Urban Living

Tiny House Movement Benefits Low Income Families

The Tiny House movement seeks to teach people how to live comfortably in less space. Instead of 10,000 square foot mansions, Tiny Houses are usually between 100 and 400 square feet. The objective is not only to teach people how to live a more sustainable lifestyle but also allow them to spend far less of their monthly income of shelter costs. Groups in Madison, Wisconsin and Portland, Oregon are actively using Tiny House concepts as part of a larger bid to…

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German Village Has Huge, 300% Energy Surplus

The German village of Wildpoldsried is producing 321% more energy than it needs. Selling that energy surplus back to the region’s local utility company adds $5.7 million dollars to the town’s treasury. Wildpoldsried’s green initiative first started in 1997 when the village council decided it should build local industries to bring in new revenue. Over the past 14 years, nine new community buildings have been equipped with solar panels, four bio-gas digesters built, and seven windmills installed. In the village itself, 190…

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Tulare County, California is Out Of Water

Tulare County near Fresno, California is out of water. There’s none available for bathing, flushing toilets, or doing dishes. What’s doubly strange about that is Tulare is just south of California’s lush Central Valley where most of the fruits and vegetables grown in the US come from. How could it have no water? State officials say that at least 700 households have no access to running water, but they acknowledge that there could be hundreds more. The county only recently began aggressively tracking homes without running…

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Cars Are Not Welcome in Zurich

Zurich wants tourists to know that they’re welcome to the beautiful, historic city. They’re welcome to walk its streets, bicycle through its lanes, and enjoy its excellent, state-of-the-art public transportation system while they visit the city’s shops and restaurants. They’re welcome to do just about anything, in fact … except bring their cars. Like Amsterdam, Zurich has become something of a leader in urban planning, bike advocacy, and walkability- and it did so way back in the 1990s by taking…

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SolaRoad Bike Path Debuts in Amsterdam

On November 12, the first SolaRoad bike path will open in a northern suburb of Amsterdam. The Dutch are fanatical about using bicycles for transportation, especially in urban areas where finding a parking space for even a compact car is difficult if not impossible. Since 2009, the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) has been exploring the solar potential of Holland’s nearly 200 square miles of roadways. The SolaRoad bike path is part of a three year feasibility study…

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Abandoned Wal Mart Becomes Super Library

An abandoned Wal Mart in McAllen, Texas has become the largest, single story library in America while- at teh same time- setting new standards for urban renewal and resource recycling. Massive, empty commercial buildings, in this day and age, tend to stay empty. Especially an old Wal Mart, because if America’s #1 retailer (for better or much, much worse) can’t pay the rent- well. As such, these empty buildings and shopping malls quickly fall into decay, and lead to urban…

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China is Growing Up – Like, Literally

The United States has 9 cities with a population of 1,000,000 or more. China has 140- and that number is growing. China’s cities will not be like Los Angeles or Phoenix, however. Instead of sprawling expanses of suburbs and single family homes that stretch from horizon to horizon, China wants its cities to grow UPWARD rather than outward. Thirty years ago, most people in China were farmers. By 2011, half lived in cities. By 2030 it is estimated one billion…

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NYC’s Next Car Free Zone: Central Park Loop

In the coming weeks, there will be a vote on a bill that will see the city of New York close the Central Park Loop to all automotive traffic for three months in a bid to determine the impact a car-free Central Park would have on NYC’s car, bike, and foot traffic. “Currently, the Central Park loop is packed with cars, cyclists, and runners all vying for limited space; removing cars from the loop will dramatically reduce the risk of…

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Liquid Metal Batteries Promise to Transform the Grid

MIT Professor of Materials and Chemistry Donald R. Sadoway believes that a massive shift in the world of energy is coming, and it’s not a new, massive grid. Instead, Sadoway believes that sustainable energy sources like wind and solar can work together with advanced, liquid-metal batteries to reliably, dependably deliver power to local energy grids at a price point that- soon- will be lower than fossil fuels. Made from common-Earth elements (as opposed to rare-Earth elements), Sadoway’s liquid metal batteries…

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chicago light poles big data

Chicago Turns Light Poles into Data Mines

They may look like ornate bits of sculpture, but the curled metal bits at the top of the street lights on Chicago‘s Michigan Ave. are actually a system of advanced sensors that will measure the city’s air quality, light intensity, sound volume, heat, precipitation and wind. That’s all good- but the sensors will also count people, measure wireless signals, and probably not in any way be a “Big Brother” type of intrusion into personal privacy. That’s the promise- but let’s…

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vertical garden sydney

Vertical Gardening Gets Real in Australia

When news broke two years ago that Sydney, Australia would be home to the world’s tallest and largest urban/vertical gardening project, I had some doubts- and I would have bet money that it was vaporware. It was a scam, I was sure- a thing that was so awesome that it was not ever going to happen. Thankfully, I was wrong: it’s real, and it’s spectacular. The One Central Park residential tower in Sydney was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel,…

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Helsinki Has a High-tech Plan to Ban Cars by 2025

The city of Helsinki wants to completely remove privately owned and driven cars from its roads by 2025, replacing them with a high tech system that combines mobile phone apps, ride sharing, bike rentals, and public transit on a level that hasn’t yet been seen in the Western world. If it works, it could establish a precedent that would, eventually, be adopted in Spain, the UK, and other European countries. What do you think, readers? Is a city planning to…

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cermak chicago greenest street in america

Cermak to Become Greenest Road in America

The city of Chicago is many things to many people, but it doesn’t have the “green” mental associations that, say, San Francisco or Portland have. That’s starting to change, however, and the plan to introduce smog-eating pavement to Chicago’s famous Cermak Rd. (which began back in 2012) could a big difference in the way people think of the Windy City. From storefront to street, the city of Chicago is installing light-colored pavement (which reduces the energy use of the street’s…

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madrid old city

Madrid City Planners Hope to be Car Free by 2020

Despite what cartoons like the Jetsons would have you believe, the future isn’t about flying cars- it’s about getting around with no cars at all. At least, that’s the message I’m getting from reading the tea leaves in places as far apart as the Binhai Eco City in China and Spain. Especially Spain, in fact, where city planners in Madrid plan to make the city center 100% car-free by 2020. Madrid’s plan, called “2020 Mobility Plan”, is set to kick…

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