Subject: Sustainability

  • Plans for Housing in the Age of Climate Change Should Include This Tool

    As extreme weather patterns in our country become less of an anomaly, the plight of people living in storm-prone places is of increasing concern. Emotional ties to place and family history aside, many people who survive storms and must clean…

  • Solar Installation Gives New Power To A Community

    Located in the southeast quadrant of Washington, D.C., Parkchester Apartments was not unlike some other affordable housing developments in the city. Property owners had come and gone without making adequate investments in the nine-building complex, and residents had all but…

  • Staying Current and Healthy with Efficient Building Practices

    Holistic, green building certifications are an increasingly integral part of affordable housing development. These certifications are often pursued by developers due to incentives in competitive funding allocations, requirements in formula-based funding, or internal commitments from mission-driven organizations. For example, Enterprise…

  • Transforming Communities Through Residential Energy Efficiency

    Many of us have been shocked by a particularly high utility bill following a bitterly cold month or a series of brutally hot days. Imagine, however, that your energy costs consistently totaled as much as half of your total monthly…

  • When Will Attitudes Change Toward Solar?

    It was a bright, sunny day in Chicago on September 24. Celebrants were singing, “You Are My Sunshine,” as the solar panels had already saved $64 since the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) in the US had started them up…

  • {caption}

    Ditch Smart Growth; Try Oxygen-Based Development

    At the Farm Pond Circle Reforestation Community in South Lansing, N.Y., a small community outside of the small city of Ithaca, N.Y., we believe that Mother Nature is pretty upset. As the saying goes, “When Mama ain’t happy, nobody happy.”…

  • {caption}

    Japan’s Unintentional Social Experiment

    Having just come back from two weeks in Japan, my brain is still overflowing with sensations and images from that fascinating, exciting, and intermittently mystifying country. (I won’t subject Rooflines readers to a travelogue, even though I have lots of…

  • Stay Safe and Take Care of Each Other

    Shelterforce hopes that all of our colleagues and friends in Hurricane Sandy's path are staying safe. We know that given your work, you are probably concerned not only for yourselves and friends and family, but also the people and neighborhoods…

  • {caption}

    Soil for the Grassroots

    There has been a steady rising interest in urban agriculture over the past several years—from urban farms to community gardens to backyard chickens. Some of this is coming from concern about food deserts and some from the need to do…

  • {caption}

    Does a Sustainable Community Need a Good Drinking Establishment?

    My friend Eliot Allen first introduced me to the concept of neighborhood completeness:  that the quality of a place is defined in part by how many different functions it has in close proximity to homes and to each other.  Eliot…

  • Bostic on Green Finance: Investing in Sustainable Outcomes

    The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has posted a brief, informative interview with Raphael Bostic, HUD Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research, on energy-efficient housing and the role of public and private sector finance. The interview stems from Bostic’s…

  • {caption}

    Are Big-Box Stores a Good Measure of Equity?

    It’s been cause for celebration here in the DC region, and rightfully so, that suburban Prince George’s County, Maryland, has a new, high-end Wegmans supermarket. It opened last weekend. “PG County,” as we locals call it, has long been a…

  • {caption}

    Tassafaronga Village: Affordable Green, Gold and Platinum in East Oakland

    Oakland, California’s Tassafaronga Village is a new mixed-income, green neighborhood development that is bringing a high degree of environmental excellence to a traditionally underserved portion of the city’s Elmhurst district. A federally assisted HOPE VI development built by the Oakland…

  • {caption}

    Had Enough of the Spill? Stop Sprawl and Support Revitalization

    Enraged at the spill in the Gulf and the American appetite for oil that ultimately caused it? Stop land development on farmland, forests and other fringe locations and direct future development to close-in opportunities. A massive new study, years in…

  • {caption}

    Using Urban Density to Support City Parks (and Vice Versa)

    To some, today’s title will sound a little counterintuitive. Using residential and commercial density to revitalize downtowns or bring people closer to rail transit stops makes sense. But aren’t parks and trails supposed to be bucolic, the antithesis of urbanity? Not necessarily. Writing in the City Parks Blog, Ben Welle notes that parks and people need each other, and we need to bring them together: “There is a symbiotic relationship between parks and population density. For those living in compact housing around a parkís borders, there is respite, a place to recreate, a back yard where little private outdoor space exists and an amenity that increases property values. For the park, thereís the “eyes” that make it safer, more property taxes to keep it maintained, nearby users to keep it vibrant and able to maximize its value as a public amenity.” Ben is assistant director of the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence, so he knows a thing or two about what makes parks work best. In his post, Ben describes an initiative in Minneapolis that would upzone areas near a popular rail-trail as a revitalization strategy, which is of course part of the game plan in Indianapolis and Atlanta as well. Ben made a similar point in a blog post from early last year, drawing from an article by Brad Broberg in the National Association of Realtors’ On Common Ground: “Balancing the yin of green space against the yang of greater density is a cornerstone of smart growth. “Smart growth encourages compact development as an antidote to sprawl. Preserving green space is part and parcel to that approach. The green space makes the density more palatable and the density makes the green space more desirable.” While many of us — including myself — love remote wilderness and natural areas, few of us want our city parks to be empty. When Nos Quedamos was allowed to plan Melrose Commons in the South Bronx, for example, one of their most important changes from the unpopular original city plan was to eliminate a large centrally located park area and, instead, redistribute the green space in smaller parcels around the neighborhood, precisely so there would not be vast areas without frequent activity. Props to Ben for bringing the topic back up. It’s an important one. _Originally posted on my NRDC blog, where I write (almost) daily. For daily posts, go here. Photo by jah_maya, creative commons license_ more

  • {caption}

    Greening Indyís Redevelopment District

    About two miles from downtown Indianapolis is the city’s designated smart growth revitalization district, a distressed area with many vacant properties, including a largely abandoned industrial corridor along a rail line, but also good bones for renewal including a resilient population, a good street grid, some stable residential blocks, and prospects for a new, state-of-the-art transit line in the old rail corridor. I spent a few days there last fall as part of an AIA advisory team. Iíve been running a series on the neighborhood in my NRDC blog, summarizing what we saw and heard while there. In my most recent post, I offer some thoughts on what strategies might give redevelopment there the best chance of success as a smart, green model project. Achieving a path of sustainability in the district will be a challenge, and not just because of issues within the neighborhood. For example, Indianapolis as a whole is extraordinarily automobile-dependent: Of the nationís 60 largest cities, it ranks 6th in the portion of its commuters who drive alone to work. In addition, disinvestment is a well-established pattern in Indiana: the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy found that an astonishing 94 percent of development in the state has been taking place on greenfields, outside of existing areas. (By comparison, in Oregon the portion is 52 percent; in Colorado, 62 percent.) more

  • {caption}

    Habitat Retrofits Oakland Brownfield for LEED-ND Pilot

    Habitat for Humanity’s East Bay affiliate is retrofitting a brownfield into 54 affordable homes on two acres of land in Oakland, Calif. With excellent location, walkable density, great design, and green features, the Edes Avenue project is participating in the…

  • {caption}

    Enviros Lacking In Indianapolis Redevelopment Push

    Last week I had the honor of being one of seven smart growth types recruited by the American Institute of Architects to work with the city of Indianapolis and community residents on the model revitalization of a distressed urban neighborhood.…

  • Sometimes Vacant Land is Just Fine

    I’ve been thinking a bit recently about the possibilities in vacant or underused property in the heart of the city. Kaid Benfield brought this topic up in his recent mention on Rooflines of how a Boston CDC showed movies on a vacant lot. I’ve been talking with colleagues in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood about how to make creative use of a parking lot when itís not full of cars. Then I read a story in the New Yorker about ambitious plans to re-make Governors Island, a huge piece of empty real estate in New York Harbor. What’s interesting in each case is the tension between seeing vacant land as something that ought to be open to the public, free of charge, and the uncomfortable reality that someone has to pay for that. There are also creative types trying to envision alternative futures for empty lots in places like Cleveland or Detroit, where such weed-strewn properties abound. Often the proposed solutions involve farming, bike paths or some other sort of green space. Others organize artsy projects on these sites, not just movies but also disco parties and what not, with the aim of instilling vibrancy and giving people a sense of what could be. In Midwestern, shrinking cities perhaps these visions really will come to pass. But in expensive coastal cities, one wonders if the real estate barons must invariably eventually gain control. Vacant property is just waiting for the right development deal to be made. more

  • {caption}

    The Smarter Cities Project Wants Your Input on Sustainability Criteria

    As some of you may know, Smarter Cities is an initiative that ranks US cities on a number of key sustainability criteria as well as on overall sustainability. The system has been developed, managed and staffed independently of NRDC, but…

  • Next »