Misguided Streets (2/19/2020) - Our city is considering converting a two-way street at the most visible and central corner of our downtown into a one-way street. There has been a great deal of research on this subject, and this type of street conversion has proven not to be a panacea for redevelopment – quite the opposite. In other cities the impacts of switching to one-way streets have included higher-speed traffic, more collisions, higher crime, lower mobility, and reduced economic growth potential. Many cities, including Biloxi’s Vieux Marche, are converting one-way systems into two-way systems, at great cost to the taxpayer. They anticipate that restoring the two-way street network will promote better traffic flow and improve the conditions for economic development. A few points to consider: 1. Two-way streets are safer. One-way streets often have higher actual (not posted) speeds, leading to more collisions and reducing pedestrian and bicycle safety. Designing walkable thoroughfares – a characteristic that our town is known for – depends on 2-way streets. 2. Two-way streets are superior in vehicular level of service: when drivers engage in inefficient circling on one-way streets they create more traffic. One-way streets confuse visitors, elderly, and rookie drivers. 3. Changing from one-way to two-way streets has been shown to increase growth in three sectors of the economy: arts, entertainment and recreation; accommodation and food service; and professional offices. These are the three major types of uses in the first block of our current Main Street; changing from two-way to one-way may have the converse effect of slowing or reversing growth in these sectors. 4. In one study, property values were shown to have increased when a one-way street was converted to a two-way street, over 5% in value. I don’t think we want to risk reducing property values. In order to create the conditions for slower and safer traffic, invite pedestrians and bicyclists, provide better mobility and increase the economic growth potential, downtown streets need to remain two-way streets.
CLIMATE ACTION (1/6/2020) - There is no more critical threat to our future than climate change. We are already seeing the effects in our daily lives – nuisance flooding, sweltering days, intense storms, out of control wildfires. These will continue to worsen, as will ecosystem collapse, biodiversity losses, and the necessary abandonment of areas that have repetitive and uninsurable risks. Can we design our way out of this? Architects believe that a different future is possible. We are in a position to address the primary issues affecting the built environment: mitigating carbon in the construction and operation of buildings and the underlying design of cities; and adapting to a future with greater climate variability of precipitation, hotter temperatures, more flooding and fires. In order to do this, we need a Climate Action Plan. Buildings are responsible for 39% of greenhouse gas emissions, by far the largest share; a shockingly larger slice of global emissions than transportation or industry. A total of 11% is embodied carbon in construction and 28% in building operations. If we succeed in designing buildings to meet net zero, the associated reductions will fulfill Paris Accord targets. The American Institute of Architects is working toward this goal and Allison Anderson is one of a dozen architects from across the country grappling with how a Climate Action Plan will guide the institute in focusing attention on this all-encompassing problem. The AIA is an army of 94,000 people. If we are successful at leading the profession, transforming the practice of architecture, and educating the next generation of architects, developers, clients (and the general public), we can make headway against climate change. The AIA is moving quickly and we expect to have a draft of the plan by February 2020. For more information on the AIA Climate Action Plan go to: https://www.aiacontracts.org/resources/77541-where-we-stand-climate-change
Choose Your Own Adventure (12/20/2019) - There is a persistent myth that sustainability and resilience overlap in most aspects. While that is true for certain things – a better building envelope improves passive survivability, renewables can provide power after a storm – in many cases, creating a more resilient building is more carbon-intensive than a standard building. At Greenbuild 2019, we shared some of the trade-offs that architects and their clients face in deciding which performance standard to prioritize. Ann Kosmal, our great friend, architect, and risk assessor who works for the GSA, joined Allison and John to determine the potential vulnerabilities affecting a site in downtown Davenport, Iowa. (Initially we thought to select a coastal site but wanted to recognize that inland flooding is much more common and accounts for more presidential disaster declarations than any other hazard category.) We talked through hazards – flooding, tornadoes, seismic risk – and let the audience choose the solutions to incorporate. For example, to address flooding they could select wet floodproofing, dry floodproofing, elevating the building, or elevating the whole site; each of these had implications on the building operations during and after an event, recovery time, and embodied carbon, as well as affecting the building form. A clear understanding of the hazards and vulnerabilities always affects design. A designer may be able to achieve both sustainable and resilient goals with one assembly; the solution the participants chose to manage stormwater was to collect and treat it for reuse as greywater; we combined it with the decision to elevate the building by embedding stormwater chambers in the foundation and allowing that volume to reduce the amount of fill necessary to elevate the first level. As we walked through the decision points differentiating sustainability and resilience, we didn’t lose sight of the relationship to scale, context, or other principles of design excellence. If a building isn’t objectively good, if it doesn’t function properly, isn’t flexible enough to sustain changes over time, or doesn’t appeal to the community, investments in sustainability or resilience will be wasted. Links to the resources we often use as a starting point to assess hazards at U.S. sites: https://toolkit.climate.gov/#climate-explorer https://coast.noaa.gov/slr/ https://asce7hazardtool.online/ https://hazards.atcouncil.org/
Misguided Streets (2/19/2020) - Our city is considering converting a two-way street at the most visible and central corner of our downtown into a one-way street. There has been a great deal of research on this subject, and this type of street conversion has proven not to be a panacea for redevelopment – quite the opposite. In other cities the impacts of switching to one-way streets have included higher-speed traffic, more collisions, higher crime, lower mobility, and reduced economic growth potential. Many cities, including Biloxi’s Vieux Marche, are converting one-way systems into two-way systems, at great cost to the taxpayer. They anticipate that restoring the two-way street network will promote better traffic flow and improve the conditions for economic development. A few points to…
CLIMATE ACTION (1/6/2020) - There is no more critical threat to our future than climate change. We are already seeing the effects in our daily lives – nuisance flooding, sweltering days, intense storms, out of control wildfires. These will continue to worsen, as will ecosystem collapse, biodiversity losses, and the necessary abandonment of areas that have repetitive and uninsurable risks. Can we design our way out of this? Architects believe that a different future is possible. We are in a position to address the primary issues affecting the built environment: mitigating carbon in the construction and operation of buildings and the underlying design of cities; and adapting to a future with greater climate variability of precipitation, hotter temperatures, more flooding and fires. In order…
Choose Your Own Adventure (12/20/2019) - There is a persistent myth that sustainability and resilience overlap in most aspects. While that is true for certain things – a better building envelope improves passive survivability, renewables can provide power after a storm – in many cases, creating a more resilient building is more carbon-intensive than a standard building. At Greenbuild 2019, we shared some of the trade-offs that architects and their clients face in deciding which performance standard to prioritize. Ann Kosmal, our great friend, architect, and risk assessor who works for the GSA, joined Allison and John to determine the potential vulnerabilities affecting a site in downtown Davenport, Iowa. (Initially we thought to select a coastal site but wanted to recognize that inland flooding is much…