Infrastructural interdependency

As the latest round of global weirding in the Northeast has shown us, with over 3m folks out of power – our electrical system is very fragile.  Power outages have worse outcomes than just siting in the dark. Almost every network and utility that our modern lifestyle relies on is interdependent. In a long blackout (beyond the 24 to 48 hours that most mission critical infrastructure has fuel to power their back-up generators), these other systems are bound to fail. Lots of architects and other folks have been discussing the utopian ideal of living off the grid, but our cities are the grid and thus, they can’t be unplugged quite as easily as a house. So what are the risks of power outages?

Dr. James Tindall covers the modes of interdependence and failure types:

Network Interdependency – 5 Categories

  1. Co-location – networks that are located in the same geographic area.  Cyberspace is a good analogy where servers from one company that serve a variety of companies are stored at a location with other servers owned by a larger company.
  2. Exclusive – networks that can support only one or a few outputs (these can be transient in nature) such as water distribution networks or oil/natural gas pipelines.
  3. Input – products or outputs from one network that is used by another.
  4. Mutual – networks that serve as inputs for another such as water and power generation (Hoover Dam) or oil and power generation.
  5. Shared – networks that share facilities, physical components or transport mechanisms. Continue reading

astronomic urbanism

With forty miles between the Sun to Pluto (Presque Isle and Houlton) and recently expanded beyond to Eris(!) another 40 miles further, the Maine Solar System Model (MSSM) resides in Aroostook County in Northern Maine at the scale of 1:93,000,000.  It serves as both an educational tool and tourist destination/local point of pride.  Just another piece of astronomic urbanism, one of dozens large-scale solar system models around the planet that are changing our cultural landscape.

Astronomic Urbanism

Beyond the hoped for economic gains of tourism, these astronomic models seem focused on educating local residents. Since most acts of good citizenry require scientific literacy, these large-scale models do (indirectly) inspire community building.  So unlike Corner/Waldheim/Mostafavi/Reed’s theory of landscape urbanism, astronomic urbanism is more about image and knowledge, than creating places. It is also interesting to note that most efforts in astronomic urbanism are really astronomic ruralism, with only a few examples of architectural expression like the Ericcson/Globe Arena in the Swedish Solar System [below].

the MSSM

The MSSM Sun

Housed in the Museum/Folsom Hall of the Presque Isle campus of the University of Maine, the sun is the only indoor piece of the model – the planets are mounted on 10′ tall poles along Route 1 (except Pluto).

MSSM Mercury

MSSM Venus

MSSM Earth

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Complete report on construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct (1916)

While researching my 4th year studio for winter quarter 2012, I discovered that the source of some of my favorite drawings of the Los Angeles Aqueduct is now a Google Books:

Commissioners, Los Angeles (Calif.). Board of Public Service. 1916. Complete report on construction of the Los Angeles aqueduct; with introductory historical sketch; illustrated with maps, drawings and photographs. Los Angeles Department of Public Service.

David Orr #AASHE2011

[my notes from David Orr’s Plenary Session at AASHE]

David Orr

Photo by Tanya Rosen-Jones

‘If in doubt tell the truth.’
Carbon is permanent in the atmosphere – we’ve already committed to 1000 years of impacts.

Geo-engineering is the last card we can play.  Still don’t know enough about impacts of tweaks.

Largest market failure & political failure in history & largest education failure in history. Told Lyndon Jonson about problem in 1965.

Most graduates don’t know about how world works as a physical system.

Curves: Coke, Nike, McD’s known. the Keeling CO2 curve is not known!

Alan Greenspan found flaw in his thinking in 2009. Economic systems flaws 234 years of economic theory.

Infinite growth is the problem.

Ignorant and free expects what never was and never will be – Thomas Jefferson

Ecological Design revolution – we know ways to fix the problems – lack of political will – slow story, not fast story.

The Oberlin project – rust belt, typical Ohio town.  Lewis Center 1995 – 100% solar, zero discharge – photo of array on Harvey’s Beer – in court for a case of beer:

PV Array at Oberlin - photo by David Orr

Lab for sustainability.

Problems are so big! Need to reduce them to a scale that is manageable – the campus is ideal. Food, energy, & waste.  180 data sensors throughout building.

Collateral benefits of doing things right.

Can we scale it up to the whole community?

Goals for Oberlin Project – ‘platinum at a community scale’

1-    green arts disctrict 13-acres replicate lewis center LEED

  • platinum/living building,
  • driver for economic revitalization

2-    Carbon Neutrality – city and college

  • Energy efficiency is quickest
  • Renewable energy

3-    Renew farmland 20k-acre greenbelt (imports most food) farms, forestry, biomass to grow 70%

4-    Educate -1000 students/ 10 years

  • Consortium of k-12, community college, and Oberlin

Full spectrum sustainability diagram parts reinforce the resilience of the whole -bubbles around center – lunch with lots of people

Full Spectrum Sustainability

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@MajoraCarter #AASHE2011 keynote

[notes from Majora Carter’s keynote talk at AASHE 2011 10/9/2011 – not a direct transcription, but the interesting bits for me]

Majora wasn’t expecting to be here, as she is a last minute replacement for the late Wangari Maathi. MC is spiritual – believes our ancestors are to guide us – they can inspire us to be better. [she’s very real and authentic – her talk doesn’t feel rehearsed]

“…sustainability will be barely even a word anymore because people just know how to live..” [thanks @Lhurleyes]

South Bronx used to be known as ‘Little Pittsburgh’ because of all the steel mills and heavy industry. After the steel mills closed the environmental impacts were institutionalized through the zoning for industry and Hunts Point became home to garbage transfer stations and other noxious industries.

[Shows ‘We live hear. We’re experts too!’ photo.]

Public health impacts of land use – asthma, diabetes, getting hit by a truck.

Columbia University study established definitive link between exposure to fossil fuel emissions to learning disabilities – so incarceration crisis is caused by pollution.

‘How do we see ourselves?’

Organized to protest solid waste facility catalyst to mobilize community. Show what they want to fight for. Story about dog dragging her to the water  and applied for grant for Bronx river restoration. Seeing the result was transformative how community could view itself. Seed grant became $3m grant from the city [applause line – same as at TED talk].

[Shows wedding photo] just celebrated 5th anniversary got married on the Bronx river at her park.

Got Federal funds to reduce transportation pollution via development of the South Bronx Greenway w/stormwater management and pedestrian infrx. $50m funding including $25m from ARRA Stimulus – under construction right now!

B.E.S.T. Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training – first encountered folks not fully accepting link between environment and economic opportunity.  Overcame generational barriers to employment, multi-generation welfare, ex-convicts, teenage moms, school dropouts. Empower them with personal fulfillment.

Green is more then granola Birkenstock hippies – MC started own businesses installing greenroofs [benefits of greenroofs – yadda yadda – if you are reading Infrascape Design you already know all this] – jobs that can’t be outsourced. Photo of roof of Majora’s house 2005. Her greenroof saved her from Hurricane Irene flooding. Also has greenroof on her HQ. [photo of hank the hawk]

Opportunity for jobs and reduces expensed for water treatment plants – [photo montage of google earth of her roof covering neighborhoods]

Confession – want’s smaller government (like tea party) – by creating jobs for the most expensive citizens (welfare, drug abusers, convicts). Continue reading


I’m heading to Pittsburgh tomorrow for Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference to present a poster [pdf] [visit us at board #121 in the expo hall Monday 4-6] for the Zero+ Campus Project and to support the fabulous Elizabeth Turner who will be presenting the student engagement aspects of the Z+ project [Wednesday, room 403 @8:20]. At the conference, I’m going to participate in the Sustainability Curriculum Convocation too. More posts to follow on the conference and Pittsburgh.

Gotta thank LA department at Cal Poly for enabling my trip, so I’m representing them too with some swag to recruit grad students and possible faculty.

Z+ AASHE poster

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Z+ featured in U Matters

Got quoted about the Zero+ Project in a UMN fundraising email:

Greener Design, Inside and Out

Truly sustainable architectural design requires a comprehensive vision for both the building and the environment around it. Enter the U of M’s Zero+ Campus Design project. “We want to help landscape architects and urban designers make cities and neighborhoods more energy efficient,” explains Barry Lehrman, a Zero+ research fellow and lecturer. To do that, Lehrman and his colleagues focus on “energy modeling,” the process of simulating how much energy a building will use before it is built. By considering things like a row of trees to provide cooling shade or a sloping hill to affect storm water runoff, Lehrman hopes to “generate a critical mass of students and graduates who will think about architecture and landscape holistically.”

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Infrastructural Art – Daniel Lara

Spotted in the lobby of SoCal’s Hotel Casa 425, Daniel Lara’s art engages many contemporary subjects including infrastructure, ubiquitous computing/networks (invoking DS+R’s early work), skeuomorphs, and palimpsests of graffiti. His mixed-media paintings of utility poles and industrial landscapes have captured my interest in infrastructural art. Lara recently earned his MFA in media design from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena – it will be interesting to see how his oeuvre matures as he shakes of the grad-school induced eclecticism.

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