aerial of central San Diego shows many principal nodes of the zone and the likely connections between and among them. The rapid transit map, meanwhile, looks little like this network. Why does transit go first? To begin with, transit often requires heavy infrastructure, be it tracks, transitways, bus lanes, stations or garages. Stations, in particular, need to be located where they will do the most good; even short distances in the wrong direction can make a big difference in public uptake of transit. Second, transit otherwise takes up relatively little urban space when compared to the car. For example, two-lane busways in Australia move as many people during the peak hour as a 20-lane freeway would move. Third, transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Getting from an idealized transit network to an actual plan happens through a staging plan that focuses on “colonizing” whatever existing road infrastructure is needed, and specifying new infrastructure where necessary to meet strategic goals. In practice, this means identifying locations where new transitways, surface or grade-separated (free of cross-traffic or pedestrian crossings), can meet performance and connectivity goals. Planners also need to devise routes that minimize travel time and transfers for core commuting trips. Transit at this stage is free to take space from the auto, where warranted, to meet performance goals subject to expected demand. Brisbane, Australia’s, Busway system includes many grade-separations (bridges and tunnels) so that buses can operate unimpeded by traffic. Once an optimized transit plan is identified, the next step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to develop an idealized bicycle network. Drawing on the lessons of the Netherlands, perhaps the global leader when it comes to effective bicycle infrastructure, this network is designed and optimized to provide a coherent, direct, safe, and easy-to-use set of separated bikeways designed to minimize conflicts with moving vehicles and pedestrians. This approach is a far cry from the piecemeal incrementalism of many cities. It also gives the bicycle priority over cars when allocating space in public rights of way. Amsterdam and other Dutch cities have some of the best-developed bicycle infrastructure in the world, providing cyclists with an extensive network of separated bike lanes. The third step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to use major transit nodes to create new “people space”: walking paths; public plazas; parklands; and open space trail networks. These may colonize land occupied with motor vehicles. These new spaces and parklands also may be used to organize transit-oriented development; the combination of optimized transit and bicycle networks; and park access can increase the value of such development. In this example, from a conceptual plan developed for San Diego, a strategic investment zone (SIZ), supporting high-density residential and commercial uses, wraps around a linear park and two proposed community parks. The proposed underground transit and surface parks together add significant value to the SIZ, some of which may be captured through an Infrastructure Finance District mechanism to help fund much of the project. Only after transit, bicycles and pedestrians are accommodated is it time to optimize the automotive realm. But something happens when these alternative modes are optimized to the point that they are easy, convenient and time-competitive with driving: large numbers of people shift from personal vehicles to these other travel modes. a result, the auto is no longer needed to move large numbers of people to denser nodes, and investments in roadways and parking shift to other projects. The power of Advanced Urban Visioning is that it gives you clear targets to aim at so that actual projects can stage their way to the ultimate vision, creating synergies that amplify the impacts of each successive stage. It turns the planning process into a strategic process, and helps avoid expensive projects that are appealing on one level but ultimately unable to deliver the results we need from our investments in infrastructure. San Diego Connected, a conceptual plan developed at the request of the Hillcrest business community, demonstrates Advanced Urban Visioning in action, combining bicycle, transit, pedestrian and automotive improvements that optimize their potential contribution to the region. Advanced Urban Visioning doesn’t conflict with government-required planning processes; it precedes them. For example, the AUV process may identify the need for specialized infrastructure in a corridor, while the Alternatives Analysis process can be used to determine the time-frame where such infrastructure becomes necessary given its role in a network. 3. Update your models For Advanced Urban Visioning to make its greatest contribution to regions, analysis tools need to measure and properly account for truly optimized systems. Most regional agencies maintain detailed regional travel models, computer simulations of how people get around and the tradeoffs they make when considering modes. Many of these models work against Advanced Urban Visioning. The models are designed generally to test responsiveness to modest or incremental changes in a transportation network, but they are much weaker at understanding consumer response to very different networks or systems. Regions can sharpen the ability of their models to project use of alternative modes by committing to a range of improvements: Incorporate market segmentation. Not all people share the same values. Market segmentation can help identify who is most likely to respond to different dimensions of service. Better understand walking. Some models include measures as of quality of the walking environment. For example, shopping mall developers have long known that the same customer who would balk at walking more than 492 feet to get from their parked car to a mall entrance will happily walk 1,312 feet once inside to get to their destination. Likewise, people are not willing to walk as far at the destination end of a trip as they are at the origin end, yet most models don’t account for this difference. Better measure walking distance. Not only do most models not account for differences in people’s disposition to walk to access transit, they don’t even bother to measure the actual distances. Better account for station environment and micro-location. We know from market research that many people are far more willing to use transit if it involves waiting at a well-designed station, as opposed to a more typical bus stop on the side of a busy road. Incorporate comparative door-to-door travel times. No model I am aware of includes comparative door-to-door travel time (alternative mode vs. driving), yet research continually has demonstrated the importance of overall trip time to potential users of competing modes. Conclusion Advanced Urban Visioning offers a powerful tool for regions that are serious about achieving a major transformation in their sustainability and resilience. By clarifying what optimal transportation networks look like for a region, it can give planners and the public a better idea of what is possible. It inverts the traditional order of planning, ensuring that each mode can make the greatest possible contribution toward achieving future goals. Pull Quote Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Topics Cities Transportation & Mobility Urban Planning Public Transit Meeting of the Minds Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off New York City subway Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

How these 2 environmental justice leaders are connecting communities to the clean economy

November 10, 2020 by  
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How these 2 environmental justice leaders are connecting communities to the clean economy This frank conversation with two respected environmental justice leaders will explore how companies can become authentically involved in shaping economic and environmental development programs at the city and state level. This session was held at GreenBiz Group’s VERGE 20, October 26-30, 2020. Learn more about the event here: https://events.greenbiz.com/events/ve…   Watch our other must-see talks here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwW3…   OUR LINKS Website: https://www.greenbiz.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/greenbiz LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/gree… Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/greenbiz_group Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GreenBiz YanniGuo Mon, 11/09/2020 – 17:17 Featured Off

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How these 2 environmental justice leaders are connecting communities to the clean economy

New study reveals main sources of light pollution

October 30, 2020 by  
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A new study, published in the journal Lighting Research & Technology , has revealed that much of light pollution, which negatively impacts human health and animal migrations and wastes energy, is not coming from streetlights. Researchers conducted an experiment in Tucson, Arizona, where all 14,000 streetlights in the city were dimmed at 1:30 a.m. for 10 days. Satellite images recorded during this period revealed that even with the lights dimmed, there was still sufficient light polluting the natural look of the sky. “We used a satellite to measure what fraction of the total light emissions are due to the streetlights,” said Christopher Kyba, physicist at the German Research Centre for Geoscience in Postdam. “And late at night, when people are sleeping — that is exactly when we can save a lot of energy.” Related: Switching to outdoor LEDs has made light pollution worse — without saving energy The study indicates that much of the light and energy used at night to illuminate streets and buildings is wasted. Consequently, the wasted light ends up in the sky and disrupts wildlife . Among the sources that cause most light pollution include stadium floodlights, advertisements, facade lighting and parking lots. According to Kyba, controlling light pollution will require concerted efforts from different industry players, including light users and policymakers. According to the International Dark-Sky Association , about 35% of artificial lighting at night is poorly aimed. In other words, the light does not serve the intended purpose and ends up as wasted light. This equates to about $3 billion per year in wasted energy in the U.S. alone. “A lot of people talk about climate emergency but never talk about light pollution,” Kyba said. “But it’s an important part. And at night, when most of us are asleep, all that electricity could be going to do other things — charging electric vehicles , for example.” Although lighting at night is acceptable, light pollution results in a glow in the sky, which interrupts the migration of birds , insects and other animals. Further, the constant lighting denies those who are born in this age the chance of seeing a clear, dark sky with stars. + Lighting Research & Technology Via BBC Image via Hikarinoshita Hikari

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New study reveals main sources of light pollution

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