Archive for the ‘Green’ Tag

Recycling Water, Wind, and Air

The CH2 Building with its shutters open for ventilation

The CH2 Building with its shutters open for ventilation

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

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

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


Planning for Future Energy

A light reflecting solar power plant

A typical light reflecting solar power plant

The solar industry is no doubt a rising force in the energy market. With no emissions, solar is attractive because of its clean producing ways. Recently, solar advocates and lobbyists headed down to Washington to rally for a “permanent manufacturing tax credit” on solar panels. But while  solar energy is clean, I believe it is still likely that only energy companies will be using solar panels due to the hassle of having to install all the infrastructure on private housing for solar energy. But as I have consistently said before, I believe it is best to plan for flexibility because no one knows exactly what the future holds. If subsidies are given to solar, then they should also be equally allocated to similar clean energy sources such as wind and tidal (the debate is still on for nuclear), while also taken away from dirty energy sources like coal, natural gas, and oil.

One of the misconceptions people say is switching from coal and oil is impossible because too many people will lose jobs. According to The Energy Collective however, “Dow Corning [a solar panel manufacturer] deserves enormous credit for investing about $5 billion in manufacturing plants in Michigan—which sorely needs new jobs.” I consider it a testament to people’s ability to adapt to unique situations that would allow a state like Michigan- known for its (now declining) car manufacturing- would turn to solar manufacturing. It reminds me about how many different manufacturing factories in the 1940’s adapted to make war materials as a collective machine against a common enemy. Although the public attentiveness is not as acute compared to the time during the war, it still holds unquestionable parallels and these two situations show a lot about the human personality in times of serious needs and change.

On the other side of the coin, it should be the goal of policy makers to make clean energy available not to energy companies, but people; allowing people a reasonable cost to install solar panels, wind turbines, and any other clean energy method on their property is a first step because companies don’t change and live in the world, people do. At the same time, energy demanding buildings should also be plugged into the grid in the event they need more electricity, but I think more people and their businesses would appreciate energy more if they were producing it on their own. Now of course this is all completely unrealistic to have every single energy demanding building producing their own share of clean energy, but the idea may not be far from the future as solar panel companies are starting to find ways to make their product more durable and affordable. New development should try to embrace this change to make the individual buildings and communities more sustainable, flexible, and energy efficient.

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

All material including quotes and pictures from

Colorado Rockies Green Initiatives

The initiative put forth by the Colorado Rockies

The initiative put forth by the Colorado Rockies

The Colorado Rockies are making head ways in becoming a more community oriented asset. The team has plans this summer for certain “green weeks”, where the team will pay to plant a tree around Denver for every home run hit during that week. In addition, The Denver Post included posters showing the team’s schedule for fans. On each day on the poster’s calender there is a tip for being more energy efficient and sustainable. Today’s tip was turn your thermostat 2 degrees higher in summer. Just 2 degrees saves a lot of energy due to the exponential increase in the amount of energy needed to maintain cooler houses.

The Rockies also offer many other “going green incentives” such as riding your bike to the game. This Sunday for instance, the Rockies will be offering 2 box seats normally at a set price of around $75 for only $20, 5 dollars of which will be donated to a tree planting fund. Although a far stretch, I think it would be a better move to plant new trees over parking spaces around the stadium, further discouraging driving to the game. It could also be a competition enjoyed by fans and players to try to fill up an entire section of a parking lot then dedicate it to a game day street fair.

Not only is there a significant incentive to ride your bike for Sunday’s game, but it can also encourage you to ride your bike to other games too. Maybe some fans will realize that navigating through congested traffic after the game is much easier when you have a bicycle that can squeeze through or around jammed cars.

Large incentives like these show to me a strong willingness for the ball club to connect with the community and its people, and should be emulated or adapted in other businesses. Connecting local people with local business is part of a sustainable and desirable community.  Hats off to you Colorado Rockies and any other teams doing similar programs.

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

From the Office to the Built Environment

Today is going to be slightly different than past posts as I will talk about the transition from the office to the outside built environment. I was glancing about Yahoo! when I first came into work and one article I read got me thinking. It talked about several ways you can make your office space more pleasant, and I found that many of the tips they had given can be transformed to work as tips for making the built environment more pleasant.

The first tip mentioned is to reuse drinking cups because some materials take a long time to break down in landfills. Lots of materials buildings are made out of can be reworked to be recycled. One example comes from one of my earlier post about Cleveland where locals took bricks from a school that was to be demolished and placed the bricks as walkway inside a community garden near the heart of the city. Not only can bricks be reused, but many of the metallic materials can be smoldered down into new products as well.

The second tip they gave was to make your lunch and bring it to work. It is a simple way to save money, but if you were to make your own food in your backyard or community garden, think of the money you can save while at the same time avoiding chemically altered fruits and vegetables. It may be a hassle to do this for many people so this idea may be out of the question for many people, but at the same time imagine if it became the trendy thing to do.

Tip number three is to breathe fresh by livening your desk with a plant or two. Countless studies show that greenery increases happiness and that as humans, we love being around nature. When we step out to our streets, it should not be a jungle of cars and the infrastructure to support them, but rather a pleasant built landscape that is comfortable and exciting to walk through.

The final tip is to dress the part- come into work with clothes you bought second hand and advertise your ways. The advertising of this part is crucial, because too many people do not feel this part is feasible/ socially acceptable/ economically beneficial, etc. By being obvious about your ways shows your confidence in your beliefs, and may persuade others to jump on board with you, even if it is slightly.

There of course are implications with these tips, mainly the economic impact it would have if a large portion of people started to employ these ways. At the same time, we should not underestimate the ability of human personality to adapt to the conditions.

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

The Yahoo! article can be found here:

Sustainable design

Today’s topic comes on more sustainable design and implementing it into everyday life. Probably the two biggest obstacles in incorporating sustainable design are cost and sacrifices in comfort. However, it appears that these two obstacles are just myths, and in fact building sustainable “green” buildings may actually be cheaper to both build and maintain, as well as maintain a high level of comfort.

Spacecoast Architects of Indialantic, Florida have set a good standard in building design that I will use as an example today.

Spacecoast’s president, Lawrence Maxwell’s “protype” school design is  The Odyssey Charter School. According to an article run by, Odyssey uses only 30% of the energy required for “typical schools.”

The building scored a 95 out of 100 for the Energy Star evaluation. Buildings only need 70 points to qualify as an Energy Star. Such a high score is a tribute to Spacecoast’s dedication to sustainable design.

I want to quote directly from the article because I think it describes perfectly the point I want to get across:

“The school demonstrates how to program high-energy performance into a building’s DNA using principles of building orientation, natural lighting, natural ventilation, advanced thermal envelope design, active and passive thermal storage, and demand management.”

Orientation and natural lighting are important to schools. School activities for the most part take place during the day, so it makes sense to use as much natural lighting as possible. But, in a climate like Florida’s, it’s important to not absorb too much heat into the building. It’s hot enough in Florida and making a school into a solar hot box would not be ideal. Instead, the building orientation had many windows facing the north end of the building, where light would still come through but it would be indirect as to avoid lots of the heating inside.

Again quoting directly from the site: “This aesthetically attractive, 47,000-square-foot school also cost half as much to build as a conventional school, $70 per square foot compared to $150 per square foot, without sacrificing comfort or facilities.”

Interesting, huh?

Max Stember-Young, Intern, Vertices LLC

The related article to this post can be found at:

Building Design and Visioning

Sjöstad, Sweden

Sjöstad, Sweden

Building design is becoming more integrated into modern visioning. Preferences and styles of everyone cannot be fully explained as economists say, but there are some aspects of building design that are in high demand. For instance, in urban culture it is now in style to design buildings that encourage human interaction. This may seem tough to translate building styles into human interaction, but let me explain.

As a case study, I present to you Sjöstad, a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden. Sjöstad was built in a previously brownfield area around Stockholm, but since 1996 it has experienced planning and growth as residents have started to move in town. There is already shops, parks, and transit available for all the newcomers. But Sjöstad is interesting because due to the planning specifications and outlines, Sjöstad was thought to attract more older couples with its medium sized balconies and 5 to 6 story buildings, but instead “young couples 25 to 35 predominate.” Maybe it is the nearby skiing.

But in all seriousness, according to there are a few aspects that make Sjöstad more desirable and hip. One of those was mentioned before- the balconies. Balconies encourage people to be outside while still at home. They also encourage people to be involved in street life activity. For example, if someone happened to be out on their porch and saw a friend walk by on the way to the shops, they would be able to see each other, talk about the kids, or make plans for the night. People would also inevitably talk to their neighbors if they were out having morning coffee on their balcony as well.

In addition to balconies, planners and architects used some other basic building design principals that I will quote straight from the Irish Times:

“Architecturally, a five-point programme was laid down. New buildings had to follow “traditional Stockholm inner-city character” but with larger apartments, greater variation between buildings in terms of emphasis on outdoor spaces, balconies and terraces, flat roofs and greater variation of materials.”

I wish to point out the variation between buildings. Here in New Jersey, not too far from Rutgers University, there are many communities where you cannot tell one neighborhood, let alone a block from another. There are entire communities made up of the exact same 3 or 4 “cookie cutter” houses. Every place ends up looking the same and as a result, places lose their individuality. The details of building design described above help create a special place- and Sjöstad has noted people enjoy it by entertaining 12,000 tourists a year (according to Irish Times), and its not even completed yet!

The last point I want to hit on is the newer planners and architects that went into executing the Sjöstad plan. Instead of highly experienced architects and planners, younger, fresh minds and ideas were employed that focused on these new concepts that buildings encourage interaction. There was also a good deal of focus on sustainability. I would argue that a large proportion of experienced architects and planners do not focus enough on the sustainability aspect. I will be sure to talk about more sustainable design in the future.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Intern, Vertices LLC

The article from the Irish Times can be found here

Princeton Future: A community visioning plan for Princeton, NJ

A typical street scene on Nassau Street

A typical street scene on Nassau Street

Princeton has always been known for the small historic college town that it is. Princeton Future is a grassroots program designed to get the locals involved in the planning and policy of their town. There are several hot debates in Princeton about planning, and the one that I most consistently hear about is parking and traffic.

Thankfully, one meeting attendee “advocated a plan to get people out of their cars.” Now of course in this day of age it may be political suicide in most instances to take on people and their cars, but as planners and the local residents see their town continue to grow, the way to allieviate traffic and parking issues may be to limit the opportunities to have to drive.

For an example, the Town Topics weekly Princeton newspaper says that instead of granting variances to developers to meet parking requirements, developers should have to pay into a fund that should be designed to help mass transit options. The theory is that by doing so, it will help the traffic problem while also avoiding a need for more large parking areas. If by making public transit more accessible and convienient can help reduce each household by, on average, half a car, the fund should be viewed as a success.

However, as Kevin Wilkes puts it, “[sustainability] speaks to social and economic conditions, as well as those of energy and the environment.” He added: “[it is imperative] that we keep our population at all income levels present and happily working in town.” In other words, the whole goal of the visioning process should be catered around the needs of the people already living and working there, but also allow for economic growth. Many argue that Princeton’s parking problem is driving economic opportunities to more accessible places, so they need to create more parking to avoid such. However, I believe that planners must realize that catering too much to cars  destroys the walkability and small town feel that Princeton has been known and loved for.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Intern, Vertices LLC

All material in this post have come from

Picture from Wikipedia (