Meet the urban planner responsible for San Francisco’s car-free Market Street

February 18, 2020 by  
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Downtown San Francisco is putting pedestrians first by turning the 2-mile Market Street, a major hub for the city, into a completely car-free space. Inhabitat spoke with an urban planner of the esteemed Perkins and Will for more details about the groundbreaking, pedestrian-friendly project. While the complete redesign is expected to extend into the rest of the year, January 29 marked the official ban of cars on the thoroughfare. The structural transformation will include a restriction of public cars, but it will also implement newer two-way streets, intersection safety improvements and extensions for the Muni (the city’s public transit system). Buses, as well as a fleet of vintage streetcars, will also be able to operate along the street. Related: Perkins and Will designs modular, affordable housing for the homeless Inhabitat caught up with urban planner and developer Geeti Silwal from the San Francisco branch of design firm Perkins and Will . Silwal was an integral part of the design and development of the Market Street project. Her initial design created the vision and laid the foundation for the car-free initiative, taking close to a decade to finally come to pass. Inhabitat: The plan to make San Francisco’s Market Street car-free was 10 years in the making. Can you talk a bit about how this project began? Silwal: The project was initiated primarily to take advantage of the fact that Market Street needed to replace its aging utility that would need to be dug up soon. The city agencies took this opportunity to reimagine the role and identity of the city’s premiere boulevard. Working with six key city and county agencies, Perkins and Will led a team of urban designers, transportation planners, infrastructure engineers, public realm strategists, streetscape designers and wayfinding experts to lead this exploration. We started in 2011 meeting three demanding — and sometimes competing — objectives: placemaking, enhancing transit experience and improving infrastructure. In order to meet these objectives, we expanded the scope of the study to include Mission Street to help relieve the demands on Market Street. We analyzed: What if Market Street offered seamless transit transfers and relied on Mission Street to provide safe, pleasant, dedicated and buffered bike lanes? What if we minimized space dedicated to private vehicles to provide more space for pedestrians and bicyclists ? What is the right bike infrastructure to invite the 8- to 80-year-olds to ride on Market Street? Would this achieve our shared vision of Market Street as a destination to socialize and enjoy street life and to interact with public art , nature and each other?  We saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a beautiful street befitting the world-class city it represented. Prioritizing and structuring the street for people and public life over movement of private vehicles was a fundamental goal that the entire team got behind. Inhabitat: How do you feel now that this vision has come to life? Silwal: It’s gratifying. If you were to walk Market Street today and compare it to walking it the week before it went car-free , you’d notice a dramatic difference. Market Street now feels peaceful, safe and comfortable — it really feels like a completely different place. There has been a positive response from the media and people in general. We’ve heard many people say, “I took transit and it was so fast and so much better!” or “I biked Market Street and it feels as though I am in Amsterdam.” And this is only the beginning. More improvements will happen in the next few years as the future phases of the Better Market Street project unfold. Inhabitat: What do you think banning cars on some of San Francisco’s streets means for the rest of the country? Are there many other environmentally minded cities following suit? Silwal: The Better Market Street project was inspired by several cities in Europe, which have streets prioritized for pedestrians, cyclists and transit. There are many examples outside of Europe as well. I come from India, and in my home city, Shimla, the main streets in the mall and lower mall area are closed to traffic and are for pedestrian use only. We need to embrace the qualities of these streets that put ‘people first’. Market Street’s new image will be instrumental in inspiring other cities to rethink their streets. It will take strong political will, persistent public agency collaboration, community support and individual behavioral change to think beyond cars. Inhabitat: What about the design do you think was most integral to the environmental benefits of the project? Silwal: By not enabling private vehicles, people are encouraged to use low-carbon modes of transportation and subsequently, greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced. By making Market Street safe, inviting, comfortable and efficient for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit users, people are more likely to take these modes of transit. Related: Car-free Sundays are the norm in Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá Inhabitat: We love your motto — Designing urban centers with the fundamental organizing principle of ‘people first’ creates more humane, inclusive and socially connected cities . What is important about putting pedestrians first in the fight against climate change? Silwal: We’re in a climate crisis , and we need to base our urban planning around it. Transportation is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. By prioritizing cars, we have structured our streets to promote that. If we design streets for the low-carbon modes, we will have a different outcome. I would say that ‘pedestrians first’ is fundamentally about a ‘people first’ approach. Designing cities that allow the majority of people to navigate their city on foot, bike or transit will result in a huge reduction in carbon emissions. Providing an efficient, enjoyable and a robust network of transit system reduces single-occupancy car trips.  We know that climate change impacts will have a more severe effect on the most vulnerable population of our cities. Planning for physical and social connectedness is an important criterion in dealing with climate change. Social connectedness that is about face-to-face interaction enables people to know, understand and empathize more with their fellow beings. It facilitates social resilience. A resilient city is better prepared to fight climate change. Inhabitat: Can you talk about safety, which was the other big concern before Market Street’s car ban went into effect? Silwal: Market Street has always been a popular street for the cyclist community, but it is also infamous for 20 times more collisions than similar streets in the state. Reducing conflict among pedestrians, cyclists and drivers was a key goal for this project. This change will make it much safer for commuting pedestrians and cyclists. Further enhancements to the bike infrastructure will be rolled out in future phases of the Better Market Street project that will have a dedicated and buffered environment for cyclists — making it even safer. Inhabitat: What’s next for you? Can we look forward to any other exciting sustainability projects in the future? Silwal: Through our urban design practice, Perkins and Will is continually planning, advocating and proposing for pedestrian/bike-prioritized connectivity in existing environments and new developments. Mission Rock is a project along San Francisco’s eastern waterfront on the Giants’ 25-acre surface parking lot. Mission Rock’s Shared Public Way will offer a new street prioritized for pedestrians, with limited vehicle movement. The Shared Public Way at Mission Rock will be a dynamic space with street rooms, stormwater gardens and tree groves that will create a lively and unique environment. These design elements serve as cues to differentiate pedestrian-dedicated areas from the shared pedestrian/vehicular zone. Vehicles on the Shared Public Way will be limited to one-way travel for drop-off, pickup and deliveries only. Besides streets, Perkins and Will is currently engaged in the Living Community Challenge (LCC) pilot project in the city of Sacramento called the Sacramento Valley Station Master Plan. “LCC is a certification program that guides the design and construction of buildings and neighborhoods to be socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative. LCC projects aim to have a net-positive impact in seven petals: place, water, energy, health & happiness, materials, equity and beauty.” This project plans to be a regenerative project. It plans to be a net-positive carbon, net-positive water and net-positive energy community around the regional intermodal mobility hub in Sacramento. We are privileged to work in an industry that lays the foundation for smarter, sustainable design that has a positive impact on the places and people that inhabit it. + Perkins and Will Images via Perkins and Will

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Meet the urban planner responsible for San Francisco’s car-free Market Street

16 must-see environmental documentaries

December 23, 2019 by  
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From animals facing extinction to pollution to global warming, the world is changing — quickly. Some days you may feel like you’re the only one concerned with what is happening to the planet. But there are a host of scientists, environmentalists, authors, journalists, adventurers and Hollywood actors that share your mindset and went through the effort of getting it to the screen. Here are some top environmental documentaries to watch if you’re looking for a show that keeps sustainability in focus. Before the Flood, 2016 Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio in conjunction with National Geographic, Before the Flood follows DiCaprio as he talks with world leaders, politicians, scientists and religious figures to better understand the thinking around the climate crisis . Related: Attenborough Effect inspires people to drastically reduce single-use plastics Chasing Coral, 2017 Coral is a barometer for the health of the planet . As a measure of this health, coral is showing that the earth is sick. This documentary follows scientists, divers and photographers underwater, where they investigate the reasons behind the detrimental disappearance of healthy coral around the globe. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, 2014 In a world where many people either deny climate change or talk in generalizations about the causes and solutions, this documentary puts a fine point on the pervasive damage that agriculture has on the planet, connecting it to global warming, water use , deforestation and ocean dead zones. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, 2017 No list of environmental documentaries would be complete without mentioning the climate change film that added fuel to the conversation, An Inconvenient Truth , which features Former American Vice President Al Gore’s efforts to inform and inspire climate policies around the globe. The story continues with An Inconvenient Sequel , following Gore on his environmental campaign, sharing poignant personal and public moments with activists across the planet. The True Cost, 2015 The True Cost exposes another major contributor of pollution, waste and consumption — the fast fashion industry. This is a first-hand account of the human cost of clothing manufacturing, exposing low-wages and poor treatment of workers. It also highlights toxins added to the soil and waterways via plant growth (such as cotton) and throughout the manufacturing process (such as dyes). Director Andrew Morgan connects all of this to the driving force of the media, culture, societal norms and consumerism. Chasing Ice, 2012 This award-winning film pulls together years of time-lapse photography to document the planet’s rapidly melting glaciers . More Than Honey, 2012 In light of mass colony collapse, this documentary seeks to provide a better understanding of the importance of honey bees while looking for answers as to what is causing the decline in bee populations. A Plastic Ocean, 2016 Adventurers Craig Leeson and Tanya Streeter team up with an international team of scientists and researchers to reveal the astonishing amount of plastic waste consuming the ocean and coastlines, endangering animals and polluting the food chain. The images and reporting cover 20 locations over the course of four years. Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, 2014 This film uncovers the nasty truth behind food waste , from farms to retail consumption. The lens follows filmmakers Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer as they vow to sustain themselves for six months without buying groceries, instead relying on food that would otherwise be thrown out. The Story of Stuff, 2007 The Story of Stuff appears to be a playful, 20-minute video that is actually a dart thrown directly into the bullseye of consumerism and capitalism. This powerful animation cuts straight to the point of the damaging effects of manufacturing, material sourcing, convenience and quick disposal of the “stuff” in our lives. Explained, 2018 This docuseries , a Netflix original, highlights a range of topics, many of which pertain to the environment. Look for episodes titled, “The Future of Meat,” and “The World’s Water Crisis” to get started. Tomorrow, 2015 Where many documentaries are fatalistic, Tomorrow aims to focus on the positive. From French filmmakers Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent, Tomorrow is a mostly uplifting journey around the planet, discovering people and communities focused on solutions through agriculture, energy , economy, education and government policy. Tapped, 2009 Plastic is a well-known environmental issue. In Tapped , directors Stephanie Soechtig and Jason Lindsey aim directly at the bottled water industry as a major contributor to the problem. They explore the financial and environmental impact of the industry, including material sources, manufacturing, and post-consumer waste. No Impact Man, 2009 Following the journey of author Colin Beavan, No Impact Man provides a look inside his dedication to going green. The cameras follow Beavan as he disconnects from all modern conveniences including electricity, gas-powered transportation, shipped food and public waste disposal in an effort to experience a life without environment impact. What begins as a journey about minimalism leads to a discovery about happiness, relationships and balance. How to Change the World, 2015 Drawing from archived video from 1971, this film tells the story of the passionate pioneers that founded Greenpeace and somewhat unintentionally gave birth to the green movement. Patrimonio, 2018 It’s happening all over the world — corporations moving into small communities and changing their ways of life. Patrimonio is an example of one community forever driven toward change as a resort and housing development, packaged commercially as a holistic yoga retreat, moves into town. Images via

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16 must-see environmental documentaries

Climate change and the media: More news is good news

September 17, 2019 by  
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For the media, climate change is morphing from a controversy to a crisis.

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Climate change and the media: More news is good news

As the world warms, the call for climate-friendly cooling heats up

September 17, 2019 by  
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The next phase of The Climate Group’s EP100 initiative stresses need for more energy-efficient air conditioners, especially in emerging economies.

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As the world warms, the call for climate-friendly cooling heats up

Save the environment by pooping less, says Bolsonaro

August 20, 2019 by  
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Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro recently suggested that people could save the environment if their bowels moved less frequently. His intestinal initiative could be accomplished by eating less food, he told one reporter. “You talk about environmental pollution,” Bolsonaro said. “It’s enough to poop every other day. That will be better for the whole world.” Meanwhile, he continues to face widespread backlash for the immense deforestation occurring in the Amazon since he took office. Bolsonaro, the South American country’s 38th president, has been in power since January. In that time, he’s voiced many unusual and far-right views about environmental issues. For example, Bolsonaro commented that only “ vegans , who eat only plants,” care about the environment. Related: Deforestation and climate change combined may split Amazon in two When the National Institute for Space Research released shocking data on rampant forest clearing in the Amazon , Bolsonaro accused the agency of data manipulation and fired the institute’s director. The institute had found more than 870 square miles of forests were cleared in July — 278 percent more than what was cleared in the same time frame last year. Bolsonaro said of the data, “We cannot accept sensationalism or the disclosure of inaccurate numbers that cause great damage to Brazil’s image.” It’s doubtful that the president’s new “waste” campaign will catch on. Defecation is notoriously hard to schedule, and people’s bowels march to the beats of their own drummers. According to Healthline , bowels might want to move three times per day, three times a week or anywhere in between. Eating less, as Brazil’s president suggested, may or may not lead to fewer bathroom visits; what you eat is also key. Those aiming for constipation should cut down on fiber, caffeine, alcohol and liquids in general. Aging, a sedentary lifestyle, stress and certain medications can also aid the quest to put it off till tomorrow, although this strange request “for the whole world” isn’t advised. The world waits in suspense to hear what Bolsonaro will say (or do) next. But consult your doctor before following the president’s gastrointestinal advice. Via AFP , Newsweek and PJ Media Image via Filios Sazeides

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Save the environment by pooping less, says Bolsonaro

Curvaceous bicycle bridge brings new life to Copenhagens harbor

August 20, 2019 by  
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Copenhagen has once again cemented its title as the best bicycle city in the world with the completion of the Lille Langebro cycle and pedestrian bridge. Spanning 160 meters across Copenhagen’s Inner Harbor, the opening bridge is the work of London-headquartered architecture practice WilkinsonEyre , which won the bid in a design competition hosted by Danish client Realdania By & Byg. In addition to revitalizing the once-deserted harbor area, the Lille Langebro bridge also pays homage to the neighborhood’s historical context with its elegantly curving shape that evokes the great arc of ramparts and moat of Christianshavn. Designed solely for bicycle and pedestrian use, the Lille Langebro bridge is split into five spans with two 28-meter parts on either side of the 48-meter main section. Pedestrians are allotted a 3-meter-wide zone, while a 4-meter-wide zone is dedicated for cyclists . This zone is also divided into two lanes for two-way traffic. The bridge features a curved profile emphasized by the steel ribbon-like edges that rise like wings on either side. Related: This all-weather bicycle highway could fulfill the dreams of bike commuters everywhere To accommodate maritime traffic, the bridge is engineered to open and features a midspan higher than the quaysides. When closed, the flowing lines of the bridge are uninterrupted from end-to-end thanks to the hidden opening mechanisms created in collaboration with engineer BuroHappold. “We are delighted to have worked with Realdania to design a distinctive new bridge for the people of Copenhagen that will improve the urban spaces and promenades along the waterfront and strengthen the cycling culture in the city while also being safe and accessible to everyone,” said Simon Roberts, associate director at WilkinsonEyre. The bridge, which connects to the new BLOX building that houses the Danish Architecture Center and other public spaces, is part of a continued effort to revitalize a part of the Copenhagen waterfront that had been deserted for decades. + WilkinsonEyre Photography by Rasmus Hjortshøj via WilkinsonEyre

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Curvaceous bicycle bridge brings new life to Copenhagens harbor

The climate summit vs. the iPhone: A mainstream media mismatch

September 17, 2018 by  
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The latest iPhone introduction garnered hundreds of times more coverage than the worldchanging commitments made in San Francisco. Why?

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The climate summit vs. the iPhone: A mainstream media mismatch

Lemurs are now the most endangered species of primate on the planet

August 3, 2018 by  
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Approximately 94% of the 111 species and subspecies of lemur are under threat of extinction in their native country of Madagascar – the only place they exist outside of captivity. Of the remaining lemur groups, only six do not face high risk of extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species . This retrogression was revealed by the Primate Specialist Group , a conservation organization that has been analyzing current threats to the survival of lemur populations and their habitats. Chair of the Primate Specialist Group and Chief Conservation Officer of  Global Wildlife Conservation  Russ Mittermeier indicated that the “very high extinction risk to Madagascar’s unique lemurs” would compound, generating “grave threats to Madagascar’s biodiversity as a whole.” Loss of habitat poses the single greatest threat the lemurs now face in the wild. Developments in illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture, as well as mining activities and charcoal production, are ultimately determining the fate of these endangered animals. Related: Conservationists sound the alarm to address ‘America’s wildlife crisis’ Lemurs also face threats from pet trading hobbyists or hunters who wish to turn them into food. Once a delicacy, lemur’s presence on menus has become more and more mainstream in Madagascar, according to Professor Christoph Schweitzer of the Bristol Zoological Society . In an interview with BBC News , Schwitzer commented, “More and more, we are seeing unsustainable levels of lemur poaching. We see commercial hunting as well – probably for local restaurants. And this is a new phenomenon for Madagascar – we didn’t see it at this scale 15 years ago” Although many would bow their heads at the unfortunate fate of the lemurs, Schwitzer is an optimist. People “need to shout about these problems and get the message out there” he remarked. “When we published the lemur action plan and the media picked up on it, suddenly we had people call offering to help – to donate money or other resources. That can really make a difference,” he remarked. The “lemur action plan” has already had an effect, protecting habitats that contain the densest numbers of lemur species while helping Madagascar boost its ecotourism in the hopes of tackling poverty. By helping the local people economically, the groups involved in the plan are deterring hunting and other activities destructive to the tropical forests that provide the lemurs with their natural habitat. + Global Wildlife Conservation + IUCN Via BBC News

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Lemurs are now the most endangered species of primate on the planet

Flint representative’s staff barred from attending EPA chemical summit

May 24, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been trying to keep certain people out of a toxic chemical summit, according to reports. Some journalists were barred from entry on Tuesday, and representative Dan Kildee (D-Michigan), who represents Flint , said on Twitter  that his staff wasn’t allowed to attend the EPA’s summit on Wednesday. Kildee said EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s “lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling.” My staff was not allowed to attend today's @EPA #PFAS summit, and I represent communities affected by drinking water contamination. @EPAScottPruitt 's lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling. https://t.co/TK6ojDQ77o — Rep. Dan Kildee (@RepDanKildee) May 23, 2018 Several sites in Kildee’s district are contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Kildee’s district, according to Earther — and those substances were the focus of the National Leadership Summit on PFAS. So, it seems like it would have made sense for Kildee’s staff to attend an event on the chemicals. Pruitt said in an op-ed piece published by the Detroit Free Press that, at the summit, representatives “from more than 35 states — including Michigan — more than 20 federal partners, several tribes, dozens of industry, non-governmental groups and other national organizations will share valuable recommendations for how EPA should deal with PFAS in communities and communicate the risks associated with PFAS.” Related: The EPA wants to limit what science can be used to create regulations Tuesday’s attendee list included Kildee’s staff, and they were told Wednesday sessions were “limited to federal agency folks and states.” A spokesperson for Kildee said that was accurate but the “larger issue, in the Congressman’s opinion, is the EPA limiting or denying access to the taxpayer-funded PFAS summit, either to Members of Congress, the media, or the general public.” Pruitt said Michigan is to spend $1.7 million on testing water supplies — “including in 1,380 public water systems and 461 schools” — after finding PFAS in drinking water and lakes. Michigan stopped providing bottled water to Flint residents in April and said the water is safe. Many Flint residents don’t buy that; local LeeAnne Walters, a 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize winner , and other residents launched an ongoing Chuffed campaign to get water to the housebound, elderly, and disabled. + White House Via ThinkProgress and Earther Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Flint representative’s staff barred from attending EPA chemical summit

Stunning home in California wine country seamlessly opens up to the outdoors

April 9, 2018 by  
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Feldman Architecture completed the beautiful House in Healdsburg, a contemporary home that embraces the outdoors with large pivoting walls that blur the boundaries between inside and out. Created in collaboration with Arterra Landscape Architecture , the House in Healdsburg comprises a 2,100-square-foot main home and an 850-square-foot guesthouse. Created to feel like an open-air pavilion in the middle of Sonoma wine country, the House in Healdsburg was built for a couple with a love of the outdoors and entertaining. Thus, custom garage-style glass walls were installed around the open-plan common area, which comprises the living area, dining room, and kitchen. The operable glazed walls can also be found in the media room and master bedroom in the perpendicular wing. Related: Stunning solar Butterfly House masters resource conservation in California The modern home’s concrete flooring and black steel components give it an industrial feel that’s tempered by dark-stained cedar siding and low stone landscape walls. The guesthouse, located a short walk away, is a smaller interpretation of the main house. + Feldman Architecture Via ArchDaily Images © Joe Fletcher

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Stunning home in California wine country seamlessly opens up to the outdoors

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