Design

Published on February 21st, 2008 | by Philip Proefrock

21

Green Communities, Part 1: New Urbanism

[There are a number of different approaches to communities and building that serve to support sustainability (and often other aims at the same time; sustainable strategies are almost invariably diverse and multi-faceted in the benefits they offer). Over the next few weeks, I intend to take a look at a number of these types of communities and the ways each of them contribute to improving overall sustainability.]

BradburnNew Urbanism (sometimes referred to as Traditional Neighborhood Design) is a movement spearheaded by the The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU). Its goals are “promoting walkable, neighborhood-based development as an alternative to sprawl. CNU takes a proactive, multi-disciplinary approach to restoring our communities.” Improving sustainability is one of the Principles of New Urbanism (see below),additionally, New Urbanism advocates a number of benefits. Although there are broad overlaps between using historical, traditional housing forms (or, unfortunately more often, faux-historical looking buildings) and New Urbanist principles, there is nothing magical about gabled roofs and wood siding, and New Urbanism does not require retro-styled throwbacks (although many examples of it do combine visual historical revivalism with the good community principles it supports).

Much of the attention we pay to green building deals with the parts and pieces and how our buildings work. Greener buildings use less energy for thermal comfort (heating and cooling) and less energy for lighting and draw on fewer resources (and less impact from the materials that are used) in their construction. All of these are good and useful steps to take. However, all of this just takes into account the building itself, and perhaps the site it rests upon. With this kind of focus (or lack thereof) one could envision a community of dispersed “green” buildings all individually well designed and well made, but, in the aggregate, contributing hugely to the destruction of habitat, the depletion of resources, and the net degradation of the environment.

The best-intentioned and highest-rated building could, in fact, be less green in its overall effect if its location is responsible for adverse effects. A building that is located close to an urban center does not need new roads built, unlike a greenfield development. New utility connections require less materials and labor when the building is close to existing services. A new condominium development could be designed with stringent water use and reclamation standards, for example, but the adverse impact of the extra roads needed to reach it could more than outweigh all the positive steps undertaken for the project. A building may significantly reduce the amount of energy it requires to operate, but if it takes more energy to get to and from that building, how much of a benefit does that improvement really represent?

Looking at the forest, rather than concentrating on the individual trees (to mangle a metaphor) means considering sustainability from a number of scales. In addition to looking at the sustainability of the building as a self-contained unit, it also needs to be considered in terms of how it interrelates with the other buildings and the broader community it belongs to. Just as trying to sell more soap (or T-shirts, or whatever) simply because they are organic and sustainably produced overlooks the more basic question of whether or not that product is even needed in the first place. Similarly, building green buildings out in the exurbs encourages sprawl and contributes as much (or more) to environmental degradation. A modest building built on a vacant lot in the city will be more sustainable in a number of important ways, though it won’t get the acclaim that a LEED Protactinium Level building might get, though it may be the more environmentally responsible of the the two.

New Urbanist neighborhoods are in place across the country. People who live in these communities find the vitality and liveability afforded by having their neighborhoods designed with people in mind, rather than cars, to be a great benefit. At Bradburn Village in Westminster, Colorado, neighbors are holding weekly group gatherings because the configuration and proximity of their homes makes such things possible.

Every home in Bradburn includes a large front porch,not just a token two-foot, concrete stoop. Garages are all in the back, and homes here also have very small setbacks (the distance between the house and the sidewalk or front yard), meaning the porches sit right above the sidewalks. This means that people sitting on their front porches easily see neighbors walking by and they stop to talk, creating a community bond that is so elusive in most traditional suburban neighborhoods.Other community features that encourage social interaction among neighbors include public spaces such as the many pocket parks—every home in the development is a 5 minute walk from one of these green spaces—wide sidewalks, and an interconnected street grid (no cul-de-sacs) that makes the community very pedestrian-friendly. As a result of these design features, Bradburn’s residents all know each other, and many have become close, meaning that if you want to socialize with your friends over a few drinks, you just wander on down to the park or walk 5 minutes to your buddy’s home. (via: Fermentarium)

When the Audubon society built its new headquarters in the early 1990s it chose to renovate an existing 19th century office building in downtown New York City, rather than building a new building in a bucolic setting. Although that might reflect some people’s expectations, it would carry with it a number of adverse impacts. Choosing a walkable, transit-networked, well-supported site was more in line with the organization’s goals than the simple image of a new building set in a sylvan glade. New Urbanist guidelines help steer the wider community toward more livable and sustainable goals, and can compound and amplify the benefits of good sustainable building design, rather than letting those effects be diluted but impacts caused outside the immediate bounds of the property line.

Principles of New Urbanism
1. Walkability -Most things within a 10-minute walk of home and work. Pedestrian friendly street design
2. Connectivity -Interconnected street grid network disperses traffic & eases walking
3. Mixed-Use & Diversity -A mix of shops, offices, apartments, and homes on site. Mixed-use within neighborhoods, within blocks, and within buildings. Diversity of people – of ages, income levels, cultures, and races
4. Mixed Housing – A range of types, sizes and prices in closer proximity
5. Quality Architecture & Urban Design – Emphasis on beauty, aesthetics, human comfort, and creating a sense of place
6. Traditional Neighborhood Structure -Transect planning: Highest densities at town center; progressively less dense towards the edge.
7. Increased Density -More buildings, residences, shops, and services closer together for ease of walking, to enable a more efficient use of services and resources, and to create a more convenient, enjoyable place to live.
8. Smart Transportation -Pedestrian-friendly design that encourages a greater use of bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking as daily transportation
9. Sustainability -Minimal environmental impact of development and its operations. More local production. More walking, less driving
10. Quality of Life – Taken together these add up to a high quality of life well worth living, and create places that enrich, uplift, and inspire the human spirit.

Image Source: Fermentarium

Tell Me About It: Bride wants a ‘free’ wedding; Maid of honor paid for dress, shower;; bride wants more

Charleston Daily Mail February 19, 2003 | Carolyn Hax CAROLYN: Is the maid of honor expected to pay for the bride’s wedding? Bridezilla has made it very clear to me that everyone else in the wedding party is paying for the pieces (photographer, deejay, flowers, etc). She is left paying nothing for a wedding 10 times as fancy as my own and demanding things I did without, since I couldn’t afford them. see here maid of honor

I am in grad school and can’t afford this right now, am already footing the bill for the gown, etc., and bridal shower. But she is starting to get nasty about it. Everyone else in the wedding party is related to the bride and groom.

Am I a b– because I don’t think I should pay, or what? How do I get myself out of this?

Maid of horror Thanks, the bridal horror bar hadn’t been raised for a while. Wow.

Explain pie-sweetly that you were under the impression that the maid of honor supports a bride emotionally, not financially, and if you were mistaken you’ll gladly withdraw from her narcissistic freak parade.

Dear Carolyn:

At a recent physical I mentioned I had a problem with anxiety and almost immediately the doctor asked if I wanted medication for it. Do you think she should have pressed counseling, or should I just be glad she didn’t play it off as being in my head?

Newly medicated I think anyone who doesn’t assert himself is going to get inadequate care, regardless of how good the doctor is. If the doc says it’s in your head, ask for another opinion.

If the doc says meds, ask about counseling. If the doc says counseling, ask about meds.

Ask to see a specialist. Ask ask ask. And if you feel rushed or intimidated by your doctor, get another doctor.

Never ever take the “I’m lucky for what I got” approach. That’s bull.

You sound like you want to talk to someone, so by all means look up a therapist. You don’t have to commit if you don’t feel you’re getting anything out of it. website maid of honor

Hi Carolyn!

I have a question regarding the hands-off policy between friends. The old college group recently got together for a ski trip. While there, I met a friend of a friend’s boyfriend (Bob). We hit it off rather well.

Turns out he was at a New Year’s party with some other friends and has apparently “hooked up” (which I think means they kissed at midnight and maybe a couple more times later) with one of my other friends (Mary).

Mary and I aren’t as close as we used to be, and it’s pretty apparent that Bob is interested in me.

They haven’t gone out on a date since New Year’s and the next time they saw each other was at the ski trip. I’m a bit lost on what to do here. Thoughts?

Somewhere in the Poconos Well, I’m totally lost. If Mary and Bob aren’t currently together, then have at him.

Carolyn Hax




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  • http://ecoworldly.com Gavin Hudson

    This, I think, is what should really drive the environmental movement: people coming together to form supportive communities with shared values and a common aspiration toward a more sustainable lifestyle. People need to feel that it’s OK to live a lifestyle similar to the one they already lead and at the same time appreciate their responsibility for the resources they consume, thereby inspiring each other to consume fewer of the scarce resources and more of the renewable ones.

  • http://ecoworldly.com Gavin Hudson

    This, I think, is what should really drive the environmental movement: people coming together to form supportive communities with shared values and a common aspiration toward a more sustainable lifestyle. People need to feel that it’s OK to live a lifestyle similar to the one they already lead and at the same time appreciate their responsibility for the resources they consume, thereby inspiring each other to consume fewer of the scarce resources and more of the renewable ones.

  • http://www.i-chaney.com Architects India

    I have to agree with Gavin .Its the least we could for our future generations.

  • http://www.i-chaney.com Architects India

    I have to agree with Gavin .Its the least we could for our future generations.

  • http://www.greenbuildingconsortium.org/ Joe P

    Stopping at having Green products and homes is surely stopping short of the goal. It makes very little sense if we have to make a mess to use Green products and homes. Not only in the case of a completed home but also in the process of selecting green products for the various projects. We must green the process and use of these as well.

  • http://www.greenbuildingconsortium.org/ Joe P

    Stopping at having Green products and homes is surely stopping short of the goal. It makes very little sense if we have to make a mess to use Green products and homes. Not only in the case of a completed home but also in the process of selecting green products for the various projects. We must green the process and use of these as well.

  • http://www.enermodal.com Adam

    Anyone interested in the concepts discussed above and the USGBC LEED for Neighborhood Developments rating system. The document was co-authored by The Congress for the New Urbanism and aims to guide design teams toward the goals discussed above. As with other LEED programs, the system aims to measure community-scale sustainability and reward good designs with either Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification.

    http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=148

  • http://www.enermodal.com Adam

    Anyone interested in the concepts discussed above and the USGBC LEED for Neighborhood Developments rating system. The document was co-authored by The Congress for the New Urbanism and aims to guide design teams toward the goals discussed above. As with other LEED programs, the system aims to measure community-scale sustainability and reward good designs with either Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification.

    http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=148

  • http://greenbuildingelements.com Philip Proefrock

    Thanks for pointing that out, Adam.

    In fact, LEED-ND is another one of the Green Communities approaches that I am planning to discuss in this series. Look for that in the next couple of weeks.

  • http://greenbuildingelements.com Philip Proefrock

    Thanks for pointing that out, Adam.

    In fact, LEED-ND is another one of the Green Communities approaches that I am planning to discuss in this series. Look for that in the next couple of weeks.

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  • http://216.105.141.7/ufOffice/ Upstate Forever

    Yes! I would agree that utilizing underused lands and redeveloping areas greatly contribute to sustainable efforts, and that these opportunities need to be considered more often. Please check out our blog, as we at Upstate Forever, are doing just that. We are retroffiting a historical home in Greenville, SC, into a LEED certified building, that will eventually serve as both our office and a model for the community.

    http://216.105.141.7/ufOffice/

    Thanks!

  • http://216.105.141.7/ufOffice/ Upstate Forever

    Yes! I would agree that utilizing underused lands and redeveloping areas greatly contribute to sustainable efforts, and that these opportunities need to be considered more often. Please check out our blog, as we at Upstate Forever, are doing just that. We are retroffiting a historical home in Greenville, SC, into a LEED certified building, that will eventually serve as both our office and a model for the community.

    http://216.105.141.7/ufOffice/

    Thanks!

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  • http://www.greenecocommunities.com/ Green Communities, ECO Friendl

    Phillip,

    Wow, what a fantastic article. I am always interested in elements involving green communities, and everything you said in this post is what we promote as well, and try to convince people of your “Principles of New Urbanism”

    I would love to add you as a resource to our site!

    Ty

  • http://www.greenecocommunities.com/ Green Communities, ECO Friendly!

    Phillip,

    Wow, what a fantastic article. I am always interested in elements involving green communities, and everything you said in this post is what we promote as well, and try to convince people of your “Principles of New Urbanism”

    I would love to add you as a resource to our site!

    Ty

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