Blog Post 11

Resiliency

Resiliency is a complex topic when focusing in on disasters. When we look to the political right, we see thinkers like Aaron Renn who believes that in order to be resilient one must first fail or be disrupted. Renn speaks of resilient individuals and resilient systems, rather than resilient cities. When we look to the left we see organizations like 100 Resilient Cities, which works towards taking the resiliency process one step further than sustainability in city policy, planning, and practice.

From our class readings, resiliency can be interpreted as the “bounce back” from stress or the mitigation of the stressor in the first place. Both of which have common ground in returning to a normal- whether that be a new normal or a former state.

First and foremost, the risk landscape needs to be addressed so that it no longer targets at-risk populations. To help create tangible resiliencies you can focus on improving infrastructure directly related to disasters. More specifically for San Francisco, it is critical we look at things like sea level rise when decided where to develop and understand the impact of climate change and our coasts. We can look to the SF better streets plan that created streets that are functional for transit and people, and also resilient to disasters. An example of this is utilizing urban forestry, storm water collection, and permeable materials during street planning and design. We also see examples of “sponge cities” in China designed to absorb and manage unexpected floods and water. When cities have the opportunity, redesigning with disasters in mind can minimize risk on population and create tangible opportunities for resilience.

Second it is critical to look at how neoliberalism and disaster capitalism play a role in how we currently create resiliency. Exposing at-risk communities to stressors will not make them more resilient if we continue to foster a profit driven disaster relief system. Compression time must also be taken to account in disaster planning to estimate how to provide quick and quality service to the diverse needs of at-risk populations.

Lastly, addressing the issue of disaster capitalism would allow us to create and define the system of “bouncing back”. We need to take a critical look at Disaster Capitalism and Chronic Disaster Syndrome perpetuated by neoliberalism. Chronic disaster syndrome is defined as long-term stress relating to unsettled circumstances and we continue to see this prevalent in cases like Katrina. Governments need to take a more aggressive role in service providing rather than relying on a ‘culture’ of resilience. It is critical to work with communities to create more dynamic systems to bounce back to when planning for disasters.

 

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Additional Readings: Resilience and conservative views, Manhattan Institute.pdf

Blog Post 10

Mega Projects

Professor Karen Frick Discussed the 7 “C”s of Megaprojects:

  1. Colossal
  2. Captivating
  3. Costly
  4. Controversial
  5. Complex
  6. Control (lack of)
  7. Communications

Example of a mega project would be the One World Trade Center in New York City. This building took 7 years and 3.8 billion to construct the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Colossal, Captivating, and Complex are 3 C’s that I would use to describe this project.

  • Colossal: This megaproject being a freestanding building, it is colossal with its size and scale being the fourth tallest skyscraper in the world.
  • Captivating: The building gives the sense it has the responsibility to represent the post-9/11 rebirth and resilience.
  • Complex: Building wise, this large steel structure has a concrete core for additional security and strength. Being an extremely expensive and modern building, there were several back and forth with the design and complexity to build it.

I believe because of the sheer historical relevance of this building, it was deserving of mega project status. Despite some controversy in design, the overall budget was not heavily underestimated (about 9 million over budget). I think it fulfills its own technological sublime and sits well in the NYC skyline. I would consider this project a successful mega project.

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Looking at the McKinsey Reading we see that three main reasons for project failure are:

  1. Overoptimism and Overcomplexity
  2. Poor execution
  3. Weakness in organization design and capabilities

As per the McKinsey reading, I believe the One World Trade Center fulfills the promise of the mega project as it:

  1. Do the engineering and risk analysis before starting construction
  2. Streamline permitting and land acquisition
  3. Build a project team wit the right mix of abilities

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Blog Post 9

CityLab Myths

9. There’s no downside to cheap gas

It was hardly a painful year for Americans at the pump. Gas prices started 2015 incredibly low and they ended it even lower, with average fuel costs in the U.S. dipping below $2 this month. That’s great for middle-class bank accounts, but it’s bad for all the hidden social costs of driving, which have been estimated at some $3.3 trillion (with a “T”) a year. Of that total, at least $1 trillion represents time lost to congestion both at home and at work.

With lower costs of gasoline of comes increase willingness to consume. When I am home in Los Angeles and have access to a car,  I am always more willing to drive places and farther distances when gas is cheaper. I am deterred from such activities when price is higher. For example, when I first learned to drive in 2011 gas was close to $5 a gallon which would require me to strategically plan out routes and carpools to split costs. Despite being an environmentalist and being aware of social costs of driving, I am always first inclined by costs. Therefore, I think if gas were appropriately priced, it would better reflect the economic impact it has in other facets.

This can be remedied through increasing the cost of gas through a gas tax. This relates to Karen Frick’s 4/6 lecture in which we discussed the different transportation funds. Considering the federal gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993, we must heavily rely on alternative modes of funding like sales taxes and non-user fees to fund transportation. In addition to social costs, there are several negative environmental externalities with cheap gas. This contributes to things like climate change, public health, pollution, etc. Gas can be appropriately priced through raising the gas tax on the federal and state level to support public transit funds and discourage excessive use.
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Blog Post 8

In the fall of 2016 I attended the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s Climate Forward Bay Area Leadership Forum. The keynote speaker Van Jones spoke on eloquently on Equity and how to best address it as policy makers. He highlighted that people avoid truly addressing equity- real answers and real tangible change. True genius is in other people’s experiences and seeing past your own blind spot. In his speech he mentioned the importance of actual pay off through all the “political nonsense” he referenced the Greenling Institute which directs money from the cap-and-trade programs to communities most in need of economic investment, good jobs, and clean air (SB353). There we see a win-win situation between environment and people.

 

A program I would propose in order to promote environmental equity would involve community engagement throughout the process. The program would involve prioritizing to replace polluted manufacturing centers and factories with clean energy (solar, wind, etc.). Because this population is disproportionately effected by pollution it is critical to address this issues. These new clean energy centers would be a hub for new jobs for these populations that have been disappearing due to autonomization and deindustrialization. This program would accomplish jobs stimulation and reducing greenhouse gases in employee’s own communities and beyond. This policy would require funds in place as well as public and private partnerships.

Blog Post 7

Urban Recreation

According to Professor Stein, some characteristics of Urban Recreation include:

  • Need to preserve
  • Significant personal effort
  • Communication
  • Self-actualization

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My passion for hiking links urban recreation to grater urban ecology. I enjoy taking hikes in Tilden Park, which instills a need to preserve the natural area I hike in. I put in significant personal effort to ensure I live in a more sustainable way especially when in the park and utilize communication and self-actualization to meet other likeminded people to hike with or attend nature events with.

I actually find Professors Stein’s emphasis on leisure and recreation contradictory to her Plants and Wildlife lecture. For example, children typically enjoy grassy areas to run and play sports, yet Professor Stein calls for wasteful lawns to be replaced with drought tolerant plants or “more useful orchards”. I think this stark contradiction fails to understand the complexities and interdependencies of the three types of sustainability: ecological, economical, and equitable (social). When looking at the NY Plan to increase parks, they are not necessarily only focusing on ecological sustainability, but how to increase opportunities and infrastructure for the at risk populations. For example, Initiative 5 in the plaNY calls for creating and upgrading flagship parks. “With additional investment, these parks could have the space and features to serve a large amount of people…rebuilding McCarren pool as both an outdoor Olympic-size pool and a year-round recreation center…indoor track and field facility”(38). I would suggest that recreation in urban areas should not simply focus on either people or ecology, bur rather how they best can exist together.

I would argue that urban recreation and urban ecology at times were presented as separate concepts but are obviously intertwined. The purposes of these two concepts are to show that providing opportunities for urban recreation allows for better urban ecological stewardship. It is critical for people to be educated on the importance of Urban Ecology and how their own recreation and hobbies are part of the process.

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Sources:

PlaNYC 2011- Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Environmental Design 4B Lecture 3/14/17 and 3/16/17

Blog Post 6

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A technology fromthe 19th century or earlier that cold help humanity respond to present-day environmental challenges would be a Yakhchāl. A Yakhchāl, as presented by Professor Stein is a Persian evaporative cooler designed in 400BCE. Despite the extremely hot a dry climate, this structure is oriented and designed to work as refrigeration system requiring no electricity.

This historically provides for human life by providing cooling properties for regions that are warm and are unable to store perishables and also provide cooling to structures. This can provide for humans in the present by serving as a natural and carbon free approach to cooling homes and buildings. This would be an example of mitigation to reduce consumptions of CO2 and reduce the contributions to climate change.

This integrates well with the larger ecosystem because it fits well in the urban landscape utilizing mud and water from aqueducts. It doesn’t require any artificial or toxic materials allowing it a small environmental footprint.

Potential issues with current levels of density and lack of craftsmanship would not allow for the Yakhchāl to be utilized. Additionally, our structures are probably much larger and have a larger cooling and chilling needs if this would feasible replace HVAC units. Lastly, this would only be able to thrive in few and limited climates and regions where such a structure could thrive which could be rapidly changing as a result of climate change. According to the Climate Vulnerability reading, mega cities are facing an increased rate of change and phenomena such as flooding and growth, which such a historical Bronze-Age technology might not be able to adapt to.

We can learn about materials, orientation, and techniques for evaporative cooling from the Yakhchāl, but current environmental changes may require something more dynamic and flexible.460px-20110102_Ice_House_(interior)_Meybod_Iran.jpg

 

Sources:

Environmental Design 4B Lecture 3/7/2017. Professor Stein

3. Climate Vulnerability  Reading by Andrew Schiller, Alex de Sherbinin, Wen-Hua Hsieh, Alex Pulsipher

 

Blog Post 5

Urban Design Project

Yerba Buena Gardens

One of my favorite small scale Urban Design Projects has to be Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco.  I have never utilized any of the commercial elements of Yerba Buena Gardens, but have frequented the versatile outdoor space for group meetings, on a date night, and killing time while I’m on my own- it is my favorite spot in the city.

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This garden sits on two blocks of public park with ample green space, outdoor activities, seating, and a water monument. Composed of many levels, the Yerba Buena Gardens sits as an oasis of open space of relaxation in the hustle and bustle of the city without disrupting the urban fabric. Professor Renee Chow described the urban fabric, now called urban fields as on of the many elements of urban design. Other key concepts Professor Chow defined were urban design making you feel like you are on the “inside” and being able to recognize where you are and where you move. There is nothing left over or wasted, which we see in the Yerba Buena configuration. When I am at this park I feel well enclosed by the city, yet there are no clear boundaries.

The impact of this project spreads beyond the block by providing a gathering place and recreation amongst the densely developed SF landscape. This project helps define the city without being overbearingly iconic or fragmented. Instead, you are surrounded by the diverse skyline of San Francisco and immersed in the sights and sounds. This concept of open space, public gathering, and showcasing of art transcends the borders of Yerba Buena Park by influencing other narrow corridors, squares, and nooks in the surrounding bustling areas.

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Sources:

Professor Renee Chow- Environmental Design 4B Lecture, UC Berkeley, February 14 2016

Blog Post 4

Mass Production vs. Industrial District

In the Rise and Fall of Mass Production, Henry Ford tells us the components of mass production are as follows:

A) Planned orderly and continuous progression of the commodity through the job;

B) The delivery of work instead of leaving it to the workman’s initiative to find it;

C) An analysis of operations into their constituents parts– Henry Ford P 159

Through the understanding the industrial district, we can see that mass production isn’t the only way industry can thrive. According to Professor Cenzatti the contrast between mass production and the industrial district as follows:

Mass Production Industrial District
Not flexible Flexible
Large firms Cluster of small medium firms
Invest in machinery Circulation of skills and ideas
Labor does not require skill Labor does require skill/craftsmanship

One example of a city with an economy focused on mass production would the manufacturing of automobiles in a city like Detroit, Michigan. This example shows us large corporations like Ford Motors who embody concepts such as Taylorism and low skill labor. They use a blueprint for a car and manufacture many as efficiently as possible. However, this industry was lost to competitors due to its lack of flexibility. The city is reflects this paradigm through concepts of “company towns” or suburbia, in which housing is strategically planned to correspond with these mass production jobs that require many employees.

An example of a city with an economy focused on industrial districts is Los Angeles. With industry such as entertainment postproduction or manufacturing one-of-kind custom cars, we can see that these small and medium firms require a creative class. This causes the built environment to revolve around fragmentation with no clear center. With many small hubs for “incubation” and apprenticeship Los Angeles is fragmented with various communities and planning styles.

 

Both types of industries can function and thrive simultaneously and independently depending on circumstances. While differing in many points, both contribute to the quality of life and values we hold living in America.

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Sources:

11 FORD – Mass Production.pdf

Lecture 2/7/17 and 2/9/2017 by Marco Cenzatti- Environmental Design 4B, UC Berkeley

Gifs:pammack.sites.clemson.edu

 

Blog Post 3

Fordism

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Fordism is an economic system that thrives on mass production and subsequently mass consumption. Fordism combines both human and machine efficiency to create products for consumption. Despite globalization disrupting the manufacturing model of Fordism, an example that still exists today would be Fast Food. Fast Food combines human skill and machinery to run efficiently and produce products to the lowest possible competitive price.

Marco Cenzatti defines Fordism as:

  • System of production: mass production
  • System of regulatory mechanisms that mediates production & consumption
  • Exist in a market big enough to absorb goods and homogeneity of items

Mass production, while falling into Fordism, is rather just an element that it must fit the standards of perfection and is dictated by scientific management and Taylorism. Taylorism aims to be the most efficient by utilizing the same simple task over and over. This would fall under the example of an assembly line.

We see that mass production goes beyond consumer products to homes and even communities. Once someone owns a mass-produced home, they are then tied to the mass consumption of household products and appliances for that home. There is always an importance of always having the latest and greatest and “keeping up with the Joneses”. We see an example of this in the reading through the development of Levittown, which “epitomizes the revolution which has brought mass production to the housing industry”(TIME 1). This community was mass-produced and was able to stabilize the construction industry. Although they were built liken an assembly line, they were built my American workers with American machinery and materials. Levit and his developments are a prime example of mass consumption in the suburban context.

Sources:

TIME magazine 3-7-1950- Levittown

Lecture 1/31/17 and 2/2/2017 by Marco Cenzatti- Environmental Design 4B, UC Berkeley

image source: gifovea.tumblr.com

Blog Post 2

Utopia 

Eden Project, Cornwall, England

When looking at Utopias from the Benevolo reading, we see that Owen’s conditions of a Utopia includes: “the adoption of human labour as the unit for measuring value, and the creation of an internal market, thus increasing the. workers’ profits so as to enable them to be consumers of the goods produced and not mere instruments of production” (Benevolo 48). This post industrialization critique comes at a time of anomie, which is defined by Marco Cenzatti as a characteristic of a lack of balance.

Drawing from Marco’s lecture we also see that a Utopia is:

  • Not about the future, but rather a critique of the present
  • Autocratic, not democratic
  • Not flexible in its blueprint characteristics.
  • Not able to grow but rather repeat itself in space
  • Not able to change since it is perfect already

I identify the Eden Project as an example of Utopian Planning. The Eden Project is a collection of gardens situated in biomes mimicking world climates in South Cornwall, England. Beyond the breathtaking scope of flora, the Eden project provides a self-contained museum, program for higher education (BSc), recreation, and lodging. All of which is constructed and hidden within the craters of a former desolate china-clay pit.

I view the Eden project as a utopia because it is in a fixed location with clear boundaries and a common purpose of supporting and maintaining horticulture. Being built in 2001, I think that it reflects the issues of rapid environmental degradation and issues of deforestation. It ironically sits within the English countryside far from cities and smog, yet is juxtaposed against the managed farmlands and the arguably homogeneous wildlife of the English countryside.

I made a trip to the Eden project this past spring during my semester abroad and was able to experience the sustainable design features first hand. Complete with a stay in a repurposed shipping- container-turned-hostel, my trip to Eden was nothing short of Utopian experience. After my daylong emersion wandering the biomes and eating locally prepared and organic food, I found myself day dreaming about attending a program here and spending more time in this colorful and manicured world. I wasn’t until I was on a bus exiting the valley that I took a look back at the tiny compound and realized the almost artificial scope and purpose of the tiny Eden community nestled in South Cornwall.

Here are some photos from my visit:

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Sources:

4 BENEVOLO – XIX C Utopias 39-75.pdf

Lecture 1/24/2017 Marco Cenzatti- Environmental Design 4B

Photos: Amy Craik 2016