Saturday, February 9, 2013

Soft Waterfront Infrastructure to Protect NYC From the next Big Storm

Thanks to climate change, we've experienced some wild storms the past couple of years, culminating in Hurricane Sandy,  which hit the city with record devastation. To make matters worse, NYC is slowly succumbing to rising sea levels, which threaten to sink coastal neighborhoods throughout the boroughs. In light of a possible environmental disaster, a group of architecture firms have united to tackle these issues with innovative green design. Taking lessons from levee design flaws in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, these architects have created "soft infrastructure," a design concept based on priming the city to "deal with storms instead of fortify itself against them" by using natural resources like coastal marshlands and building more sustainable infrastructure like green roofs.

Read more: Architects Propose 'Soft Waterfront Infrastructure' to Protect NYC From the Next Big Storm | Inhabitat New York City

The Performative Ground: Rediscovering The Deep Section

Deep Urbanism is a reading of the city that acknowledges the complex ecological and biogeochemical processes taking place above, below and within the urban ground. In the city, nothing can simply be placed on the surface; the composition of the urban ground requires that structures inevitably extend deep into a complex mix of disturbed soil horizons, construction rubble, pipes, subways, utilities. The most innocent-looking walkway may sit on 30-foot piles driven deep into silty soil; small hillocks might be braced with highly engineered geotextiles. A simple meadow may require the complete reconstruction of a “natural” soil profile; a sunken garden may require drainage infrastructure and thousands of pounds of concrete to keep the water table at bay. Much of the action of landscape is deep underground, buried in space or time.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

On Landscape, Ecology, Urbanism and the Accendancy of Landscape Architects

Landscape urbanism has come to stand as an alternative within the broad base of urban design historically defined. Incorporating continuity with the aspirations of an ecologically informed planning practice, landscape urbanism has been equally informed by high design culture, contemporary modes of urban development, and the complexity of public-private partnerships. While it may be true, as has been recently argued, that the urban form proposed by landscape urbanism has not yet fully formed, it would be equally fair to say that landscape urbanism remains the most promising alternative available to urban design’s formation for the coming decades. This is in no small part due to the fact that landscape urbanism offers a culturally leavened, ecologically literate, and economically viable model for contemporary urbanization as an alternative to urban design’s ongoing nostalgia for traditional urban forms. Evidence of this is found in the number of internationally prominent landscape architects who have been retained as lead designers of large-scale urban development proposals in which landscape offers ecological function, cultural authority, and brand identity.

Further evidence is found in the fact that many promising young urbanists have explicitly embraced a landscape urbanist agenda. This increasingly global recognition reveals landscape urbanism’s impact on a generation of professionals shaped by the tenets of an adjectivally modified urbanism, be it landscape urbanism, ecological urbanism, or whatever supersedes those two.  Read more:

How Urban Parks Enhance Your Brain

As the authors themselves conclude, the results really demonstrate, above all else, the salutary effects of a natural environment. "In sum, we have shown that simple and brief interactions with nature can produce marked increases in cognitive control. To consider the availability of nature as merely an amenity fails to recognize the vital importance of nature in effective cognitive functioning."

The second conclusion, more germane for our purposes, is that "incorporating nearby nature into urban environments may counteract" some of the cognitive strains placed on the brain by the city, the authors write. Recent research has suggested economic and crime benefits of urban greenery; now advocates can legitimately add "public health" to their list of arguments. Read more:

A New Philanthropic Threshold -- The Significance of Central Park's Gift

John Paulson's recent $100 million gift to New York's Central Park, the largest bequest ever to a city park, has drawn considerable praise and, surprisingly, some blowback (the old "no good deed goes unpunished" scenario). Philanthropy and public-private partnerships should not be faulted but encouraged. Read more:

Green Roofs and Walls market Expected to Surge to $7.7 billion by 2017

The rapidly-growing market for green roofs and green walls is expected to surge to $7.7 billion by 201. Installations of green roofs will rise 70% by then, to 204 million square meters. Their rise is expected to be limited somewhat by “costs and lack of validation,” according to Lux Research.

Green roofs and green walls have been shown to be an excellent way to combat environmental problems such as air pollution, the heat-island effect, and the general lack of green spaces in cities. As a result, many cities around the globe have been providing incentives and creating mandates to drive their use, which will create a $7.7 billion global market by 2017, says Lux Research.

This market surge is expected to present “a $2 billion opportunity to suppliers of polymeric materials such as geosynthetic fabrics and waterproof membranes. Green walls will swell to a $680 million market, using $200 million worth of materials such as self-supporting polyurethane foam growth media.”

“The environmental benefits of building-integrated vegetation (BIV) remain hard to monetize, and many wonder if it’s just a green curiosity,” said Aditya Ranade, Lux Research Senior Analyst and the lead author of the report titled. “But with key cities around the world putting incentives in place, a significant market opportunity is emerging.”

The report by Lux Research is titled “Building-Integrated Vegetation: Redefining the Landscape or Chasing a Mirage?” It examines the key drivers and the barriers for growth in this newly emerging market.

One of the primary barriers is ‘value proposition’. Green roofs and green walls have a great many benefits, but their installed cost – “$300/m2 to $500/m2 for green roofs and $900/m2 to $1,100/m2 for green walls” – is much higher than the alternatives.

Adoption so far has been driven by just a handful of cities, all in the ‘developed’ world. Because of this, for growth to continue, it will depend almost entirely on the global economic environment.

Blue Systems: Toward a Better Campus Aesthetic

In Blue Systems: Toward a Better Campus Aesthetic, prolific authors Jeffrey L. Bruce and Frank Edgerton Martin utilize integrated water management planning case studies to draw a comprehensive picture of the value of such integration. The ...article is worthwhile aesthetically, practically, and also as an aid to vision. We especially like the phrase "blue and green design." Society for College and University Planning Journal.

How can you waste less energy to recycle water?

The Kansas City Arts District Garage saves 84 per cent of its water through tools such as rainwater harvesting and on-site storage tanks. “Net Zero is a considerable challenge but it’s certainly achievable,” Bruce said. “It’s essentially self-sufficiency where you get off the grid — where all waste streams, water-use streams and energy streams are internally cycled.”

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Meghalayas Living Bridge - true restorative living architecure.

"I am seeking for the bridge which leans from the visible to the invisible through reality."

Max Beckmann

India's Meghalaya state region has a cultural tradition based on adapting and surviving in a radical environment: They train the roots of trees to grow into sustainable bridges that will adapt and grow over 500 years to create natural traverses for humans and will survive the torrential rains common in the region. A great example of living architecture from which we will should be inspired.

Digital Data Successfully Merged With Biological DNA

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."

Albert Einstein

Scientists have used DNA stored audio and text on fragments of DNA and then retrieved them with near-perfect fidelity-a technique that may provide a way to handle data in the digital age. DNA could hold vastly more information than the same surface volume of a disk drive—a cup of DNA theoretically could store about 100 million hours of high-definition video.

Storing Digital Data in DNA. Technique One Day May Replace Hard Drives as Web Leads to Information Deluge