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.