Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Living With Water" Design Competition Launch at ABX in Boston

Boston's Mayor Walsh kicked off a new design competition today at ABX - the Boston Society of Architects' (BSA) annual convention at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. 

"Boston Living with Water" will draw on the collective talent of architects and planners globally to explore how rising sea level can be an opportunity rather than a threat to Boston. Three types of scenarios are in the contest: mid-size multifamily building on the waterfront, a vacant lot area in the Seaport, and Morrissey Boulevard on the Dorchester waterfront which already floods regularly. 

More info on the contest is here.

Hundreds of people attended to hear the announcement, which also included remarks by Brian Swett, Chief of Environment for the City, describing a leadership summit on climate resilience to be hosted at UMass Boston in the spring.

The Mayor was joined City Manager Rossi of Cambridge, Manager Ash of Chelsea and Marc Draisen, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission to announce a new regional effort to help prepare Boston and the metropolitan area for the impacts of climate change. 

Also in attendance (below) were the leaders of the BSA Eric Wilson (Executive Director) and Emily Grandstaff-Rice (current President of the BSA) among other state and local officials.

Chapter all-stars included Phoebe Beierle (Boston Public Schools), John Dalzell (Boston Redevelopment Authority), [Grey Lee], and Brian Swett (City of Boston).

Sunday, October 26, 2014

From Devastation to Restoration - a tour of Mississippi's "Katrina Coast"

As Greenbuild draws to a close, the local Louisiana Chapter of USGBC hosted a few tours of their city and state so attendees could see more of the situation of green buildings in the area. Folks could check out the Make It Right projects in the Lower Ninth Ward, green buildings at Tulane, the Broadmoor neighborhood and other locations throughout New Orleans.

The Mississippi Chapter provided a big tour out into their gulf coast areas affected by Katrina and other weather events. I joined this tour to see a school, a fire house, a community center and some homes that have been re-built to FEMA 361 standards (seriously heavy duty) and are helping the communities recover and become more resilient.

We got on the bus at 8am on Saturday to head east. First we took a little tour of the Pearl River to see some of the local fishing communities. And some alligators.

 Then into Hancock County, Mississippi to see the new LEED-certified elementary school.

 The kids are very happy to be in a LEED building, and learning about sustainability every day.

 The cafeteria was built to be an emergency shelter in the event of a major hurricane or tornado situation. The glass is half an inch thick and the roof can withstand a direct hit from an oil barrel full of concrete.

We went on to see the new firehouse at Bay St. Louis on the coast. This was also built to FEMA 361 standards for rigor in the event of a major storm - wind and/or flooding event. We did not get to try the firepole.

The apparatus bays (the garage) and the facility have features to improve the safety of the first responders and create a secure location to manage disaster intervention communications. One interesting note was that about half the firefighters have the last name "Farve..." yes, we are near a famous quarterback's hometown and these are all his relatives.

Here I am next to Shannon Stage, my friend and colleague who is the executive director for the Lousiana Chapter of the USGBC.

The last stop of the day was also in Bay St. Louis where a drainage ditch (similar to below) near the old coastal train tracks (which are actually still in use) has been re-designed into a community asset - a beautiful pond.

Nowadays, the area has become a major local attraction - there are ducks & geese and plenty of benches to observe. It was a great installation. Notice the cypress trees right there in the water! 

It was a great day and tour of some wonderful and hopeful places. I hope I can visit again sometime, and maybe spend some time on the beautiful Gulf Coast Beaches we saw!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Greenbuild: Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Summit

Today at Greenbuild, USGBC hosted the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Summit for 2014. Above is Anisa Baldwin Metzger, the first Green Schools Fellow from the USGBC in New Orleans, who provided guidance to the Recovery School District to implement green schools in the rebuilding effort after Katrina. She provided an introduction to the dire situation in New Orleans, which while being dramatic, is not unheard of in our country. She showed how green schools show kids and communities that they matter, that they are important and have the potential to do great things.

The summit was an amazing gathering of incredible speakers and advocates for sustainability for the places that matter - our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our schools and where we recreate & socialize. Kimberly Lewis, USGBC SVP for Community Advancement, outlined the day and gave us a pep talk on how the Chapters can connect on this important dimension of our work - enabling greater sustainability in our communities.

The best speaker from my perspective was Dr. Antwi Akom of I-SEEED who has created the Streetwize app to help people crowdsource data about the places where the live and frequent. It is like a yelp for neighborhood features. His presentation was on the power of Place - how place determines a lot of your chances in life, and how community-driven tech powers smart cities of the future.

One of his major points is that he can tell, due to statistics, what's going to happen to a kid born and living in his neighborhood in Oakland, California. The zip code of a young person is the defining indicator of health, wealth and success in life - if you're from certain place, you have certain chances in life - likewise for people from privileged places. 

Not just chances for social mobility, but also for receiving the benefit of government services. And not just typical things like policing and fire protection, but also investment in civic infrastructure for learning, for parks & recreation, and for environmental health. Essentially, if you are in certain zip codes, you are missing out. This is all related to race and ethnicity, and thus, we are living in an eco-apartheid situation.

He described the cumulative causation of climate injustice and the way the design community creates for the 1% - but we need to create and design our communities for the 100%! Climate destabilization is one crisis - but the other crisis is of the human imagination, public participation, diversity of democratization and the collapse of our civic infrastructure!

He says it best here at a Greenbuild video.

We also heard from LaToya Cantrell, New Orleans City Council (below), who was one of the community leaders of the neighborhood Broadmoor which was one of the sections of the City hardest hit by Katrina. In 2006, months after the disaster, New Orleans planners developed a map of the city to indicate where some neighborhoods would not "come back" - and would be reborn as urban parks. Well, the people of Broadmoor didn't quite jibe with that and built a program of outreach and engagement to repopulate, repurpose, and rebuild their community with an "educational axis" and improved amenities. They are still working hard to recover but their library and school are important community assets and they are an example of community organizing at its best. LaToya was truly inspirational!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Boston Latin School Highlights Air Pollution for Green Apple Day of Service

Last year, four students and a teacher attended the Beijing International Science Competition simply for observing purposes.  This year we would like to submit a science project and attend once again. Our goal is to create a biodegradable mask that will support better health for Chinese citizens. We want to create awareness concerning natural gas power plants and their contribution to air pollution.

Boston Latin School's Green Apple Day of Service kicked off by bringing air pollution awareness to our school community. 40 students and teachers from all grade levels participated by decorating biodegradable cotton bandanas that will be worn during school to promote the growing degradation of air quality in China. While they were decorating the bandanas, we told them about our project creating biodegradable air pollution masks with seeds in them. They were very impressed.

The cotton material was originally in a large sheet, which was cut into 15 squares. We had a variety of scissors for people to use, with curves and zigzag shapes on the blade. Everybody came in right after school, to Mr. Smiths room. They sat down or stood around the edge of the classroom as we explained what we were all about. Once they started decorating the bandanas, we went around and decorated with them. The decorated bandanas turned out very nicely, with designs ranging from drawings of smiley faces to drawings of nature and green apples. The turnout was solid, and people were enthusiastic, which we were very pleased with!
Overall, it was a great experience being able to teach these people about climate change awareness, specifically air pollution, that they may not have known much about otherwise. It was fun being able to meet new people. At the end of the day, we can all say that given the opportunity, we would definitely do something like this again next year!

BLS Students show off their bandanas