Category: sustainability

Santorini is an ancient Greek Island at the southern end of the Dodecanese islands. Shaped into a crescent by a volcano that blew it apart in the second millennium BCE, it wraps its arms around the caldera that still steams offshore. The towns of Thera, Oia, and Akrotiri sit along the inside of the crescent where cliffs rise out of the water and white-washed buildings tumble down the slopes as far as they dare to go. At sunset in Oia, you can join the applauding throngs as they watch our star disappear over the earth’s edge. During my first visits…

Cultivating Community in a School Garden In January of 2011 I co-founded Sprout Farms, an urban agriculture education nonprofit project. The idea for Sprout came from my aspiration to understand urban infrastructure and to develop means to make it sustainable. My partner, Katie Hope, a teacher with a master’s degree in early childhood education, brought expertise, both in the garden and the classroom. We shared a personal desire to expand our own gardening space beyond our apartment windowsills. Through Sprout we’ve learned how to mold public space into a catalyst for community connectivity. We’ve learned how to work with the…

A few years ago, I co-founded Gowanus by Design. This was before the Gowanus Canal, a heavily contaminated post-industrial waterway in Brooklyn, New York, was designated a Superfund site. The canal has became a symbol for the urban planning challenges facing us in the early part of the 21st century that are a direct result of misguided 20th century industry growth. The Canal’s future remains still in doubt. Will the clunky vision proposed by developers such as Lightstone justify Spike Lee’s disgust with the gentrification of Brooklyn? Or will the hard work of many community based organizations, coupled with “Bridging…

In “The City in History,” Lewis Mumford described how the first great cities of Athens and Rome succumbed to the disparity of a city’s subcultures and accumulation of wealth for the privileged classes. Three weeks ago an article appeared in the New York Times about the developer David Lichtenstein; I started to wonder if the sunburst over Brooklyn will fade as those with similar track records and motivations determine its fate. Mr. Lichtenstein’s company, The Lightstone Group, has taken over a project on the banks of the Gowanus Canal originally put forth by Toll Brothers. The city granted Toll Brothers…

In this past Sunday’s New York Times Real Estate section there was an article titled “Everybody Inhale” describing the challenges that our city faces with the expected surge in population over the next couple of decades. However, it is a rich irony that planners sit over beers in a Brooklyn bar contemplating how Manhattan should grow larger and taller with nary a mention of the city’s other four boroughs. This sadly supports a long held cultural view that New York City is solely defined by Manhattan. Last summer the poster for the BMW Guggenheim Lab’s “RETHINK NYC” exhibit reinforced this…

As a way to summarize and recap the final two days of Greenbuild and the conference overall, I’ve outlined a number of recurring ideas and themes that appeared in a number of speeches, discussions, talks and conversations throughout the conference. – Cradle-to-gate: as in that part of the Life Cycle of a material or product that occurs from the point of its extraction as a raw material to the point where it arrives in a building site, including any manufacturing or processing. This concept was discussed in a number of instances and mentioned by architects, engineers and product manufacturers as…

Day 1 Wednesday’s highlights included the opening of the Exhibition Halls. It seems as though every company imaginable that is involved in the design, building and construction industries has some sort of display. DiRTT, Centria, and Richlite’s stand out, as well as the number of engineered and composite wood products. Also, standing out is the sheer number of people, businesses and organization participating in this 2011 Greenbuild. Downtown Toronto is teeming with Greenbuild participants with their badges and bright green tote bags. The Living Building Challenge was the subject of a particularly interesting and insightful Education Session in the afternoon.…

A few weeks ago, our office visited a NYC Parks Department Five Borough Administrative Building on Randall’s Island to see an ongoing experiment in green roof installations. Admittedly, we did not know what to expect and thought at best we might see a few planters with sedum and flowers. We were pleasantly surprised and even a bit overwhelmed by what we encountered. When we arrived, John Robilotti, a Senior Project Manager for the Parks Department with a background in horticulture, gave us a Power Point presentation on the green roof installations and described how he started the program a few…