Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Tag

Recycling Water, Wind, and Air

The CH2 Building with its shutters open for ventilation www.melbourne.vic.gov.au

The CH2 Building with its shutters open for ventilation http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au

Some buildings have taken the initiative to make themselves much cleaner. A new and rarely discussed method of placing sustainability in buildings is drainage sewer water recycling. The Council House 2 (CH2) in Melbourne, Australia provides a solid case study for drainage water recycling. The building actually extracts street water falling into the sewers and recycles it into a usable water source. The building has its own water filtration located in the basement. Instead of using the city’s water main, the CH2 will use the recycled water for the toilets. Officials said although the water could be clean enough for hand washing, Australians would still find it controversial. “There is still a stigma around that, I don’t think Australians have got over it yet, even though many other countries do it,” said Rob Adams, the council design and culture director.

The building also has unique features to help with the earth’s natural lighting and heating. The windows are set to open at different times during the night to allow cooler air in, and the shades are set to allow a certain brightness of light in all day. The system is responsive and intelligent in its own right. “Each staff member will control their own desk lighting and air flow,” according to TheAge.com.au.

In addition, “On the roof, six canary-yellow wind turbines have sparked curiosity among Melburnians and visitors to the city. The turbines are powered by motors from commercial washing machines.”

The building is the first to receive a 6 star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. These features are a good model for sustainability, but does it come at an added cost? The project allocated AU$11 billion or 21% of the AU$51b price tag. It may seem like a steep price to pay, but the expectations may prove otherwise. The council believes it can make up the AU$11b in as little as 10 years through savings on energy and water, as well as an increase in staff production. “[…] a healthier environment, including fresh air and non-toxic furnishings and paint, would cut sick leave,” and increase staff morale.

Most interestingly, the amount of parking was quite controversial for the building’s 500+ employees.

The building also includes, controversially, 20 car parking spaces on the mezzanine level. “There was lots of discussion about that,” Mr Adams said. “But it has been built so that, in a few years, if we decide we don’t want it any more we can convert that space into something else.”

That’s building for future flexibility. For further information on this building, please take a look at the article from TheAge.com.au- http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/from-top-to-bottoms-the-city-goes-green/2006/05/05/1146335926942.html?page=2

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, VERTICES LLC

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Video on New Urbanism Neighborhoods

Take a bit of time to watch this video made by the Congress for New Urbanism. It explains why America has become so suburbanized and car obsessed. Building codes generally forbid building mixed used development as a way to avoid “the hassles of city life.” Having building codes where only one type of zone (such as commercial or residential) separates these different types of areas from being integrated together. In my mind the stratification caused by consistent one-type zoning is similar to the Jim Crow laws- a regression and obstacle for integration and social equity.

This video puts a lot of emphasis on low carbon emission neighborhoods, and I believe they are targeting the wrong characteristics and benefits of New Urbanism. Yes, low carbon is good but it likely isn’t a primary deciding factor of most Americans. Americans would rather live in somewhere exciting- a place that is unique in its own right. Some people might like where they live because it’s a small town. Others might like where they live because they have little space to maintain, or a lot of space for a large house with a large backyard and pool. Economists have always said you cannot explain preferences of people, so urban planners need to account for the different living styles some prefer. This is the greatest challenge for planners. At the same time very few Americans have lived in a planned New Urbanist/ Old Urbanist/ Traditional Neighborhood style environment, and have yet to decide if it is good or not, only the connotation formed by their previous experiences. Hopefully some of these videos will change some minds.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, VERTICES LLC

For additional information on New Urbanism, check out www.newurbanism.org

Revisiting Community Visioning in Lexington, KY

A view of the rehabilitated area in Lexington, KY www.city-data.com

A view of the rehabilitated area in Lexington, KY http://www.city-data.com

Lexington, KY has been a city of earlier discussion on this site, so I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the city. One of the main sections of the city, the area surrounding Triangle Park, had been severely under utilized. Like a typical American city, disinvestment in the downtown areas in favor of suburban areas left this area of Lexington in need of a make over. But residents did not want to scrap the old architecture that had stood for many years and was part of the culture of the city. Instead, buildings in Victoria Square were allowed to stay even amongst new building codes thanks to the willingness of a few local preservation and revitalization advocates.

What had been a haven for rats, pigeons, graffiti, and the homeless, has now been transformed into an enjoyable square with restaurants and studio apartments overlooking Triangle Park.

The revitalization of this area of Lexington is a great example of how planning a community with the involvement of local residents can be a great tool for a successful rehabilitation project.

Take a moment to look at the picture (from http://www.city-data.com) above. Notice how nearly all the buildings are 3 stories, each building has a small relatively small building street fronts, and the buildings are real close together (in fact they are touching). This is typical of older style urban design and is very desirable for people. The streetscape of small banners, lights, and trees also contributes to this being a desirable area, and is an sample for good urban design.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Inter, Vertices, LLC