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The Urban Developer
Developers of a New York skyscraper have been ordered to remove as many as 20 floors from the top of its recently completed project on the Upper West Side.

The 200 Amsterdam Avenue development, being delivered by SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America, has been found to have exceeded zoning limits after developers “gerrymandered” a 39-sided zoning lot in order to add height and bulk to the project.

The decision, handed down by supreme court judge Justice W Franc Perry, marks a watershed moment for community groups who opposed the 204 metre tall project on the grounds that the developers used a zoning loophole to upsize the project to comprise 112 apartments.

The court found that while it is common for developers to purchase the unused development rights of adjacent buildings, the developers in question had put together a highly unusual zoning lot to take advantage of the development rights.

Community groups opposing the tower went to court after their request to stop construction was rejected by New York City’s Department of Buildings.

Last year, the New York State Supreme Court ruled in favour of the community groups and ordered the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) revisit the matter.

Despite the court order, SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America continued with the construction of the high-end residential project, which recently topped out.

“200 Amsterdam entirely conforms with all zoning rules, as earlier upheld by equally the DOB and the BSA, the two metropolis agencies with the most important responsibility for interpreting NYC’s zoning codes,” SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America said in a statement.

“We continue to make construction progress and look forward to delivering a building that will significantly benefit the neighbourhood and New York City.”

Attorneys representing the developers plan to appeal the ruling on the grounds that the project was fully compliant with the city’s zoning resolution.

At this point it remains unclear how many floors might need to be deconstructed from the 52-storey tower, but under one interpretation of the law, the building might have to remove 20 floors or more to conform to the regulation.

The Elkus Manfred-designed tower, which is located a few blocks from Central Park, at its current height would boast panoramic views of the Hudson River, Empire State Building and World Trade Centre.

The project also offers high-end amenities including an indoor swimming pool, fitness centre, conservatory, virtual golf room and a residential lounge.

The decision isn’t the first time a ruling like this has been passed down in the state of New York.

In 1991, developer Laurence Ginsberg was forced to reduced a development at East 96th Street by 31-storeys to 19-storeys after it was found to be inside a special Park Avenue zoning district, which limits building heights.
Climate Reality
o its great credit, the American Institute of Architects recently denounced the Trump administration’s decision to formally withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. This may put the professional organization on the right side of history, but it’s unlikely to sway any hardened hearts and minds in Washington. Obviously, the executive branch is worse than useless on this issue: not just an impediment to change, but a malevolent force for willful inaction. It’s hard to see it as anything less than an enemy of the climate.

Until this odious cast of characters in changes, climate activists must turn their attention elsewhere. Fortunately there’s an under-the-radar lobbying effort underway in California, by the AIA’s state chapter, that holds the potential to totally transform the building sector. In July, the organization’s Committee on the Environment, in collaboration with Edward Mazria of Architecture 2030, persuaded the California’s AIA’s governing board to support the adoption of a statewide Zero Code as soon as possible. The organization sent a letter to the governor in September, co-signed by leading firms, virtually all of the local chapters, as well as the cities of Berkeley, Santa Monica, Fremont, San Luis Obispo, and Culver City.

Green buildings in California would no longer be about rewarding good intentions or being less bad, no longer be about commemorative plaques or LEED ratings. Emissions-free buildings would be required by law.

If enacted, a Zero Code would essentially mandate emissions-free new buildings almost immediately. (Architecture 2030 defines a Zero Net Carbon building as “a highly energy efficient building that produces on-site, or procures, enough carbon-free renewable energy to meet building operations energy consumption annually.”) Green buildings in California would no longer be about rewarding good intentions or being less bad, no longer be about commemorative plaques or LEED ratings.

Emissions-free buildings would be required by law.

Before we go any further, though, the logical question to ask is the obvious one: Is this even possible? Is it politically feasible? For all of the well-meaning rhetoric swirling around the idea of a Green New Deal, none of it can even begin to happen without fundamental changes in policy, primarily at the state and local level. In California, the adoption of a Zero Code is largely dependent on the strong support of Governor Gavin Newsom, who has not weighed in on the issue.

Mazria initially approached the California AIA with a bolder approach, pushing the idea of an immediate Zero Code adoption via executive order, presumably the fastest route possible. As it turns out, this isn’t an option in California, where energy codes for buildings must be vetted and approved by the California Energy Commission. (The next overhaul will occur in 2022.) The governor, however, exerts a fair amount of control over that body. In two years, Governor Newsom will have either appointed or reappointed a majority of the commissioners on the five-member governing board. If he truly wanted to kick start the Green New Deal, putting his political muscle behind adoption of the Zero Code would be a monumental first step.

In the meantime, AIA California is working on several fronts, pushing and pulling at three different levers of power. “We’re organizing opportunities to enlist Governor Newsom’s active support,” says San Francisco architect William Leddy, who with Mazria helped convince the chapter to support adoption of the clean code. “Thanks to Michael Malinowski, the AIA’s government liaison, we’ve also discovered that there’s an avenue that might be much easier to attempt right now. And that’s to introduce the Zero Code immediately as a ‘reach code’ within CALGreen, which is the California Green Building Standard. We believe this approach doesn’t require the energy commission process. It would give cities around the state the option to adopt the Zero Code now, while we continue to pursue formal statewide adoption through the lengthy code-revision process.”

The reason these considerations are even possible is why Mazria approached the California AIA in the first place. Despite the apocalyptic fires, the rolling blackouts, the somewhat predictable this-is-the-end-of-California-as-we-know-it pronouncements, the state is well under way in its eventual transitio
ENR
There was no formal agenda on Feb. 12, 2018, when Bruce King and William Kelley met for lunch at the Lotus Cafe in San Rafael, Calif. But building regulation is a favorite topic of King’s, a structural engineer devoted to reducing carbon emissions related to buildings. So it was no surprise to Kelley, Marin County’s deputy director for building and safety, that King suggested it would “be nice” to craft a low-carbon concrete building code “to rein in the profligate overuse” of carbon-intensive cement in concrete.

Kelley liked the idea of regulating concrete’s embodied carbon (EC)—the greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted during production. But funding was needed to support the writing of a code for low-EC concrete.

Two weeks later, King happened to be at a meeting of an ad hoc group trying to rebuild sustainably after California’s devastating 2017 wine-country fires. There, he heard an announcement that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District would soon offer grants for novel methods of addressing GHGs. He alerted Kelley. Soon, Marin County applied for a BAAQMD grant, which it received on Oct. 4, 2018.

The funds, a maximum of $206,456, set the wheels in motion for developing the model Bay Area Low-Carbon Concrete Code. If approved by Marin County’s board of supervisors on Nov. 19, the code, unprecedented in the U.S. because it would limit EC in private—not just public—projects, would be the first of its kind in the nation.

Kelley likes the Bay Area model code because it is simple to use for customers, plan checkers and enforcers. The document, only four pages long, has two sets of compliance pathways for plain and reinforced concrete: 1) limit cement in either the mix or the project; or 2) limit the global warming potential (GWP) either of a concrete mix—based on an approved environmental product declaration (EPD)—or a project, taking into account all the mix designs.

If adopted, the code would apply only to unincorporated Marin County, population 60,000. That doesn’t bother King. “We hope it will be the code heard around the world,” says the founder of the 20-year-old Ecological Building Network (EBNet).

Kelley agrees, saying, “If we can do this here, the code could serve as a template for other places.” Several other Bay Area counties are likely to follow suit if Marin County adopts it, he adds.

King is setting even wider sights on the regulation of EC—the GHG emissions associated with raw material supply, manufacturing, transport, construction, maintenance, decommissioning and recycling of a material, a building or infrastructure. He wants the Bay Area code to serve as a model for other nations, especially India and China. He also wants EC codes for other high-EC products, such as most refrigerants.

EC, formerly called embodied energy, is not exactly a household term in construction. The main focus in green building codes and certification programs—such as LEED and the Living Building Challenge—has been on reducing the operational carbon (OC) emitted by buildings.

EC plus OC make up the carbon footprint of a building. Initial or up-front EC, which accounts for most of a material’s or a product’s carbon, refers to GHG emissions from the cradle to the site gate.

“Many construction materials can be made to very similar performance standards with 50% or more carbon savings,” because manufacturing process, mix composition, recycled content and electricity or energy source have a dramatic effect on carbon emitted during manufacture, according to the University of Washington’s Carbon Leadership Forum. CLF is a nonprofit coalition of 40 construction industry sponsors, founded in 2009 by its director, Kate Simonen, also a professor at the College of the Built Environments.

“Carbon-aware specification and procurement policies, backed by a contractual requirement to deliver verified EPDs for materials delivered to sites, can drive change,” asserts CLF.

Reducing initial EC is no easy task. It has been fraught with problems—from a lack of product and material data to data too complex to evaluate. “It’s an incredibly daunting and new challenge to address in a design process,” says Victoria Burrows, director of Advancing Net Zero for the World Green Building Council.

A net-zero EC building is one that has minimal up-front carbon, with all remaining
James Farrar
Uber drivers in Europe and the U.S. are fighting for access to their personal data. Whoever wins the lawsuit could get to reframe the terms of the gig economy.

Over two years of driving for Uber, James Farrar logged thousands of miles on the app. Many weeks, he’d work more than 80 hours behind the wheel of his Ford Mondeo, crisscrossing the streets of London deep into the night. Along with passengers, Farrar was collecting data.

During his time in the car, Uber’s app recorded where he went, how long he stayed, how much money he made, and how many stars he was given by his passengers. It noted how many rides he accepted and how many he cancelled, mapped where trips started and ended, and how long it took him to wind through traffic to get there as he followed the algorithmic cues nudging him around the city.

Being an Uber driver, Farrar found, did not agree with him: “[L]ife behind the wheel,” as he wrote in a recent op-ed for the U.K. Independent, “can become a blur of endless traffic, crushing loneliness, enduring fatigue and relationships strained by absence.” And he grew frustrated by the way the app always seemed to be pushing him to accept more rides, while his earnings kept declining. In 2016, he and another London Uber driver, Yaseen Aslam, brought a worker’s rights claim against the company, arguing that drivers aren’t true independent contractors and should instead be classified under the U.K.’s third employment category of “worker”—entitling them to minimum wage and paid vacation days. Farrar’s team won the classification case.

But during the trials, Uber was able to use Farrar’s personal data as legal ammunition against him, he said; the company argued that the reason he made under minimum wage some days was because he’d declined several rides, not because he was being fleeced by the app. “I decided then that I needed to see all my data,” Farrar told CityLab in an email. “[S]o I could properly assert my rights and eliminate the asymmetry in information power between me and Uber.”

Uber appealed, arguing, as it long has, that it merely connects independent entrepreneurs with riders, and that a change in classification would impede drivers’ freedom. (A judge said that the wording of Uber’s contract, which makes the same claim, contained a “high degree of fiction.”) Still, one judge out of three backed the company, and Uber was given permission to bump the trial up to the U.K.’s Supreme Court.

With the support of Ravi Naik, the lawyer who is also representing plaintiffs in data privacy cases against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, Farrar and three other drivers have bundled their data requests, eking out more information with each challenge. This March, they filed a lawsuit against Uber for withholding some data, which they say is in breach of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This law gives E.U. citizens the right to request any and all personal data that a platform retains about them.

Though he says he’s not “anti-Uber,” Farrar’s labor rights activism has accelerated: In 2017, he helped found and became the chairman of the United Private Hire Drivers branch of the IWGB union, which represents more than a thousand workers for private hire companies. And as of this summer, he has pushed more than 60 other drivers to file similar data claims. Now he’s pooling their information online as part of an organization he founded and directs called the Worker Info Exchange. Since Uber arbitrates cases from all its worldwide markets besides North America in Amsterdam, an E.U. country, these GDPR-based claims could be replicated in dozens of countries.

With that aggregate, he wants to determine definitively how much (or little) drivers make for their time—and how an over-supply of temporary drivers has saturated the market with idling cars. “The negative effects of these apps are congestion and poverty, and we need the data to show that,” Farrar said.

This tension isn’t an entirely new one. Mounting evidence suggests that all kinds of apps, from the Weather Channel to the selfie-filtering Perfect365, have habitually scraped location data from phones and used it to better predict consumer buying habits. And Uber’s tight grip on information is part of a long pattern for the ride-hailing titan, which has often tangled with local regulators over its vast trove of trip data. But Farrar believes that whoever gains access to Uber’s complete data caches will find something bigger than just tools for better traffic
Greentech Media
Developers of the 800-MW Vineyard Wind offshore wind project in Massachusetts, set to be the first commercial scale renewable energy venture in the U.S., say they are committed to push through on its $2.8 billion in construction despite a sudden Trump Administration permitting setback.

The project, originally set to gain its critical environmental impact statement this summer so it could start construction by year-end to enable use of a federal tax incentive, now must do extensive additional studies before work can start, based on new mandates from the U.S. Interior Dept.

The department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which leads the federal government project review, told the developer—a joint venture of Copenhagen Investment Partners and Avengrid Renewables—on Aug. 9 that it was expanding its analysis of Vineyard Wind to take into account the cumulative effects of other offshore wind projects that have been awarded power purchase agreements as well as state procurements of offshore wind generation that are expected to be awarded.

The agency said it expects a greater buildout of offshore wind capacity than was analyzed in the draft EIS for the project.

BOEM said stakeholders and cooperating agencies requested a more robust cumulative analysis.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service said it does not concur with BOEM's decisions related to distance between its 84 planned turbines and their alignment because of claimed hazard to commercial fishing, said Michael Pentony, NOAA’s regional administrator. They currently are to spaced 0.75 nautical miles apart and aligned in a northwest-southeast orientatio. NOAA wants them further apart and aligned in an east-west direction “to minimize impacts to fishing operations.”

Lobbyists for the commercial fishing industry asked for a more comprehensive study that would show how the buildout of various proposed wind farms in the region—including New England, New York and New Jersey—would affect its operations.

“We are disappointed not to deliver the project on the timeline we had anticipated,” Lars Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind said in a statement.

More than 50 design, construction and other companies have either been awarded project development contracts or were bidding on them.

Vineyard has not received any specific requirements for the expanded analysis from BOEM, but the company said the timing of such a study could not be completed within its timeline to begin construction before 2020.

Incentive credits for renewable energy projects, which have provided a 30% federal tax break for the last several years and factor in Vineyard Wind's financial framework, are set to expire this year.

Three bills now are pending in Congress to extend the credit for from five to eight years, with some observers speculating that the extension could be included in tax extenders legislatlon that passed the House Ways and Means Committee but whose passage this year depends on an uncertain level of bipartisan cooperation, says an Aug. 1 GreenTech Media report.
Shutterstock
Maria Saxton studied the habits of 80 recent tiny home buyers

Tiny house proponents have long lauded the compact dwellings as an environmental savior. The smaller the home, the smaller the footprint, right? That argument has helped boost the popularity of tiny homes, but until now, there wasn’t much in the way of actual research on the topic.

Maria Saxton, a PhD Candidate in environmental planning and design at Virginia Tech, spent a year studying the environmental impact of people who moved into tiny homes, and she found that most tiny home dwellers reduced their energy consumption by 45 percent upon downsizing.

How did she get to this number? Saxton lays out her methodology in The Conversation:

To do this, I calculated their spatial footprints in terms of global hectares, considering housing, transportation, food, goods, and services. For reference, one global hectare is equivalent to about 2.5 acres, or about the size of a single soccer field.

I found that among 80 tiny home downsizers located across the United States, the average ecological footprint was 3.87 global hectares, or about 9.5 acres. This means that it would require 9.5 acres to support that person’s lifestyle for one year. Before moving into tiny homes, these respondents’ average footprint was 7.01 global hectares (17.3 acres). For comparison, the average American’s footprint is 8.4 global hectares, or 20.8 acres.

After surveying 80 downsizers, she learned that a change in square footage often leads to a change in lifestyle habits. People living in tiny homes were more likely to grow their own food, buy less stuff, recycle more, and generate less trash. On the flip side, some tiny dwellers traveled more often and ate more meals out due to the constraints of the tiny home lifestyle.

Saxton hopes that the information will be useful to cities considering how to zone for tiny homes. It’s also a wealth of information for tiny home designers, who can start to think about how to build a kitchen that inspires downsizers to cook their own meals.
Alamy Stock Photo
The California city on Tuesday voted to ban natural gas hook-ups in new buildings, in a historic move

Berkeley this week became the first city in the United States to ban natural, fossil gas hook-ups in new buildings.

The landmark ordinance was passed into law on Tuesday, after being approved unanimously by the city council the previous week amid resounding public support.

Although Berkeley may be pushing the vanguard, the city is hardly alone. Governments across the US and Europe are looking at strategies to phase out gas. In California alone, dozens of cities and counties are considering eliminating fossil fuel hook-ups to power stoves and heat homes in new buildings, while California state agencies pencil out new rules and regulations that would slash emissions.

Natural gas, it seems, has become the new climate crisis frontline.

Landmark move
Berkeley’s ordinance, which goes into effect on 1 January, will ban gas hook-ups in new multi-family construction, with some allowances for first-floor retail and certain types of large structures.

The reasons behind the decision are multifold. Energy use in buildings accounts for about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in California. If the state is to meet its goal of 100% zero-carbon energy by 2045, the gas will have to go.

For decades, gas was considered among the preferred energy sources for buildings and embraced as a bridge from dirtier fossil fuels to a green energy future.

“There’s been a lingering perception that burning gas was cleaner than electricity, which might have been true 20 years ago when electricity came from burning coal,” said Pierre Delforge, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council . “When we look at electrification policies, we need to think about what the grid will look like in 10 or 20 years, not what it looked like yesterday.”

A state energy commission report released in early 2019 concluded that building electrification was “a key strategy” for reducing the state’s climate impacts, one that “offers the most promising path to achieving [greenhouse gas] reduction targets in the least costly manner”.

Roughly 3% of all natural gas extracted by industry is leaked into the atmosphere, where methane is a far more potent, if shorter lived, greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Berkeley was also motivated to reduce health and safety risks endemic to gas appliances, which release significant emissions and pollutants indoors.

And then there’s the matter of running large amounts of flammable fuel around a state known for large earthquakes. A Pacific Gas and Electric pipeline explosion in 2010 turned a Northern California neighborhood into a smoking crater.

“We really believe we have the underpinnings of good legislation with economic, health and safety and climate impacts,” said the Berkeley councilmember Kate Harrison. “We can do this and we’ll end up a lot healthier and cleaner for it.”

As goes Berkeley, so goes California
Further decarbonizing the grid and electrifying buildings will be key to helping California meet its ambitious climate goals. In 2018, the state passed a law requiring it to derive 100% of its power from zero-carbon energy sources by 2045, and to pursue a “bold path” to get there.

Cities’ individual choices will be crucial in reaching that target. Energy is regulated at the state level, but municipalities control much of their own building codes.

“Climate-minded cities are all pulling their hair out, like, we have a climate emergency, and the national government doesn’t care. But this issue is squarely in their wheelhouse – they’ve just got to think about it in new and creative ways,” said Bruce Nilles, managing director of the Rocky Mountain Institute. “We’re dealing with an existential crisis. We’ve got to dust off all the different ways that different actors can do good, progressive, climate-minded things.”

More than 50 cities and counties in California are now considering similar policies to Berkeley’s, either banning or limiting gas and incentivizing full electrification in new buildings.

Panama Bartholomy, director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition, points to this summer as a transformative one: in order to have new ordinances in place by 1 January, municipalities will have until September to pass electrification measures. “Not all 50 are going to make it. I’m thinking a c
Claire Anderson/Unsplash
Potential productivity benefits for architecture, engineering, and construction may depend on the outcome of copyright litigation by the International Code Council (ICC) against San Francisco-based startup UpCodes. The firm, which aims to reduce perceived bottlenecks in the implementation of the nation’s 93,000 building codes, faces charges that its public posting of codes undermines the public-private partnership that develops them.

The nonprofit ICC, which prepares the International Building Code and other model codes adopted by multiple jurisdictions, contends that UpCodes has appropriated its property and “does not need to violate ICC’s copyrights to further its claim to innovate,” an anonymous ICC spokesperson commented for this article through its public relations firm. UpCodes regards its practice as fair use, citing precedents establishing that information “incorporated by reference” into law (the applicable legal term) enters the public domain. Other appeals courts, ICC counters, have protected copyrights in cases it considers comparable.

The suit involves a tension that jurists have long recognized in copyright law: the need for material support and incentive for creators (who have exclusive rights “for limited times” under the Constitution’s copyright clause) versus the need to prevent monopoly control from stifling the circulation of ideas. The conflict pits ICC’s interests in codebook development and sales, and its assertion that its website already provides adequate access, against UpCodes’ interests in expanding access and linking codes with building information modeling (BIM) systems.
Construction Dive
While crane companies bear the brunt of safety obligations for operators and equipment, general contractors and developers aren't off the hook, industry experts say.

Accidents involving construction cranes have dominated U.S. headlines in recent months. In April a tower crane toppled onto a downtown Seattle street, killing four people and injuring three others. Then a few weeks ago, a crane collapsed in Dallas during a windstorm, killing one person, injuring several others and causing extensive damage to a downtown apartment building.

Although the causes of these accidents are under investigation, most crane incidents come down to human error, Alabama-based crane inspector James Pritchett told Construction Dive.

“That can come in many forms, [including] not knowing how to operate a crane properly, not inspecting it properly or not maintaining it properly,” said Pritchett, who has investigated dozens of accidents and now trains crane operators across the Southeast U.S.

In fact, Pritchett said he rarely finds a reason for an accident that is not related to human error.

“I come from an operator background," he said, "so whenever I come to an accident investigation I try my best to find other reasons for the incident, but it’s rarely something besides a problem with the operator."

New OSHA regulations that went into effect in April are designed to minimize accidents by strengthening crane operators’ knowledge and training. The regulations, which revise the way that operators are trained, evaluated and certified, put the responsibility for operator readiness on the employer, according to an OSHA spokesperson. They apply to a range of construction equipment including mobile cranes, tower cranes, service truck cranes, digger derricks and dedicated pile drivers.

Under the rule, crane operators must now be certified or licensed and receive ongoing training to operate new equipment. Operators who were certified before December, however, don't have to be reassessed. Whereas the previous regulations required crane operators to be certified only by the general size and capacity of crane, the new evaluations must rate operators' knowledge and skill based on crane type such as tower crane, mobile crane or overhead crane.

Like many regulatory changes, the revised rule comes with added costs. Although OSHA said that the rule is expected to result in a net annual cost savings, the agency determined that the industry's total annual cost of compliance, which involves performing operator competency evaluations, documenting the evaluations and providing additional training to operators, comes out to around $1.6 million.

Pritchett worries that some companies might try to skirt the new regulations in order to save time or money. “You have to make it cost-efficient enough so that people aren’t reluctant to doing it,” he said.

What you need to know
Cranes are a ubiquitous presence on U.S. commercial construction sites, especially in urban areas where infill and high-rise work are common. Rider Levett Bucknall’s Crane Index for North America found that cities like Seattle and Chicago have experienced a boom in the number of tower cranes operating on construction sites in recent years.

Lift operations on most jobsites are performed by subcontractors that provide their own equipment and employees, but some general construction firms run their own cranes. While the focus of OSHA rules are predominantly on the crane operator’s employer, construction companies that subcontract crane work can still bear responsibility when an incident occurs.

For instance, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries is investigating the roles of five contractors considered to be responsible for the Seattle crane collapse, including the general contractor, three crane subcontractors and the crane’s owner.
Mischa Keijser/Getty Images
To meet the goals of the resolution, the design and construction industries will retrofit millions of structures and build many more. In the process, they could create a more just and resilient country.

Whether or not the U.S. decides to take action on climate change, the shape of the country—its towns, offices, homes, schools, roads, farms, and more—is on the brink of a radical transformation. This transformation could be borne out in two ways. The first is external: Escalating storms, floods, droughts, mass migration, food scarcity, and economic instability could dramatically alter the physical landscape and economy. The other is internal: A national effort to retrofit millions of buildings and rethink the way communities are designed could help Americans withstand the ravages of climate change and make the country more equitable.

The resolution known as the Green New Deal, published by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey in February, wants to bring about the latter. The Green New Deal framework describes the monumental changes needed to decarbonize the American economy by meeting 100% of our energy demands with zero-emission sources in the next decade. It will require overhauling major industries like energy and agriculture, but also transforming America’s buildings and construction sector.

It’s easy to miss just how destructive and inefficient land development is, given its ubiquity. Existing buildings hoover up about 40% of energy consumed in the U.S. and emit about 29% of greenhouse gases. The Green New Deal calls for retrofitting all of them—every last skyscraper, McDonald’s, and suburban ranch home—for energy efficiency within the next 10 years. It also addresses the role of the construction industry, which accounts for about 11% of all emissions globally, by recommending investment in community-led building projects oriented around decarbonization issues like resiliency, transit, and land preservation. And crucially, it demands family-sustaining wages, the right to organize, and a “just transition” for everyone affected by the transition to this decarbonized world.

House Republicans quickly declared the resolution a “boondoggle” in an official statement. It was an ironic choice of words. Whether the GOP realized it or not, that term emerged in the 1930s, when critics of the New Deal used it to characterize the project of putting broke Americans to work on hundreds of thousands of projects. It’s true that the Green New Deal’s goals—to reshape the country’s homes, workplaces, and economy, and provide equity for all—sound radical in a country ravaged by the housing crisis, worker exploitation, and stagnating wages, but from a technical, structural, and architectural standpoint, they’re entirely feasible. Despite what politicians would have you believe, we’ve done it before, and we have the tools to do it again.

As Rhiana Gunn-Wright, who is leading the creation of policy around the resolution, says, reaching them will mean thinking about transit, land use, housing, building regulations, and more. In short: “What will our cities and towns look like, moving forward?”

DESIGNING A FEDERAL BUILDING PROJECT

According to the Energy Information Administration, there are roughly 5.6 million commercial buildings in the United States. Most of those are small; half are under 5,000 square feet—think of a fast food joint or a doctor’s office. There are also 138 million housing units, which includes both houses and apartment units. Reducing their carbon footprint will involve the crucial, economy-wide shift away from fossil fuels, but also tamping down the amount of energy buildings use in the first place.

Retrofitting tens of millions of houses and apartment buildings, which take lots of energy to heat, cool, and light, isn’t the Green New Deal’s most glamorous clause, but it’s one of its most pressing. As summers get hotter and the population (and thus the housing stock) grows, the urgency will only increase, as the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions reports. There will be trillions of lightbulbs to replace. Millions of HVAC units to upgrade, operable windows and automatic shades to install, rooftops to paint with heat-reflecting paint, shade-giving trees to plant and photovoltaics to hook up. Miles and miles of wiring and sensors and automation platforms to get online so it can all be monitored and controlled.

Who will do this work? Who will pay for it? How will it be regulated, in a country where building regulations are determined at local, rather than federal, l
Sebastian Ganso
Britain recently upped the ante on its commitment to fight climate change, promising to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The new governmental plan is more ambitious than its original Climate Change Act from 2008, which pledged to reduce emissions by 80 percent. Prime Minister Theresa May claimed net-zero is a necessary step for Britain and a moral duty as well as a strategy to improve public health and reduce healthcare costs.

Britain is the first G7 country to propose carbon neutrality, an ambitious goal that environmentalists hope will encourage other nations to follow suit and increase their Paris Agreement emission reduction commitments.

According to Prime Minister May, Britain’s economy can continue to grow alongside the transition to renewable energy. “We have made huge progress in growing our economy and the jobs market while slashing emissions,” she said.

Net-zero on a national level will mean that effectively all homes, transportation, farming and industries will not consume more energy than the country can generate through renewable energy. For certain cases where this is impossible, it will mean that companies and industries purchase carbon offsets.

The roll out of this plan is to be determined but must include a variety of individual- and national-level actions, including a massive investment in the renewable energy industry as well as a reduction in meat consumption and flying and a total shift to electric cars, LED light bulbs and hydrogen gas heating.

According to BBC, Prime Minister May also claimed that the U.K.
“led the world to wealth through fossil fuels in the industrial revolution, so it was appropriate for Britain to lead in the opposite direction.”

This claim erases the true legacy of the industrial revolution and the role Britain played, which includes environmental destruction, exacerbated inequality and economic exploitation of many nations — not wealth.

Whether or not Britain is a world leader, its pledge might convince other nations to increase or at least stick to their commitments to reduce emissions.
Thomas Hawk/Flicker
Why don’t architects often consider the ethics of what they do? Thomas Fisher’s new book, The Architecture of Ethics, digs into this topic in great depth and with engaging insight. At the recent AIA convention in Las Vegas, I sat down with Fisher—former dean of the University of Minnesota College of Design, and now a professor in urban design at the school, as well as director of the Minnesota Design Center—to talk about his book and the ethical dimension of designing and building in the context of contemporary practice.

MJC: Michael J. Crosbie
TF: Thomas Fisher

MJC: The book’s title is The Architecture of Ethics, but isn’t your focus more on the ethics of architecture?

TF: I was trying to argue that architects have something to bring to ethics by virtue of how we work. We constantly deal with conflicts—undersized budgets, difficult sites—and we try to get to win-win solutions. We’re always looking for ways to accommodate differences. And that’s an important part of ethics: Understanding how our actions impact other people, how we think about problems and arrive at solutions that do little or no harm. The architect’s design mind brings a particular approach to ethics, and the title reflects that.

MJC: Right now seems like a good time for this book; we’re living through an ethically challenging time. How much did our current social/political climate prompt you to write it?

TF: In the introduction I write about political leaders—not just in the U.S. but in Turkey, North Korea, Russia—who are reflecting questionable ethical behavior and what that says about our culture. On one level, it’s making us realize that our system of government has holes that have rarely been exploited because we’ve always assumed that a president would act ethically. There has also been a lot of attention on unethical business practices—as we saw in the home-mortgage debacle—that have had major consequences. It’s made a lot of people realize that ethics matter.

MJC: Why do we tend to prefer to critique architecture primarily using aesthetic or pragmatic yardsticks, and rarely in regard to ethics?

TF: In the 19th century there was a divorce between ethics and aesthetics. Critics and writers like Oscar Wilde said you can’t have this overlay of ethics on aesthetics, because it confuses art with morality, condemning art as questionable if it was morally shocking. So ethics in art were not considered. In architecture programs, we didn’t even teach ethics for most of the 20th century, so it’s not surprising that architects wouldn’t know much about it, beyond a discussion you might have in a professional practice class. Now the National Architectural Accrediting Board requires instruction in ethics, as is the case in business, medical, and law schools. They realize that all professionals need to have some education in ethics as these questions arise in the conduct of practice. Ethics and aesthetics haven’t been reunited, but the environmental and social justice movements have infused architectural design with ethical considerations.

MJC: Most architects don’t give serious consideration to ethics in their design work. Why not?

TF: The revision of AIA’s Code of Ethics requiring members to discuss the environmental impacts of a project with the client really gets at that. In the past, architects have been wary to have such discussions because it questions the power of the client to do whatever they want, because they have the means to do so. Architects have been designing for people with power and money for a very long time. It’s easier to talk about aesthetics, function, or the pragmatics of a design, because it doesn’t question a client’s power.

MJC: “The pursuit of happiness” is a very strong idea in American culture. How do architects balance serving clients—in their “pursuit of happiness” through architecture—with the greater good of the community?

TF: In ethics, “the pursuit of happiness” is often misunderstood. Utilitarian ethics states that you strive to make the greatest number of people happy; the 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham promoted “the greatest good for the greatest number.” But ethics is also about understanding how others view the world, and how our actions affect the lives and welfare
Pixabay
Finland's new government has promised to reduce the country's fossil-fuel consumption and invest in renewable energy sources, after 80 per cent of Finns called for urgent action on climate change.

Following elections earlier this year, a new left-leaning government has promised to make Finland carbon neutral by 2035, with the target to be written into Finnish law.

"We are determined to tackle the challenge of climate change. But it needs to be done in a socially fair way," prime minister Antti Rinne, who was sworn in yesterday, said at the cabinet's first news conference.

In a recent government poll, 80 per cent of Finnish people surveyed said they felt that urgent action was required on climate change. A third of the country's land is in the Arctic Circle and rising temperatures will melt its permafrost and cause sea levels to rise in the Baltic.

"Building the world's first sustainable society"

To become carbon neutral in 15 years time, Finland will cut back on logging investments and try to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels and peat. It will also invest in renewable energy, including wind, solar and bioenergy, and heating and transport will be electrified.

Currently Finland operates one of the largest peat-fired power plants in the world, Toppila Power Station in the city of Oulu.

"Building the world's first fossil-free, sustainable society is going to require much more than nice words on paper, but we're determined to make it happen," Sini Harkki, a representative of Greenpeace in Finland, told the Guardian.

Instead of buying credits for carbon capture projects in other countries Finland plans to achieve the goal through reducing its own carbon emissions, although this policy will be reviewed in 2025.

Climate change and welfare made a priority

Finland's incumbent government aims to raise €730 million (£650 million) through taxes, including those on fossil fuels and selling off state assets. This money will be used for the carbon programme and improvements to the country's welfare system.

Finland's Social Democratic Party, the Green League and the Left Alliance all made gains in the April 2019 elections, despite the populist Finns Party warning, as reported in the New York Times, that the left's climate goals would "take the sausage from the mouths of labourers".

The town of Li in northern Finland has already been setting its own ambitious targets to help tackle climate change. The town will cut its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2020 and is aiming to become the country's first zero-waste community.

The picture on climate change is not as rosy elsewhere in Europe.

Recent elections in Spain have seen the country's government move to the right, with officials from Partido Popular pledging to scrap Madrid's low emissions zone, despite recent improvements in air quality.

Main image, showing the peat-fired Toppila Power Station in Oulu, is from Pixabay.
Jeff Chiu/AP
Controversial new research has kicked off a war of words among urban scholars over the push for upzoning to increase cities’ housing supply.

For a long time, I thought gentrification was the hottest of urbanism’s hot-button issues. That may still be true. But it has a new (and related) challenger—upzoning, or changing the zoning of an area to allow for higher density.

For years, some urban economists and market urbanists have been making the case that the key challenge facing cities—especially pricey superstar cities and tech hubs—is a lack of housing supply. There are many culprits in this shortage. They include strict land-use regulations and building codes, politically connected NIMBYs, and other factors, but the end result is the same. A lack of housing supply results not only in higher housing prices, but in increased sorting and displacement, which sharpens inequality and segregation. It even limits innovation and productivity—not just in the affected cities, but across the U.S. economy as a whole.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a new paper by two economic geographers, Michael Storper and Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, who question some of the theoretical and empirical claims made from this YIMBY perspective (or what they call the “housing as opportunity” school of thought). Specifically, Storper and Rodríguez-Pose argue that simply increasing the supply of housing through upzoning is likely to add more housing for high earners with no evidence that it would “filter” down as cheaper housing for less advantaged residents. That in turn would only exacerbate the ongoing sorting process that draws more educated and advantaged people to affluent cities and pushes the less advantaged out of them. The ultimate result would be even worse spatial inequality between leading and lagging places.

My article on Rodríguez-Pose and Storper’s paper resulted in a near-immediate barrage of critiques on the internet. David Schleicher of Yale Law School and many others laid into the paper on Twitter. Over at City Observatory, Joe Cortright questioned both the theory and the evidence underlying Storper and Rodríguez-Pose’s findings (and, in a side shot, my decision to write about them):

Rodríguez-Pose and Storper sidestep these nuts and bolts issues of how to fix zoning so that it isn’t exclusionary, in favor of a knocking down a straw man claim that upzoning is somehow a cure for inequality, (an argument that no one seems to be making). In the process, they (and by extension, Florida) lend credence to the NIMBY-denialism about the central need to build more housing in our nation’s cities if we’re to do anything to meaningfully address affordability.

(For the record, I have long been a critic of restrictive zoning and building regulations and NIMBYism, going so far as to dub the latter “the New Urban Luddism.”)

On Friday evening, I received an email from three of Storper’s colleagues at UCLA, Michael Manville, Michael Lens, and Paavo Monkkonen. They wrote a detailed essay replying to key claims in the Storper–Rodríguez-Pose paper, and they shared it with numerous scholars and journalists, which sparked another round of discussion online.

Their response begins by saying that although Storper and Rodríguez-Pose are esteemed geographers, their paper “badly misses the mark.” Furthermore: “It ignores much of the research on the topic, misstates or misunderstands the research it does cite, presents misleading and oversimplified analyses, and advances an argument that is internally inconsistent.” Like Cortright, the authors accuse Storper and Rodríguez-Pose of setting up a strawman argument:

For the record, we agree with [Storper and Rodríguez-Pose] that building market rate housing will not by itself eradicate inequality, or revive declining regions. We also agree that building market rate housing will not, by itself, get everyone in expensive regions properly sheltered. But as far as we can tell everyone agrees with that. Many people (us included) think that more housing in expensive places in necessary for fighting inequality and increasing affordability, but no one we are aware of thinks it is sufficient, i.e. that all we need to do is build more housing.

Manville, Lens, and Monkkonen light into the data and methodology that Storper and Rodríguez-Pose used to make their argument. For example, they used the percent change in developed land area in a region as a proxy for regulatory stringency. But Manville, Lens, and Monkkonen note that
Cloe Poisson
In southwest Connecticut, the gap between rich and poor is wider than anywhere else in the country. Invisible walls created by local zoning boards and the state government block affordable housing and, by extension, the people who need it.

A dirt field overgrown with weeds is the incongruous entrance to one of America’s wealthiest towns, a short walk to a Rodeo Drive-like stretch replete with upscale stores such as Tiffany & Co.

But this sad patch of land is also the physical manifestation of a broader turf war over what type of housing — and ultimately what type of people — to allow within Westport’s borders.

It started when a developer known for building large luxury homes envisioned something different back in 2014 for the 2.2 acre property: a mix of single- and multifamily housing that would accommodate up to 12 families. A higher density project is more cost efficient, he said, and would allow him to sell the units for less than the typical Westport home.

But the site was zoned to hold no more than four single-family houses, so he needed approval from a reluctant Westport Planning and Zoning Commission, which denied his plan. Residents erupted in fury each time he made a scaled-back proposal, and it took the developer four years after purchasing the property to win approval to build two duplexes and five single-family homes.

“You are selling out Westport,” one resident yelled out as the final plan came up for a commission vote last spring. Other residents picketed commission meetings with signs reading “Zoning is a Promise.”

The commission’s discussion was couched in what some would regard as code words and never directly addressed race or income. Chip Stephens, a Republican planning and zoning commissioner, voted against the plan, declaring, “To me, it’s too much density. It’s putting too much in a little area. To me, this is ghettoizing Westport.”

Now under construction, these two-bedroom duplexes and single-family homes have a price tag of $1.2 million, the going rate for a home in this swanky village just outside Bridgeport and Norwalk.

“We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get this through. Would I do this all over again? No. Probably not,” said the developer, Johnny Schwartz, of Able Construction.

Welcome to Connecticut, a state with more separate — and unequal — housing than nearly everywhere else in the country.

This separation is by design.

Westport is only one example of a wealthy Connecticut suburb that has surrounded itself with invisible walls to block affordable housing and, by extension, the people who need it.

In a liberal state that has provided billions in taxpayer money to create more affordable housing, decisions at local zoning boards, the Connecticut Capitol and state agencies have thwarted court rulings and laws intended to remedy housing segregation. As far back as data has been kept, Connecticut’s low-income housing has been concentrated in poor cities and towns, an imbalance that has not budged over the last three decades.

Many zoning boards rely on their finely tuned regulations to keep housing segregation firmly in place. They point to frail public infrastructure, clogged streets, a lack of sidewalks and concerns of overcrowding that would damage what’s often referred to as “neighborhood character.”
Ric Carrasquillo/for The Washington Post
A Tuesday afternoon in the Mission District of America’s tech wonderland.

Michael Feno stands outside Lucca Ravioli, his beloved pasta emporium on Valencia, a vestige of old San Francisco, puffing on a cigar while posing for pictures, his customers in tears.

Living in this city’s radically shifting landscape, veterinarian Gina Henriksen found comfort by telling herself, “Thank God, Lucca is still here. If Lucca goes, I’m going to have to leave San Francisco. What do we have left?”

Lucca is no longer here.

After 94 years, doors shuttered on the last day of April. The parking lot sold for $3.5 million. A three-building parcel, including the store, listed for $8.3 million and was purchased by — need you inquire? — a developer..

A few blocks away, in this neighborhood of shops hawking $2,600 electric bikes and $8 lemonade, Borderlands Cafe — a throwback with plants cascading from the ceiling — closed the same day after a decade in business.

Owner Alan Beatts couldn’t retain staff, even with a $15 minimum hourly wage. Who can live on $15 an hour in this city transformed by innovation?

How can Alba Guerra, co-owner of nearby Sun Rise restaurant, continue to charge $10.95 for the housemade vegan chorizo platter after her rent spiked 62 percent last year to $7,800 a month?

For decades, this coruscating city of hills, bordered by water on three sides, was a beloved haven for reinvention, a refuge for immigrants, bohemians, artists and outcasts. It was the great American romantic city, the Paris of the West.

No longer. In a time of scarce consensus, everyone agrees that something has rotted in San Francisco.

Conservatives have long loathed it as the axis of liberal politics and political correctness, but now progressives are carping, too. They mourn it for what has been lost, a city that long welcomed everyone and has been altered by an earthquake of wealth. It is a place that people disparage constantly, especially residents.

Real estate is the nation’s costliest. Listings read like typos, a median $1.6 million for a single-family home and $3,700 monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment.

“This is unregulated capitalism, unbridled capitalism, capitalism run amok. There are no guardrails,” says Salesforce founder and chairman Marc Benioff, a fourth-generation San Franciscan who in a TV interview branded his city “a train wreck.”

You no longer leave your heart in San Francisco. The city breaks it.

The city is filthy rich in what other regions crave: growth, start-ups, high-paying jobs, educated young people, soaring property values, commercial and residential construction, a vibrant street life, and so much disposable revenue. But San Francisco, a city of 883,305 residents, 100,000 more than two decades ago, is the Patient Zero of issues affecting urban areas. The sole constant is its staggering beauty.

Downtown is a theme park of seismic start-ups — Uber, Airbnb, Slack and Lyft, with Twitter in the nearby Tenderloin, every app a skyscraper. The 58-story Millennium Tower is a sinking, tilting luxury condo folly that will take $100 million to right — writer Rebecca Solnit dubbed it “the leaning tower of hubris.”

In the shadow of such wealth, San Francisco grapples with a very visible homeless crisis of 7,500 residents, some shooting up in the parks and defecating on the sidewalks, which a 2018 United Nations report deemed “a violation of multiple human rights.” Last year, new Mayor London Breed assigned a five-person crew, dubbed the “poop patrol,” to clean streets and alleys of human feces.

The small downtown’s streets are choked with Google and Apple employee buses, and 45,000 daily Uber and Lyft drivers, some commuting from hours away and unfamiliar with the city. By comparison, there are 25,000 ride-sharing drivers in Philadelphia, a much larger and more populous city.

There’s an ongoing battle between the NIMBYs and YIMBYs over development in one of the nation’s densest cities. Tech companies here are the beneficiaries of gilded carrots, tax breaks. Longtime residents worry that tech workers are drawn here for the jobs, not the city, and may never become stakeholders in San Francisco’s future.

“Our rich are richer. Our homeless are more desperate. Our hipsters are more pretentious,” says Solnit, who
United Nations Photo/Flickr., CC BY-NC-ND
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has declared that skyscrapers made of glass and steel “have no place in our city or our Earth anymore”. He argued that their energy inefficient design contributes to global warming and insisted that his administration would restrict glassy high-rise developments in the city.

Glass has always been an unlikely material for large buildings, because of how difficult it becomes to control temperature and glare indoors. In fact, the use of fully glazed exteriors only became possible with advances in air conditioning technology and access to cheap and abundant energy, which came about in the mid-20th century. And studies suggest that on average, carbon emissions from air conditioned offices are 60 percent higher than those from offices with natural or mechanical ventilation.

As part of my research into sustainable architecture, I have examined the use of glass in buildings throughout history. Above all, one thing is clear: if architects had paid more attention to the difficulties of building with glass, the great environmental damage wrought by modern glass skyscrapers could have been avoided.

Heat and glare
The United Nations Secretariat in New York, constructed between 1947 and 1952, was the earliest example of a fully air conditioned tower with a glass curtain wall – followed shortly afterwards by Lever House on Park Avenue. Air conditioning enabled the classic glass skyscraper to become a model for high rise office developments in cities across the world – even hot places such as Dubai and Sydney.

Yet as far back as the 19th century, horticulturists in Europe intimately understood how difficult it is to keep the temperature stable inside glass structures – the massive hot houses they built to host their collections. They wanted to maintain the hot environment needed to sustain exotic plants, and devised a large repertoire of technical solutions to do so.

Early central heating systems, which made use of steam or hot water, helped to keep the indoor atmosphere hot and humid. Glass was covered with insulation overnight to keep the warmth in, or used only on the south side together with better insulated walls, to take in and hold heat from the midday sun.

The Crystal Palace

When glass structures were transformed into spaces for human habitation, the new challenge was to keep the interior sufficiently cool. Preventing overheating in glass buildings has proven enormously difficult – even in Britain’s temperate climate. The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park – a temporary pavilion built to house the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in 1851 – was a case in point.

The Crystal Palace was the first large-scale example of a glass structure designed specifically for use by people. It was designed by Joseph Paxton, chief gardener at the Duke of Devonshire’s Chatsworth Estate, drawing on his experience constructing timber-framed glasshouses.

Though recognised as a risky idea at the time, organisers decided to host the exhibition inside a giant glasshouse in the absence of a more practical alternative. Because of its modular construction and prefabricated parts, the Crystal Palace could be put together in under ten months – perfect for the organisers’ tight deadline.

To address concerns about overheating and exposing the exhibits to too much sunlight, Paxton adopted some of the few cooling methods available at the time: shading, natural ventilation and eventually removing some sections of glass altogether. Several hundred large louvres were positioned inside the wall of the building, which had to be adjusted manually by attendants several times a day.

Despite these precautions, overheating became a major issue over the summer of 1851, and was the subject of frequent commentaries in the daily newspapers. An analysis of data recorded inside the Crystal Palace between May and October 1851 shows that the indoor temperature was extremely unstable. The building accentuated – rather than reduced – peak summer temperatures.

These challenges forced the organisers to temporarily remove large sections of glazing. This procedure was repeated several times before parts of the glazing were permanently replaced with canvas curtains, which could be opened and closed depending on how hot the sun was. When the Crystal Palace was re-erected as a popular leisure pa
Mike Blake/Reuters
State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 50 would rewrite the state’s single-family zoning codes. What's wrong with that? A lot, say opponents.

In a hearing room in California’s capitol on Tuesday, State Senator Scott Wiener described a widespread housing crisis in stark terms. California is short about 3.5 million homes, he said, citing a McKinsey report that projected housing demand by 2025. Buying a home at the Golden State’s median price—over half a million dollars—is a fantasy for most households. Rents are soaring, homelessness is up, and displacement is refacing storied neighborhoods.

“Red or blue, all of our communities are struggling,” Wiener told an audience of lobbyists, citizens, and members of the state senate housing committee, who would later have their say about how to address the housing crisis.

As they spoke, the painted figures in a Depression-era mural depicting the state’s romanticized origins looked on. Flanked by a missionary, a prospector, a frontiersman, and a native Californian, Calafia, the Amazon goddess from whom the state supposedly gets its name, graced its spectacular and varied terrain. In the foreground, a white working-class couple, child in arms, surveyed their land of promise.

As the hearing on April 2 on made clear, rarely has California’s mythic story of opportunity seemed further from reality. From Sonoma to San Diego, the state faces a massive affordability crisis; across the political gradient, few residents disagree on that, even if they don’t see eye to eye on how to solve it. Investment in below-market-rate housing? Stronger tenant protections? Better city planning? They’re all part of the solution, said Wiener. But what California fundamentally lacks is adequate housing supply, he said, and it needs to tear down needless barriers to market rate construction.

That’s the intention behind Wiener’s Senate Bill 50, which proposes to rewrite the laws that have blocked high-volume housing construction. Like its predecessor SB 827, the transit-oriented housing bill that captured national attention last year, SB 50 faces vigorous opposition from many angles. It cleared its first legislative hurdle in early April, when it passed that housing committee (which Wiener leads) with a bipartisan 9-1 vote.

But on May 16, SB 50 was made a “two-year bill” by the Senate Appropriations Committee, delaying a full vote on the contentious legislation until 2020. “While I’m deeply disappointed that the Chair of the Appropriations Committee has decided to postpone SB 50 until 2020—since we have a housing crisis right now—we are one hundred percent committed to moving the legislation forward,” Wiener said in a statement.

The bill would set an unprecedented state standard for residential zoning codes in certain corners of California. Currently, it is illegal to build anything but single dwellings designed for single families, sometimes with an in-law unit, in roughly 80 percent of California’s residential neighborhoods. SB 50 would change those laws in areas that are near high-frequency transit lines, job clusters, and good schools, prying open opportunities for developers to build to taller heights, with more units per square foot.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography
On April 18, the New York City Council passed an ambitious package of climate change bills—legislation that imposes strict rules on the city’s larger buildings, requiring them to drastically curb carbon emissions.

The centerpiece of the eight-bill Climate Mobilization Act is aimed at new and existing buildings larger than 25,000 square feet, requiring owners to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. Fail to comply, and owners would face steep fines—$1 million a year for the largest properties.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who may run for president in 2020, is expected to sign the legislation in the coming weeks and has touted it as a Green New Deal for New York, one that could forge a path for other cities to follow.

“This is the first city in the world, that I know of, that has placed significant carbon emission caps on this many buildings,” said John M. Mandyck, the chief executive officer of the Urban Green Council, an advocacy group for sustainable buildings.

In 2016, the city pledged in its Roadmap to 80x50 report to meet the Paris Climate Agreement targets to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050. In New York, where the Urban Green Council estimates about 60 percent of the city’s 1 million buildings are 25,000 square feet or larger, some 67 percent of carbon emissions come from the built environment. The Climate Mobilization Act builds on this and other existing rules, like the city benchmarking law, which requires large buildings to measure and report energy and water consumption.

The new legislation makes specific, and expensive, demands on these larger buildings. Mark Chambers, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, estimates the work could cost property owners at least $4 billion, as buildings replace or retrofit windows, roofs and heating and cooling systems.

“The new law is going to drive down carbon emissions and it does so through really tough requirements on buildings,” Mandyck of the Urban Green Council told Architectural Record.

But the bill does make some exceptions. Public housing, houses of worship, and apartment buildings with rent-regulated units would be exempt from the emissions caps, and instead have to meet softer targets, like insulating pipes. The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) opposes the legislation for excluding so many buildings from the requirements and setting emission standards that it says could inhibit business growth.

The legislation “does not take a comprehensive, city-wide approach needed to solve this complex issue,” REBNY President John H. Banks said in a statement.

The Climate Mobilization Act includes an advisory board to recommend policy changes as the law rolls out. It also allows buildings to trade carbon credits and encourages building owners to buy renewable sources of energy in an effort to shift the city away from fossil fuels. Other new rules would require green roofs or solar panels on new construction and major retrofits. (Meanwhile, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a version of a Green New Deal that would phase out gas-fueled cars in the city.)

In a speech on Earth Day, Mayor de Blasio singled out glass skyscrapers as a major source of pollution. “We are going to introduce legislation to ban the glass and steel skyscrapers that have contributed so much to global warming,” he said, standing on the Queens shoreline. “They have no place in our city or on our Earth anymore.” He doubled down on his statement a few days later on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Chambers, however, back-pedaled de Blasio’s comments, telling Architectural Record, “No one is saying that no one is going to use glass material anymore. What we’re saying is we have to be as thoughtful as possible about our mass and glass ratios.”

REBNY’s Banks pushed back against criticism of glass towers in a May 1 op-ed in Real Estate Weekly, writing, “We must not forget that a building’s rate of energy use and efficiency is not dictated by the material found in its facade—far from it.”

The mayor may be able to implement design changes through the city’s revised energy code for new construction, expected by the end of the year, according to Mandyck. “We’re waiting to see any proposals,” he said in an email. “So we simply don’t know if it will be part of the code—and if, how—or separate legislati
Denys Nevozhai/Unsplash
Some of New York’s tallest towers are doing the most harm to the environment. Although buildings larger than 25,000 square feet only represent two percent of the city’s stock, according to the Urban Green Council that minority is responsible for up to half of all building emissions.

Now the New York City Council is finally cracking down on the worst offenders, and New York will soon become the first city in the world to constrain large building emissions through hard limits. Yesterday the council passed the eight-bill Climate Mobilization Act, a legislative package that some are comparing to a New Green Deal for New York.

The Climate Mobilization Act, which Mayor de Blasio is expected to sign, would set increasingly harsh limits on carbon emissions for buildings over 25,000 square feet beginning in 2024. According to the Urban Green Council, New York City produces 50 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, and buildings account for approximately 67 percent of that—meaning buildings over 25,000 square feet produce 35 percent, or about 13 million tons of carbon dioxide, a year.

The legislation covering the affected 50,000 buildings will roll out in phases. This year, an Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance and an advisory board will be created at the Department of Buildings to both regulate and enforce the new standards. When the law fully takes effect in 2024, emissions from qualifying buildings will need to be reduced 40 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The Climate Mobilization Act then takes things one step further and requires that these same buildings slash their emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Why are large buildings such energy hogs? Lighting, heating, cooling, and tech requirements, combined with inefficient equipment, all constrained within leaky envelopes, have combined to create a perfect storm of waste.

Retrofitting these massive buildings to use or waste less energy is projected to potentially create thousands of jobs for architects, energy modelers, engineers, and construction workers, as everything from inefficient windows to HVAC systems will need to be replaced. For those structures that can’t be brought up to code on schedule, their owners can offset a portion of their emissions by purchasing renewable energy credits. If an owner still isn’t in compliance, they can be hit with an ongoing fine based on their actual emissions versus the cap.

The real estate industry had been a vocal opponent of the measure, arguing that it would place an undue burden on both it and tenants.

“The overall effect is going to be that an owner is going to think twice before she rents out any space: ‘Is the next tenant I’m renting to going to be an energy hog or not?’” Carl Hum, general counsel for the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), told the New York Times. “There’s a clear business case to be made that having a storage facility is a lot better than having a building that’s bustling with businesses and workers and economic activity.”

Still, those fears appear unwarranted. Part of the Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance’s job will be to work with landlords and tenants and issue variances for buildings with higher energy requirements.
Wikimedia
Also included in the staff report to the authority was the fact that California state law allows a public agency to require a PLA. Lawmakers in many other states, however, don't. Last month, Kentucky became the 25th state to enact anti-PLA regulations mandated by state and local government agencies. Kentucky’s new law keeps its public agencies from requiring that bidders sign on to PLAs, although it does not ban the agreements altogether nor does it prevent contractors from entering into voluntary PLAs.

One of the arguments that opponents of PLAs use is that these agreements raise the cost of construction because higher union wages, fringe benefits and other perks that open shop contractors don’t always pay are written in. If nonunion contractors want to work on a PLA project, they must agree to abide by the agreement's terms.

However, on a $35 million wastewater treatment plant project in Ogdensburg, New York, using a PLA is projected to save taxpayers about $900,000, the Watertown Daily Times reported. An engineering and consulting firm hired to study the impact of a PLA on construction found that the city could save money by negotiating the end to some breaks, reclassifying some types of work and exempting the project from a local law that requires general, electrical, plumbing and HVAC work to be bid separately. Critics of the company conducting the study have criticized its methodologies and have accused it of pro-union bias.

Groups like the Associated Builders and Contractors have consistently fought against PLA mandates imposed by public agencies, claiming that they restrict participation by open shop contractors.
AP/Tim Ireland
A delayed vote buys some time, but firms seek certainty from government

One hour before midnight local time this March 29 should have seen the United Kingdom leave the European Union with a divorce settlement sealed and terms of a future relationship ready to be inked in.

Ideally, UK construction and other industries would have had enough time to adjust to a world without free movement of labor and goods with the remaining EU member countries, a benefit that came with 46 years of membership in the trading bloc of 500 million people.

But the profound uncertainty that has characterized the British government’s Brexit tactics for two years will continue because of Prime Minister Theresa May’s inability to get a Brexit deal ratified at home and the Mar. 21 vote by government heads of the remaining 27 EU states to extend the exit deadline.

Departure is now set for May 22, if May secures parliamentary ratification for her draft EU exit treaty. It has already been rejected twice in Parliament by large majorities. If she fails again this week she has until April 12 to come up with another plan or take the UK out of the EU without a treaty—the so-called "no-deal" Brexit that many observers fear.

Forecasts by government, industry associations and most economic think tanks consider the no-deal outcome deeply damaging, although a core of “Brexiteers” in parliament would welcome it. They argue the UK could deal with the EU and international markets under the terms and framework of the Word Trade Organization.

But crashing out of the EU without a deal could lead to a 4% fall in UK construction output this year and 2% in the next, leaders of five major construction trade groups told the Prime Minister in a recent letter. “The immediate effect of leaving without a deal…is not knowing the cost of the materials and goods that construction projects rely on, or if they will arrive on sites.”

In preparing for a possible no-deal, firms have already been “spending valuable time and resources” on stockpiling, logistics contingencies, ensuring security of supply chain and assessing contractual risks and obligations, added the construction leaders. Describing the no-deal option as “a disaster for the UK,” Alan Vallance, CEO of the Royal Institute of British Architects reports projects are already being shelved “as uncertainty damages the investment climate and many EU architects in the UK are still uncertain about their future."

The UK set off on path to the current impasse when May formally gave the EU notice of leaving nine months after the UK voted for Brexit in a referendum in June 2016. Under EU treaties, the UK must leave on Mar. 29 this year unless it secures an extension, requiring approval by all the other member governments. The UK could also unilaterally revoke its notice to quit, and carry on as before. And it could just walk away without a treaty.

Months of negotiations followed, deliberately omitting any formal input from other political parties or industry and trade union groups.

On Nov. 14, 2018, May published a 585-page draft Brexit treaty, which for sometimes arcane reasons, was widely rejected. She set Dec. 11 for the parliamentary vote on the deal that would take place after five days’ debate. After 164 speeches, it was obvious she lacked enough support.

Accused of “running down the clock” by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, May stalled the vote for five week until mid-January. Her defeat then by 230 votes was the “largest in parliamentary history” for a government, according to house speaker John Bercow.

Her second attempt in February lost by 149 votes. A final decisive vote is due this week, potentially opening many possibilities, with remaining in the EU a remote possibility.

While May’s tactics have created a febrile political atmosphere in the UK, with lawmakers even receiving death threats, the construction sector has been looking at the longer p
Michael Kooren/Reuters
In an effort to make housing more affordable, the Dutch capital is crafting a law that says anyone who buys a newly built home must live in it themselves.

If you want to buy a new house in Amsterdam, you’ll have to actually live in it.

That’s the message from the Dutch capital as it prepares a new proposal to restrict sales of newly built housing to owner-occupiers, blocking out anyone who wants to buy the properties only to rent them out.

The plan, which is expected to be adopted into law without any great hitch this autumn, remains at proposal stage for now: It’s not yet been clarified, for example, how long an owner would have to occupy their home before being able to rent it out. It is nonetheless part of a clear push in Amsterdam to improve housing options for a group that increasingly struggles to secure affordable housing: the squeezed middle class.

Some of the reasons why this group is facing problems—ones that have a knock-on effect all the way through the housing chain—may sound familiar. The Netherlands has relatively high home-ownership rates, with 67 percent of the Dutch population living in owner-occupied housing as of 2014. Middle-income households that would have formerly expected to buy, however, are increasingly finding themselves priced out of the market, substantially by investors who then place the property on the rental market.

The challenges of investor-dominated rental markets is hardly limited to Amsterdam, and there’s a growing determination across Europe to show a tougher, more heavily regulated approach to large-scale housing investors. Barcelona, for example, is imposing massive fines for landlords who leave properties empty, and Berlin plans to start renationalizing private housing after investors scooped up much of its rental housing in recent decades.

Rental units do, of course, provide somebody with a home, though it’s often on far less secure terms than ownership. As more units have become rental housing, many in Amsterdam’s middle class find they could have purchased a home if the market looked like it did a decade or so ago, but its changes mean they remain stuck renting.

Amsterdam’s proposed laws wouldn’t stop new rental housing from being built—according to the city’s proposal, that housing would simply have to be proposed and approved as rental property in the first place. On its own, the measure isn’t a fix for a malfunctioning housing market, but it should serve to reduce a certain amount of pressure at the upper end of the rental market.
Stalled!
Thanks to the advocacy efforts of Stalled!, the International Plumbing Code has passed two key amendments

In recent years, the push for all-gender public restrooms has been making legal headway throughout the U.S. But even people well-versed in the matter may not be familiar with the International Plumbing Code, a written document that helps set standards throughout the industry. The IPC, as it is often referred, includes detailed chapters on vents, storm drainage, fixtures, and more. And now, thanks to a new code of amendments, all-gender public restrooms will be facilitated in two major new ways.

The first amendment will allow for the adoption of all-gender multiuser restrooms in public buildings. The second amendment will stipulate that single-user public restrooms have signage that indicates they are available for use regardless of gender. Both these amendments were passed at the International Plumbing Code’s annual meeting and will appear for the first time in the 2021 edition. After that, they are expected to be adopted by local and state governments.

Stalled!—a collaborative group of architects, designers, lawyers, and experts focused on addressing social justice issues related to public restrooms—helped bring about this change. The group, which emphasizes a design-based approach in its efforts, worked closely with the National Center for Transgender Equality to achieve these goals. “These changes will improve equitable bathroom accessibility for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals, people with disabilities and their caregivers, families with small children, and anyone who has ever waited in line while another restroom stall sat empty,” Joel Sanders, cofounder of Stalled! and principal of design firm JSA, said in a statement.
Seagate Structures
B.C. has obtained permission from the National Research Council to use the encapsulated mass-timber construction provisions from the 2020 National Building Code through a jurisdiction-specific regulation.

“Changes to the national building code that allow for taller wood buildings take effect next year, but we’re not waiting to get started,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan on March 13th during a press event held at BC-based mass timber manufacturing company Structurlam’s flagship shop in Penticton.

The province has let is be known that local governments are invited to become early adopters of mass-timber technology for construction of buildings up to 12 storeys—up from the current allowance of six storeys.

B.C. has obtained permission from the National Research Council to use the encapsulated mass-timber construction provisions from the 2020 National Building Code through a jurisdiction-specific regulation.

A mass timber building uses either solid or engineered wood for the primary load-bearing structure. Encapsulated mass timber is where the mass timber components are surrounded by fire-resistant materials like drywall.

“Mass timber technology allows faster construction where large sections of a building can be manufactured in a plant and then assembled on site,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in a release following the event.

The release from the province observes that mass timber buildings can be one-fifth the weight of comparable concrete buildings, while still meeting performance standards for safety, structural resilience and fire protection.

It also notes the environmental benefits of mass timber. Using the 18-storey UBC Brock Commons building as an example, it cites the estimated carbon benefit from the wood used was equivalent to taking 511 cars off the road for a year.

The federal 2020 National Building Code is expected to allow mass timber construction up to 12 storeys. The technology has been reviewed by the National Building Code committees, as well as by experts such as fire safety specialists, structural engineers, architects, scientists and builders.

“B.C. firefighters are pleased to welcome the great potential that mass engineered timber construction will bring to our province,” said Gord Ditchburn, president, B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association (BCPFFA). “We support a building code process that balances the efficiencies and progress of industry with the needs of public safety and first responders. Wise decision-making means having everyone at the table and the BCPFFA has appreciated being involved. Including firefighter safety as an objective of the 2020 National Building Code is imperative to maintaining this balance.”
California Energy Commission
The Building Decarbonization Coalition recently released a road map designed to help Californians stop their buildings from spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The road map charts a course toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions through highly-efficient systems and appliances powered by electricity instead of fueled by natural gas, which emits carbon into the atmosphere.

In California, building energy use accounts for about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs). Recent analyses from researchers including E3, the Rocky Mountain Institute and Synapse have shown that a transition to efficient electric appliances is the least costly and most effective way to reduce emissions from homes and buildings, according to the coalition’s 16-page Roadmap to Decarbonize California Buildings.

If the systems and appliances used are highly energy efficient, electricity is a better choice for the environment and costs less than natural gas, says Panama Bartholomy, director of the nonprofit group, formed last year to assist in transforming the buildings market toward electric systems and appliances.

The group consists of energy providers, utilities, manufacturers, builders, contractors and others interested in pushing electric-powered building infrastructure.

Thanks to California’s transition to carbon-free renewable electricity, the transition to electric building systems can be achieved by converting appliances to already available technologies powered by electricity, says the report.

For example, high efficiency electric heat pumps can provide clean space and water heating, induction ranges can provide a superior and safe alternative to gas-powered appliances in the kitchen, and efficient electric clothes dryers can be used in place of gas-powered dryers.

There are obstacles. “We need to have new products as quickly as possible so that builders and individual customers can make choices,” says Merrian Borgeson, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We need to re-educate the supply chain and provide incentives for those who go first.”

Carbon Neutral by 2045

The road map follows a law, signed by former California Gov. Jerry Brown (Dem.) last September, that allocates $50 million annually for four years to aid building owners to reduce energy costs, improve air quality and cut climate pollution. The law, called Senate Bill 1477 (SB 1477), is part of the state’s initiative to be carbon neutral by 2045.

To assist the state in achieving its 2045 goal, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) initiated a proceeding, on Jan. 31, that will evaluate proposed methodologies related to the development of rules, policies and procedures aimed at reducing GHGEs from buildings.

SB 1477 requires the CPUC to oversee the development of two new decarbonization programs. They are named Building Initiative for Low Emissions Development (BUILD) and Technology and Equipment for Clean Heating (TECH).

The California Housing Partnership, a nonprofit created by state legislation to help increase to affordable housing for low-income Californians, “absolutely” supported SB 1477 because it sets aside 30% of its incentives for low-carbon building technologies for low-income households, many of which are in multifamily housing, says Stephanie Wong, the group’s policy director.

“It’s important not only to increase energy requirement standards but to increase the resources available for the building technologies we need to meet these standards," she says.

Barriers

The decarbonization coalition aims to break down barriers to the use of electricity. There is low awareness of the problem and low interest in it. The value of switching, on the part of customers, builders and contractors, is perceived as low. The products are not available in quantity because of low demand. And
Philip Kamrass/New York Power Authority
On the heels of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement on Tuesday that he would devote his efforts and resources to shuttering every remaining coal plant in the U.S. by 2030, New York State revealed on Wednesday its “Buildings of Excellence” initiative to advance the design, construction, and operation of low- or zero-carbon emitting buildings on the way to a fossil fuel-free future.

The competition, which will include three rounds over the course of three years, each providing up to $10 million for projects featuring innovative, energy efficiency solutions, is part of Governor Andrew Cuomo's goal to transform New York's entire building stock as part of his Green New Deal, and will be administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The first round is focused on multi-family buildings, which make up 40 percent of the 100 million square feet of new construction in the state each year. Applications are being accepted through June 4, 2019. Awards to eligible developers are expected by late summer 2019.

Eligible projects that will be awarded must be in one of the following four phases:
  • Early Design - Projects in the schematic design or design development phase; eligible for an award of up to $1,000,000.
  • Late Design - Design development is complete, and the construction documents are being developed, but the building permit has not yet been issued; eligible for an award of up to $750,000.
  • Under Construction - If the building permit has been issued, but the first Certificate of Occupancy, whether temporary or permanent, has not been issued; eligible for an award of up to $500,000.
  • Post-Completion Performance Optimization - Projects must show how additional proposed enhancements and/or optimizations demonstrate replicability and improve the living environment; eligible for an award of up to $250,000.
Speaking at a press conference in New York City, NYSERDA president and CEO Alicia Barton said, “Launching the Buildings of Excellence competition is setting a new bar for buildings throughout the state, and providing the support needed to recognize and advance solutions that will help building owners achieve a low-carbon or net-zero status that delivers environmental and health benefits, reduces energy costs, and provides safe, comfortable spaces for all residents and users.”
Architects' Journal
London’s skyscraper epidemic is spreading with the number of tall buildings set to appear in the capital’s outer boroughs growing by a fifth last year

Research by New London Architecture uncovered a pipeline of 175 towers outside the city centre, each at least 20 storeys tall. This was up 19 per cent from 147 the previous year.

At the end of 2018, the overall pipeline of tall buildings in the capital was 541, with almost one in three located in outer boroughs.

The NLA’s London Tall Buildings Survey found that 60 skyscrapers could be completed this year – more than in the two previous years combined.

‘With more planning approvals in 2018 than 2017 and a slower rate of completions … the total number of tall buildings in the pipeline continues to build up,’ said the study.

‘Tall buildings are taking longer to complete, and this can be for multiple reasons, such as skills shortages, changing project delivery timescales and financial viability issues. In other cases, over-optimistic predictions can play a role in increasing the number of expected completions in a certain year.

‘However, in considering the statistics of the preceding two years, it is conceivable that more than 60 tall buildings could be completed in 2019.’

The number of planning applications for tall buildings in 2018 fell slightly from the previous year, from 78 to 75.

There was an increase in planning permissions with 72 towers granted consent last year compared with 63 in the previous 12 months.

Construction began on 38 tall buildings in 2018, a decrease of two from the previous year. Completion was arrived at on 25, an increase from 18 in 2017.

Almost half the overall tall buildings pipeline was in east London at the end of 2018, although the exact proportion was down from 50 per cent to 48 per cent.

West London saw the biggest growth in share of the pipeline, up from 15 per cent to 17 per cent.

New London Architecture chairman Peter Murray declared 2019 as ‘the year of the tall building’.
Leslie Williamson
A two-part oral history mining the origins and controversies surrounding California’s most bucolic planned community—and forecasting its future

Welcome back to Curbed’s oral history of the Sea Ranch, the influential Northern California coastal development that’s experiencing something of a second coming. If you’ve made it through all 8,000 words of Part 1, congrats! There’s more (and Moore) ahead.

In Part 2, we take a look at how the look and feel of the Sea Ranch spread far and wide, thanks in great part to one enterprising publicist. We dig into the complexity surrounding the Sea Ranchers’ beef with an environmental watchdog group formed in the 1970s, and look at how the community’s internal building regulations hope to encourage careful development. Perhaps most importantly, we challenge those who know the Sea Ranch best to imagine its future—by unpacking the constraints getting in the way of experimentation, and the opportunities those constraints hold for the next generation of designers. —Kelsey Keith

Marketing the Sea Ranch ideals

In which the Sea Ranch tours the world on a wave of architectural press—a feat engineered by a maverick PR woman who contributed greatly to its legend.
Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher: The missing person in all of this is Marion Conrad. She was really key, and sadly passed away really young, not long after the Sea Ranch. All of her papers are destroyed or gone or missing.

Alison Isenberg: Marion Conrad would have appreciated the irony that one of the most influential public relations people in San Francisco would later find her own contributions unacknowledged.

Al Boeke: Marion was the most charming and toughest Master Sergeant I’ve ever met and I spent three years in the Army Infantry in World War II.

Alison Isenberg: In May 1966, Conrad hit a publicist’s home run for the risky Sea Ranch real estate venture when her efforts yielded a seventeen-page cover story in Progressive Architecture.

Reverdy Johnson: Marion was one of the best PR women in the business, and she was assigned the task of figuring out how to promote this project when it was nothing but a sheep ranch.

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher: That’s a key component, how she promoted it: not compromising the ideals. Every brochure that you see from the period is: “It’s not for everyone. It’s for people who don’t mind the fog and the wind and the harsh reality.”

Al Boeke: If anyone was the sales manager, really, [Marion] was, because she created, with the help of Bobbie Stauffacher on graphics, she created pamphlets and all sorts of things, advertising in Bay Area papers and so forth, that was so compelling and so original and not a con act. The facts were present, the picture was present. It’s informative, it’s beautiful, it’s honest and compelling.


The hallmarks of the Sea Ranch “style” include wood cladding, thick beams, plate glass windows, and built-in sofas. More idiosyncratic design moves can be found in gems like the Rush House, designed by Moore and Turnbull in 1970.
Charles Moore and Donlyn Lyndon: The same media-driven winds which blew the ‘Sea Ranch idiom’ abroad and made it famous also blew uncaring visions of Swiss chalets and split-levels to this splendid brooding coast.

Reverdy Johnson: She created, through her contacts with the national press, shelter magazines, Life, Look, Sports Illustrated, she created an image of the Sea Ranch that we’ve all lived up to. And that was an image of a project that was driven by its environment, and not to abuse that environment.

Alison Isenberg: Conrad’s experience reveals how “planning stories” were written and circulated, how public relations could make design careers, and how projects succeeded and failed in the political process. Publicity machinery honed a master plan’s ideological clarity, won recognition for its designers, and earned profits for investors.

Barbara Stauffacher Solomon: Marion and I felt responsible for the press, the success,
Curbed
A two-part oral history mining the origins and controversies surrounding California’s most bucolic planned community—and forecasting its future

The Sea Ranch is a residential development along the northern coast of California, situated about halfway between Bodega Bay and Mendocino—officially in Sonoma County, and basically in the middle of nowhere. Its ten miles of prime coastline were scouted and bought from a sheep rancher by a Hawaii-based developer called Oceanic Properties in 1963. That developer, led by a former architect named Al Boeke, then hired a team of design professionals (first, the already-renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, plus architects, a graphic designer, and a contractor) to plan the site and build its first structures—the land and the buildings being the best advertisement for potential buyers.

Finally, there is the design legacy. Vernacular modernism that incorporates the materials of area barns, and the rooflines of the humble shed, while breaking up the interiors into a series of levels and vantage points. Wooden structures where columns meet windows, where open-air sleeping lofts look down on equally open living rooms. Graphic interiors where primary colors and assertive lines painted on walls inform a human how to move through space. Kilims hanging over balcony rails, displayed as art. These maneuvers are so recognizable, 50 years later, that it’s hard to imagine tracing them back directly to the Sea Ranch, but trace you can.

The fact is, you may know something of the Sea Ranch without knowing much about the Sea Ranch at all.

Oral history is a seductive medium; for one, it spurs interviewees to be candid—because chances are, the interviewer will hear another version of the same story from someone else. Two, it creates space for multidimensional narrative. Textbooks tend to present a mono-history: the complete, officially-decided-upon, cleaned-up version of events. As UC Berkeley’s oral history center—to which I am heavily indebted—describes it, oral history “reflects personal opinion offered by the interviewee in response to questioning, and as such it is partisan, deeply involved, and irreplaceable.” The careful reader will identify concurrent threads of memory, and recognize points of disagreement, and it’s exactly this ambiguity that helps define an especially complex place or era.

The architects originally tapped to design the Sea Ranch—the four partners of Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker, plus Joseph Esherick—are responsible for the best-known and most-recognizable buildings there, but a relative few of the now roughly 1,800 total homes. Construction was, in fact, stopped altogether at the Sea Ranch during a fraught decade, from 1976 to 1984, while a bitter fight with the California Coastal Commission ensued. It resulted in landmark public access laws in the state of California, as well as an entrenched attitude on the homeowners’ behalf to guard the Sea Ranch’s remaining rights and bylaws. Today, strict adherence to the development’s design covenants—coupled with equally strict zoning laws in Sonoma County—mean that visiting the Sea Ranch feels much as at it might have three decades ago, but makes it difficult to imagine experimenting with density, affordability, or inclusivity.

There’s also an inevitability to the kind of developer-designer relationship that was pioneered in places like the Sea Ranch: The good vibes can only last so long. As historian Alison Isenberg points out in her peerless history of Bay Area design culture, architect Charles Moore—the elder statesman of MLTW—argued that one could only use “environmental planning and architecture to create a meaningful public realm… within the methods of large-scale private development.” But private development, specifically its emphasis on turning a profit, ended up turning the endeavor from an idealistic community retreat into a sprawling neighborhood of second homes (particularly on the northern end, which invokes nearly uniform criticism from Sea Ranch purists).
IRENA Renewable Cost Database and Auction Database
A roadmap for a viable Green New Deal

The Green New Deal has burst onto the American stage, spurring more conversation about – and aspiration for – ambitious climate policy than at any point in at least a decade.

I’m glad to see it. Suddenly, climate is on the agenda, and ambitions for climate policy are higher than perhaps at any point in US history.

The Green New Deal is a resolution right now. It’s a statement of intent. It hasn’t yet progressed to the point of detailed policy proposals or legislation, which means now is the time to help craft its details.

For the last decade I’ve written about and publicly spoken about innovation in clean technology and ways to address climate change. I’ve helped to lead a climate-fighting citizen ballot initiative in my home state of Washington, invested in clean energy startups, and advised on climate and clean energy policies of other nations.

In that time, my views on what sort of climate policies have the most impact and have the greatest chances of winning over voters have changed. Policies that I thought were foolish a decade ago have revealed themselves to have been farsighted and effective. Policies I thought were powerful and elegant have, on closer inspection, revealed themselves to be far less effective than I believed. And the history of climate and energy legislation and attitudes in the US has demonstrated a path to getting new and more ambitious policies passed.

What I’ve learned over time is that good climate policy has 3 key traits:
  1. It has a large, meaningful impact on carbon emissions and climate change.
  2. It specifically tackles the problems that aren’t already being tackled by the market.
  3. It actually gets passed into law.
Tom Ichniowski
Proposal lacks details on funding, revenue-raisers

A group of congressional Democrats have issued an outline for an ambitious “Green New Deal,” a plan that aims to slow or reverse climate change by a variety of steps, including revamping energy generation, fortifying infrastructure against storms and renovating energy-inefficient buildings.

Odds that the Green New Deal proposal will become law appear long. But, depending on how much support it eventually generates, the plan may help shape the contours of any major infrastructure legislation this year and also push climate change up the list of priority issues for the 2020 elections.

The blueprint, set down in a proposed resolution introduced in the House and Senate on Feb. 7, has the tenor of a call to political arms. And by design, its authors say, doesn’t specify how much funding it would require—though the price tag would undoubtedly be immense—or identify revenue-raisers to pay for that spending. It does set a timetable, saying that the program should be carried out through "a 10-year national mobilization."

Its prime mover in the House, high-profile, first-year Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), said at a Feb. 7 press conference outside the U.S. Capitol that the resolution is an initial action. “Our first step,” she said,” is to define the problem and define the scope of the solution.”

The House version has more than 60 initial co-sponsors with additional backers ready to sign on, Ocasio-Cortez said. That’s far short of a majority but it is still early in the process.

The Senate version, introduced by Ed Markey (D-Mass.), has 11 co-sponsors as of Day One. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) isn’t among them.

But the list does include all of the senators who, to date, have declared themselves as presidential candidates for 2020. That would support Markey’s comment at the press conference that dealing with climate change is “a voting issue” in the U.S. and will be a prime topic in the 2020 election cycle.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters at a briefing earlier in the day that she welcomed the proposal, though she hadn’t yet read the resolution. Pelosi also said that as Congress pursues infrastructure legislation, one of her stated goals, “we want to do so in a green, informed way.”

But it was a less-than-wholehearted endorsement. She called the Green New Deal “enthusiastic,” adding that “we welcome all the enthusiasm
As the scale of climate change has accelerated and grown direr in recent months, upstart politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have made addressing the issue a central part of their political platforms. Talk of a Green New Deal (GND) has picked up since November’s elections, reflecting a major shift in how Americans discuss climate change. But what is the Green New Deal and how might it impact architects?

The impetus behind the GND is simple: Because the threat of anthropogenic climate change is so fundamental, only a government-led, war-like industrial and economic mass mobilization effort can potentially transform American society quickly and thoroughly enough to avoid global catastrophe.

There are plans to unveil the first round of draft legislation at the federal level this week, but as of yet, no official set of policies has been agreed upon by legislators and activists. But various elements of a supposed GND have been touted for years (see here and here for thorough explainers).

Generally speaking, GND proponents have three specific and wide-ranging goals:

First, activists are calling for the wholesale decarbonization of the U.S. economy. That means eliminating all carbon emissions across every industry in the country, including in vital sectors like energy production, building design, construction, and transportation.

Second, this transition would include a federal jobs guarantee backed by the large-scale deployment of new public works projects. A job guarantee, which, generally speaking, would provide anyone who wanted work with some form of federal employment, would allow people currently working in carbon-intensive industries to leave their jobs for publicly-funded green-collar work. The guarantee, supporters argue, would create a vast, fairly-paid workforce that could get to work transforming American society right away.

Third, activists pushing the GND generally agree that the transition to a carbon-free economy must incorporate socially-just practices that rectify past practices that have exploited certain communities. Such reforms include finding ways to house people displaced by climate change, countering the long-term effects of redlining and the racial wealth gap, and making sure that unlike the original New Deal, the benefits and jobs created by any GND are enjoyed by people of color and other historically marginalized groups.

The initiative would go beyond s
Chicago’s Lincoln Yards, a $6 billion plan to revitalize an old industrial district, raises question about who benefits from such big projects

Chicago’s many nicknames, from the City of Big Shoulders to the City That Works, riff on its reputation as a gritty, hard-working, and down-to-earth alternative to coastal cities.

But the nickname that best characterizes life in Chicago may be the City of Neighborhoods, which reflects its array of diverse, distinct, and close-knit communities.

That sentiment may explain why Lincoln Yards, a new mixed-use mega-development set to reshape a wide swath of the city’s near north side, has angered so many Chicagoans. Estimating total costs to be $6 billion, the proposal, which recently passed an important vote in the Planning Commission after being re-calibrated to reflect community concerns, will ask the city council to approve $900 million in public funding in early March.

Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune architecture critic who shot down earlier versions of the plan, still says the latest version is rife with negative consequences—“snarled streets, bland street facades, and concealed park space”—while three of the city’s largest papers, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Crain’s Chicago Business, have all proposed braking or halting the city approval process. “Anyone have a crowbar we can shove into the conveyor belt’s gears?” the Tribune editorial board said of what they called a rushed process.

Lincoln Yards has also led to complaints among the city’s music venues and creative community, since the project would surround the Hideout, a beloved bar and club, and, in an earlier iteration, included new performance venues that were to be run by Live Nation, the concert promoter.

“They’re creating a neighborhood that’s the size of downtown Detroit, and there’s nothing fluid about it,” says Robert Gomez, owner of the Subterranean, a music club in Wicker Park. “This isn’t a city within a city; it’s suburb within a city. It looks like they took Schaumburg and plopped it in the middle of the Chicago.”

The proposal, and requests for public funding, raise fundamental questions about Chicago’s direction, which could be applied to any U.S. city contemplating large-scale re-development. Can we create working neighborhoods out of whole cloth? Should the public help fund their construction? And, more importantly, can these neighborhoods work for everyone?

“Most people who live and love Chicago celebrate [its] neighborhoods,” says DePaul professor Winifr
Shutterstock
Microplastics may appear small on the outside, but they take a major toll on the environment. Not only do these plastics ruin soil and jeopardize ocean life, but they also create health issues for people all around the world. Fortunately, a newly proposed ban on microplastics might offer a solution to this growing problem.

This week, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) put forth a new law that seeks to ban over 90 percent of Europe’s microplastics. If countries in the European Union agree to the legislation, the prohibition could significantly lower the amount of microplastics on a global scale.

“Microplastics are a growing concern to a number of human rights. The steps proposed by Echa are necessary to help ensure present and future generations can enjoy what is their human right: a clean, healthy and sustainable environment,” UN reporter Baskut Tuncak shared.

According to The Guardian, there are close to 400,000 tons of these small plastic particles that end up in European environments. These microplastics come from a variety of household sources, including fertilizers, detergents, paint products and cosmetics. The proposed ban would eliminate the vast majority of microplastics that are integrated into these products, many of which are not necessary.

Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world

If passed, the law would not go into effect until 2020. By that time, companies would need to have made drastic changes in the production of goods. This includes removing microplastics from a variety of products, a move that would require a major change in design.

The new ban is similar in nature to what the U.K. passed last year. The country prohibited the use of microbeads in certain personal products, such as shower gel and toothpaste. The new law, however, is much larger in scope and would eventually remove the vast majority of microplastics from production.

The ban, of course, would only apply to countries that are still in the EU. Following Brexit, there is a chance that the U.K. will not adopt the law, though that has yet to be determined.

In the meantime, the ECHA will continue to explore the proposed ban and will vote on the measure in three months. If passed, the law is not expected to go into effect until at least another eight months after the vote is tallied.

Lamar Johnson Collaborative
The 12-story project could eliminate another downtown parking lot

A River North site with a litigious past could sprout a new office building at the southwest corner of Illinois Street and LaSalle Drive. Here, developers filed a zoning application for a 12-story project that would wrap around the existing landmarked building at 444 N. LaSalle.

Topping out at 183 feet, the proposed structure would contain 7,500 square feet of ground floor retail topped by 11 floors of office space and a rooftop deck. The “transit-served” project contains no parking and is designed by Lamar Johnson Collaborative, the Chicago-based architecture firm currently at the helm of the Uptown Theatre restoration.

The downtown site in question has a complicated past. Project developer Jaime Javors had envisioned a 300-unit apartment tower at the site but saw the plan rejected by 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly. To make matters worse, Javors was held up in a legal dispute with the developer of a proposed 18-story hotel slated for an adjacent parking lot to the immediate south, according to Crain’s.

In other zoning application news, a long-discussed West Loop apartment tower proposed for 1061 W. Van Buren Street is looking to finally move forward with a new partner on board. After unveiling its project in 2014, Ohio-based developer Pizzuti is joining forces with Chicago-based Related Midwest.

The updated Van Buren Street plan calls for a 26-story residential building with 351 units, 69 parking stalls, and ground floor retail space, according to the zoning application. Miami-based Arquitectonica is out as lead designer, replaced by Chicago’s STL Architects. The development site is immediately west of Related’s 30-story Landmark West Loop high-rise which opened in late 2017.

Both the River North and West Loop projects will require zoning approval from the city.
Jeremy Bitterman
The process for mass-timber-construction permitting is about to become streamlined, thanks to changes to the International Building Code (IBC) set to take effect in 2020. In December, the International Code Council passed 14 code changes relating to mass timber construction that, pending validation of the vote, would be included in the 2021 IBC. (The code is revised every three years.) Among the changes is the creation of three types of construction that set new allowable heights and fire-safety ratings for wood buildings.

The current code sees buildings in mass timber, including cross-laminated timber, as outliers from existing categories, and requires performance-based design for permitting processes. The proposed changes would both define mass timber construction and create three new categories for it, dealing with mass timber that is protected with noncombustible materials, partially exposed, and unprotected, with maximum heights of 18, 12, and nine stories, respectively. Allowable areas for mass timber structures would also be increased over current allowances for heavy timber construction.

Thomas Robinson, founder of Portland, Oregon–based LEVER Architecture, explains the potential of these code changes from his office in a mass-timber building his firm designed, Albina Yard: “With this new code, you could say, ‘If I follow these guidelines, I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to get a permit.’ That has a huge impact on how owners will think about investing in these types of buildings,” he says, “and on strengthening the national supply chain, because people will be comfortable investing in technology and in building new [mass-timber] plants.”

Robinson and his team at LEVER are well versed in timber construction, as co-winners of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize for their 12-story project, Framework. (The other winner was 475 West 18th by SHoP Architects; both are currently on hold for financial reasons.) The LEVER team conducted around 40 tests for fire safety, acoustic performance, and structural performance to gain permitting for Framework, which was the first wood high-rise to win such approval in the United States. Robinson says his firm’s work highlights the opportunity that code changes present to architects, who will no longer face the same rigors of testing his team encountered.

Tentative approval of the code-change proposals in the spring is likely. Final approvals will occur in Oc
The implications of such a plan—championed by new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—extend well beyond the ecological

Newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got tongues wagging this month when she championed a plan for a Green New Deal, and drafted a proposal to kickstart the committee that would create it. While she’s not the first to suggest the idea, timing and the cultural climate are apt for a renewal of the discussion.

Ocasio-Cortez’s plan, which emphasizes decarbonization, job creation, and social and economic justice, is politically audacious—it aims for 100 percent renewable energy within 12 years—but in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s most recent warning that the world has about a decade to get climate change under control if we are to thwart its worst effects. With close to half of all greenhouse gas emissions coming from the built environment, architects and designers should feel welcome wading into the conversation.

In the past, buildings were designed to hold people and things and to receive energy along a one-way artery from a faraway grid. Under a Green New Deal, that way of building would be considered outdated and obsolete. Instead, buildings would be considered mini power plants that can not only produce enough energy to supply their own needs, but also fuel vehicles and send excess energy back to the grid.

“There’s a loosening of the boundaries around things that define energy—they’re not siloed anymore,” says Jacob Corvidae, a principal at the Rocky Mountain Institute's Buildings Practice. “Suddenly, a building is not just a building.”

Corvidae believes all new construction should already be held to such standards. “We should stop the bleeding now,” he explains. “If you don’t build it to zero-energy now, you run the risk of being obsolete in ten years.” In other words, any building not designed to meet net-zero-energy standards is already archaic.
A Green New Deal would inject capital, job training, and manufacturing incentives into the system, accelerating the pace of a green economy. Building green infrastructure would be a major source of employment, and would help establish better social and economic equity, too; reliable, multimodal transit infrastructure to and from working-class neighborhoods would provide access to more jobs, schools, grocery stores, and other essentials they may currently be isolated from.
Better infrastructure also builds resiliency for those communities—an important element in the face of ever more ex
Jorge Alcala/Unsplash
The city was planning on running on 50% renewables by that year. Now, it’s doubling its commitment.

A few blocks down the street from the White House, two dated 1970s office buildings are being combined and renovated into a space that will cut energy use and emissions by more than half. Soon, around half of the existing buildings in the city will also need to make changes under a new law.

It’s one piece of an ambitious climate bill, to be signed into law later today, which aims to help the city cut its carbon emissions by 50% in a little more than a decade. First, the law calls for 100% renewable electricity by 2032. “It’s the most ambitious renewable portfolio standard in the country,” says Mark Rodeffer, the chapter chair for D.C. Sierra Club. The deadline is 13 years earlier than those in California or Hawaii, which are also moving to 100% renewable electricity. More than 90 cities also have the same goal–including the larger city of San Francisco, which is aiming for 2030–though D.C.’s law, like the state laws in California and Hawaii, makes renewable energy a legal requirement for utilities, not a voluntary ambition. The law also calls for D.C. to increase its use of solar power, with a total of 10% of electricity coming from solar by 2041.

“I think it’s especially interesting because less than three years ago, [D.C.’s] renewable portfolio standard for 2032 was 50%,” says Jay Orfield, who works with the communities program at the nonprofit NRDC. “I think that speaks to a number of elements in support of renewables–the pricing continuing to come down, but then also realizing that action on climate change needs to be ramped up.”

The city is also moving to electric vehicles: By 2045, all city buses, taxis, limos, and other privately owned fleets with 50 or more passengers or vehicles will have to use zero-emission vehicles. But buildings are an especially important part of the overall plan, since they account for around three-quarters of the city’s emissions. The city already has a benchmarking program that requires the largest buildings to report their energy use. But that will expand to include any building larger than 10,000 square feet. Over a period of years, those buildings will also have to meet new standards for energy use, meaning they’ll likely have to do some renovation or tweak the automated systems that run heating and cooling.

“You can’t really tackle that chunk of emissions, and that chunk of electricity consumption, if you don’t tackle buildings,” says Anica Lan