The ballpark, to be named ONEOK Field, will be home to the city’s Double-A baseball team, the Tulsa Drillers. During the team’s off-season, the stadium will have a variety of other events. The $60 million project includes construction of a $39.2 million multipurpose stadium and acquisition of surrounding land for mixed-use redevelopment. The stadium construction is scheduled to be complete in time for the Drillers’ 2010 baseball season. The Drillers’ owner, Chuck Lamson, is excited about the exterior design, which he said was the product of a “good, thoughtful process.” Even though the appearance strays from the tradition of all-brick ballparks, “it’s unique with a warm and inviting feel,” he said.
To read more about this project, and to see its design, visit http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20090326_11_A1_Oneoft42768&allcom=1, or http://www.hoksport.com/.
From the outside, Raven Housing Trust’s flats look like new versions of Victorian houses. The only hint that they are something special comes in the photovoltaic panels on the roof and the larger windows to maximise natural light. These homes in South Nutfield, Surrey, are the first social housing properties to meet level five of the six-step code for sustainable homes, which the government uses to rate the credentials of green housing. Green features include a wood-chip-powered biomass boiler, a ventilation and heat-exchange system, low-flow taps and rainwater harvesting. some architects think a new, greener mindset should be accompanied by a new aesthetic. Bill Dunster, who designs housing schemes without fossil fuels like BedZed and RuralZed, says green designs that ape old styles are a form of retro-escapism. “The language of the contemporary vernacular is different,” he says. “We need to recognise that and embrace the reality of 21st-century life and the environmental challenges we are facing. Using traditional materials but a modern aesthetic is the way forward.” In Suffolk, Orwell Housing Association has doffed its hat to traditional building methods while using a rather unusual material – hemp. The highly breathable “Hemcrete” is sandwiched between panels, creating a structure that regulates temperature very well. Architect Cathy Hawley says the way the homes are clustered in small groups reflects the barns and 1950s council houses nearby, while the houses themselves are a pinky brown, a more low-key version of the pink renders used on the county’s thatched homes. But the traditional theme stops there, as the buildings have greater amounts of glazing to the south to make use of natural heat and light from the sun. “They don’t look like new-old houses,” she says. “But I don’t think we have made a complete break with the past.” In Milton Keynes, architects have designed homes that can be styled to suit any neighbourhood. The homes, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners for a government competition to build a home for £60,000, are made of panels using old phone books as insulation with breathable glues. The Milton Keynes homes look fairly contemporary but a version of the design, built as a show house elsewhere by developer Wimpey, was given a brick and block skin for a traditional appearance. “We don’t believe there should be a fixed aesthetic,” says architect Ivan Harbour. “You should have a good system that allows buildings to be well built and insulated and perform well.” As the pressure mounts to make our new homes greener, it is not yet clear whether the modern will win out over the traditional. But if today’s homes are anything to go by, the green homes of the future may well come in all shapes and styles.
Visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/mar/25/eco-homes-architecture, to read more.
Buildings that would be unfeasible just about anywhere else seem to regularly spring from the ground in Dubai. The next eye-popping construction to grace the skyline could be a seawater vertical farm that uses seawater to cool and humidify greenhouses and to convert sufficient humidity back in to fresh water to irrigate the crops.
At a time when the world’s population continues to grow, arable land is under threat from deforestation, poor management and global warming. All these factors point to vertical farming being an idea whose time may finally have arrived – and what better place to put it to the test than Dubai. That’s the thinking of Italian architectural firm Studiomobile, who have been working on housing and infrastructure projects in the United Arab Emirates where a lack of fresh water and a high soil value make such a concept feasible.
The vertical farm features a soaring spire with pod-like ‘sky-gardens’ branching off to give it an organic feel in keeping with designers aims to create a clean, green, sustainable source of food for a more self-sufficient Dubai. The concept makes use of the Seawater Greenhouse process, which uses seawater to cool and humidify the air that ventilates the greenhouse and sunlight to distill fresh water from seawater to enable the year round cultivation of high value crops that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to grow in hot, arid regions such as Dubai. This is in stark contrast to costly and energy intensive desalination plants that rely on boiling and pumping to produce fresh water.
To read more about how this farm would work and to see some photos, visit http://www.gizmag.com/dubai-seawater-vertical-tower/11309/.
Van Ingen and Haynes are New York architects and preservation specialists who wanted to do something to help the recovery in New Orleans. In January last year, they attended a National Trust for Historic Preservation meeting in New Orleans where the Trust instituted a major effort to support the city’s rebuilding by helping low-income homeowners restore their homes. Inspired, Van Ingen and Haynes bought a Katrina-damaged 1000 square foot shotgun house in Holy Cross, the historic district section of the Lower 9th Ward. They are restoring this typical shotgun themselves with scores of volunteers, who are going to New Orleans at their own expense from the Northeast. When finished, they will resell this classic 1915 historic house to a local low-income resident only at their cost, no profit.
Five months after purchase and in the middle of restoration work, the city informed them that their house is scheduled to be expropriated for demolition by the city as a blighted property. This despite the fact that official records show the house was sold. Official records also show that Van Ingen and Haynes have all their building permits. And official records show that the Historic Districts Commission approved their plans. The title search gave no indication of this status either. Nowhere in the process did an alert come through to this pre-demolition status. A staff member of the New Orleans Recovery Authority (NORA) called to inform them of the condemnation proceeding. He saw the change in ownership and knew Van Ingen’s and Haynes’ lawyer. He made a courtesy call.
The momentum of bureaucracies, not an unfamiliar condition in every city, is often unstoppable. But, could it be that the city gets only demolition money from FEMA, not for repairs, and also uses CDBG money to tear down but not rebuild houses? The state, too, pays for demolition only. HUD provides Road Home money for the city to pay contractors and non-profit organizations to repair affordable housing units. Recently it was revealed that the city has failed to even spend the millions — somewhere between $11 and $35 million — given it by HUD, although non-profit organizations have done work and not yet been reimbursed. There has been no money for repairs except for small select programs of private and philanthropic groups. On all levels of government demolition is easier to come by than renovation. The only repair money is the federal Road Home Program and a very small state historic preservation grant program with onerous strings attached. One eligible grantee elevated his house and was disqualified. Worse, some of the grant money went to homes that are now scheduled to be demolished for the tragically-sited new Charity hospital. The term Catch 22 was invented for post-Katrina New Orleans.
Evidence is observable in cities across the country, however, that urban regeneration only comes with the reclamation and restoration of old neighborhoods, not through demolition and landbanking.
To read more about the demolition going on in New Orleans, visit http://www.planetizen.com/node/37940.
The week before last, twenty-five hundred delegates, from more than seventy countries, met in Copenhagen to prepare for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will take place there in December and will produce a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1992 and will expire in 2012. The speakers in Copenhagen were united by a sense of urgency—and for good reason, given the poor record of most participating countries in meeting their Kyoto targets for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.
So far, the most effective way for a Kyoto signatory to cut its carbon output has been to suffer a well-timed industrial implosion, as Russia did after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991. The Kyoto benchmark year is 1990, when the smokestacks of the Soviet military-industrial complex were still blackening the skies, so when Vladimir Putin ratified the protocol, in 2004, Russia was already certain to meet its goal for 2012. The countries with the best emissions-reduction records—Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic—were all parts of the Soviet empire and therefore look good for the same reason.
The United States didn’t ratify the Kyoto Protocol, but Canada did, and its experience is suggestive because its economy and per-capita oil consumption are similar to ours. Its Kyoto target is a six-per-cent reduction from 1990 levels. By 2006, however, despite the expenditure of billions of dollars on climate initiatives, its greenhouse-gas output had increased to a hundred and twenty-two per cent of the goal, and the environment minister described the Kyoto target as “impossible.”
The explanation for Canada’s difficulties isn’t complicated: the world’s principal source of man-made greenhouse gases has always been prosperity. The recession makes that relationship easy to see: shuttered factories don’t spew carbon dioxide; the unemployed drive fewer miles and turn down their furnaces, air-conditioners, and swimming-pool heaters; struggling corporations and families cut back on air travel; even affluent people buy less throwaway junk. Gasoline consumption in the United States fell almost six per cent in 2008. That was the result not of a sudden greening of the American consciousness but of the rapid rise in the price of oil during the first half of the year, followed by the full efflorescence of the current economic mess.
To read more on this story, visit http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2009/03/30/090330taco_talk_owen.
Japanese architect Jo Nagasaka and the Schemata Architecture Office have come up with a home design that rethinks just how much space one person needs: 30 square feet. The Paco home has a hammock to sleep on, a Japanese-style recessed desk, and a sink, toilet and shower all in a crate that’s a 3-meter-cube. It’s not intended to replace where you live now, but rather to supplement it.
To see pictures of this design, visit http://dvice.com/archives/2009/03/japanese_archit.php, or http://www.sschemata.com/works/archives/01/960042_paco/.
As part of an agreement with the city, and with at least $500,000 from the state and federal governments, the Habitat for Humanity volunteers and paid workers plan to demolish two vacant, dilapidated houses here a week, every week, over the next two years. As for creating homes, they will build or refurbish eight houses this year. The shift in the organization’s focus is a sign of the times in Saginaw, a shrinking city northwest of Detroit where at least 800 houses sit empty, and offers a glimpse of what increasingly empty neighborhoods in many cities may soon face as foreclosures continue.
In recent years, about 100 of the organization’s affiliates around the country have done the same, removing recyclable items, like cabinets, floorboards, plaster and light fixtures, from condemned houses and, in a few cities, even razing some structures. In Saginaw, city leaders acknowledge that some people have been skeptical, or at least puzzled, by the notion that Habitat for Humanity would tear down houses. But these leaders contend that the move makes sense: workers will remove (and resell) reusable housing material rather than send it to landfills, some homeless or unemployed people will be paid to work on the program, and money earned through the demolitions will go toward the organization’s longtime goal of getting poor families into new or rehabbed homes. Inside Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, where the group sells discounted items from demolitions, the floor is lined with sink basins, cabinets, doors, bathtubs, counters and wood. Leaders here hope that the program will ultimately pay for itself, that the profits from selling recycled items will one day cover the cost of taking down homes.
To read more, or to get involved, visit http://www.habitat.org/.
Among Amsterdam’s 17th century town houses and meandering canals, big changes are afoot. On Utrechtsestraat, a major shopping avenue in the center of the Dutch capital, street trash soon will be collected by nonpolluting electric trucks, while the electronic displays in local bus stops will be powered by small solar panels. IBM and Cisco are also helping by creating an energy-saving system aimed for cutting residential electricity costs, which will be installed in 500 homes. An additional 728 homes will have access to financing from Dutch banks ING and Rabobank to buy everything from energy-saving light bulbs to ultra-efficient roof insulation.
These projects, all of which should be getting under way over the next few months, come as a result of governments worldwide setting aside billions of dollars to create so-called “smart cities,” or towns that mix renewable projects, next-generation energy efficiency, and government support to cut overall carbon dioxide footprints.
Although a lot of these projects are being contemplated, Amsterdam is aiming to complete its first round investments by 2012.
To read more about the Smart Grid Technology to be used in such projects, visit http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/mar2009/gb20090313_662708.htm.
The International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) recently conducted an economic impact survey in an effort to determine how the current economic downturn is affecting our members and their businesses. The following is a summary of the survey results. Feedback from the survey resulted in a mixed outlook with as many feeling cautiously optimistic as those who are experiencing difficulty or who are pessimistic. “Significantly, it’s not all doom and gloom,” commented IALD Executive Vice President Marsha Turner. “There is a lot of trepidation – understandably – but there is definite optimism that comes through in the feedback.”
The majority of respondents included Professional IALD members (40%) and Associate IALD members (40%); Fellow, Practicing Affiliate, Commercial Affiliate, Educator, Student members, and non-members made up the remainder of the respondents.
The majority of respondents were based in North America (88%), with the remainder based in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. More than half of all respondents (62%) were sole owners or had an ownership interest in their firm.
When asked how their businesses have been impacted by the current economic downturn/world financial crisis, three-fourths of all respondents said they are experiencing either a strong negative or slight negative impact. Interestingly, 11% of respondents reported a positive impact and 14% reported no change.
Of those with a negative impact, more than half (53%) have experienced a tightening of expenses or spending freeze due to the economic climate, and 28% have experienced hiring freezes. On a positive note, 29% have experienced no cutbacks.
Only 15% of respondents experienced layoffs at their businesses, while 85% reported none. Of those who have had layoffs, positions included administrative positions, and a few junior-level lighting designers.
Finding new projects (46%), collecting payments owed (37%) and keeping current projects (25%) have been the greatest challenges for businesses during this economic recession.
Expectations for the Future
When asked about expected growth (i.e. more projects, staff increases, etc.) in the first and second quarters of 2009, almost an equal number of respondents said they expect no growth, a slight/strong decline, or a slight/strong growth.
In spite of the current atmosphere, it is interesting to note that when asked about the coming year, half of all respondents were either strongly optimistic (7%) or slightly optimistic (43%), and a little less than half were either slightly pessimistic (31%) or strongly pessimistic (15%). More than half of all respondents believe this economic recession will last 12 or more months.
For additional comments on this matter, visit http://www.iald.org/media/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=448&.
The saga of the proposed Apple building and storefront on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown shows just how difficult it can be to agree about what fits in a historic district. After a year and a half of proposals and meetings, the Old Georgetown Board finally approved a design last week, according to an article by Post reporter Paul Schwartzman. This was the fifth scheme to be reviewed since September 2007. The board turned down the first four. The board objected to the facade and window patterns of Apple’s initial concepts. They especially opposed Apple’s signature storefront design: a continuous plane of glass uninterrupted by mullions, those vertical and horizontal framing members typically supporting rectangular glass panels. On the fifth try, Apple added mullions and a recessed central bay “echoing the bay windows and entrances that dominate Georgetown.” The Post reported that after getting the concept approved, Backus said, “Creating a design in any historic district poses inevitable challenges — historic districts have characteristics that need to be respected — and it’s a matter of working with a board to determine what’s appropriate.” The Apple story illustrates challenges likely to increase here and elsewhere. In coming decades, with more buildings and neighborhoods deemed historic, the number of proposals to demolish, modify or rebuild historic properties will increase substantially. To read more about Apple’s design conflict, visit http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/13/AR2009031304267.html?sub=AR.