Solar Services...

The recent past is full of paradigms that are obsolete, including the idea that residential photovoltaic solar arrays are extremely expensive systems to purchase install, and maintain. Gone are the days when the photovoltaic array had a lower return on investment than a thermal hot water system. The concept of a “payback period”? That is so 2005. Welcome to the current paradigm: Solar Services. Putting solar PV panels on your roof has never been easier or more affordable.

Sustainable Sidebar: Alternative Wall Systems...

From alternative structural material to hanging gardens, there are lots of different ways to go green with your walls. There are many ways to make sustainable materials work to your advantage, as this project by students at the Rural Studio illustrates. They used tires filled with soil, then covered them in stucco to create the base of this beautiful chapel in Sawyerville, Alabama.

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Thinking Beyond LEED at SXSW Eco...

Blair McCary addresses the crowd at SXSW Eco. Bill Reed and Paula Vaughan are seated.

This post was originally published at Dwell.com and has been reprinted with permission.

By Addie Broyles

Bill Reed helped develop the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, but at a panel during the South by Southwest Eco conference, he explains why it’s time to move on.

“LEED is a great starting point. It’s the reason we’re able to be in this room and have a common language,” he says. “But it was never meant to be used as a measuring stick.” Reed, along with Atlanta-based architect Paula Vaughan and Vancouver engineer Blair McCarry, both of Perkins + Will, argue for a more holistic approach to “sustainable design” in a panel called “Beyond LEED: Living Buildings and the 2030 Challenge” at SXSW Eco, an offshoot of the sprawling Austin festival that takes place every March. (more…)

Breathing Life into City Streets...

What could be more green, (and more fun) than a lively city street that makes walking and biking more enjoyable than driving?

Throughout San Francisco, locals and visitors are enjoying a new urban intervention: the parking-space-sized public lounge spaces or ‘parklet’.  The program is part of San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program that was launched in 2009 and it’s been a huge success.

On Valencia between 14th and 15th outside Four Barrel, a parklet with bike storage by Boor Bridges Architecture.
Click here to check out a map of all parklets in SF.

City residents began looking for ways to reclaim pavement as car-free public space and in 2005, thanks to the designers at Rebar, the movement got its first moment of success with Park(ing) Day.  Since then the movement has spread beyond San Francisco to cities across the globe.  (Did you know that Park(ing) Day is now an international event with over 150 cities participating? Nice job San Francisco!)

Another conceptual project for the Bay Area proposes repurposing the 2.2 miles of highway of the East Span Bay Bridge in anticipation of the opening of the new bridge in 2013.  Fletcher Studio proposes the radical retrofit of the bridge to harvest water, wind and sun to cool a data server farm on the lower deck and to water and grow a medicinal marijuana farm on the upper deck.  The two high grossing, non-public uses would generate enough income to pay off the retrofit expense within one year and then continue to generate income for public use throughout the Bay Area.

From miles long to the size of a bench; both temporary and permanent, other cities are finding their own way to reclaim their streets.  Here are a few of our favorites:

The Highline Project, New York, New York by Diller Scofidio + Renfro with James Corner’s Field Operations allows pedestrians to walk 1.45 miles without stopping for a single car.

Crater Lake by 24° Studio in Kobe, Japan was developed to integrate leisure and play space into the cityscape.

The ‘Minhocão’ (giant worm) highway in Sao Paulo is closed to traffic on Sundays, becoming a pedestrian-only recreational space. – Bridgett

The New Edible Landscape...

While the edible garden may seem rather unconventional today, 65 years ago, when the nation was at war, edible landscapes were the norm. In a huge effort, the government encouraged individuals to plant Victory Gardens in their own yards or in community settings, to help fill in gaps in the food supply. It was seen as patriotic to provide food for oneself or for one’s neighbors. (more…)