Let’s Get Metaphysical: Considering the value of soul in redevelopment

Not so long ago, in a conversation about technology and green building, there was mention of some high-tech green building models coming out of Europe. Models that, according to reports, perform so well that even if you factor the embedded energy of a previous structure torn down to accommodate them, they still come out ahead.

That’s a potential game changer, at least in terms of selling high-tech green, and I’m not sure it’s one that I welcome.

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Solid Buildings Last: A tale of public housing, reborn

Earlier this month, as Hazel mentioned in her city-as-running-buddy post last week, our travels took us to Wilmington, North Carolina, where we were doing some long-term master planning for a neighboring town. Part of that job involved a tour around the area, scoping out different models and precedents, and that’s when we stumbled into South Front, the subject for today’s post.

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The Passion of Place

David Byrne noted in last Sunday’s NY Times that people get hooked on cycling because of pleasure, not health, money, or carbon footprint. “Emotional gratification trumps reason.”

Ben Brown agrees, using Byrne’s “Stop Making Sense” as a blog title on the subject of community engagement and how special interest groups often talk past each other. “Intuition comes first, strategic reasoning second.”

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Get Your Garden Room Right

Having worked in communities big and small across the continent, we’ve had ample opportunity to test ideas and find approaches that work best. Urban design details. Outreach tactics. Implementation tricks. Many of these lessons are transferable, which is why we’ve created “Back of the Envelope,” a weekly feature where we jot ‘em down for your consideration.

It’s that time of year here in central New Mexico when I start eating lunch in my courtyard so I can watch the tomatoes turn red. I’m reminded while sitting here of a visit from Steve Mouzon of the Original Green who was lecturing at the University of New Mexico.

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Building a Custom, Multi-Century House for Under $80 a Square Foot

Affordability is a tough nut to crack. For decades, the production housing industry has operated under a simple premise: Americans value space above all else. If you want to make a house more affordable, you build the same house with lower quality materials and cheaper details.

Goodbye four-sides brick, hello one-side brick. Or no-sides brick.

It’s a perfectly sensical approach and, for some folks, it works out just fine. They get more house for the money and, because it’s new, it’s likely to last at least as long as they plan to live there. In short, it’s affordable. For now.

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Entice, Don’t Coerce: The pleasures of green by design

Living in a century home with passive air and choosing cycling as my primary mode of transportation during this unusually warm summer may sound like hardcore Greenie behavior, but it’s been particularly satisfying.

This enjoyment of a modernized take on methods that have worked for generations has made me pick up Steve Mouzon’s Original Green book again, where he notes:

Delight is often a side effect of buildings that operate naturally for most of the year.

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The Future of Planning: Going meta

“In a world where the peddlers of invention dominate progressive discourse, a willingness to acknowledge–let alone heed–the lessons of history and tradition is a truly radical act.” –Scott Doyon

Check the wiki-hip Urban Dictionary (or watch an episode of Community on NBC) and you’ll find the term meta’s common usage on the street is “to characterize something that is characteristically self-referential.” Consult a more conventional dictionary and you’ll see this derived from its earlier (as well as current) use as a prefix meaning “beyond, about.” That is, taking a subject to a higher level.

As a stand-alone term now, it’s typically applied to works of culture — television, music, film and art. But I suggest we expand that usage because, to me, it’s also the best means of expressing the challenge facing anyone concerned about our urban future.

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Original Greensta: Steve Mouzon Gets Medieval on Sustainability


The Original Green is all about architecture and urbanism. But it’s also about reflection, living, inspiration, and delight. We can achieve sustainable living only when we “want to” or “love to” instead of feeling that we “have to” or “ought to” balance the needs of our society, economy and environment.

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Original Greensta: Steve Mouzon Gets Medieval on Sustainability

The Original Green is all about architecture and urbanism. But it’s also about reflection, living, inspiration, and delight. We can achieve sustainable living only when we “want to” or “love to” instead of feeling that we “have to” or “ought to” balance the needs of our society, economy and environment. Miami architect Steve Mouzon’s new book looks carefully at the building blocks of community, and what needs to shift to making living on earth a long-term proposition. Instead of repeating the cases others have made to quantify the drivers of sustainable living, Steve suggests honoring the Original Green of how we lived in the pre-petroleum era, while leveraging the technological and urban advances of the last 100 years. Continue Reading