Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ways You Can Help the Environment Today!

Energy Efficient Home
On the TRAX train last Thursday I had a conversation with a classmate on the things we have learned in our Green Communities class. We were both in awe of the information and harmful things we had been doing to our environment unknowingly. Right before I got of the train the conversation moved to housing and the question was raised as to why, with the evidences we have, doesn't the Local, State and Federal Governments implement new building regulations in favor of greener more environmentally friendly designs and resource efficiencies?

The know how and technology is there we just haven't started to mass produce homes with the same green guidelines. In our day there are so many subsidies on everything we never know what the real costs are. Using green technologies in home building is not only naturally cheaper, but they are drastically cheaper monthly for heating and electricity as well. It would have you thousands of dollars a year to have a home built with green technologies, and it would be a lot nicer too.

A video I watched the other day that opened my eyes a bit on this topic was the following video:

Often times when studying the topics I do I feel helpless as to what I can do to make a difference. Well here are a few ways:
Energy Efficient Home
Why or how does this help?
It's simple really, the more you ask about it the more realtors look for those types of properties. Which splashes over to builders building new homes using these technologies. 
  • Write your local, state, and federal government representatives pushing for green technologies to be mandatory building practices.
Write the Government
Why or how does this help?
If green technologies became the law all homes would be built better and in the long run cost thousands of dollars less. Carbon emissions would decrease thus improving air quality and these same regulations would be used to build commercial and other buildings. This would become a standard building policy and would become a major topic for governments to focus on.

There are several other ways to help, these were just catalysts to help you get started. Have other ideas share them in the comments or need other ideas contact me today!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Urban Planning Show and Tell

In my Green Communities class each day a few people have the opportunity to share videos and links of interesting or cool things they have found in the Urban Planning community. A lot of them have been exciting and mind blowing for the potential of what can be done. I have decided to share a few of those videos below:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Evaluating and Improving Your Urban Spaces

San Antonio Riverwalk
I wanted to write this post in connection with the post done on Thursday of last week: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. In that post I shared a video and synopsis of the principles of small urban spaces. In this post I would like to go over the ways in which we can evaluate our urban spaces and use the principles taught in the video to improve those spaces.

Evaluating Urban Spaces:
Although an evaluation of an urban space can be fairly subjective, we will use the guidelines from The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces as a way to measure the effectiveness of any space.

The main principles taught in that video are as follows:
  • Sitting Space - If there is no place to sit there is no reason to stay. Planters, ledges, movable chairs, benches, etc can all serve as sitting space.
  • Social Space's relationship to the street - I would define this as access. Is the park easily accessible and in a naturally popular area?
  • Light or sun - Few people enjoy the cold, and in a social space fewer enjoy darkness.
  • Water features - These provide white noise and focal points or relaxation for visitors to the social space.
  • Trees and plants - These offer shade protection and a feeling of comfort.
  • Food - Food often brings people together.
  • Entertainment - This can be street performers, musicians, sculptures, art, festivals, etc. Are there things that bring people into the space and create memories?
When evaluating any urban space it needs to be done with at least these things in mind. Simply grade your public space on those items above and give it an overall score.

Movable chairs
Improving Urban Spaces:
Once you have given it a score in each of the areas focus on those areas with the worst scores. Then brainstorm ways to transition this space into a better urban space. In doing this think of long and short term strategies.

For example if the sittable space is lacking look to put in movable chairs and tables, and eventually add planters or ledges to permanently provide seating.

These things will allow you to better understand the space and why it is or is not working well for your community. For more ideas of visioning and improving your area please contact me or comment on the post.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces has become sort of a staple in the Urban Planning field. It was one of the first experiments of its kind done to define basic principles of good urban spaces. It's 58 minutes long and a bit hard to watch in places, but I have posted the video below. If you don't care to spend the hour watching it I have given a synopsis below the video which goes into locations and principles of the video. If you have any thing to add to my notes on this video please leave them in the comments.

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces was done by the Municipal Art Society of New York, and the narrator on the project was William H Whyte. He worked closely with the Street Life Project in doing research on these small urban spaces.

Seagram Plaza
Some of the urban spaces mentioned and shown in this video are:
Under use is the great problem with most parks and urban spaces because they don't follow the principles below.


  • People tend to sit where there are places to sit (Sitting space) - One linear foot per 30 square feet. They don't have to be benches, they can be ledges or planters and need to be two backsides deep to allow for better seating. Movable chairs are always a bonus.
  • Street (Relationship to the street) - the location of the park and movement on the street past the park are important. The entrance to the park needs to be inviting and exciting to bring people in as well. Plazas need to be connected to the street or their visitors drastically decrease, so no sunken down or elevated plazas and none on higher levels in buildings. Avoid putting fences around the plazas and parks.
  • Sun (Lighting is what is most important) - The sun is most important in "nippy" weather. What people 
  • Water (Water features) - The sound of the water helps mask traffic noises and conversations, it serves as white noise. Allow people to play in the water, make it interactive or close to waterfronts.
  • Trees - Trees and plants offering micro climates, shade, protection, etc
  • Food - "If you want to seed a place with activity, put in food." Pushcarts, cafes, machines, etc. Also with the food station provide receptacles. These stands offer gossip and social spaces as well as meeting spots, and friendly greetings to the parks.
  • Triangulation (External stimulus of some kind) - This means street performers, musicians, sculptures, art, or other focal point of parks. 

San Antonio Riverwalk
Other Points:

  • Sociability and people meaning people bring more people because of people watching, safety, and entertainment.
  • Pigeon Ladies*
  • Comfort
  • Better access for all people
  • Retail properties nearby
  • Scale of park to match city size
Other Helpful Links:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Design Advisor: a Tool for Transitioning Cities

In class on Thursday we looked at several affordable housing projects being created throughout the country, and were asked to review a few of the affordable housing projects found on: designadvisor.org. The affordable housing projects I chose to review are as follows:
I chose these for a few reasons, including their range of locations, size, and contrast of before and after. (Picture contrasts below)
Cabrini Apartments:

Cabrini Apartments Before

Cabrini Apartments

Regent Terrace Apartments:
Regent Terrace Apartments Before

Regent Terrace Appartments

Wentworth Commons:

wentworth commons before

wentworth commons

As you can see the buildings above were beautifully re-imagined and preserved. We were asked to answer a myriad of questions regarding these affordable housing projects:
  • Do these projects meet you expectations of affordable housing?
  • Did anything about these projects surprise you?
  • If you were looking for housing, would any of these projects appeal to you?
  • How might you change elements of these projects?
raise the bar
Were it not for a recent run in with several "high class" affordable housing units that I was denied residency with, I would have said these affordable housing units exceeded my expectations, but I know the bar has been raised drastically. Now it is time for the bar to be raised on all housing.

I feel at times what is known as the middle class income group is being left in the dust of those who are known as the upper and lower classes. (Please bare with me on the use of these terms as they are the easiest way to describe income classifications.) We spend loads of time providing for the lower class, and the upper class provides for themselves, and figure the middle class can do the same. If we really sought for equality, these same designs would be available to middle class residents. This response should give you an idea of how I would answer all these questions, but if not I will answer them below.

equal opportunity housing
Yes they meet my expectations. Yes it is surprising that often times affordable housing is drastically better than anything I can afford. I have looked at affordable housing projects as potential places or residency and been denied. And I would change only the fact that they are a lot of times strictly affordable housing units instead of mixed use and income.

Now the question I really wish to answer with this post is how these projects can be models or tools for transitioning cities. The green technology shown in these projects should be implemented in ever project no matter the group for who it is built. Subsidies can still be in place with certain projects, but I believe they should always be "mixed use" and mixed income, mixed class, mixed background, etc.

This may not be the case, but in my experience in searching for a nice place to live I have been denied affordable housing, despite it being the only affordable housing for the amount I can afford. These projects are models for how all buildings should be built, allowing communities to work together and grow together and help one another out with their distinct backgrounds, education levels, and skill sets. This is how I see these projects implemented as tools for transitioning cities.

Green Technologies
The green technologies in them are in a lot of cases astounding. Example:
Cabrini Apartments:
  • "Convenient on-street and in-building bicycle parking"
  • "High efficiency drip irrigation...for all landscaping."
  • "Low flow bathroom faucets and showers..."
  • "Recycled materials include [everything from the landscape materials to carpets, siding, and framework]"
  • "Formaldehyde free building insulation"
And the list goes on with all these projects. Why don't we use these concepts and practices in everything we build? Why aren't all buildings created equal? And why aren't all income classes treated equally?

Transitioning cities
A teacher in the inner city shouldn't be paid 1/2 of what a suburb teacher is paid, and one school district shouldn't get all the tax revenue of local businesses, where as another school get the horribly short end of the stick. All of these things should be equal shares, equal attention, equal programs, equal funding, equal quality. That is how I see this being displayed as a tool for transitioning cities.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New Greener Technologies: Solar Roadways

The other day I was on Facebook for my weekly check of how the world of my friends were doing and saw a video link posted by my brother titled: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways. I clicked the play button, and outside of the annoying voices in the video it was an interesting concept. Here is the video: (I will discuss it in more detail after so as to better bring you into the conversation.)

Is the technology really cool? Yeah, but how practical is it? That is what I wish to discuss with this post.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bridging the Gap Between Urban Planning and the Community

As many of you know, I am studying Urban Planning at the University of Utah; and am taking several classes that are helping me become a better future planner. One of those classes is Visual, Oral, and Written Communications. In that class we have been studying the principles and etiquette of communication in those three areas. This isn't, however, my first communications course or my first opportunity for experience or practice in it. One could say I have been studying these topics my entire life. Although that study hasn't been intensive until the last 12 years.

I would like to share a few points that I have learned in my class, and in life that will better help us bridge the gap between urban planners and the community which they serve:

Visual Communication Tips:
  • The use of color can be extremely powerful. Keep in mind the colors you use can signify other meanings.
  • Typography is often overlooked but can do loads to convey a message. Make sure it is legible. 
  • Layouts, spacing/boarders, and use of white space are crucial in establishing interest and understanding. The layout should guide the audience through the information. Create your layout to funnel your audience to the most important points. Spacing and boarders make designs easy to follow and create comfort in the audience instead of the unrealized discomfort from poor spacing and use of boarders. White space is almost as important as the content of the page. Don't overload your audience.
  • Simplicity is always best. Does your design pass the 10 second rule? If not what are you trying to get your audience to understand or do? What is the bare minimum information needed to achieve that goal? Then you can add pieces to that, to support your message. 
Oral Communication Tips:
  • Be clear and concise and vary your tone - keep the message simple and entertaining.
  • Speak with confidence - if you are confident you naturally build credibility.
  • Be aware of non-verbal communication - non-verbal communication is often picked up a lot sooner than tone and the actual message.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. What are they thinking, what are their backgrounds and values, and how can you sync your message and goals to their goals and values?

Written Communication Tips:
  • Write the way you would speak, don't add unnecessary extras.
  • Write to your audience. This means the words selected, level of education, and values
  • Focus on the positive and use the active voice instead of passive
  • Avoid idioms and cliches and write what you really mean in your own words.
These tips aren't everything but will give you a great start in communicating with your audience.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Conversation with Vicki Bennett

Vicki Bennett
Wednesday night came and I got home a little later than normal. I got ready for bed quickly and laid down. The next morning around 9:00 I woke up, class starts in 10 minutes and I live in Orem. At this point there is no chance I am making it to class on time. Note to self always set 2 alarms to make sure at least one goes off.

Today's post is supposed to be about our Conversation with Vicki Bennett, "SLC's director of the Office of Sustainability (and former Environmental Programs manager) has been integral in setting environmental policy to help create a more livable community. She and her team have been integrating environmental management, air quality, transportation issues, carbon management, recycling, and green waste diversion into our laws and lifestyle."

So as you can see above I Googled a little information on her and found a good amount, all about sustainability. Some of the more interesting things I found were the following links:

Grist.org - A Green Salt Lake City?
SustainableCitiesInstitute.org - Salt Lake Cities Sustainability Plan
Eco-fluence.com - Interview with Vicky Bennett
UtahAmicus.blogspot.com - A post about her appointment to direct the Office of Sustainability and the Environment
SLCDocs.com - SLC Sustainability Plan

In the interview she said "how we frame environmental issues in conversation...is absolutely key to influencing behavior. Without using an approach tailored to that unique individual, our odds of persuading for the planet drop dramatically."

It is all about our message, and how it comes across to our audiences. There has never been a time for more adroit talented planners then now. It is our duty to carry on this work and bring everyone with us.


Sustainability News

Check back for more news later


I just wanted to take a moment to send a personal message out to all those in the fields of Landscape Architecture, Gardening, Horticulture, and Urban Planning/Urban Ecology. I created Landscape Connections for the purpose to share my love and passion for Landscape Architecture and Design, and Urban Ecology. I was a Landscape Architecture Major at Utah State University and currently study Urban Ecology at the University of Utah. I am working to compile as much information in the four previously mentioned fields as possible. If you have any further information, or would like to either add information or see information posted to landscape connections please let me know.