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Our Holiday Card

Dec 26, 2009

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Happy Holidays!

[Editor’s Note: This post will remain at the top of the blog until Christmas. New posts will show up below this one.]

by Krystal Meiners, VIA Architecture

Drafting environmental policy to promote better transportation networks

If the US were to reach an agreement on climate action, and specifically, an agreement on GHG reduction targets we may eventually get to see that boom in the transportation sector that we have all been waiting for. In the last year, industry professionals have been hard at work providing policy makers with the latest comprehensive research on the benefits of developing sustainable transit networks, but, without an ambitious target for GHG emissions reduction, will these projects gain priority?

Reaching the current baseline proposed by the Obama administration would mean glacial progress toward more integrated and sustainable transportation systems in the US. Legislation should be aiming higher, not lower, if we want to see real progress in the sustainability of our infrastructure and the growth of our cities.

Setting a more aggressive target for carbon emissions could mean an increased number of transportation projects like light rail and BRT in a lot more cities. If emissions reduction becomes a priority on a federal and state level, sustainable mobility becomes an important strategy in helping cities reach those targets. While the US still struggles to define or commit to an ambitious federal target, it is important for local leaders to step up and decide how their cities will address the issues of climate change; and it may be as simple (or as hard) as getting people out of their cars and planning our cities for density and efficiency.

Industry reports, such …

by Adam Criswell, guest bloggerConscious Consumers, Part 1Conscious Consumers, Part II **Only local, seasonal, organic foods, no plastic bottles, no aluminum cans, and no paper towels**

November, I hate you, and me.

What was I thinking? I’m not sure what I was thinking initially but by about the third day I was thinking, ‘I wish I had picked a month when the fruits and veggies I LOVE are in season so this doesn’t feel like so much deprivation.’

In the first three days, my boss and cube-mate told me that if I didn’t go get a latte then losing my job was a best-case scenario and death was not far off. Apparently I can flip a little attitude when not properly caffeinated. I’d already been off of soda since the end of August, so that wouldn’t be too difficult, but clearly coffee was going to be my one vice this month and I wouldn’t be giving it up. My next thought was, ‘Dear God! Who is going to eat all the Halloween Gobstoppers on my desk if not me?’ It seemed as if the first of my concerns was to be the least of them too.

Potatoes, carrots and beets?! This was going to be the worst kind of sensory deprivation torture; the kind where my taste-buds suffer. What was I thinking? I was surprised by our first trip to the farmers market that there was so much green still: chard, kale and my personal favorite (seriously, no sarcasm) Brussels sprouts! Yes! …

by Annette Thurston, VIA Architecture Click here to read Part 1 of Conscious Consumers

**No plastic, No aluminum, 2 hours of TV/Laptop time, purchase what we can carry, and dine out a max of 3 times a week**

The month of October proved much more difficult than I was prepared for. No Plastic?! EVERYTHING is wrapped in plastic. Well…everything bad for us and our planet, right? Sure there are the occasional sacrifices of using plastic. Toothbrushes. Toilet paper, paper towels; (which is completely ridiculous by the way. Paper wrapped in plastic.) It’s definitely an adjustment. One that I am still making.

The biggest issue for me in October was definitely food. Going to Safeway was traumatic. I was limited to just the produce area. Where, by the way, seeing all those rolls of plastic bags for the vegetables was just maddening. There are no instant meals in the produce area and since I couldn’t buy anything in tin, I couldn’t even get canned vegetables or fruit.

Seeing as how I’m not a cook I had no idea where to start. I felt like a stranger lost in a place I had been thousands of times. And I wasn’t even limited to local yet. I could have anything I wanted and I ended up leaving with the few things I knew how to make: potatoes and some veggies for sandwiches. At least I was able to leave with the amount of …

EcoDistricts 101

Dec 10, 2009

 by Amanda Bryan, VIA Architecture

An EcoDistrict, boiled down to its simplest form, is merely a new way of consolidating large quantities of land into a comprehensive development and yet these projects represent so much more. EcoDistricts are the physical manifestation of five major areas impacted by global warming: political responsibility, environmental protection, energy production, social awareness, and building practices.

This means that we are in need of a much more thorough understanding of what an EcoDistrict really is and in order to do this I have expanded upon three major questions: What is an EcoDistrict? Why build an EcoDistrict rather than any other form of structured development? How do we successfully create an EcoDistrict?

Clonburris, a new proposal for an EcoDistrict located in Ireland, presents a model for sustainability in the Dublin Metropolitan area. (image source)

What is an EcoDistrict?First and foremost, an EcoDistrict is a vision. It is a vision, implemented by both the public and private sector, that a specific district should embody economic, social, and environmental sustainability within a resource efficient framework. Below are five major goals that EcoDistricts strive for:

  • diversity among commercial and residential development
  • comprehensive transportation options (convenient train or BRT access)
  • enhanced community realm (amenities such as communal open spaces, pedestrian friendly streets and sidewalks, after school care, etc.)
  • implementation of onsite energy creation with complimentary building systems
  • strategic mitigation of waste (grey water processing, storm water run-off, GHG emission controls, etc.)

Why build an EcoDistrict?The main reason why it would be better to build an …

by Lydia Heard, VIA’s Urban Planner Recently, instead of a party invitation, I found the following intriguing summons in my inbox, from Steven Goldsmith of the Puget Sound Business Journal, as follows: “In 250 words or less, briefly describe your idea for the Metropolitan Tract 20 years from now — how it should look, and who should own and occupy it.

What kinds of shops and offices should be there? Should the tract go all-residential? Pedestrian-only?  Should the UW turn it into a downtown campus? Or sell the whole thing?

In short, what changes there would be best for the city, and for the university?  Be bold — no idea is too far-out.”

The message had a link to the Metropolitan Tract page of the UW Real Estate Office. My interest was piqued, so I went to the site and read the following information: “In 1860, the Legislative Assembly of Washington Territory passed “An Act to Relocate the Territorial University” in Seattle, “provided a good and sufficient deed to ten acres of land, eligibly situated in the vicinity of Seattle, be first executed to the Territory of Washington for University purposes.” Early in 1861 Arthur and Mary Denny, Charles and Mary Terry, and Edward Lander fulfilled the legislature’s stipulation by executing deeds to a forested 10-acre knoll overlooking Elliott Bay. The University was established there, on the site of what is now The Fairmont Olympic Hotel on University Street.

Over the next thirty years, growing enrollment and the growth of Seattle …

by Jennifer Kelly, VIA’s Marketing Coordinator

Mayor-Elect Mike McGinn has created a site called “Ideas for Seattle” that gives locals the opportunity to submit their ideas for making the city a better place. And some that just help it become a different place.

The top 10 ideas (for the moment):

  1. Expand as much light rail + subway as possible
  2. Legalize marijuana and tax it
  3. Create a lid over I-5 in Seattle
  4. Foot/Bike Patrols for SE Seattle
  5. Make Seattle the 1st US City to be carbon neutral
  6. Install sidewalks throughout Seattle
  7. Seat aside park beach areas for “clothing-optional” recreation
  8. Secure a new source of funding for City libraries
  9. Revitalize Pioneer Square
  10. City-funded public farmer’s markets

The website is a great tool for letting the public feel like they have input on the future of their city. Many of the suggestions take some serious effort and will not be made quickly. Regardless, this website provides a good opportunity to open up dialogue for many issues that our city faces and will hopefully show this new administration some of the things we feel are important.

When you check out the website, make sure to look at individual forum’s, such as Transportation, Neighborhoods, Homelessness, and Public Safety. Some of the interesting ideas that are worth noting are:

  • Promote family-friendly urban neighborhoods
  • Create a Pedestrian friendly zone throughout downtown
  • Build new streetcars and restore the Waterfront Streetcar

In response to the #1 voted on idea on the site, Seattle Transit Blog provided information from McGinn’s light rail information handout that sparked a …

by guest blogger Jeff Olson, Urban Designer for VIA GOING FOR GOLD

We began our design work in 1998 after the Kyoto Protocol was published. We had the idea of a sustainable future; a new way to build that would benefit everyone’s quality of life, air quality, water quality, and soil quality, a way that would protect plants, insects, marine life, land animals and bird life. We started in the library, we reviewed the scientific literature on environmental issues, and then we thought about urban systems, urban design, architecture, material engineering, energy sources, environmental performance measures, and so forth.

We inherited an industrial site from the past century with derelict buildings and industrial machinery related to ship building, lumber products, and salt distribution. These lands have been transformed over time from inter tidal swamp, to land filled lots, to armour protected sea wall. Today the land is totally transformed; nothing remains the same except the feeling of timeless walking paths along the water’s edge.

Our collective dream of a better future became our 2010 Olympic Dream to host the winter games and to welcome the athletes to our village. Some twelve years later the Copenhagen Convention is about to convene and in another two months the games will open. Signs of life have appeared in the village and it’s environs, the riparian zone has re-established along the shoreline, the birds have returned to …

by Naomi Buell, VIA’s Marketing Assistant

“It’s closer than you think” was a forum put on by the DVA (Downtown Vancouver Association) and organized by our own Graham McGarva. The forum’s speakers were Brent Toderian, the Director of Planning for City of Vancouver and Michael Gordon, the central city planner for Vancouver. The topic discussed was the future of the Northeast False Creek (NEFC) area.

NEFC is a neighbourhood that currently contains two stadiums, a casino, a skate park, the Plaza of Nations (which hosts a number of events) and a few restaurants and bars. It has long been designated as Vancouver’s entertainment district but has never jelled as a meaningful people place since Expo ’86. Decisions now being made about NEFC not only affect those that plan to live there but also the thousands of event goers that currently flow in and out of the area. The neighboring areas also have a vested interest. Ask anyone between Burrard and Main street (a 20 block span) about the Molson Indy or the Madonna concert and you will hear a number of accounts of how people could hear the entire event from their living rooms. The forum’s name “it’s closer than you think’ therefore refers to the future of NEFC being closer to us both in terms of time and proximity.

Those of us that have been reading the local Vancouver newspapers have …

Get Schooled is a program that encourages education and works to make positive changes in the education system. Part of that program is to find different career professionals and talk to them about how they ended up in their field and what schooling it takes to get there.

For the Get a Career feature of “What it Takes to Become an Architect,” our very own Alan Hart was interviewed about his path towards becoming an architect. He talks about hurdles in his educational path, what inspires him, and about the Olympic Village as part of Southeast False Creek in Vancouver.

To read the complete interview on Get Schooled, click here.