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Links for June 18th through June 21st

by Mel Starrs on June 22, 2010

in News

These are my links for June 18th through June 21st:

  • HAT Projects blog – Hana adds more to Charles' PQQ rant: "The big firms have clients – and particularly the weak public sector ones, who are bound by procurement guidelines – over the proverbial barrel. Not only is it then incredibly hard to promote less mainstream talent, but the big firms can then churn out standardised product that often doesn't really meet the brief, and their 'competitive' fees get boosted by the myriad services that weren't included in the original contract but that are actually essential, and chargeable by the hour. There is rarely an incentive for the consultancy to meet deadlines or budgets. That's not to say there aren't some good large firms, or good individuals within large firms, but the assumption that the service you get from a large firm is less risky than that you might get from a small one, is illogical."
  • Net Benefits of Biomass Power Under Scrutiny – NYTimes.com – "Biomass proponents say it is a simple and proved renewable technology based on natural cycles. They acknowledge that burning wood and other organic matter releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere just as coal does, but point out that trees and plants also absorb the gas. If done carefully, and without overharvesting, they say, the damage to the climate can be offset. But opponents say achieving that sort of balance is almost impossible, and carbon-absorbing forests will ultimately be destroyed to feed a voracious biomass industry fueled inappropriately by clean-energy subsidies. They also argue that, like any incinerating operation, biomass plants generate all sorts of other pollution, including particulate matter. State and federal regulators are now puzzling over these arguments."
  • The Original Green By Steve Mouzon: A Must-Read If You Care About Sustainable Design : TreeHugger – "In the current world of green and sustainable design, so much weight is put on technology; the adding of solar power, high tech glass, qualifying for LEED. It is all about ADDING things. The lesson one learns from Mouzon, and from many heritage buildings, walkable communities and dense cities, is how well one can do with less, by taking stuff away, without any diminishment of comfort. Everyone is complaining lately about how much LEED costs and how poorly LEED buildings are performing, but they are complex things that have new and fancy equipment. But Mouzon points out old technologies are easy to maintain and adjust."
  • Architect Frank Gehry talks LEED and the future of green building | Need to Know | PBS – More from Gehry on LEED. The role of government versus voluntary is discussed, but to no satisfactory conclusion. I'm sure he's wishing he never said anything to begin with. A throw away comment has caused a storm of attention on something he's obviously not that passionate one way or the other about.
  • Unlocking the Potential of Empty Homes: Building Houses on Old Kent Road – "For years we’ve been told not to worry about the thousands of vacant flats and houses that are in regeneration schemes. “They’re all the process of development,” we were told. But they’re not now. The process and the development have both stopped. Somehow we have to find a way to turn these places back into homes."
  • Fantastic Journal: A Short Post About Risk – "Vast amounts of time and effort go into answering these questions but it's a fruitless and largely pointless process. The PPQ limits the likelihood of any form of innovation as it is explicitly designed to stop practices getting jobs in areas where they aren't already working. They also disempower clients, removing from them any chance to exercise judgement or knowledge in selecting an architect. They denude any form of expertise and create a vast raft of bureaucracy and management bullsh*t in its place."
  • A special report on water: For want of a drink | The Economist – Good high level article on global water supplies: "The problems caused by inexact terminology do not end here. Concepts like efficiency, productivity and saving attract woolly thinking. Chris Perry, an irrigation economist widely considered the high priest of water accounting, points out that “efficient” domestic systems involve virtually no escape of water through evaporation or irrecoverable seepage. “Efficient” irrigation, though, is often used to describe systems that result in 85% of the water disappearing in vapour. Similarly, water is not saved by merely using less of it for a purpose such as washing or irrigation; it is saved only if less is rendered irrecoverable."
  • SOLUTIONS – Sustainability of Land Use and Transport in Outer Neighbourhoods – "The options represent generic Urban Patterns combined with appropriate transport policies. Currently outer-city areas (which includes suburbs, urban fringes, out-of-town developments and satellite settlements) have generally received less attention in spatial planning and urban design research. However, these areas are where most people live and where most new development is taking place. A unique feature of SOLUTIONS research is that it aims to understand the extent to which the sustainability of the design of cities at the Strategic Design scale and the Local Design (neighbourhood) scale are interdependent. This is achieved by carrying out the research within the frame work of strategic land use – transport computer models, and the development of equivalent 'Microsimulation' models at the local scale."
  • ULI – Land Use and Driving – "Land Use and Driving summarizes the land use and climate change conclusions of three recent studies, Moving Cooler, Growing Cooler (both published by ULI) and Driving and the Built Environment, published by the Transportation Research Board at the National Academy of Sciences. On a national basis, the three studies show reductions in VMT and energy consumption of between 8 and 18 percent when compact development makes up 60 percent or more of all future development between now and 2050."