Is Passive Solar Design Irrelevant?

Is Passive Solar Design Irrelevant?

Passive solar design principles have been recognized for decades and are on display in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Solar Hemicycle designs, to cite one high-profile example.

Once lauded for providing “free heat,” passive solar design principles are now recognized as being less effective at maintaining indoor comfort than superinsulated buildings.

As a new generation of do-it-yourself builders got busy experimenting in the 1970s, passive solar design ideas proliferated. Builders claimed that attached sunspaces, solar collectors, trombe walls, earth ships, and many more ideas could keep a house comfortable with minimal or zero use of fossil fuels.

Superinsulated designs, likewise, saw intense development in the 1970s, and have come to the forefront of green building thanks to the Passive House standard. This demanding approach focuses on improving air-tightness and insulation, decreasing thermal bridging, and setting rigorous levels for energy use.

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How Much Should Parking Cost?

How much should parking cost?

“Minimum parking requirements act like a fertility drug for cars,” Donald Shoup famously wrote. Shoup is professor of urban planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California at Los Angeles, and is a prominent critic of parking policy, such as free parking and minimum parking requirements.

As urban populations grow, a variety of outdated rules create hurdles for cities trying to accommodate more people while maintaining and improving livability and walkability. Minimum parking requirements, or parking minimums, are a prime example. These municipal rules are simple enough: developers building a new residential or commercial project must also provide a minimum number of new parking spaces, usually based on the square footage of the building. There is typically no consideration of nearby transit options or, indeed, of the need for the new parking spaces. These spaces are nearly always free for the user, according to Shoup, because “Most cities are planned on the unstated assumption that parking should be free—no matter how high the cost.”

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Slender Skyscrapers Are Re-making Skylines

slender skyscraper

Slender skyscrapers are dramatic in form.

In Manhattan, Asia, and the Middle East, a new super-tall, super-skinny skyscraper form is gaining popularity. Though it’s unlikely they’ll ever be the dominant form, it seems that they fill a niche in crowded cities.

The structures’ smaller footprint enables them to squeeze on to smaller lots and make use of the vertical dimension. A project in Manhattan designed by Eran Chen of ODA New York – 303-305 44th Street – will contain 41 floors in its 600-foot height, though the building will be only 47 feet wide.

The design employs 16-foot gaps between floors to make room for gardens, enhance views, and reduce wind loads. The total gross floor area is 116,731 square feet, and floor plate area is 2,700 square feet.

This form of structure has its own appellation: the slender skyscraper.

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Creating Affordable, Walkable Neighbourhoods


Creating Affordable, Walkable Neighbourhoods



According to Australia’s 2011 Census, 88.9 per cent of Australians live in urban areas. Those areas are defined as the built-up areas of towns and cities of more than 1,000 people.

The Australian Capital Territory leads the pack, at 99.5 per cent urbanised, while the Northern Territory ranks at 73.8 per cent.

Growth over the coming decades is predicted to be robust, says the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with all major cities forecast to double in population by mid-century. The total population is expected to top 60 million by 2101.

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Green Building Megatrends

10 Green Building Megatrends from the “Godfather of Green”

Jerry Yudelson, the “Godfather of Green”


Green building is facing a number of changes, according to “The Godfather of Green,” Jerry Yudelson. A LEED fellow and former president of the Green Globes rating system, Yudelson has recently written a book, Reinventing Green Building, in which he identifies 10 “megatrends” he believes will impact certification systems, markets, government rules, and green building technologies through 2020 and beyond.

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