Hangzhou Expands Bike-Sharing Program to 50,000 Bikes

According to Tree Hugger, Hangzhou’s Public Transport Corporation (HPTC) is expanding access to its publicly accessible bike-share program in order to provide a “seamless connection of bicycle-based slow-speed traffic to metro and bus-based public traffic facilities.” Hangzhou’s bike share program will grow to 50,000 bikes from the currently available 15,000 bikes, surpassing Paris’s popular Velib bike-share program, which offers more than 20,000. Bike Sharing blog says people will find bike-sharing stations every 100 meters. Currently, bike sharing stations are found every 300 meters in Paris.

Bike-Sharing blog quotes Lu Zhihong, Deputy General Manager, Hangzhou Public Transport Corporation as saying: “Public bicycle outlets will become as popular as public telephone booths along streets. In the future, residents will largely ride bicycles to go shopping in food markets and supermarkets, or to go to the office.” 

TreeHugger says Hangzhou’s bike-share program provides the first full hour of service for free. “After that the next hour costs a modest one yuan ($.15), two yuan for the following hour and three yuan for every additional hour up to 24 hours. By March of this year, the service was claiming each bike was used an average of 5 times daily.”

Additionally, in contrast with the European bike-share systems, Hangzhou has embedded a point-of-sale system directly into the bikes. “HPTC claims that it has simplified the rental process if compared with European bike share systems. This makes it easier for a user to end a rental by pulling a bike into a bike stall, swipe their local transport card over the bike itself, and walking away, reducing time from about five minutes to just one minute, HPTC said. HPTC plans to become economically solvent by putting advertisements on the bikes and at bike return spots.”

HPTC says not a single bike has been stolen in the service’s first year of operation, and very few have been damaged or vandalized. In contrast, Paris’s Velib bike-share program has reported that almost half of the original Velibs were stolen, or damaged.

Read the article, and another post on this by Bike Sharing blog. Also, see a Wikipedia article, with links to a number of U.S. and international bike-sharing programs.

Image credit: Code for Something blog

U.S. Postal Service’s 2.5-acre Green Roof Park

The New York Times
wrote about the new 2.5-acre green roof on the U.S. Postal Service’s Morgan processing and distribution center near mid-town Manhattan.  In addition to providing the usual benefits of a green roof, the U.S. Postal Service’s green roof also provides park-like recreational space for employees, including “benches, billowing grasses and a view of the skyline that includes the Empire State Building.” According to The New York Times, the project was part of the broader Postal Service environmental program, which also includes expanding the use of hybrid vehicles and more energy-efficient buildings that produce less waste.

The New York Times argues that green roofs haven’t taken off as quickly in New York City as they have in Seattle or Chicago because the labor and transportation costs in New York City may be higher. High upfront costs, particularly related to the cost of soil, may also be limiting the spread of green roofs.  “In particular, the soil for the plants, which is engineered to be lightweight and absorbent, is extremely expensive. While a cubic yard of normal soil might be $2 or $3, the cost of the engineered soil and its installation is about $120 per cubic yard, said Elizabeth Kennedy, the landscape architect who designed the postal roof’s landscaping. The price for the project installation was about $30 per square foot.”

The cost of special lightweight soils, however, may be less than the cost of re-inforcing older buildings to withstand the weight of normal (less expensive) topsoil. The New York Times says different types of buildings have different threshholds for bearing normal topsoil weight: “The post office building, built in 1933 and declared a landmark in 1986, was constructed to support additional stories, and copper column tips still poke out from the roof. Depression-era government buildings are particularly well-suited to being adapted for green roofs, because they can support the additional weight, said Angie Durham of Tecta America, the company that designed the roof. By contrast, buildings from the 1970s and 1980s are not as architecturally well-suited for retrofitting, she said.”

To spur greater use of green roofs, the New York State Legislature passed a tax-abatement plan passed last year. Still, the postal service’s green roofs took two years for approvals.  

Some of the key environmental benefits of the U.S. Post Office green roof park: “The new roof is expected to last 50 years, and it will provide better insulation, cutting heating and cooling costs by about $30,000 a year. In addition, the landscaping on the roof is expected to help reduce storm-water runoff into the sewage system by as much as 75 percent in the summer and 40 percent in the winter.” Additionally, low-maintenance, native vegetation was used, including “coral carpet, John Creech, Weihenstephaner, Immergrunchen, Fudaglut and red carpet.”

Read the article and view more images at Inhabitat. Also, check out a World Landscape Architect interview with Elizabeth Kennedy, Principal of EKLA, the landscape architeture firm that designed the green roof.

In other news, the Toronto-based non-profit, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, launched a green roof professional accreditation exam. Architectural Record writes: “The green roof professional (GRP) designation is not intended as a form of licensure or an indication of professional competency, but should facilitate improved collaboration among the various disciplines involved in designing and installing green roofs, according to Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.”

According to Architectural Record, the GRP exam, which cost $395 without the prep courses, will be offered in four North American cities this fall, starting with Toronto, on October 19. Test dates for Seattle, New York City, and Chicago have not yet been finalized. More information on the accreditation program can be found at www.greenroofs.org.

Learn more about the new GRP designation.

Image credit: The New York Times

Seoul Rediscovers Its Urban Waterways

The New York Times
wrote about the USD 384 million Cheonggyecheon waterway restoration project in Seoul, South Korea. During the pre-industrial era, the stream was a centerpiece in Seoul. However, The New York Times notes that it became an open sewer, “forgotten beneath a lacework of elevated expressways as the city’s population swelled toward 10 million.” With the restoration investment, the waterway has now been “liberated from its dank sheath and burbles between reedy banks. Picnickers cool their bare feet in its filtered water, and carp swim in its tranquil pools.”

According to the New York Times, the Cheonggyecheon waterway restoration project is an example of efforts to “daylight” rivers and streams by removing pavement, and commercial and automobile infrastructure. The idea is to use the inherent environmental value of the waterways to create parks — destinations within dense urban areas. “By building green corridors around the exposed waters, cities hope to attract affluent and educated workers and residents who appreciate the feel of a natural environment in an urban setting.” 

A number of other cities have pursued similar strategies. In New York state, there is a plan to revitalize the Yonkers downtown area by exposing 1,900 feet of the Saw Mill River. Singapore, and Los Angeles and San Antonio in the U.S., are also exploring using buried waterways “as assets instead of inconveniences.” 

The multiple environmental, social and economic benefits may outweigh the hefty price tag.

The environmental benefits are clear: “Open watercourses handle flooding rains better than buried sewers do, a big consideration as global warming leads to heavier downpours. The streams also tend to cool areas overheated by sun-baked asphalt and to nourish greenery that lures wildlife as well as pedestrians.” Other environmental benefits including improved biodiversity were actually quantified by the city government. “Data shows that the ecosystem along the Cheonggyecheon  has been greatly enriched, with the number of fish species increasing to 25 from 4. Bird species have multiplied to 36 from 6, and insect species to 192  from 15.” Furthermore, the project meant three miles of elevated highway needed to be pulled down, which led to decreases in nearby air pollution and reduced air temperature. “Small-particle air pollution along the corridor dropped to 48 micrograms per cubic meter from 74, and summer temperatures are now often five degrees cooler than those of nearby areas, according to data cited by city officials.”

With regards to social benefits, Lee In-Keun, Seoul’s assistant mayor for instrastructure, told The New York Times: “We’ve basically gone from a car-oriented city to a human-oriented city.” The city says some 90,000 pedestrians visit the restored waterway each day.

In terms of economic benefits, an analysis by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that “replacing a highway in Seoul with a walkable greenway caused nearby homes to sell at a premium after years of going for bargain prices by comparison with outlying properties.” While convincing local business owners tied to the existing streetscapes to buy-in to a re-designed waterway was viewed as challenging, “today the visitors to the Cheonggyecheon’s banks include merchants from some of the thousands of nearby shops who were among the project’s biggest opponents early on.” Now, the new waterway parks are also being viewed as drivers of local economic activity.

Read the article and watch a brief video. Also, check out the ChonGae Canal Source Point Park, Sunken Stone Project, which is part of the broader waterway restoration project, and won a 2009 ASLA Professional Award.

Image credit: Mikyoung Kim Design

Sustainable Transportation Resource Guide

ASLA created a new online resource guide on sustainable transportation. The guide contains lists of organizations, research, concepts and projects related to sustainable transportation, including siting, planning, and designing sustainable transportation infrastructure. Developed for students and professionals, the resource guide contains recent reports and projects from leading U.S. and international organizations, academics, and design firms.

The guide is separated into six sections:

  • Sustainable Transportation Planning
  • Siting Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure
  • Designing Safe, Visually Appealing Transportation Infrastructure
  • Sustainable Transportation and Biodiversity
  • Sustainable Transportation and Stormwater: Green Streets
  • Combating the Urban Heat Island Effect from Transportation Infrastructure

As an example, sustainable transportation planning includes major research studies and policy papers outlining the economic and social arguments for smarter transportation networks. There are also design guides, how-to sites, and details on award-winning projects.

This resource guide is part of an on-going series. See earlier resource guides: Combating Climate Change with Landscape Architecture, Sustainable Design and Development, and a career development guide, Improving Skills During the Economic Downturn. Two more guides focused on Urban Growth and Development and Livable Communities are coming.

The Sustainable Transportation resource guide is constantly expanding. If there are resources we’ve missed, add in the comments field below, or email info@asla.org. We are particularly interested in case studies on sustainable transportation infrastructure projects.

Go to the Resource Guide

Image credit: Inhabitat

International Urban Landscape Awards Call for Entries

Eurohypo AG, an investment bank based in Frankfurt, Germany, is partnering with Topos, a leading landscape architecture journal, on the International Urban Landscape Award (IULA) competition. The competition seeks “exemplary urban design projects for sustainable development in Germany or the United Kingdom.”

In 2007, Parc Central de Nou Barris in Barcelona won the IULA’s EUR 50,000 prize. Parc Central is the largest in the Catalan capital. The jury felt that the Parc Central performed an important “integrative task in a rapidly expanding and multi-ethnic quarter of Barcelona.” Bernd Knobloch, Chief Executive Officer of Eurohypo, said: “Near-to-nature spaces laid out in the middle of cities are islands of recreation and places of encounter. In an age of increasing urbanisation of the world, they also make a major contribution to protecting the climate.” (see list of nominees from 2007).

This time round, the prize is divided into two categories:

  • Category A, which honours ground-breaking, newly-built or redeveloped urban architecture
  • Category B, which recognizes initiatives, concepts, designs or research projects in the field of sustainable urban development.

Both categories come with a cash prize of €25,000. Projects can only be from the UK or Germany. Entries must be received by September 3, 2009.

Go here to download the submission form

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton in India: LEED Platinum Building Is a “Monument to the Future”

In one of her first stops in her recent three-day visit to India, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the ITC Green Center in Gurgaon, one of the world’s largest LEED platinum office buildings. Clinton said in remarks: “ITC Green Center may not be a regular stop on the tourist map, and no one would confuse it with the Taj Mahal. But it is a monument in its own right. It is a monument to the future.” Citing the ITC Green Center as a model, Clinton added: “If all new buildings were designed in the same standards as the ITC Green Centre, we could eventually cut global energy use and green house pollution by more than 20 percent and save money at the same time.”

According to TreeHugger, the ITC Green Center recycles and re-uses water. “Its insulated glass keeps out heat and lets in abundant natural light. Ten percent of its wood is certified, and its landscaping relies on local plant species. The building has reduced its energy and water consumption by 51 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively. When it opened in 2005, it became the world’s largest completed LEED platinum rated green office building.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)’s Switchboard says India has at least fifteen LEED certified buildings (see research), with plans for 1,000 additional buildings by 2012. Other LEED platinum buildings in Gurgaon include WIPRO’s headquarters. According to TreeHugger, “green buildings covering 67 million sq ft are being constructed all over the country, up from 20,000 sq ft in 2003.”

TreeHugger argues that Indian companies increasingly see “going green” as making smart business sense. “ITC also seeks carbon-neutrality in its packaging and paper businesses, which rely on environmentally-friendly elemental-chlorine-free technology. ‘When we talk to international customers such as Wal-Mart, they question us on sustainability, which has now become a qualifier,’ Pradeep Dhobale, chief executive of ITC’s paperboard and specialty paper business, told Rediff.”  

Clinton brought U.S. Climate Change envoy, Todd Stern, along on her visit to India, making climate change a key topic throughout her visit. The U.S. and India remain far apart in UNFCCC negotiations on global greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets, but U.S. policymakers hope increased cooperation and technology transfer will help bridge the policy gaps. India remains concerned that committing to GHG reduction targets will, in effect, hamstring future economic growth. India also argues developed countries have contributed the vast share of the current stock of GHGs, and therefore need to do more to limit their emissions. Furthermore, India’s per-capita GHG emissions are far lower than those in the U.S.

Read the article

Also, read Clinton’s full remarks, and an outline from NRDC’s Switchboard on potential areas of U.S.-India cooperation on building energy-efficiency and climate change.

Image credit: TreeHugger

Recreating a Natural Bayou to Prevent Flood Damage

Kevin Shanley, ASLA, now CEO of the SWA Group, partnered with the local Sims Bayou Coalition in Houston to re-design a massive federal flood damage reduction project. The flood mitigation project was originally planned to be a straight, man-made, concrete channel; Shanley instead proposed a natural, meandering bayou. According to The Houston Chronicle, “the flood-control project was of an entirely different scale: It concerned nearly 20 miles of Sims Bayou, stretching from the Houston Ship Channel almost to South Post Oak . But the tiny Sims Bayou Coalition desperately needed professional help to negotiate with the flood-control district. When Shanley offered his services, the members hoped he could find ways to mitigate the project, make its footprint smaller, its ugliness less unbearable.”

Shanley studied “fluvial geomorphology,” the way rivers shape themselves, in an effort to develop a new proposal which would reflect the natural flow of bayous. According to The Houston Chronicle, “bayous are slow rivers, ones that meander over flat land toward the sea. In flood control, faster was considered better. The goal was to rush rainwater into the bayous, then hustle it out to sea. Rivers, though, don’t like to be rushed. They don’t like to flow in straight lines, and they’re wider in some places than in others. In low spots, they regularly overflow their banks. Wildlife loves those wetlands.”

The district had available large blocks of land, which the Sims Bayou cuts through diagonally. “The district, Shanley realized, owned a lot more land than it needed for a straight, deep channel.” Shanley used this extra land to develop a new proposal featuring a more natural, meandering bayou. Ideas that guided the proposal: “What if you let Sims Bayou meander? What if, instead of rushing the floodwater out toward the Gulf, you gave it a place to collect safely? What if you made the bayou wider and curvier — able to hold more water but also slower? What if, instead of paving it with solid concrete, you bolstered the banks with concrete that grasses could grow through?”

The plan was presented to neighborhood activists and flood control engineers. While some neighborhood groups were concerned that the new plan took up more land (as more room is needed for a natural bayou’s movement), “the engineers, to his surprise, were intrigued. And when they ran sophisticated flood-control models on Shanley’s plan, they found that it worked better to control flooding than their original proposal.” The new idea became the basis behind the Sims Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reducation project, expected to finish in a few years. The Houston Chronicle writes that the flood-control district will lead to the removal of 35,000 houses and 2,000 businesses from the 100-year flood plain.

The Houston Chronicle added that neighborhood groups have also now largely embraced the plan. “The project, complete with fish ponds and trees, is great to look at. Wildlife thrive on its banks. And when the bayou isn’t at flood stage, the land can be used for other purposes. “‘The Hill at Sims Greenway,’ for instance, is a 60-foot-tall hill created from the dirt dug from a big hill storm-water detention pond near Scott and West Orem.”

Additionally, SWA group worked on the Buffalo Bayou Promenade, led by the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which won an ASLA 2009 Professional Award of Excellence.

Read the article and learn more about the project

Image credit: Kevin Shanley

Interactive Dream Grove

Azure Magazine
wrote about Dream Grove, an online exhibition that is an “intriguing combination of the interactive, the digital, the botanical and the aural.” The site “doubles as a treasure trove of dreams, which at one point took real-life narrated form as an interactive sound installation in an Athenian garden.” A number of “dreams” have already been added, but users can create their own and upload. According to Azure, “once a dream is added, it is assigned a dot, and the dot gets filled in with the colour the dream-writer assigned to it when entering the dream.” 

Petros Babasikas, founder of Drifting City, an “architecture, media and public space” design firm that created the interactive exhibit, said to Azure: “Web pages are today what gardens were, 100 years ago. Both are about entering a space of intense experience: remembering sensations, mapping ideas, discovering a dream place in concentrated isolation.”

Last November, Drifting City’s team converted the dreams into soundscapes for an interactive garden installation in the Athens Byzantine Museum‘s main courtyard. Visitors to the garden could hear the soundscapes as they moved through. The soundscapes includes multilingual spoken-word versions of dreams supplied to the site. According to Azure, Drifting City now hopes to build a permanent interactive garden.

The Dream Grove site won a 2009 Webby Award. This year’s Webby Awards were judged by Internet co-inventor Vint Cerf, Simpson’s creator Matt Groening, Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, and Harvey Weinstein.

Read the article or Go to Dream Grove

Image credit: Drifting City

International Conferences on Climate Neutral Cities, Green Schools

Two upcoming conferences focused on sustainable design:

UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Committee on Housing and Land Management’s Seminar on Climate Neutral Cities: “Climate neutrality is not simply a goal in the fight against climate change, however. It is a means to address some of the major environmental, economic and social challenges comprising the broader sustainability agenda of urban areas. Climate neutrality also affords individual benefits, such as reduced costs, increased standards of living and improved health. Thus, climate neutrality in cities should be seen as strategic goal, one that can trigger progress in several areas, both for the community as a whole and for individuals.

Guest speakers will examine the multidimensional approach of “Climate Neutral Cities”. These will include policymakers and authorities from various cities, who will present relevant policies as well as the challenges to governance posed by this concept. Experts from the public and private sectors will address the technical hurdles and provide practical solutions for reducing urban GHG emissions (including land-use and transport planning, infrastructure, energy efficiency and overall building performance).

Session I: City Planning and Land-Use Management
This session will discuss the approach of cities to sustainable land management and the mitigation of climate change, covering the following aspects:

  • Policy and plans for the energy efficiency at the urban scale
  • Measures to control urban sprawl and its negative impacts on urban environments
  • Measures to reduce unsustainable uses of land, including the formation of informal settlements
  • Programmes and measures to counteract the impact of urban sprawl in rural areas
  • Development and use of green spaces and biodiversity in urban areas to mitigate climate change
  • Planning for sustainable infrastructures, urban mobility and transport systems

Session II: The Built Environment
This session will focus on green building and the reduction of emissions in buildings, including:

  • Energy efficiency in housing
  • Sustainable refurbishment
  • Ecological architecture
  • Passive housing

Read the full program and background paper. Go here to register for the seminar, September 23-25, 2009, Geneva. For further information, contact Paola Deda, Secretary of the Committee, at paola.deda@unece.org, 0041 22 917 2553

OECD Centre for Effective Learning Environments’ Conference on Sustainable School Buildings: From concept to reality

“The conference seeks to bring together policy makers, educationalists and managers, academics, designers and developers, to analyse the challenges and opportunities in developing green schools. The event will explore the role of sustainable school buildings in education as well as the challenges and opportunities for creating them from early planning through to their use and maintenance. The conference will also include an exhibition illustrating good practices in developing sustainable schools as well as visits to local examples. You are invited to submit examples.”

Read more about the conference which will be held October 1-2 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, or go to the conference web site.  For further information, contact Christin Cave (christin.cave@oecd.org) and Sara Lang (sara.lang@oecd.org).

Image credit: UNECE

Call for Ideas from USGBC, Congress for New Urbanism (CNU)

Two new call for ideas: 

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC): “The USGBC invites the public to participate in a LEED Call for Ideas. This call is meant to provide a way for new ideas to be brought forward to help inform improvement to the LEED rating system. USGBC is looking for input on improving existing technical criteria, proposals for new credits and feedback on LEED’s overall effectiveness and rigor. Comments regarding LEED’s delivery model, certification process, pricing, etc., will not be considered as USGBC is looking for feedback specific to the technical requirements of the LEED rating system.”  The Call for Ideas closes Friday, August 7, 2009. 

Congress for New Urbanism: “Is New Urbanism the prescription for healthier communities? The opportunities and challenges of designing and developing communities that promote healthy lives will be explored at the Congress for the New Urbanism’s 18th annual Congress in Atlanta, May 19-22, 2010, organized with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The call for session ideas is open until August 14, 2009. 

Increasing scientific evidence suggests that community design elements – land use, design character, transportation systems, sustainability, and density – can have an impact on a community’s health, environment and quality of life. “New Urbanism: Rx for Healthy Places,” will present new research and techniques for incorporating health promotion into these design decisions at a variety of scales.

Health professionals, planners, developers, and policymakers at every level will gain valuable insight through inspiring speakers, relevant research, and exemplary projects and policies. Health concerns will be integrated into the various program tracks, including transportation, suburb retrofitting, green design, public spaces and quality of life issues. Pre-Congress activities will begin on May 19 with New Urbanism and Healthy Places training session for local officials, the Next Generation of New Urbanists One-Day Congress, and partner events.” Click here for a video description of the 2010 Congress.

In late fall the CNU will also call for the submission of academic papers to be considered for presentation in Atlanta. Research on the relationship between the built environment and public and personal health are of interest to CNU.

For more information on the Congress for the New Urbanism’s 2010 Congress in Atlanta, “New Urbanism: Rx for Healthy Places,” contact Steve Filmanowicz, Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), 312-551-7300 ext.12, Sfilmanowicz@cnu.org or Charles Green, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 770-488-0626, clg8@cdc.gov. Go to CNU or CDC’s Healthy Communities Initiative to learn more.