New Report: Walkable Neighborhoods Have Higher Home Values

A new report from CEOs for Cities, “Walking the Walk: How Walkability Raises Home Values in U.S. Cities,” contends that more walkable neighborhoods increase home values. According to CEOs for Cities, data was analyzed “from 94,000 real estate transactions in 15 major markets provided by ZipRealty and found that in 13 of the 15 markets, higher levels of walkability, as measured by Walk Score, were directly linked to higher home values.” CEOs for Cities adds: “The study found that in the typical metropolitan area, a one-point increase in Walk Score was associated with an increase in value ranging from $700 to $3,000 depending on the market.  The gains were larger in denser, urban areas like Chicago and San Francisco and smaller in less dense markets like Tucson and Fresno.”

Walk score’s algorithim calculates the distance to the closest amenities (restaurants, schools, parks, subway stations, etc) from any U.S. address. CEOs for Cities says the algorithim determines a “walk score” in the range of 0-100; 100 is the “most walkable,” while 0 means “totally car-dependent.” People can function in neighborhood without a car if the walk score is more than 70.

Carol Coletta, President and CEO of CEOs for Cities argues that redeveloping cities to make them more walkable will “not only enhance the local tax base but will also contribute to individual wealth by increasing the value of what is, for most people, their biggest asset.”

World Changing argues that the report has validity: “Remember, the researchers who did this analysis controlled for all sorts of variables that affect housing prices: the size and age of the home, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, neighborhood incomes, the distance from major job centers, and so forth. So their results don’t stem from some spurious correlation — e.g., that walkable neighborhoods tend to be worth more because they’re closer to downtown. Nope, this is the real deal: in just about every metro area they looked at, walkability adds value to property. (Las Vegas, NV and Bakersfield, CA were the two exceptions).”

Walk Score founder, Mike Mathieu, said: “‘Walking the Walk’ shows definitively what we’ve always believed – that homes in walkable neighborhoods continue to be a good investment, and are one of the simplest and most effective solutions to fight climate change, improve our health, and strengthen our communities. Our vision is for every property listing to include a Walk Score: Beds: 3 Baths: 2 Walk Score: 84.”

Read the World Changing article, a brief from CEOs for Cities, and the full report

Livable Communities Resource Guide

ASLA created a new online resource guide on livable communities. The guide contains lists of organizations, research, concepts and projects related to livable communities, and includes sections on: sustainable land use, place making, green schools, sustainable housing, sustainable employment growth, and health, safety, and security. 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 Land Use
  • Place making
  • Green Schools
  • Sustainable Housing
  • Sustainable Employment Growth
  • Health, Safety, and Security

As an example, the section on “health, safety, and security” includes major research studies and policy papers outlining the “healing and restorative” benefits of green spaces in communities. There are also links to award-winning sustainable community master plans.

This resource guide is part of an on-going series. See earlier resource guides:

Another guide focused on Green spaces in the Built Environment is coming.

The Livable Communities resource guide is constantly expanding. If there are resources we’ve missed, add in the comments field below, or email We are particularly interested in case studies.

Go to the Resource Guide

Image credit: A Civic Vision and Action Plan for the Central, Delaware River, Philadelphia, PA, Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC, Philadelphia, PA

Land Matters: The Best Parks We Can Sell

“Public spaces paid for by public dollars are becoming an endangered species in the United States,” said George Hargreaves, FASLA, in a forum at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

In no place is Hargreaves’s statement truer than in New York City. The extraordinary boom in park construction there in the past decade would have been impossible if everything had been left up to the public sector. Ever since the city ran short of money for parks around the 1970s, it has relied on business improvement districts (BIDs), park conservancies, and even private developers to take up the slack. These groups fund the upkeep (and sometimes the construction) of city parks through various means—including commercial events within the parks. Parks advocates worry about what gets lost when private entities manage a park and decide what people can and can’t do there. Do you worry about that, reader? Just how much of a “slippery slope” is privatization?

Take New York’s recently completed High Line as an example. The former railway-turned-aerial-esplanade will be managed by the Friends of the High Line, a private entity that needs to raise $4.5 million a year to maintain it. Commercial interests are part of the solution: Recently the city awarded a no-bid contract to Friends to run all concession stands on and below the park for the next 10 years. Some New Yorkers worry about the trend toward turning parks over to nongovernmental entities. “What’s happening on a basic level is that the city does not feel that parks are its responsibility anymore,” says Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates.

Not that New York is the only city rushing to privatize parks. In Houston, Hargreaves’s own Discovery Green, which just opened, is completely privately owned. In California there’s a park named for a shoe company. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I tend to flinch from the idea of “selling” public parks, but then I live in Washington, D.C., a city where most parks are managed by the National Park Service, so I don’t have to resort to privatized spaces for my daily park “fix.” I do travel to other cities, however, among them New York, where I venture into parks that are managed by BIDs, conservancies, and other nongovernmental entities. Some of them, I must admit, are absolutely great—Bryant Park, for example. In the 1970s I lived in Manhattan and recall Bryant Park as a publicly managed but grungy space where drug pushers hung out. Then the Bryant Park Corporation (BPC), a private management company, took over the park and gave it a new lease on life. It hired Hanna/Olin Ltd. to reconfigure the park and has since managed it to such a high standard that midtown office workers have made it a favorite gathering place. The BPC gets part of its operating funds from commercial events such as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks, which plunk a huge tent right in the middle of the park. I admit I was shocked the time I visited Bryant Park while a commercial event (a Pokemon festival) was in progress. Still, if such events are infrequent, are they really so objectionable if New Yorkers get a better managed park in return?

I am certain that, at some point, a privatized park would cease to “feel” public. What is that point, reader? Are you personally aware of a privatized park that doesn’t seem public anymore?

J. William “Bill” Thompson, FASLA
Editor, Landscape Architecture Magazine

NYC’s New Pier 57

The Hudson River Park Trust has chosen LOT-EK to re-design Pier 57 in New York City as a recreational green space, open-air public market, and underwater exhibition and educational space, writes Inhabitat. The Dutch landscape architecture firm, West 8, will design the public spaces, according to World Landscape Architect. Pier 57 is in Chelsea, around 15th street on the West side of Manhattan. LOT-EK proposed that the pier be made of refurbished shipping containers, much like its Puma store in Boston.

Inhabitat says the Hudson River Park Trust was initially concerned with using shipping containers. “The Hudson River Park Trust and community were slightly more weary about if the shipping containers would comply with building codes, not to mention if the shipping containers would make the interior dingy and uninviting.” Apparently, the success and popularity of LOT-EK’s Puma store changed their minds.

Underneath the pier-length green space, which will also be used to watch movies, 170,000 square feet will be developed as work spaces, “ideally rented out to local artisans.” A public market is also in the plans. “LOT-EK (and developer Young Woo & Associates) brought in Urban Space Management to help manage their proposed lively and eclectic mix of renters. Below the water level, the architects propose an additional 90,000-square-foot ‘Underwater Discovery Center,’ which includes exhibition and education spaces.”

LOT-EK’s winning proposal came out of a second round RFP process. According to The Real Deal, all initial proposals fell through.

Read the article and go to Bustler for more photos

Image credit: LOT-EK / via Bustler

Is Geoengineering a Real Option for Combating Climate Change?

The potentially dangerous unintended consequences of tampering with the earth’s climate lead some to argue for a new UN global agreement to prevent any future manipulation of the global climate system. Countries unilaterally (or maliciously) undertaking programs to change the climate is a particular cause of concern. But The New York Times’ John Tierney thinks geoengineering is a real option, arguing that “political leaders will not seriously reduce carbon emissions anytime soon.”

Geoengineering, or “climate engineering,” is increasingly viewed as a practical option for addressing climate change, according to The New York Times. A few recent studies argue that geoengineering may be technically feasible and more cost-effective than global mitigation and adaptation work.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences held a two-day seminar on geoengineering in June and will soon release a report. Britain’s Royal Society is also looking into options. According to Real Climate, John Holdren, President Obama’s chief Science Advisor, has said geoengineering “has to be examined as a possible response to global warming.” The Obama administration has promised to review upcoming research. (The New York Times notes, however, that no significant R&D has been put towards geoengineering.)

The science research site, Novim, has published a report, “Climate Engineering Responses to Climate Emergencies,” on the use of “aerosol particles to reflect shortwave solar radiation back into space.” Researchers associated with the project have argued that USD 100 million could be enough to test small-scale geoengineering, perhaps over the Arctic. Aerosol particles could be expelled into the stratosphere to reproduce the effects of particle matter released from volcanic eruptions. The New York Times says the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 resulted in a cooling of the global climate by 1 degree Fahrenheit. ” Just as occurred after that eruption, the effects would wane as the particles fell back to Earth.” In a recent edition of Science, other scientists looked to the same eruption and consequent cooling and saw a cause for concern — after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, worldwide precipitation rates fell. Massive aerosol use could lead to droughts.

Other geoengineering strategies being explored include “air-capture” machines that would strip C02 out of the atmosphere (see earlier post), as well as spraying seawater mist up to low-lying clouds, creating brighter and more reflective clouds. A recent report by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, “Engineer a Better Climate,” found cloud-brightening technology to be a potentially viable option. According to the Copenhagen Consensus Center, “marine cloud whitening with a fleet of unmanned ships would be extremely cheap: for about $9 billion, all of the global warming for the century could be avoided, with benefits adding up to about $20 trillion.” The Web site, Real Climate, is dismissive of the report’s findings: “In this report, they simply omit the costs of many of the potential negative aspects of producing a stratospheric cloud to block out sunlight or cloud brightening, and come to the conclusion that these strategies have a 25-5000 to 1 benefit/cost ratio.”

Geoengineering continues to face skepticism. According to Real Climate, geoengineering schemes fail to address the negative impact of rising CO2 levels on the environment, and “ignore the effects of ocean acidification from continued CO2 emissions, dismissing this as a lost cause. Even without global warming, reducing CO2 emissions is needed to do the best we can to save the ocean. The costs of this continuing damage to the planet, which geoengineering will do nothing to address, are ignored in the analysis in this report. If it [geoengineering] were stopped, by the loss of interest or means by society, the resulting rapid warming would be much more dangerous than the gradual warming we are now experiencing.” Real Climate concludes in its review of the Copenhagen Consensus Center research: “The real consensus, as expressed at the National Academy conference and in the AMS statement, is that mitigation needs to be our first and overwhelming response to global warming, and that whether geoengineering can even be considered as an emergency measure in the future should climate change become too dangerous is not now known.” (Read more of Real Climate’s views on the report.)

Read the article

Image credit: John MacNeill / Copenhagen Consensus Center

According to New Poll, U.S. Majority Favors Climate Change Bill

A new telephone poll of 1,005 Americans by Zogby International found that 71 percent of likely voters support the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) that recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. Some 67 percent believe Congress is either doing the right amount (22 percent) or should be doing more (45 percent) to address global warming. According to Zogby, 28 percent believe that Congress is doing too much on climate change.

Zogby writes that support for the bill crosses partisan divisions and age groups to some extent: “Favorable views for the bill were high among all age and income groups and even among Republicans, with 45 percent having a favorable view of the bill. Seventy-three percent of Independents and 89 percent of Democrats also took a favorable view of the American Clean Energy and Security Act.”

About two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) believe a new U.S. clean energy policy will create jobs. According to Zogby, “more than half (51 percent) believe this would lead to new job creation, while another 17 percent believe these efforts will not affect American jobs. Twenty-nine percent feel efforts to promote clean energy will cost American jobs. Those who believe these environmental efforts will create new American jobs outnumbered those who disagreed in all age and income groups. Among self-described political independents, 53 percent agreed that new jobs will be created, and only 24 percent thought jobs would be lost.”

When asked about whether the U.S. Senate needs to take action, a majority agreed: “When presented with arguments for and against the American Clean Energy and Security Act, including concerns about the impact of the legislation on energy prices, a majority (54%) believe the Senate should now take action, with two-fifths (41 percent) preferring that the Senate wait.”

Another poll commisioned by the Pew Environment Group in July, 2009 found that “a supermajority of voters (78 percent) wants the U.S. to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide that cause global warming. What’s more, support for action intense, as 60 percent not only favor U.S. action but do so “strongly” (18 percent not so strongly). Just 15 percent are opposed (5 percent undecided, 2 percent don’t know).”

A few surveys of U.S. public opinion conducted earlier this year found Americans more ambivalent about climate change. A March, 2009 Gallup poll found that “two-in-five Americans believe the media are exaggerating the issue.” Another poll by Pew released in July, 2009 found that only half of the public thinks people are causing climate change, while about 10 percent don’t believe global warming exists.

A global poll conducted in July, 2009 by World Public Opinion found that the U.S. trails most of the rest of the world in prioritizing climate change. According to Solve Climate, “a new World Public Opinion poll asked that question to 18,578 people in 19 countries and found a wide difference of opinion. Mexicans gave government climate action a priority of 9 out of a possible 10. Residents of China gave it an 8.86. And the United States? U.S. residents gave it 4.71. That’s below even the Palestinian Territories and Iraq, populations with serious basic human safety concerns right now.”

Read more on the Zogby poll results

Herzog + de Meuron’s Plaza de Espana

Near the Santa Cruz de Tenerife wharf in the Canary Islands, Herzog + de Meuron designed Plaza de Espana, a public plaza that highlights the connection between the ocean and the diverse island ecosystem, writes Inhabitat. “Years ago, the plaza was the site of a ‘Castillo,’ and the graphic motif in the basin of water represents the foundation of the old castle. Around the basin, many architectural landscape elements — including the two structures with green roofs — represent the Islands’ diverse ecosystems and topography.”

The Plaza de Espana covers almost 9.5 acres of open public space, and includes a large shallow basin that serves as a wading pool. “Surrounding the basin are various forms of landscape design elements – sparse islands of trees, four pavilions containing tourist information, retail space, a café, and access to below-ground parking.” Inhabitat adds that every structure in the Plaza was inspired by natural forms found in the Canary Islands.

Two of the pavilions have unique, sloping green roofs. The roof texture resembles volcanic rock, while the green roof vegetation is dense and tropical.

Read the article and see more photos

Image credit: Iwaan Baan / Inhabitat

Urban Beekeeping

Beehaus,” a new beehive design, can be used on urban rooftops to harvest up to 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of honey per year, according to The New York Times Green Inc blog. The hives could also help stem a decline in the bee population. Natural England, a UK government conservation agency, will add Beehaus to its roof in Central London. The conservation agency said the hive is easy to set-up and use by both expert beekeepers and amateurs.

James Tuthill, a co-founder of Omlet, the company that makes Beehaus, said: “with the help of urban gardeners, bees can have access to a wonderfully diverse source of plants, resulting in fantastic flavorsome honey.”

Urban beekeeping isn’t new. According to Green Inc, Fortnum & Mason, a food emporium, and the Palais Garnier, the Paris opera house, both have rooftop hives. In Vancouver, the new 6-acre convention center green roof includes hives. (see earlier post) Also, in the U.S., the Obamas have been planning a new beehive for the White House lawn.

Bees not only produce honey, but also provide key ecosystem services, including pollination, so their decline is cause for great concern. In the U.S. and Europe, there have been reports of declining numbers of bees. “The European Food Safety Authority says the true extent of the losses is hard to estimate but it reports that in Italy alone up to half of bees may have died in 2007.”

Colony collapse disorder, or mass bee die-off, may be caused by a number of factors, including “starvation, viruses, mites, pesticide exposure and climate change.” According to Green Inc, members of the European Parliament place the blame for bee die-off on “intensive production methods, pesticides and the use of genetically modified crops.” 

A further decline in bees could have a negative impact on agricultural production.

Read the article and a brief on bees and pollination ecosystem services from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Image credit: Omlet

Landscape Architecture Student Scholarships and Fellowships

ASLA has created a list of of landscape architecture student scholarships and fellowships, covering both undergraduate and graduate student opportunities. There is support for students specializing in arid landscapes, tropical horticulture, wetland restoration, and other areas.  Also included are opportunities that relate to landscape architecture, including horticulture, botany, forestry, and environmental studies scholarships and fellowships.

More than 25 opportunities are listed. Scholarships and fellowships vary in funds awarded and time frames for support. Some are restricted — only certain groups can apply.

Go to the full list

Image credit: ASLA 2008 Student Award, General Design Honor Award: The Lower Ninth Ward and Bayou Bienvenue. Conners Ladner, Student ASLA, Robert Bass, Student ASLA and Christopher Barnes, Student ASLA, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Faculty Advisors: Cat Marshall

Jayne Poynter: “Throw Away Your Rakes”

In a new TED talk, Jayne Poynter, a scientist and writer, urges people to “throw away their rakes,” build “biophilic connections” with the environment, and improve local ecosystems by letting their yards “go natural.” By throwing away her rake, Poynter turned her yard in Arizona into an “urban oasis.” Leaves accumulated, creating topsoil, which attracted birds and hawks. Joynter outlines how Arizona is part of a greater riparian system, and argues that all of urban Arizona (and other parts of the world) could become lush if people approached their yards in this way.

Poynter also discusses her “two years and twenty minutes” in the Biosphere 2, a completely enclosed, self-sustaining ecosystem which provided a home and research site for a team of eight researchers. Biosphere research is now also being conducted on board U.S. and international space stations, with plans for growing plants on the moon.

Poynter brought lessons learned from Biosphere 2 to an evaluation project for an “industrial ecosystem” project developed by local farmers and aid agencies in Eritrea. In Eritrea, Poynter mapped the inputs and outputs of a man-made ecological system that used saltwater to grow oilseed plants and man-made mangrove farms, which were then harvested to feed domesticated livestock.

Watch the video

Image credit: TED