Tuesday, November 18, 2008

All Clear on the Green Front: The Challenges that Lay Ahead

This week I explored the Blogosphere in order to find articles that would contribute to The Green Solution. Due to my extremely optimistic approach to green issues I used inspiration from a conversation I had last Thursday with a very knowledgeable ‘grounded environmentalists,’ for this weeks post. I decided to take a different approach while searching the blogosphere, finding something I don’t like about the ‘green’ movement. It was a difficult thing for me to do, but I resisted relapsing back to showering the blogger with well worded optimism and ego boosting compliments.

This week I commented on two posts. One from the blog iVillage – Beehive: The Buzz of the Day and one from the Green section of The Huffington Post. The Beehive: The Buzz of the Day highlighted NBC’s Universal Green Initiative’s ‘Green Week,’ and The Huffington Post blog analyzed many of the issues President-elect Barack Obama is being pressured on. The articles are different but the problems are the same, the ‘green’ movements inability to unite and be a stable reliable industry that will serve the public for many years to come.


NBC Universal’s Green Initiative and iVillage, Beehive: The Buzz of the Day, are hosting ‘Green Week’ during this week of November 17th. Articles on topics such as going green, buying organic and eco-friendly living headline the website. However this ‘green’ week should have more substance than a ‘Green Kitchen’ page, which enlightens its readers on how to buy local produce.

I would like to preface my next few thought by saying that I am a huge proponent for all things green appreciate all forms of environmentally conscious action.

Although my tendencies are usually ones that are very optimistic when it comes to anything ‘green,’ I find it very troublesome that the ‘green’ sector is extremely unorganized and there is little structure when it comes to getting things done. What spawned my sentiment towards green week, was after searching the term ‘Green Week’ in google, I did not find two organizations/companies who had used the same dates for ‘Green Week.’ In a time when the United States of America has united to elect Barack Obama into the White House, many of his biggest supporters, in the environmental sector, are battling each other. Environmentalist have a huge opportunity to make a break through in green technology and sustainable practices, but what might be the biggest and most crucial of all opportunities is the opportunity to capture the American public. Environmentalist will always be fighting for the environment, and there is a group of people that will never care about the environment. Whether it is the speculation that the ‘green’ economy will save the American economy or the average American has been privy to the slight changes in the environment over recent years, America is ready to give ‘green’ a chance even given the feeble reputation ‘green’ has had since its conception. So as a group, I challenge us, all Americans, to unite, communicate and work together towards the breakthroughs of the future.


With the George Bush’s tenure in the White House coming to an end this January, many of Americans are looking forward to the policies President-elect Barack Obama will bring to America. Obama is in the process of putting together an all-star bipartisan cabinet that will tackle the tough issues that face the United States of America. However people and groups are setting themselves up for disappointment by demanding and expecting certain policies and executive orders to be carried out.

The Obama campaign was meticulous in all of its actions over the past two years and ran a flawless, and successful, presidential campaign. Even today Obama’s transition team is doing its due diligence on every candidate mentioned for cabinet positions, making sure the new cabinet is best suited for America. With the expectations of a wide range of environmental policies, bills and executive orders that democrats are hoping to get passed immediately, many environmentalist will be disappointed come inauguration day. The recent actions and characteristics of the Obama team should give light to the upcoming actions they will take once in office. Deviating from their current actions would be a disservice to the American people and devastating for the green movement.

Although this is a very exciting time for many environmentalists and democrats, pressuring the Obama presidency to address the myriad of environmental problems would result in failed policies. The detrimental effects of failed policies could be crippling to the green movement. We stand at a major crossroads as a country, and we as Americans have the opportunity to unite and progress this country for the better. However we need to make sure that the changes that are made are changes that will work for America.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Obama Administration: On the Green Track

Less than a week ago, Barack Obama, stood in Grant Park, Chicago and claimed victory in one of the most exciting presidential races the American history. On that brisk November evening, the President-elect addressed an international audience, reaffirming America’s democracy and promising to bring change to the United States of America. With seventy-one days left until Barack Obama is sworn in as the President of the United States, America awaits the policies and appointments of the Obama Administration. The President-elect now starts to assemble his team that will lead America over the next four years, as the cabinet starts to take shape we can start to see what types of policies will be instilled. The plethora of information available about Obama’s policies, allows us to analyze and speculate about what the policies and appointees mean for green developers.

The future of the built environment in America is directly related to Urban Policy. Barack Obama believes that the federal government needs to do a better job in strengthening ‘main street’ throughout the nation, his comprehensive plan includes stimulating economics in metropolitan regions, reform housing, curb poverty, foster the livability of cities, increase urban education, reform in law enforcement and homeland security and to provide support for families. According to Barack Obama’s website, the president-elect plans to ‘create a White House Office of Urban Policy to develop a strategy for metropolitan America and to ensure that all federal dollars targeted to urban areas are effectively spent on the highest-impact programs.’ In a statement delivered by Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s transition team co-chair, stated that “[Barack Obama] understands …that local government [will] play a vital role as we try to jump start our economy… there are so many different agencies that really can impact urban America and to have one person whose job it is to really pull all of that together, is really a critical position.” The Obama team has not appointed anyone to that post yet.

Change was the main theme of the Obama campaign, and there might not be a more drastic change in policy than the difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration as it relates to the environment. After eight years of repealing environmental protections set in place by the Clinton administration, giving tax breaks to oil and car companies and neglecting the signs of a planet in peril, the Obama administration vows to change. Fighting climate change by implementing policies that will reduce carbon emissions by eighty percent by 2050, investing in Clean Energy technologies that will supplement our economy and create millions of new jobs, Obama plans to increase fuel economy standards, foster more livable and sustainable communities. President-elect Obama’s administration recognizes that climate change is a global issue and will work with international groups to fight global warming, and will defend against any further deforestation of tropical rain forests. Clean air, clean water and healthier communities complete Obama’s environmental plan. As for who spearheads this effort, there has been speculation of Robert Kennedy Jr. being asked to join the Obama Administration by becoming the Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency. Kennedy, who has been a long time attorney and activist for various environmental issues is an exciting choice for the EPA. The EPA which ‘leads the nations environmental science, research, education and assessment efforts…[in order] to protect human health and the environment.’ Another name being floated around for the Secretary of the EPA is Robert Sussman. Sussman who served as Deputy Administrator of the EPA under the Clinton Administration has more recently headed the environmental law practice at Latham & Watkins. Both of the aforementioned people are exciting possibilities and will bring progressive reform to the EPA.

‘America has always risen to great challenges, and our dependence on oil is one of the greatest we have ever faced…For decades, Washington has failed to solve this problem because of partnership, the undue influence of special interest, and politicians who would rather propose gimmicks to get them through an election instead of long-term solutions that will get America closer to energy independence.’ This inefficiency accompanied with the recent economic downtown, the skyrocketing price of gas and the increasing amount of layoffs affecting working class families, has the country looking for relief through the President-Elect’s energy plan. Obama has specified three main proponents to his ‘New Engery for America’ plan, and they are; create five million Green Collar jobs, establish a bold new national goal on energy efficiency and to create a domestically produced clean American energy that will power America into the future. Many names have been floating around for the Secretary of Energy including, but not limited to, Dan Reicher, Ed Rendell, Jason Grument, Steve Westly, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Domenici. The short, bipartisan list of politicians, academics and businessmen are well qualified and will have the opportunity to institute change for the better in the United States of America’s Energy policy.

‘The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.' There are many factors that will go into deciding the path the United States follows the next four years. There are several issues that have been hot topics throughout the campaign season, however none maybe more important to Americans than the slew of issues that deal with the sustainable built environment. As I explored above, the economy, the creation of new jobs in America, decreasing our dependence of foreign oil and the fight against global warming are all intertwined in creating a better America.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Green Jobs: Sustaining America's Future

This week I decided to explore the blogosphere and found two blogs that to decided to delve into the issues of the economy, green jobs, and alternative fuels. Both blogs were written within days of the Presidential election and the blogs both addressed the speculations about the new President and policies that will be the face of America within the next two months. Sustaining our economy was a prominent theme in both, and ‘green’ jobs was the solution given by both authors. This is a promising sign that America is on the brink of the next great innovation, just like we were two decades ago with the Internet and the computer innovations, green technologies are predicated to stabilize our economy, provide millions of Americans with high paying jobs, and provide sustainable energy and technologies that will curb the human effect of global warming.

At this unique time in American history we as citizens have a chance to direct our country towards progress and change. The next president will have their work cut out for them, but with great challenge comes great reward.


Forbes Lists America’s Hottest Green Job Markets

By Alex Smith

“We cannot afford more of the same timid politics when the future of our planet is at stake.. . . . This is not the future I want for my daughters. It's not the future any of us want for our children. And if we act now and we act boldly, it doesn't have to be.” - Barack Obama October 7th, 2007.

On the eve of Election Day Americans prepare to cast their votes for many candidates and issues, similar to previous elections, voters will evaluate each candidate and issue and democratically choose the direction we believe is best for our country. With the United States of America facing a long list of domestic and international issues, beginning with America’s dependence on foreign oil, the November 4th election is billed as one of the most important elections in American history.

With wars being waged in the Middle East, a declining economy at home, the United States of America faces a major challenge as we fight our dependence on foreign oil through creating and discovering alternative energy solutions. With manufacturing, within the United States, at a twenty-six year low and thousands of jobs being sent abroad, ‘Green Jobs’ will step in to fill the void and create millions of new jobs and will sustain our economy for years to come. According to Forbes, ‘Green Jobs’ ‘could soon become the nation's fastest-growing job segment, accounting for roughly 10% of new jobs over the next 20 years. The report forecasts that by 2038.’

Citing the aforementioned Forbes article, with support from the government the United States of America will create innovative ‘green’ technologies that will be exported throughout the world, and create an estimated 4.2 millions new jobs in the various sectors. ‘Renewable electricity production will create 1.23 million jobs; alternative transportation fuels, 1.5 million jobs; engineering, legal, research and consulting positions will be more than 1.4 million; and commercial and residential retrofits at 81,000 jobs.’


Presidential Election Brings Green Jobs in Focus

By Ben Block

“And let it begin today with this commitment: In a world of hostile and unstable suppliers of oil, this nation will achieve strategic independence by 2025." – John McCain, June 25th, 2008

The historic election of 2008 has arrived. With many pending issues at hand, Jobs and the Economy are atop many of Americans’ minds as they head to the polls. "There is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy," Barack Obama states in a Time Magazine interview. On this election day voters will have a chance to vote for a new president and a new direction for the country. The two candidates differ on the fundamentals of this issue, John McCain’s plan includes ‘implementing measures which focus on achieving results by providing incentives to stimulate private industry to develop necessary technologies,’ and Barack Obama uses ‘a hands on approach because laissez-faire policy currently being applied to the energy market has not been effective in reducing the dominance of established fuel sources and has therefore not encouraged the development of alternative energies.’ Obama will mandate ‘green’ changes and McCain suggests that he will use incentives in order to get the private sector to ‘go green.’

Forbes forecasts that ‘the green economy could soon become the nation's fastest-growing job segment, accounting for roughly 10% of new jobs over the next 20 years.’ The problem lies in the implementation of ‘green’ policies. McCain’s policy uses benchmarks or minimums that companies must reach in order to receive benefits. This however will put a ceiling on the ‘green’ innovations’ that will arise in the next few decades. Through competition and policy, Obama will provide a platform for green technologies and innovations to come to fruition.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

LEED Equality: Its a Plastic Issue

There are many building practices and materials that go into creating a ‘Green’ house. Proximity to public transportation, use of local materials, use of recycled materials, water conserving fixtures, energy efficient appliances, water conscious landscapes and many other environmentally friendly practices that minimize our effect on the environment all contribute to a ‘green; house. There are organizations such as the United States Green Building Council and Build It Green and their respective programs, LEED and Green Point Rated, which were created to regulate and validate ‘Green’ buildings.

These programs don’t allow many wonderful green products to participate. A case in point is a company like Timbron International located in Stockton, California. This innovative company recycles waste polystyrene from throughout the world and converts it into premium interior mouldings. Literally they prevent waste plastics from going into our landfills and create a product that will have another life. The problem is mouldings are a very small portion of a job in both weight and dollars. If a contractor wants to get his pre and post consumer recycled content on a job he can meet his requirements much easier with products like concrete and steel which account for a greater majority of the job. The current programs tend to view “green” building on a macro level, leaving behind many wonderful green products to fend for themselves.

Over the past several years the technology of recycling plastic waste has been refined and companies can now produce plastic products that rival the ‘workability’ and use of wood, steel and concrete. Recently on the Green Building Elements blog, Reenita Malhotra, highlighted i-plas, another product created from waste plastics. I-plas, based out of the United Kingdom, invented a building material created from recycled plastic that ‘outperforms the traditional alternatives of wood, steel and concrete.’ The company lists many of its benefits of the product on its website, including diverting material from landfill and reducing the carbon footprint of any project.

Timbron and i-plas, as well as many other green products, face a tough challenge as they attempt to jockey their way into the LEED system. Timbron’s ‘green’ story is one that makes one wonder why more credit isn’t given to such products. Timbron moulding products contain 90% recycled plastic, including 75% post-consumer recycled materials, and can be recycled at the end of its useful life, creating a closed loop manufacturing system. The Timbron products emit zero volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and is also water proof, mold and mildew resistant, termite and insect proof, which improves indoor air quality and eliminates the use of toxic pesticides. Through the years Timbron has recycled over 60 million cubic feet of waste polystyrene that would otherwise be sitting in landfills. Why can’t companies like this have an easier path to LEED credits?

Looking at the situation through the USGBC’s perspective and taking into account the big picture, questions and problems arise. With 26 LEED points being the minimum cut off for a LEED building, points are very hard to allocate fairly.

With new homes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and tons of pounds in building materials, is it fair for LEED to allow a builder to receive a full point for using just $1000 of recycled mouldings throughout a house? Even considering the overall ‘green’ effect Timbron has on the environment, the use of recycled mouldings in a house should not be awarded a whole point.

Developers have found ways to incorporate products, such as Timbron, into their projects. Over the past few months Byrd Developments Inc. has been building a LEED platinum home in the Los Feliz area. Being one of the first LEED Platinum houses in the southern California area Byrd Development Inc. had no script to follow as they attempted to attain the 52 points required for platinum status. Recycled wood, iron, concrete, and tile give the Spanish style home a traditional rustic feel. The permeable pavement, water conscious landscaping and water conserving fixtures and appliances subconsciously limit water usage and the energy efficient appliances combined with the solar tree in the back yard limit the houses effect on the electricity grid. But what might not stand out amongst all the innovative technologies eloquently infused into the house are the Timbron mouldings that are used for window casing, baseboards and crown moulding. Although there is not a certain category for recycled mouldings, Byrd Development Inc most likely received some credit in sections MR 2.1, 2.2 using recyclable materials; MR 4.1, 4.2 using products containing post-consumer content; and MR 5.1, 5.2 using products produced within 500 miles of project site.

Credit should be given to builders like Byrd development who, in their quest for LEED qualification, researched and specified an innovative product like Timbron. As we move forward I hope architects and designers reach out to the many wonderful green products in the marketplace. However the reality is green products tend to be more expensive and not all developers are willing to spend the extra money on products that don’t result in points.

USGBC needs to reform its criteria and create a LEED category that caters to the small ‘green’ businesses. A category that would allow a builder to select from a list of green
 products that don't have the weight or the appeal as other aspects of a house, but do have a wonderful green story and a great effect on the environment. Creating USGBC certified list of several "qualified" small products, that a developer could choose from and receive a point for implementing a significant amount of qualified products, would help cultivate innovative green technologies and catapult them into the mainstream building practices.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Delving Into the Deep Green Sea: A Search for the Greener Side of Things

This week I decided to search the web in order to build a linkroll of websites that would facilitate and add to the ongoing conversation of sustainable building. I was looking for sites that were consistent with the Webby and ISMA standards, that also provide progressive ideas to the issues that I am exploring. I found a total of twenty-two websites ranging from personal blogs to government websites that fit this criterion. I started with a blog that I already commented in my previous post, Green Building Elements. In this blog five ‘green’ experts from across the nation comment about present day issues in the ‘green’ building field. Very innovative idea and progressive thinking allows readers to stay ahead of the curve in the green field. I proceeded to search the blogosphere for relevant blogs, Real Life LEED is a blog created in order to help developers through the LEED certification process. The author is an architect who is very knowledgeable about the LEED process and does a wonderful job in communicating his expertise to his readers. The igreenbuild.com blog was the most complete blog I came across. This blog features two prominent scholars in the field of green development. The aesthetics and functionality of the website are great and the topics of the posts are relevant to current problems facing the construction market.

There has been a recent emphasis on design and construction as a solution to Sprawl and Global warming. There were many sites that not covered many of the issues, however their were a few websites that stood out from the rest. The Building Design & Construction website is a free online magazine. This website has a lot of good material ranging from international development, green building, and sustainable design. The website is organized well, however the advertisements clutter the website to some extent and diminish the aesthetics of the website. The Building Technologies Program is a program within the U.S. Department of Energy. The website is government funded and the content is well organized and very useful, although, for people unfamiliar with the ‘green’ movement this site would probably be a bit complex. BuildingGreen.com is an extremely effective website. The layout is clean and the aesthetics of the website are professional. BuildingGreen.com is geared more towards professionals in the construction and development fields, and it incorporates a variety of articles and journal entries on the topic of green building. The next website I found is probably the most complete website I have seen to date. The Greener Buildings website is the most comprehensive, educational, easy to use, aesthetically pleasing site out there. This website is useful to the ‘light’ and ‘dark’ green consumer as well as real estate developers and green companies. Ecobroker is a website designed for ‘green’ businesses. The aesthetics of the website are simple. The content of the website is excellent and covers many areas/issues in the green field. The Sustainable Urban Design and Climate website is apart of the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology. This website explains the connection between Urban Design and local and global climates. This site is very simple and to the point.

There is a lot of excitement surround the new theories in the planning field: Smart Growth and New Urbanism are currently playing a big role in green development. The Congress for the New Urbanism website is decent, and the formatting could use a little work. It offers resources that are helpful and insightful as well as a comprehensive Image Bank. Smart Growth Online focuses on cultivating the ideas of Smart Growth. This website has many useful resources and has access to information pertinent to the academic and professional fields. The functionality of the website could be upgraded to make the ease of use better. The Natural Resources Defense Council’s Smart Growth website addresses many issues surrounding irresponsible growth practices. This website also delves into the new idea of Smart Growth and offers reliable information for one to enhance their knowledge in regards to Smart Growth. The Smart Communities Network provides its users with information surrounding sustainability in regards to the community. It is currently under construction and the websites aesthetics and format are listed as some of the changes they are making.

Lastly there is a whole niche of very good websites that fall under a general ‘green’ category. Global Green USA is a very appealing website geared towards the masses in order to raise awareness about the ‘green’ movement. Its content is kind of fluffy but they do address many of the issues. Green Maps gives viewers an opportunity to view a ‘green’ map of cities all over the world. The map information is a little confusing but after a few minutes of navigation the website links the user to green cities worldwide. The Healthy Building Network looks at green building through a different lens: health. This different approach produces some interesting findings, many of which deal with the same issues of sprawl and sustainable development. Geared toward more of a professional audience, this site is not your typical ‘green’ website, although very informational on health issues and insightful on problems with building in today’s world. Mother Nature News is a well developed website that brings together many sources of news and ‘how to’ articles to provide a plethora of information on living a green life style. The Green Home section has incorporated blogs, recent articles and question and answer sessions with green home experts. Planetizen brings together information, articles and ideas from a wide range of planning, design and development issues. The website is offers various forms of information from blogs to mainstream media. This website is geared towards more of a professional or educational audience. Sustainable Industries is an online magazine that covers issues from sustainable energies to green building. The format is nice and is not cluttered by too many advertisements. An upgrade to the aesthetics would benefit this website. The Natural Step is a website geared towards ‘green’ conscious people who want to get involved in helping the environment. Unlike many green websites, the Natural Step has a mainstream aesthetic and offer well articulated solutions to problems we face as a society. Zero Emissions Research Initiative is a network of people interested in finding a solution to many of the worlds problems through new technologies and new ideas. The website is easy to navigate and very insightful to the future technologies that will effect the building world.

The compilation of these websites is a wonderful start in order to continue our ongoing education in the field of 'green' development and sustainable living.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Not A Quick Fix: Greening our Cities is Going to take a Commitment and an Economy

This week I chose to explore the ‘green’ blogosphere and I found two very interesting blogs. These tow blogs, Green Building Law and Green Building Elements both explored issues that continue to be a problem for the Green Movement.

Green Building Law, a blog by Shari Shapiro an associate with Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell and Hippel, LLP out of Philadelphia, posted Land Use Regulation Necessary For Green’ and delved into the reasons that Portland, OR has been deemed the ‘greenest city’ by Sustainlane. She cites Portland’s long time commitment to ‘progressive land use restrictions and urban growth boundaries’ as the primary reason for the cities continuing leadership in the green fields. Just like the concern I raised in last weeks post on Park(ing) Day La, local governments in Portland have used the powers vested in them to direct the city in a more sustainable direction.

The post ‘Green Houses Will Reap Sales in New Market’ posted on Green Building Elements, was written by Dawn Killough the owner of Tree Hugger Consulting in Salem, OR. Dawn speculates that ‘green’ houses will sell better in the new real estate market. She references Paul Cardis and his article ‘Green Design and Construction Lead The Way To Customer Delight.’ Dawn explores Paul’s 4 tips for home builders wanting to tap into the ‘green’ home market. These tips include 1. Going Green; 2. Sharing your green philosophy; 3. Finding the green niche that is right for you; and 4. Avoiding green washing. These tips advise home builders to build green homes due to the increasing number of people being turned onto the green movement and stressed the importance to open and honest about the product you are producing. However a problem I see arising with this ‘new real estate market’ is, given the current state of our economy and the lending markets, many of the ‘light green’ consumers will be shying away from spending any extra cash on their homes, creating a potentially dangerous market for green developers to invest in green markets.

Land Use Regulation Necessary For Green


First off I would like to thank you for increasing the awareness about the environment through your blog. I only recently stumbled upon your blog, ‘Green Building Law,’ and already I have found myself frequenting your blog quite often.

In regards to Portland, OR and its continuing excellence in the realm of sustainable development, I was wondering if you had any thoughts or experience about the role of local governments in cities across America and their responsibility/ability to demand a higher level of sustainable development. The way that I see it, from the developers point of view, is that money talks and in order to keep a development business afloat you have get projects approved and make money. The fact of the matter is that you could have a great ‘green’ development plan, but when you sit down in front of your investors, they’re going to want to maximize profits and mitigate risk.

The problems I see arising in California are that there are many well intentioned developers that talk about building LEED certified buildings, or toss around the ideas of creating a more walk-able, mixed-use communities but when it comes down to the bottom line many developers wont spend the extra cash or are not willing to take a risk on an unproven ‘trendy’ style of community. This is where I see local government bodies, such as the City Planning Commission the Board of Architectural Review, being key players in progressing our society towards more sustainable living.

I have seen first hand how a City Planning Commission can stop a project dead in the water because of potential ‘misfortunes’ that may burden the surrounding community (i.e. not enough parking spaces). Portland, OR seems to have figured it out, most likely through having a well-educated and active community that participates in local government. Unfortunately the majority of the cities across the nation do not follow the model of Portland, and until we figure out a solution, the majority of City Planning Commissions will continue to be saturated with arguments over rooflines and style of architecture.

In the upcoming weeks I hope to continue to explore ideas about creating a sustainable developments through my blog The Green Solution.

Green Houses Will Reap Sales in New Market


I appreciate the fact that you have brought this topic up in your blog as it is a very interesting phenomenon that we will be dealing throughout the upcoming years.

I was once asked the question: What is better for the environment? A man living in a house with no environmental footprint, 100 miles away from his work to which he commutes everyday, or a man living in a house with a huge environmental footprint who walks to work everyday?

Sustainable developments and houses equipped with green, energy saving technologies are wonderful for the environment. Incorporating these technologies into our everyday lives…still a work in progress

I, being on the development side of things, see a whole new frontier to be explored in the years to come; with advancements in green technologies such as solar power along with the excitement surrounding sustainable ‘green’ living, the possibilities are endless. However, I am not 100% convinced the ‘new’ market will be good for the ‘green’ houses. Assuming that this ‘new’ housing market will come of age during or after the current economic crisis, we can expect that lenders are going to require a much higher percentage down when purchasing a house. In most cases many ‘green’ houses are more expensive initially for a potential homeowner to purchase, and even though they receive economic benefits down the line, the amount of cash upfront will probably scare away many potential buyers. Given these assumptions, coupled with advancements in green technologies that will only continue to make ‘going green’ more affordable for the masses, I believe it is not a good time to invest the ‘green’ houses. What I believe will ‘reap’ the benefits of the ‘new’ housing market are the developments that infuse the New Urbanism and S.M.A.R.T. growth ideas to create a more sustainable living environment.

As the United State of America starts to move away from its dependence on foreign oil and towards a more responsible lifestyle, we can expect to see a migration to more densely packed mix-use areas centered around public transportation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Park(ing) Day LA: Tip of the Iceberg

On September 19, 2008 the city of Los Angeles held its 2nd annual Park(ing) Day LA. Park(ing) Day LA is a day where people from all over the City of Los Angeles come together and transform public parking spots throughout the city into ‘pocket-parks.’ Throughout the events such as Park(ing) Day LA, Los Angeles hopes to change its stereotype of being a ‘maze of asphalt, smog, and traffic congestion…[hoping to entice the creation of] additional parks and open space throughout Los Angeles – especially how it relates to smaller, more infill opportunities to
enhance the public realm with the benefit of recreation, landscape, habitat and opportunities to cool the City with increased canopy coverage.’

‘Historically, civic leaders had the mind set that Los Angeles was a city of single-family homes each with their own private backyard and there was no need for public open space, parks and recreation. This oversight, coupled with an increased population growth has left the City of Los Angeles with only 10% of the recommended 8-10 acres of parks and open space for every 1000 residents.’1 Last year the first annual Park(ing) Day LA was held throughout the streets of Los Angeles, and was a reported great success. This year the initial response was positive. Charles Kurzkawski, a third year student at the University of Southern California attended the days events, ‘the pocket-parks were interesting to see and very insightful, I am from Chicago and I never knew about some of the planning issues that the city of Los Angeles is dealing with.’ Park(ing) Day LA made an impact on Charles and many other people who walked the streets on Friday.

Park(ing) Day LA provided architects, and artists a quant platform to display their artwork. It provided companies an opportunity to display their ‘green conscience’ and allowed for politicians to make a public appearance that will resonate with pro-environment voters come election day. All in all, it was a great event day that courted support for a vast variety of problems and new solutions. However as we look back and see the pageantry of the day’s events, it is quite clear that Los Angeles’ efforts to ‘green’ the city have yet to make a significant impact.

The reason many environmental ideas never come to fruition is because there is a lack of funding. Many of the big oil, energy and automobile companies are making insane profits due to the exploitation of the masses. The inability to change trickles down to the local level with developers not being able or willing to risk spending the extra dollar on a relatively unproven sustainable technology or idea. The Los Angelinos, as well as the rest of America’s, unwillingness to seek drastic change has put the City of Los Angeles in a predicament. This past month Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was quoted at in a speech at LA Business Council’s Mayoral Housing summit, “It means putting our money where our mouths are and saying we are willing to pay just a fraction more on purchases to invest in an expanded system of mass transportation linked to housing that regular families can afford.”

With gas prices over $120 a barrel , with an economy in the dumps and the smallest per-capita middle class in America, Los Angeles needs to work with developers in order to force the change throughout the city. This paradigm of change should come from the bottom up and the top down. The bottom up shift can start at the local level bodies such as planning commissions, or city councils can force developers to spend the extra cash in order to create sustainable developments through the approval process of building plans and permits. If everyone gets on the same page, and incentive subsidies are given to developers who use the latest and greatest technologies, change will begin to happen.

If the carrot and the stick method is to be applied, we need reward not just the people but also the companies and developers who do their part to ‘green’ Los Angeles, and also penalize those who have not changed their ways to move toward a sustainable city.

With pressure from the bottom, the top will be forced to change. Once the public is headed in the right direction and the public demands sustainable technologies and practices, companies will start to follow along the same path to sustainability because that is where the money will be. Right now companies and developers have no economic incentive to change their ways and until local level government starts demanding environmental responsibility, change most likely wont happen.

Park(ing) Day LA is a very cute idea about getting the word out about a cause and educating a portion of the public. The government needs to step up and ensure that something gets done in order to make Los Angeles a green and sustainable city.
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