Abstract: Urban blue space is increasingly embraced by cities as a specific and valuable genre of public space, valued for its economic, symbolic and experiential place attributes and essential to sustainable urban development. This article takes up the concept of urban blue space from a design perspective, extending and exploring it through a critical social science lens. Using the reconfiguration and redesign of the central Seattle waterfront as a case example, the idea of “doing justice” is enlisted to examine not just the design opportunities and formal characteristics of the site, but also the patterns of privilege, access and regional socio-ecological equity that are raised through its redesign. After situating the extraordinary design opportunity presented by this iconic urban blue space, and the imperative to do justice to the waterfront’s physical situation, the article presents the site from four additional and discrete perspectives: economic justice, environmental justice, social justice and tribal justice. By thus foregrounding the urban political ecology of the waterfront, the article demonstrates that the most important challenge of the site’s redevelopment is not technological, financial or administrative, although these are real, and significant challenges, but rather, the need to construct a place that works to counter established patterns of local and regional injustice. In Seattle as in other coastal port cities, urban blue space is a shared public and environmental good, with unique and demanding governance responsibilities for its conceptualization and sustainable development.
Abstract: The reasons for high carbon emissions from domestic buildings are complex, and have both social and technical dimensions. At the same time, it is costly and very time-consuming to gather reliable data on energy use in the home. The authors had early access to data from the Household Electricity Survey—the most detailed survey of electricity consumption in UK homes ever undertaken—which monitored 250 homes. The data enabled the authors to investigate a series of socio-technical questions drawn up by the UK Government: Why do some households use far more energy than average, whereas others use much less? What potential is there for shifting “peak load” so that electricity demand is more even through the day? Why is base load electricity use so high? The answers were seldom definitive, but statistical tests found significant correlations between high electricity use and social grade, large household size, unemployment and middle age; and between low electricity use and single-person households, small dwellings, and retirement. This paper draws out key findings from the work, and examines how these insights affect our broader understanding of carbon emissions from the built environment.
Abstract: In January 2013, civic leaders, community stakeholders, and residents came together to release Detroit Future City: 2012 Detroit Strategic Framework Plan, a guiding blueprint for transforming Detroit from its current state of population loss and excessive vacancy into a model for the reinvention of post-industrial American cities. Three years prior, the U.S. Census had reported that the city had lost 24% of its population over the last decade and had experienced a 20% increase in vacant and abandoned property, bringing total vacancy to roughly the size of Manhattan. In addition to physical and economic challenges, Detroiters had also acknowledged significant barriers to effective civic engagement. Foremost among these barriers were a profound sense of immobilization, planning fatigue, and a general perception of cynicism about planning and engagement efforts. These challenges were compounded by historic racial dynamics and tension. This case study elaborates on the comprehensive and innovative civic engagement executed in a citywide planning process called the Detroit Works Project, which took place from late 2010 through late 2012. For the citywide planning process to be successful and sustainable, civic leaders and project funders committed to a planning initiative that would be different from previous efforts, in large part because the “owners” of the process would be diverse and inclusive across all community sectors. The case study, written by three of the key consultants from the project, describes four key civic engagement strategies deployed in the creation of the strategic framework: (1) addressing profound challenges of culture, race, and politics by deliberately building trust; (2) elevating community expertise by fostering a sense of ownership of the process; (3) blending technical and community expertise; and (4) viewing civic engagement as an ongoing two-way conversation rather than a series of large-scale episodic events. This article elaborates on important lessons that other communities might learn from Detroit’s planning initiative in relation to these strategies. It concludes with a brief summary of the results and implications of the civic engagement process.
Abstract: This paper investigates innovative trends, practices and goals of tall building retrofits while illustrating green design techniques and implementation strategies. The existing building stock is substantially large and represents one of the biggest opportunities to reduce energy waste and curb air pollution and global warming. In terms of tall buildings, many will benefit from retrofits. There are long lists of inefficient all-glass curtain walls, initially promoted by the modernist movement, that are due to retrofit. The all-glass curtain wall buildings rely on artificial ventilation, cooling and heating, and suffer from poor insulation, which collectively make them energy hogs. Recent practices indicate that green retrofit has helped older buildings to increase energy efficiency, optimize building performance, increase tenants’ satisfaction and boost economic return while reducing greenhouse gas emission. As such, renovating older buildings could be “greener” than destroying them and rebuilding new ones. While some demolition and replacement may remain a necessity to meet contemporary needs, there are significant opportunities to reduce carbon emission and improve existing buildings’ performance by retrofitting them rather than constructing new ones. Practical insight indicates that the confluence of economic and environmental goals is increasingly at the heart of sustainable planning and design.
Abstract: This paper describes the result of a project to develop climate adaptation design strategies funded by the UK’s Technology Strategy Board. The aim of the project was to look at the threats and opportunities presented by industrialized and house-building techniques in the light of predicted future increases in flooding and overheating due to anthropogenic climate change. The paper shows that the thermal performance of houses built to the current UK Building Regulations is not adequate to cope with changing weather patterns, and in light of this, develops a detailed design for a new house: one that is industrially produced and climatically resilient, but affordable. This detailed concept IDEAhaus of a modular house is not only flood-proof to a water depth of 750 mm, but also is designed to utilize passive cooling, which dramatically reduces the amount of overheating, both now and in the future.