Urban Renewal

Urban Renewal: The Greening of Cities

If you imagine a green city, you might not first think of Houston, Texas, but according to a green building index, over half of the commercial square footage there has an EPA Energy Star or LEED rating. In fact, Houston has ranked as high as number 3 in the US for LEED-certified commercial space. “Since Houston is the energy capital of the world, sustainability is paramount to all aspects of our economy. This is evident in the way real estate has been consistently…

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Wind Tree Project Turns Street Art into Electric Power

A new French start-up, NewWind, is making wind power beautiful!  Their new Wind Tree offers almost a hundred mini-windmills on an apparatus designed to look like a tree. Due to the light construction of the “leaves,” the Wind Tree generates power at wind speeds as low as 4.4 miles per hour!  This translates into sustained operation times (an average of 320 days a year) that are almost double those of standard windmills that need higher wind speeds in order to…

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Babies and Beer Gardens: a New Urban Dynamic

Beer gardens and beer halls are popping up in cities all across America and they are discovering a new category of customer – moms with kids. In traditional German beer gardens, whole families would gather to quaff the ales, munch bratwursts, and socialize with their families, neighbors, and friends. At one time, there were over 3000 beer halls in New York City, alone. On Sunday afternoons, it was common to see families with young children in attendance. “It was part of…

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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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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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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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Fukushima Factory Becomes Aquaponic Farm

Superconductors and microchips have to be produced in a sterile environment. But what happens when a former microchip factory becomes obsolete? That’s a question facing many of Japan’s chip-makers these days, but Fujitsu has an answer to that question: If you are Fujitsu Electronics, you convert one of your excess chip factories’ sterile spaces into an indoor hydroponic growing area that is free from environmental contaminants and crop-destroying pests. That “clean room”, as it’s called, also happens to be insulated…

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Vertical Garden Exhibit at Chicago MSI

Green roof design is becoming popular all over the world, but this vertical garden conceptual model – part of the Fast Forward exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) – takes the concepts of aquaponics, locally-grown produce, and urban farming to new heights by stuffing all those things into a single, “green” skyscraper. Vertical farming, which some experts claim uses just 1/6 of the resources required by conventional “flat” farming to produce a given quantity of produce, is…

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detroit urban farm

Detroit to Build Massive, 150 Acre Urban Farm

Nine million dollars, per square mile, per year. That’s what it costs the city of Detroit to simply maintain the vacant property they ended up with when the city’s economy dried up and the population bailed. That adds up to more than $360 million, total, that the recently bankrupt city of Detroit needs to pony up- and it’s $360 million the city simply does not have. That’s where Hantz Farms comes in. Hantz Farms proposed a plan to take several…

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Hugelkulturb infographic how-to

Hugelkultur Offers Benefits to Urban Gardeners

Hugelkultur is wood, buried in soil. That’s the extra-condensed version of the story, anyway- the slightly longer version explains that the techniques behind Hugelkultur allow more plants and crops to be grown in a given horizontal space, giving each plant more sun and more nutrients with less labor and, in some cases, without digging at all. That’s good news for places like Florida, where, if you start digging, you’ll hit a lot limestone sooner than you think. Basically, Hugelkultur encourages…

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rooftop farm UK urban renewal project

Aquaponic Rooftop Farm = New Age Fish and Chips

Green roofs and rooftop farming are some of the latest buzzwords of green architecture, but the guys behind Something & Son in Folkestone, England are taking it a step further. They’ve set up an advanced aquaponic system on the roof of their building, and they’re using the fish to help raise potatoes. In other words: it’s a fish and chips restaurant. Something & Son have literally built a Fish & Chips style storefront on the roof of their building, and…

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Brooklyn's First Passive House Condo

Brooklyn’s First Passive House Condo is On Its Way

Built and designed by (certified passive house architect) Paul Castrucci, Architect, and Ray Sage of Race Age, Inc., the R-951 Residence currently going up in Brooklyn is the latest passive house project going up in the neighborhood. Unlike most, however, R-951 is a condo featuring 3 distinct family residences / units. The three unit walkup/condominium is being called “a unique project”, and features an ultra-efficient design built in concert with a net-metered, rooftop solar energy system. Those solar panels should…

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Chicago Urban Renewal

Chicago is Selling Vacant Lots for $1 Each

Despite the city’s thriving neighborhoods and generally climbing real estate values, certain areas of Chicago look more like most people’s conception of Detroit than Lake Shore Drive. Indeed, shuttered homes and vacant lots overgrown with grass and weeds are pretty common in areas like Englewood – but the city has come up with a new way to fight that deterioration and give back to the community at the same time: Chicago is selling those vacant and abandoned lots, for as…

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Minneapolis light rail

Light Rail Gets a Green Light in Minneapolis

Last week’s “yes” vote by the Minneapolis City Council marked the final local consent needed for the city to move ahead with the proposed Southwest light rail project. The new, $1.6 billion commuter line would connect the Eden Prairie neighborhood with downtown Minneapolis. Despite the landmark vote by the City Council, however, the new line is far from a finished reality. When the deal was announced, council member Elizabeth Glidden said the stations are in “challenging locations” because they are…

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