Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SBA Design Unveils Self-Sufficient City of the Future for China

China pumped €300 billion into its 2010 energy consumption goals, and it may be the only country on earth to have actually met them. This is partially thanks to strict environmental requirements for new projects such as SBA Design’s futuristic new city. Dubbed “Glo-cal DNA”, the self sufficient, low carbon, mixed-use development is slated for construction on Hainan Island – a pumping 42.6 square kilometer tourist hotspot.

Between 2005 and 2010 the Chinese government decreased energy consumption by 20%. SBA Design’s future city is just one of numerous projects planned for China that support the country’s ambitious energy-savings goals. Renewable energy plans for the project include wind turbines, waste to gas generators, and photovoltaic panels that will capture up to 300 days of year-round sun with an energy potential of 1628-1861kWh. And to ensure a long supply of clean water, water recycling and rainwater harvesting systems will be put in place.

To achieve a healthy mix of self-sustaining urban and rural lifestyles, the “glo-cal” city will comprise a series of districts interconnected by pedestrian-friendly interior networks. These will be intersected by various public green spaces and even canals. Every district will have its own central ‘city,’ which will include environmentally-friendly industries, an ecological community center, a conference center, and cultural, information, and tourism centers. The financial district will be positioned ‘off-site.’

A Personal Rapid Transport (PRT) system will navigate between the various themed portions of the mega-city, contributing the final component of Hainan’s ‘self-regenerating organism.’

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bike Share coming to NYC !

Bike share programs, already frequenting many European cities, are finally beginning to take root on our side of the pond.

Manhattan is officially launching its bike share program in summer 2011. It's reported that ~600 bike stations will be made available for rent south of 60th street, and like other bike share programs of its kind, riders will be able to purchase daily, weekly or annual memberships. Although, one distinctive feature of the Manhattan program is that it will be privately funded, and will not rely on any taxpayer money or federal funding.

There are multiple private companies competing for their system to be selected;
---> Alta Bicycle Share (based in Portland, Oregon) and B-Cycle (owned by Wisconsin bicycle maker Trek) would have bikes which can only be locked in their bike racks. Bikes would cost substantially less than the bike racks, making the replacement of stolen bikes much cheaper and simpler. Riders would be able to rent a bike by credit card payment.

----> BKNYC, on the other hand, would operate a little differently. Its bicycles, developed by the German railroad company Deutsche Bahn (DB), could be locked to any fixed structure, and its bikes could be unlocked by calling a phone number and entering a code.

Any of these programs, however, will initially be faced with specific challenges. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges will be actually finding the space for bike racks. Space in the city can sometimes be an oxymoron, which is a problem many people can identify with...
Powering electronic bike racks may potentially be an issue as well. They wouldn't be able to rely on the city's power grid, so they would have to be powered by solar panels or some other power source.

The winner of the program will sign a 5-year contract and will create the design for the ~10,000 bikes. Each bike will be 3-speed, and be equipped with a basket (a la francais) and a GPS system.

With Manhattan's program to be launched this summer, Brooklyn is following suit and has announced its launch of a bike share program within the next couple of years, which only means that cities around the US will hopefully be quick to follow.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Starving Artist Revolution

The "starving artist" seems to be a timeless phrase. It's not uncommon to hear of dancers, painters, sculptors, musicians, actors, among other artists, struggling to find reasonably priced housing and work space to meet their needs, especially in the NYC metropolitan area, which has the highest standard of living cost in the US.

People like this shouldn't feel the need to gravitate toward old industrial buildings just to find a place to sleep or work... it is not conducive for them or for the community
Artspace USA is considered the leading national non-profit real estate developer for the arts, whose mission is to foster, preserve and promote affordable housing and work space for artists, as well as other performing arts facilities. They were initially started in Minneapolis in 1979 as an advocacy agency but evolved into a real estate developer when they realized the issue needed more significant attention.

The organization has so far completed 24 projects from the East to West coast, with one of the most recent projects being in Patchogue, NY (about 50 miles east of Manhattan). This $18 million dollar project was able to provide 45 apartment spaces for rent in downtown Patchogue. There is also retail space available for rent at street level, which is mainly allocated for local artists and their businesses.

This is a really exciting project because it simultaneously provides an opportunity to enhance the cultural and economic setting of the local community, not to mention that it sets a great precedent for future Green development. ArtSpace housing development projects usually involve the restoration of older buildings, and are revamped according to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design System) standards. These ecological building standards help save tenants additional money from their monthly utilities expenditures.

So far, the project has attracted a diverse range of tenants from various walks of life. 23-year old Jay Terry, an artist and recent graduate from SUNY Binghampton, moved into one of the studio apartments with his girlfriend. Dana Flaherty, a 34-year old social worker and photographer, moved with her 6-year old daughter into one of the 2-bedroom apartments. She's observed that as a result of the new development, several art galleries, wineries and restaurants have opened up. The downtown seems to have a completely different atmosphere now, "I feel like I'm in Brooklyn, or Manhattan."

For more info about ArtSpace and the other cool projects they've completed, check out their website -----> http://www.artspace.org/ & http://artspacepatchogue.org/

There was also a great NY Times article published just yesterday about the Artspace Patchogue project ----> http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/realestate/13Long-Island-artspace.html?_r=2&src=twrhp

Friday, March 4, 2011

The cities vs. the suburbs

Want a safe place to raise kids? Look to the cities


It bears repeating: Cities are safer for children than outer suburbs — and with dropping crime rates, cities are getting safer all the time. We've reported in the past on research from the University of Virginia supporting that conclusion, and now Grist has a nice article that amplifies this research, also reported in Planetizen.

The Grist article interviews Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids, who points out that many of the risks that parents worry the most about — amplified on popular TV shows — are in fact so small as to be negligible, yet they tend to drive families out to the seemingly safe environment of leafy, isolated suburbs. The chances of a child being abducted and killed by a stranger, for example, are one in 1.5 million, Grist reports.

The biggest risk by far is having that child die in an automobile accident, and deadly vehicle crashes occur much more regularly in the isolated suburbs, where cars go fast on two-lane roads.

That research also shows that the safest places to raise children are inner suburbs, many of which share some of the characteristics of cities and suburbs. They are often walkable, but also have low crime rates. But cities are safe as well, and Skenazy points out that many of the qualities that some parents fear — many strangers on the street, for example — are actually an advantage for safety. They translate to more eyes and ears on the street, giving criminals less chance to act.

Skenazy offers the following advice, as reported in Grist: "And, tell kids not to go off with people they don't know, but also teach them 'To talk to strangers. That way, if they're ever creeped out by someone in the proverbial white van, they can run to the man across the street, raking his leaves, and say, 'Help! I'm being followed!' Or they can run into a shop and say, 'Call the police!' Or, 'Can I please borrow your phone?' "

To read the full story: