Archive for the ‘Urban Infrastructure’ Category

[This post was written by Megan Foster, Grant Russ, and Tina Xiong, and complements previous students’ analysis of the question What is Sustainability?]

One of the many topics of change that the Coalition for a Livable Future‘s Regional Equity Atlas expands on is poverty and, more specifically, child poverty. The Atlas presents a figure of 31,000 people living in poverty in the Portland metro area in the year 2000 and almost a third of that number were children. A collection of research also cited by the source provides an unsettling correlation of poverty stricken children and elevated exposure to crime and an increased chance of teen pregnancy, family problems, and a lower standard of education. In order to improve these unfortunate circumstances it would be necessary to utilize preventative and tertiary methods.

Preventative methods would aid in addressing the root of the problem rather than simply taking measures that will just move the population of poor to other areas. (more…)


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I have often heard that cities are the bane of modern society because of the resources they consume and the pollution they produce. Henry David Thoroeau seems to hold this perspective when he writes:

    The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the world. Every tree sends its fibres forth in search of the Wild. The cities import it at any price. Men plow and sail for it. From the forest and wilderness come the tonics and barks which brace mankind.

I have also heard just the opposite: That cities are inherently more sustainable because they concentrate populations in a given area and allow for rural and undeveloped lands to continue to be used for food production, natural resource extraction, and recreation.

Economist Edward Glaeser asserts this latter point, and has written a book to support his position: Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier.

This morning, Glaeser appeared on KUOW’s Weekday program with Steve Scherr: “Is City Living Better than the American Dream?“:

    The American dream has typically been owning a home in a leafy suburb with a white picket fence, a well–mowed lawn and an apple pie cooling on the window sill. The reality is over two–thirds of Americans currently live in cities. Is the American dream changing? Is living in an apartment in a dense urban neighborhood actually better than owning your own home in the suburbs? Economist Edward Glaeser argues that cities magnify human strengths. We’ll ask him what he means.

In what ways is increased urbanization more or less sustainable — in terms of economics, environment, and equity?

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The proposed Oregon Sustainability Center (OSC) will be to the Living Building Challenge™ guidelines, “which would qualify it among the most sustainable buildings ever designed and constructed.” When it is built, it will be “home to Oregon’s leaders in sustainable business, government, and education. It will act as a laboratory for green technology regionally and globally, designed to be the greenest high-rise ever built—sourcing its materials locally, creating its own energy, and collecting and treating its water on-site” (Source).

The OSC will be built “on the eastern edge of Portland State University campus in downtown Portland, Oregon. It will form the nucleus of the Portland State University Ecodistrict, a neighborhood strategy to develop and integrate smart buildings, infrastructure, transportation, and community connectivity along sustainable lines” (Source).

Some people wonder if this project is worth the cost. (more…)

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On Feb. 9, 2011, the Cascadia Green Building Council will feature Kath Williams speaking on “Opportunities in Eco-communities: People, Planet, and Profits”

    Globally the title “Eco-city” is used as a descriptor for every municipal project that is even the lightest shade of “green.” From newly constructed communities in China and Middle East to sustainable infrastructure projects in developed and developing nations, it is easy to bestow upon oneself the title. The questions becomes what are the motivations and what are the criteria? From lessons learned while working around the world, Kath Williams proposes all measurement tools should be framed in terms of values and opportunities for people, profit, and the planet if the goal of sustainability is ever to be achieved.

Williams is Principal of Kath Williams & Associates. She was Past president of the World Green Building Council and Executive Vice President of the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL).

The event will be held on Wednesday, Feb 9, 2011, at the Turnbull Open Space, White Stag Building, University of Oregon, 70 NW Couch St., Portland. Doors open at 5:00PM, lecture begins at 5:30PM Cascadia Members and students are free (RSVP mandatory), general audiences pay $10.

See the event announcement for more details.

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There’s an intriguing documentary premier upcoming:

“The Greenest Building”

(A Wagging Tale Productions Documentary)

Monday, Jan. 31, 2011, 6:30 – 8:00 P.M.

The Gerding Theater at the Armory
128 NW Eleventh Ave., Portland

Movie description:

    Over the next 20 years, Americans will demolish one third of our existing building stock (over 82 billion square feet) in order to replace seemingly inefficient buildings with energy efficient “green” buildings.

    Is demolition in the name of sustainability really the best use of natural, social, and economic resources? Or, like the urban renewal programs of the 1960’s, will this well-intentioned planning result in devastating environmental and cultural consequences?


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“The Original Green” is Steve and Wanda Mouzon’s book/website/blog/email list project conveying their “proposition of the Original Green,” which, in their terms, means that “before the Thermostat Age, the places we made and the buildings we built had no choice but to be green. The Original Green is holistic sustainability, and broader than Gizmo Green.” As they write:

    Many people now agree that achieving sustainability is a bigger challenge than just buying more efficient devices. Steve Mouzon coined the phrase “Original Green” several years ago to describe the sustainability that existed before the Thermostat Age. . . . Steve is the founder of the New Urban Guild in Miami . . . a group of architects, designers, and other New Urbanists dedicated to the study and the design of true traditional buildings and places native to and inspired by the regions in which they are built.

Steve Mouzon’s book The Original Green and the Mysteries of True Sustainability (Miami: The New Urban Guild Foundation, 2010). To support this project, the Mouzon’s also have created the following:

The University of Oregon recently announced a new PhD program in it’s Department of Architecture focusing on the art and science of sustainable design. This program is focused on sustainability at the scale of the city, individual buildings, and construction materials. From the press release:

    The doctoral program will engage students in interdisciplinary investigations focused on the creation of new knowledge in compelling and time-sensitive research topics such as:

      • sustainable cities and livable communities design and policy
      • design for climate change and adaptation
      • cultural, social, and economic sustainability
      • net-zero buildings and eco-districts design
      • resource forecasting and simulation of place and building performance
      • energy-efficient, adaptive re-use of existing buildings
      • indoor environmental quality and occupants’ health
      • high-performance building envelopes and green technologies;
      • life-cycle building analysis design and modeling

    “Research conducted by architecture faculty members and doctoral students address issues most critical to the built environment and provide creative solutions to problems associated with building performance, resource conservation, urbanization, ecology and quality of life,” says Christine Theodoropoulos, department head. “Our goal is to further environmental sustainability through collaboration between architectural research and practice for the benefit of our communities.”

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In his post “Future City: Portland & Networked Urban Sustainability,” Alex Aylett provides a look “at some of the hits and misses of climate change policy in Portland (OR).” He sought to provide more than “just a summary of one city’s programs” to identify evidence of what he sees as “an important shift in the way cities are pursuing sustainability.”

Aylett finds that many cities in throughout the world are entering a new era of implementing sustainable practices, an era in which “retrofitting City Hall is nice, but the real game revolves around how we plan and travel through our cities, how we build and run our buildings, and how we make and use energy.” This “new phase of urban sustainability” is one in which the low-hanging fruit has been harvested (so to speak) and “cities are being pushed to tackle the really tough issues.”

Portland, according to Aylett, is “one of a handful of American cities that is really embracing the challenges of networked sustainability,” as evidenced by a number of organizations and projects in the area, including: Clean Energy Works Portland (CEWP); Green Building initiatives to achieve LEED certifications; and ecodistricts & the Portland Sustainability Institute (PoSI).

Readers interested in learning more about Portland or modern urban environments broadly are encouraged to read Aylett’s blog “openalex: cities & sustainability: reinventing the good life,” navigate to his article cited above, and to peruse as well his the other Portland-specific articles he has written, including:

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Portland area regional map, from Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies, http://www.pdx.edu/ims/regional-map

A critical first step in any study of regional sustainability is determining what has already been done. This post will be the first on this website to begin to gather such links. The information below complements the “Links of Interest” on this website, and also provides some insight into questions raised in the SHP post “On the history of sustainability in the Pac NW.”

This post highlights the work of the Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies at Portland State University, and The Diggable City PSU Master of Urban and Regional Planning workshop.


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