Urban Planning

What’s the Big Buzz in Utrecht?

I love the way Holland thinks about urban planning and design, the environment, and applied engineering. Case in point the city of Utrecht – Hollands fourth-largest city – has transformed 300+ bus stops by applying green roofs to them.

The goal of the roofs is to help bolster growth in the dying bee populations and balance the environment in an urban setting. To do this they have fitted 316 bus stops with verdant green roofs LED lighting, and bamboo benches. The bus stops do more than simply provide a habitat for bees with ecofriendly building materials. The green roofs also store rainwater and capture fine dust generated from road traffic.

The green roofs are primarily composed of sedum plants, that require little maintenance. The plants will attract honeybees and bumblebees with their flowers when they bloom in the late spring through summer.

In addition to the bus stops Utrecht has pledged to have completely carbon-neutral transport by 2028 and they’ll introduce 55 electric buses into their fleet by the end of 2019. Utrecht is also investing heavily in the repair of cycling lanes (that run between parked cars and the sidewalk. Another brilliant idea.) and will conduct an innovative experiment in next year. They are installing solar panels along cycling paths throughout the city that will be used to harvest energy, with an aim to see if the results merit expansion of the program. In addition, they are hoping the citizens of Utrecht will get involved in making changes. they’re providing funding for those who wish to transform their roofs into green roofs—giving even more options for the bees in the city of Utrecht.

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BMW Guggenhiem LAB: A Mobile Laboratory, A Reinvestment in Urban Planning.

BMW has recently launched a new integrated campaign designed to promote innovation in urban planning. The concept isn’t new, but it is timely and simple making it an effective vehicle to promote the BMW brand world wide. This collaborative project launched in New York last month and will be traveling to 9 major cities world wide over the next two years.

Working in conjunction with the Guggenhiem in New York, The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a mobile travelling idea lab that looks at the challenges of cities and urban planning with a multiple disciplinary backgrounds, and it invites residents to participate both online and in person.

BMW posted its half year earnings at a record high for 2011, and the company has actually had its year ever financially. By taking some of these record profits and redirecting them back into a worthy public facing cause, BMW helps to soften the public opinion of their  brand, and strengthen their commitment to the environment and our increasingly crowded planet.

“The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a mobile laboratory traveling to nine major cities worldwide over six years. Led by international, interdisciplinary teams of emerging talents in the areas of urbanism, architecture, art, design, science, technology, education, and sustainability, the Lab addresses issues of contemporary urban life through programs and public discourse. Its goal is the exploration of new ideas, experimentation, and ultimately the creation of forward-thinking solutions for city life.”

Standard Concepts a Green Community.

Sustainable design, urban gardens, community gardens, and social engineering are not new ideas, but this building concept from Standard is a new approach that brings all of these elements together. This building concept is man-made terrace of lush gardens and communal green spaces that encourages interaction with your neighbors.

The greenery on these terrace surfaces is not designed to be used for energy reduction or passive cooling, as it often is with current green architecture (actually that would be a secondary effect, because it would also provide these beneficial energy effects.) This greenery is for eating: and for encouraging interaction with your neighbors. This is a multi-family complex designed around the idea that food brings us together.

The architects describe their live-eat housing complex as being “a cooperative community of 1,000 people living together in terraced cliff dwellings overlooking lush urban canyon. Residents gain equity in the co-op through participation in construction, agricultural, maintenance, education and conservation programs central to the sustenance of the community”. Not bad, I could live in a place like that.

Threaded through the community are food-growing terraces. Each family gets an allotment that allows them to grow, exchange and share their produce with other residents. The terraces are designed to encourage gatherings and social interactions that stem from growing, harvesting, and consuming food. The architects thinking is, this would break the ice that normally keeps neighbors from getting to know each other.

In addition to the terraces with their own private allotments, at the base, there is a community farm that is the focal point of the southern canyon, situated on the stepped terraces that link the levels of the canyon floor. Produce from the Community Farm would also be sold in the market spaces below. The Community Kitchen – next to the child care center and the fitness center – offers regular classes and food tastings focused on nutrition and the benefits of growing produce locally.

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