Sunday, April 27, 2014

Week Fourteen

The building I chose to explore was the fraternity house that I live in since I assumed that I would be most familiar with this building and would have the most access to all parts of the structure. The building is almost 90 years old, so I did not exactly expect it to be the most environmentally friendly building on campus, one with a lot of room to improve how it utilizes environmental factors. The first focus  of my observation was the utilization of natural light throughout the building in rooms and main floors. Most individual living rooms made extremely poor use of the natural lighting presented throughout the day with electric lamps and lights being essential if you do not want to sit in a dark room all day. Most rooms have one window, with the exception of corner rooms that have windows on two walls instead. Because of the room layout the building was designed around, natural lighting is not even a possibility for anywhere except the individual rooms, which are never naturally lit. However, there are several windows at the end of each hallway in order to not depend solely on artificial light. The main floor, on the other hand, has two walls of windows and several very large and tall windows on the other walls. Because of the buildings architecture, there is not a lot of room to be improved in the use of natural light. The temperature control of the building fluctuates and is very hard to control. While the radiator system in each room and main floor heats the house fairly effectively through the winter, the poor insulation of the house and the gaps and sealing failures around many of the windows causes heat to escape constantly. Energy is not used nearly as efficiently as is demanded by changing environmental awareness. There is almost not shading effect offered by surrounding vegetation or trees, and the UV sink that is the black plaster roof has a huge heating island effect. Since the building is three stories high, it is unrealistic to think that trees or other ground level vegetation can be grown to offer shade from the sun and solar heating in the summer, but it could be converted to a green rooftop to take care of the issue. However, the issues of upkeep, implementation, and other factors still remain as obstacles to achieving advancement in the environmental and heating awareness area.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Week 13 Post

For my web diagram, I mainly tried to highlight quickly the main areas of reform that the designers in Curitiba attempted to address with their urban changes. These areas stemmed from the main goal of a sustainable and a city laid out with priority to human resource and pedestrians. General themes such as water usage, transportation, and urban design and the changes that were enacted under each category generally fell under either environmental or social advancement. However, each idea had both the social well being and environmental sustainability of Curitiba in mind during reform, and there is a reciprocal benefit seen between the environment and social well being as a happier and more willing civilian population is far more eager to assist in environmental impact reform, which will in turn only lend to an even happier and healthier community. For example, the tube station bus system is an efficient transportation system is one of the most productive systems in the world and minimizes carbon emissions and traffic jams. In turn, civilians embrace the bus system and do all they can to support it’s continual use, such as consistently paying tolls and cutting vandalism on public property. The quick changes that Curitiban government has installed in various areas help make minor changes that are both sustainable and encourage further urban renewal and social well being. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Week 12 Post

The 'Green Rooftop' concept that is being popularized by many forward thinking urban communities piqued my interest immediately after reading about it in the Sussman article because it seemed like a simple and almost effortless way to integrate environmentally friendly and beneficial concepts into already existing structures. The basic idea of the green rooftop is that having plants and grasslands on vacant rooftops drastically decreases the "heat island effect" that is becoming more of a problem as dark, empty rooftops absorb radiation from the sun and re emit it into the atmosphere, compounding heating. Adding basic plots of vegetation and greenery to these rooftops is a minimal demand on both government regulators and needs almost no lobbying in the public to convince homeowners to commit to. Due to it's simplicity and effectiveness, I was interested to see if the green rooftop has already been implemented seriously in any cities and the result of the change, knowing that if it generally saw a success, the concept could be quick and make a heavy impact on solar heating. An important instance of the green rooftop being used is over the Chicago City Hall. The massive building with a vast rooftop approved a plan that was completed in 2001 to install an extensive network of grasses, flowers, and other vegetation in varying levels of soil on the roof of the structure. The vegetation is ordered in varying soil thickness to respond to the different needs of plants throughout the season, and is visible to 33 structures that stand taller than the city hall. What would previously be water run off or rain water drained into pipes and emptied elsewhere in the city is now feeding and assisting this growing environmental health booster. Although extensive studies are not available, the initial results from the city hall green rooftop are extremely encouraging. Being converted from a traditional black tar rooftop, the structure has a measured temperature 78 degrees cooler than surrounding buildings in the summer. The feedback heating experienced in the atmosphere as well as the temperature flux seen inside the building on hot days have been effectively cut, which is a huge help in the increased movement towards green rooftops and other procedures that assist environmental consciousness and benefit.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Week 11 Post

Bogota and Curitiba are comparable cities in the strives that they have made towards new and sustainable city designs. Both cities have seen enormous success, both socially and environmentally, as a result of the changes and innovations that they have enacted in their cities, namely in methods of transportation. One of the most glaring similarities between the two cities is the interconnectivity that was established by the mayors serving in office, and the positive effects that had socially on the fabric of the city. In Curitiba, the use of a pedestrian emphasized city with an efficient and creative bus system, encouraged with a special four lane road system, that provided the rest of the city to be planned and sculpted to be strongly focused on the accessibility and the ability of people to get where they need to be by walking, and how this experience could be made more enjoyable for walkers. Similarly, Bogota has used an inter connectivity of roads, pathways, and other networks in order to increase the flow of traffic and pedestrian movability in their city. The resulting drops in crime and other social issues that the city has since felt have been drastic and shocking, and a testament to the power of forward thinking urban planning. The second similarity in the cities is the move away from automobile dependent cities. Both regional planners saw the growing issues that the focus on cars as the only form of transportation for many people was having on their environmental and social well being. The move away from automobiles has helped bring back the importance of individuals as regional governments are proving how much they value an individuals fitness and well being. Traffic congestion has been cut down and masses of people are feeling safer and better off than when forced to drive to reach any place of value. Lastly, both cities are subjects of an growing emphasis being placed on the importance and powers that a well designed city can have on the people, environment, and industry that surrounds and inhabits the city. Both Bogota and Curitiba were transformed for the better when newly elected officials made bold decisions to reject the conventional importance placed on cars and instead move a cities design almost back in time and realize the benefits of creating an interconnected and walkable city.

However, despite their similarities Bogota and Curitiba differ in substantial ways. First, Curitiba has already understood the surrounding greenspace of their city and begun using alternative techniques for expanding and managing the natural systems of the environment, and thus feel a reciprocal benefit with the green infrastructure. The use of natural management to curb the effects of floods as well as using sheep to control the growth of grass are both somewhat groundbreaking changes in a city and completely sustainable. The benefits that are felt by these changes span across species and environments, as well as being cheap and clean to maintain while being extremely pleasing to the citizens of Curitiba. Bogota has yet to make any progress on the development of their green infrastructure. Secondly, Bogota had much steeper issues to face than did Curitiba at the beginning of the new urban plans. Bogota faced astoundingly high murder and crime rates, and the poverty in their country was out of control. While Bogota is no where near the quality of life that is now offered by Curitiba, it's use of urban planning has helped tremendously to curb the pressing issues of the city. In it's own way it has been vastly improved in certain areas, but it no where near matches the quality of life offered in Curitiba.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Week Nine Post

The place that I chose to analyze in terms of sustainability was my hometown of Barrington, Illinois. I spent my entire pre college life being raised in Barrington and have had the ability to form a fairly accurate assessment on the level of the towns sustainability and environmental impact. For starters, Barrington is a Chicago suburb, so it is built to follow the trend of urban sprawl. The main town has an extremely spread layout, with little emphasis on urban, residential, or employment centers. The downtown region of the town, which contains most of the local businesses and restaurants, is only reachable by foot or bike by a very small percentage of the population. Extremely busy roads, lack of bike lanes, and large distance length inhibit the ability of those living in most residential neighborhoods to reach places of business by means other than a motorized vehicle. Furthermore, no public transportation is offered throughout the town, due to the expectancy of the town being a motorized vehicle based place of residence. The only acceptable form of public transportation offered is the train line service that runs from the Barrington station through the Northwest suburbs to Chicago. Almost all residence of Barrington are a nuclear family, with a single parent that travels to work each morning, a job most likely located in the city of Chicago. A massive percentage of the town travels each morning about an hour by car to Chicago, contributing to the massive miles travelled footprint of motorized vehicles. The population is offset very slightly by the offer of the train service, which is the lone provider of sustainable transportation. However, if not located within a close couple mile radius of the train station, which most Barrington residence are not, lack of inter-town public transportation forces residence to inevitably still have to drive to and from the train station. There is a slight feeling of an urban center surrounding the location of a few local restaurants and other businesses that residence could find appealing to walk or visit in their downtime, such as local clothing shops. However, these businesses are built into large, one story properties that expand out instead of up and make for an inefficient layout. The small urban center is relatively unreachable to most of the population due to the expansion of most of the town of Barrington. Much of the residential areas are connected to the urban center by busy roads that are conducive to only motorized vehicle transportation and would be fairly dangerous if attempted to travel by any way other than a car. Lack of bike lanes and walking paths reflects the assumption of Barrington zoning that the town would be based on the use of motorized vehicles. Massive properties and residential areas contribute to the massive spread of the town and it's inaccessibility by much of the population, with huge areas of land being held as undeveloped yards and residential luxury. Barrington in 50 years could have some serious problem's if regulations were put in place in order to limit vehicle miles travelled. For starters, much of the large undeveloped property and lawns owned by households will have to be purchased by the county as an attempt to connect the areas of the town in a more environmentally friendly way of transportation, such as direct bike and walk paths. Bus routes could potentially be installed running to and from places of interest to help lessen the motorized vehicle footprint. However, a more fitting solution based on the size of the downtown area of Barrington could be to expand local structures and buildings by adding stories and potential for urban expansion. More opportunities for local businesses could be created, which would eliminate the need for citizens to travel larger distances by car in order to meet needs that are only offered in businesses elsewhere. However, the truth of the matter also remains that Barrington inhabitants are exceedingly wealthy and may see no need to halt their huge consumption patterns. Many families in Barrington have more than enough capital to continue to fund use of resources at an unsustainable rate, regardless of skyrocketing price. Residence will be extremely reluctant to abandon the excessive habit of housing size and use of land that has formed over the last few decades, and without government intervention, may refuse to embrace change for the better of the entire environment.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Week 7 Post

The tragedy of the commons basically states that an unregulated resource that gives all an equal opportunity to access it will eventually be consumed to the point of non existence by a constant mounting consumption. It seems much more difficult to find modern day examples of consumption patterns that fit the tragedy of the commons due to highly regulated and privatized resource distribution that eliminate the possibility for unlimited consumption of certain goods. However, emerging China is experiencing a tragedy of the commons occurrence in it's booming economic expansion and population growth. China is seeming an emerging movement of it's citizens towards a middle class capable of accessing and consuming an increasing amount of water. Furthermore, as China's population continually grows, urbanization and population density expands as well. The need for plumbing and flowing water to residence and urban centers is in constant flux with the use of toilets, sinks, drinking water, and other commercial needs are required to be addressed. Agriculture production also faces a constant pull from consumers to provide more for a growing economy, which requires an exponential amount of water use. To meet this demand, China industry rapidly increased irrigation and pipelines in a relatively unplanned and inefficient way. Never having to address water shortages before, the abundance of water that China seemed to comfortably have intact was continually tapped to feed this swelling population. Economic and monetary increase for the growing middle class also gave Chinese citizens that ability to spend more on water and cut out the requirement to budget their water consumption.

Chinese citizens all had access to some degree to water consumption, and, given the increased ability to access it, increased their consumption accordingly. The issue of a water scarcity was an unforeseen consequence of this consumption growth that was fairly inevitable following the law of the tragedy of the commons, due to the upward sloping availability of water to the commons of China.

Since this issue is an emerging concern, and not yet a full blown crisis, there has not been an extent of ideas to combat a water shortage that have been unsuccessful. However, Chinese government is attempting to address this issue through technological advancements such as making a more efficient crop seed that can better retain drops of water, cutting the amount of water necessary to produce a sufficient amount of Chinese agricultural goods. Additional infrastructure such as dams and canals are also being proposed in order to curb wasted water and redirect water flow to restore disappearing streams and rivers.

However, a concern should still remain for the Chinese government if the countries population continues to expand. How much water consumption can technological development supplement if population continually skyrockets? Being a proponent of ecological development, I believe the most effective way to address a growing water shortage is to place restrictions on the amount of water consumption, industrially but primarily commercially, possible for Chinese residents. It's inevitable that as freedom and flexibility to access goods increases, the use of these goods will move beyond necessity and resources will be wasted. Placing fines or regulations on the amount on the massive Chinese population could aid the technological development of the Chinese government in more effectively using water resources.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Week 6 Assignment

The idea that really interested me in terms of changes that can lead to a more successful and sustainable future environmentally is the idea of growing as an urban community in a more compact and a cooler layout by changing the way we design and place our cities. The whole concept of growing more compact is that regardless of what technological changes we make in order to make gasoline burn with less CO2, or to make cars burn fuel for efficiently, the goal of CO2 emissions that we must reach as a society in order to provide ourselves with a sustainable environment will still be unattainable. The only way that we can hope to reach this number, while still developing at a similar rate that humanity currently is, is to completely change the way our cities and living communities are laid out by increasing the amount of attached housing, building multi functioning urban centers, and by creating alternative transportation routes and paths. The benefits estimated to be realized by cities who move towards this design are two fold, as average daily CO2 emission for these communities is estimated to drop by at least a third, while obesity rates and the overall amount of driving as transportation will be slashed, as walking and biking become possible and more convenient forms of transportation.

In terms of Thomas Orr's article describing the difference between technological and ecological proposals striving to reach environmental sustainability, the idea of a more compact structural and living layout for humanity would definitely have to lean towards the side of ecological advancement. While mild technological changes would probably be made in order to more efficiently build housing and urban complexes, the act of consciously funding and allocating our resources towards and urban landscape that is more accessible by foot and places urban centers in more compact and diverse settings is would be a change in lifestyle for most Americans. Humans would have to make conscious changes in their lifestyle and work with our environmental limitations in order to continue advancing as humanity but ensuring that we have a life supporting system. Since America has been built with the assumption that most humans will rely on personal cars as the main form of transportation, humans have become accustomed to driving any time they have an errand to run or a place to be, primarily because these places have been designed to only be reached by motor vehicle. Convincing people, mostly in suburban environments, to almost abandon a motor vehicle unless absolutely essential would be a huge shift in lifestyle for a society that has spent over half a decade enjoying and never thinking twice about the convenience and speed offered by a personal motor vehicle. This doesn't even began to describe the unwillingness that people would have to move from driving as opposed to walking or biking strictly due to personal laziness. Additionally, the recreational luxury of huge houses on massive and unnecessary properties would have to be largely disregarded. Condominiums and townhouses centering around community and urban centers with multiple businesses would become the most common form of housing units, and detached houses would have to be seriously downscaled in order to increase density of residency. The changes that would have to be made in order for the country to achieve a more density rich society would have to be understood and accepted with open arms by a huge majority of American citizens.