White House Turns Green at GSA and HUD

National
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
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GSA Admin Martha Johnson

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan

If last week’s story on the apparent shortcomings of the Office of Urban Affairs may have shaken your hopes about the Obama administration’s commitment to cities, planning, and urban policy, fear not. As we tried to point out, these things are happening, just not necessarily at the White House office whose name is synonymous with it. Case in point, two major announcements were made this week concerning sustainability, one at the GSA, the other at HUD.

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In Riverhouse Lawsuit, Not Easy Being Green

East, East Coast
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
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Riverhouse (Courtesy Steel Institute NY)

Despite its slow gestation, Battery Park City is widely considered a resounding success today, particularly in the areas of sustainable design, which was required of many of the complex’s latter day projects. Standing out among even these green stalwarts is the recently completed Riverhouse, designed by Polshek Partnership and shooting for LEED Gold, though the project now provides a bit of a cautionary tale for ambitious developers. According to the Journal, two tenants recently sued the projects’ developers for $1.5 million for breach of contract and fraud because the building was deemed not as green as it had been billed. Among the issues: Read More

Lights Out for Chinese LED Plant in Cleveland

Midwest
Friday, May 28, 2010
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Cleveland at dusk, where the lighting is not yet as green as the mayor would like it to be. (Courtesy files.nyu.edu)

Marketplace had a downright enlightening segment the other day about the potential and peril of using sustainability as a tool for economic development. New York and Chicago have been doing this with some success, and now Cleveland’s mayor wants in on the act. But instead of simply promoting sustainability through tax credits, development bonuses, and mandates, Frank Jackson took a clever approach, saying whomever built a LED plant in the depressed Rust Belt city would get the contract to outfit it with all its civic lighting needs. It was a brilliantly shrewd move, until it all fell apart. Listen in to find out what happened.

One Bryant Reaches New Heights

East, East Coast
Monday, May 24, 2010
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There was quite the crowd at the One Bryant Park "opening" last week. (Matt Chaban)

The building’s been up and running for two years, but One Bryant Park wasn’t finished finished until last Thursday night, when the opening party was held in the cavernous lobby and the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the Dursts with the building’s LEED Platinum plaque. Jody Durst kicked things off, thanking everyone for coming, all the people who made the building possible, and the like before introducing Rick Cook, the lead designer for Cook + Fox on the penguin-shaped tower. Before a crowd of a few hundred bankers, real estate types, and other assorted Midtown workadays, Cook probably gave the largest architectural lecture of his career. Read More

LA Gets Gold (Energy) Star

West
Thursday, March 25, 2010
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LA leads the country in Energy Star-rated buildings. Perhaps it will help clear up that smog problem. (Courtesy Rubicon Project)

LA is rarely thought of as the country’s greenest town, what with all the traffic and sprawl, but it’s doing a lot better than you think, as the News informs us. For the second year in a row, Los Angeles has been ranked number one in terms of energy efficient buildings, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star ratings. LA made it to the top of the list by having the most rated buildings—ones that use 35 percent less energy than the average—with 293. The top five include Washington, D.C. (204), San Francisco (173), Denver (136) and Chicago (134). This does not exactly mean it is the most efficient period, Read More

No Green in Green?

East
Monday, February 22, 2010
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The solar panels are just the start of this green-house in Harlem. (Courtesy Warburg Realty)

Is it really possible to make your house too green? California may not think so, but a Harlem brownstone is finding that to be the case. Last week, Curbed spotted 151 West 122nd Street, which the realtors declare to be the “greenest house in Manhattan.” While there are a few others that might argue for that throne, this one holds the title by apparently being the first standalone townhouse in the borough to achieve a LEED rating, Silver to be exact, courtesy a Better Homes and Gardens makeover. But all that green cred is not translating into green credit, as the building’s price has fallen from $4.05 million some 17 months ago to $2.79 million. At least one critic, gadabout blogger Harlem Bespoke, has complained that the problem is the project has forgone its charm for slick environmentalism—there’s no brownstone left in this brownstone!. Could this be the case, as ArchNewsNow turned up more green backlash today? Or is it simply the fact that no one is willing to spend this kind of money, no matter how nice a house, in Harlem?

Rail Picking Up Steam

National
Thursday, January 28, 2010
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(all images courtesy whitehouse.gov)

California, Florida, and Illinois are receiving the largest pieces of the federal high speed rail pie. According to the a release from the White House, California will receive  $2.32 billion for a forked line running from San Diego to Los Angeles and splitting in Northern California with spurs to San Francisco and Sacramento. Florida will receive $1.25 billion for a new line from Tampa to Orlando, with an additional line connected Orlando to Miami as a part of a “long-term vision.”

“By investing in high speed rail, we’re doing so many good things for our country at the same time,” said Vice President Biden, according to a statement from the White House . “We’re creating good construction and manufacturing jobs in the near-term. We’re spurring economic development in the future. We’re making our communities more livable—and we’re doing it all while decreasing America’s environmental impact and increasing America’s ability to compete in the world.”

Illinois will receive $1.13 billion to upgrade its corridor to St. Louis, far less than the $4.5 billion the state sought.

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Charge Me Up

East
Thursday, December 17, 2009
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Beautiful Earths solar-powered charging station, with the company MINI E inside

Beautiful Earth's solar-powered charging station, with the company MINI E inside

As automakers vie to release the next generation of plug-in electric cars, many eco-conscious drivers have wondered about the lack of charging infrastructure in dense urban environments. Unlike in, say, London, where charging points are being planned within one mile of every citizen by 2015, New Yorkers have heard little about curbside electric pumps. Well, if you’re looking for a place to plug in your GM Volt, one company’s vision of the future has arrived. Read More

How Green Is It?

East, East Coast
Monday, December 7, 2009
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Maybe theyre afraid City Hall will fail an energy audit.

Maybe they're afraid City Hall will fail an energy audit.

Coming out of City Hall today, we stumbled upon a press conference reaffirming the groundbreaking green-ness of the new green buildings measures first unveiled on Earth Day and due to pass the council this week. Measures that include a new energy code and more efficient lighting, energy benchmarking and training for building operators. But one measure no longer included, according to a rather damning story in the Times this weekend, is mandatory decennial energy audits for commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet, which would be required to replace inefficient building systems if they are not up to current standards. The main culprit, as with many things these days, is the recession: Read More

Harlem In Bloom

East, East Coast
Monday, November 23, 2009
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This row of apartment buildings along 135th Street, which are part of Section 8 housing, will get a green makeover starting next month.

This row of apartment buildings along 135th Street, which are part of Section 8 housing, will get a green makeover starting next month.

A crumbling row of ten Renaissance Revival apartment buildings, which were once the first black-owned property in North Harlem, are about to be remade again as one of a growing number of affordable, sustainable housing complexes sprouting up across the city. The project, which according to the Daily News, is set to begin by year’s end, is being tackled by affordable housing guru Jonathan Rose and his Smart Growth Investment fund, who bought the buildings in January as the fund’s first acquisition in its cheap-and-green portfolio. Dattner Architects, experts on both affordable and sustainable housing, is responsible for the retrofits [PDF], which include a photovoltaic array on the roof, efficient energy systems, lighting controls, new windows and insulation, and sustainably sourced materials. In addition to making it a more conscientious project, it also makes it a more feasible one, as these features open it up to stimulus and HUD moneys targeted at sustainable buildings—to the tune of $3 million.

Shrubhenge

East
Thursday, November 19, 2009
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If you’ve passed by One Bryant Park in the past month or so, you may have noticed what looks like a kind of leafy-green Stonehenge clustered in the lobby of the Bank of America building. The three monoliths and twenty-five foot tall archway are made of galvanized steel frames seeded with thousands of ferns, mosses, and lichens, an installation designed by a team from Wallace Roberts & Todd, led by designer Margie Ruddick and sculptor Dorothy Ruddick. The piece is meant as a reminder of the building’s green cred, as the Cook + Fox tower achieved LEED Platinum. Unlike the original Stonehenge, we don’t have to wonder how this one was built. In fact, you can watch it being assembled in the above time-lapse clip, which compresses the entire 42 hours of installation into a mere 30 seconds. Watch as the mysterious shruboliths rise before your eyes, and check some photos after the jump. Read More

Taking Green Footsteps

National
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
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Are architects doing enough for sustainability? The Rocky Mountain Institute has a new website that can help.

Are architects doing enough for sustainability? The Rocky Mountain Institute has a new website that can help.

Planetizen published an interesting piece over the weekend looking at the relative disconnect between sustainability and starchitecture, or how form may have gotten futuristic of late, but not with the future in mind. The article’s a little plodding at times, though the argument is valid and clear:

Many contemporary buildings embody the age-old conflict between individual expression and the common good, while some appear almost antagonistic towards the environment. Frank Gehry’s aluminum billows and Daniel Libeskind’s tilted spires are largely aesthetic accents that use computer-aided design to create forms unbuildable, if not unimaginable, even a decade ago. The sheer expense of iconic libraries, concert halls, and corporate headquarters contradicts environmentalism’s drive for efficiency.

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