April 2008


A story about record train ridership in the UK includes this impressive graphic:

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Image credit: The Independent

The chart is based on the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) booklet The Billion Passenger Railway. The booklet features several articles — including one that forecasts that the competitiveness of 21st century cities will depend on their high speed rail links. Andrew Curry reports from September 2083:

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For old brick houses, it’s as energy-efficient to renovate — and possibly more so — as it is to tear down and build new. That’s the conclusion of a study by the Empty Homes Agency, a UK nonprofit that works to bring empty homes back into use.

Large homebuilders in the UK claim that new construction is many times more energy efficient than older properties like Victorian houses. That’s true for operating energy, counter the environmentalists, but what about “embodied” energy — the energy it takes to manufacture building materials? Until this study, no one had calculated the relative importance of each. After analyzing three renovated and three new houses, the conclusion was this:

Previous studies and much of the accepted thinking on domestic CO2 emissions have suggested that demolishing existing homes and building new homes to replace them will contribute to an overall reduction in CO2 emissions. This study suggests that this is not so, and that refurbishing existing homes and converting empty property into new homes can yield CO2 reductions by preventing emissions from embodied energy that would arise from new build.

In the extended entry, more quotes from the study “New Tricks With Old Bricks.”

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As editor of the Council Report VII: On Green Architecture and Urbanism, I am pleased to announce that the publication has been printed and is now available for order.

councilreportviithumb.jpgGreen building today is well-defined and increasingly popular. However, green urbanism is only starting to coalesce as a defined or systematized approach to the built environment. The Council Report VII features 21 articles on sustainable construction and placemaking by leading practitioners of new urbanist design, planning and education.

As sustainability techniques are adapted from the building scale and applied to the neighborhood and regional scales, a number of critical issues arise. In the rush to go green, we are seeing more instances of misplaced priorities and poorly conceived approaches to scaling up green techniques. That leads to unintended consequences and worsened environmental performance. Therefore, the Council Report VII addresses questions like:

  • What are the best principles and techniques now being developed to coordinate sustainability measures and functional urban design? What are the advanced tools now being developed by urban designers to code and build sustainable urbanism?
  • How are firms redefining themselves to focus on sustainability as a foundation of their practice?
  • What lessons are offered by leading examples of sustainability policies, built projects, and plans? What are effective guidelines for communicating and marketing sustainable communities? What are the definitions of sustainable urbanism, and how do we measure or quantify it?
  • What is research telling us about the sustainability of traditional architectural design and construction techniques, and their performance relative to modernist styles?
  • How are universities incorporating sustainable urbanism, and what programs and initiatives are now underway?
  • What are the philosophical underpinnings of green urbanism and what are the proposed agendas for future research and advocacy?

In the extended entry, a complete table of contents and a summary of each article.

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