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New Book — “Build Beyond Zero: New Ideas for Carbon-Smart Architecture” by Bruce King and Chris Magwood

September 23, 2022 Books, Environment, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on New Book — “Build Beyond Zero: New Ideas for Carbon-Smart Architecture” by Bruce King and Chris Magwood

With all the talk of electric vehicles it’s easy to forget that buildings are a major contributor toward climate change. Building low or neutral carbon buildings has been the goal for a long time, now a new book is proposing going even further:

“Net Zero” has been an effective rallying cry for the green building movement, signaling a goal of having every building generate at least as much energy as it uses. Enormous strides have been made in improving the performance of every type of new building, and even more importantly, renovating the vast and energy-inefficient collection of existing buildings in every country. If we can get every building to net-zero energy use in the next few decades, it will be a huge success, but it will not be enough.  
 
In Build Beyond Zero, carbon pioneers Bruce King and Chris Magwood re-envision buildings as one of our most practical and affordable climate solutions instead of leading drivers of climate change. They provide a snapshot of a beginning and map towards a carbon-smart built environment that acts as a CO2 filter. Professional engineers, designers, and developers are invited to imagine the very real potential for our built environment to be a site of net carbon storage, a massive drawdown pool that could help to heal our climate.
 
The authors, with the help of other industry experts, show the importance of examining what components of an efficient building (from windows to solar photovoltaics) are made with, and how the supply chains deliver all those products and materials to a jobsite. Build Beyond Zero looks at the good and the bad of how we track carbon (Life Cycle Assessment), then takes a deep dive into materials (with a focus on steel and concrete) and biological architecture, and wraps up with education, policy and governance, circular economy, and where we go in the next three decades. 
 
In Build Beyond Zero, King and Magwood show how buildings are culprits but stand poised to act as climate healers. They offer an exciting vision of climate-friendly architecture, along with practical advice for professionals working to address the carbon footprint of our built environment. (Island Press)

We need as many “climate healers” as we can get! Like so many books this is highly detailed and technical. So here’s the chapters so you can see how they present their arguments:

  • Chapter 1: The Story of Carbon: The Birth of the Universe, of Carbon, and of Life
  • Chapter 2: A Brief History of Green Building: Waking Up to Climate Emergency
    Box 2.1: The Existing Building Solution by Larry Strain
  • Chapter 3: Life Cycle Analysis: Tracking Carbon’s Stocks and Flows
  • Chapter 4: Metals and Minerals: Steeling Ourselves
  • Chapter 5: Concrete: Many Ways to Make a Rock
    Box 5.1: Asphalt: the Other Concrete
    Box 5.2: The Case for Modern Earthen Building by Lola Ben Alon
    Box 5.3: Human Health is Climate Health by Gayatri Datar
    Box 5.4: Entering the Market as an Earth Block Producer by Lisa Morey
    Box 5.5: Can We Grow Carbon-Storing Buildings? by Wil Srubar
  • Chapter 6: Biological Architecture: Wood and Mass Timber, Agricultural By-Products, Purpose- Grown Crops, Waste Stream Fibers, and Lab-Grown Materials
    Box 6.1: Landscape: Connecting the Carbon Conversation by Pamela Conrad
  • Chapter 7: Witches’ Brew: Plastics, Chemistry, and Carbon
  • Chapter 8: Construction: On Site and Under Zero
  • Chapter 9: Education: We All Need Schooling to Make This Possible
  • Chapter 10: Circular Economy: Extending the Lifespan of Captured Carbon
  • Chapter 11: Policy and Governance: Twenty-first Century Cat Herding
  • Chapter 12: A Just Transition: Building a Better Society Means More than Capturing Carbon
    Box 12.1: A Manifesto for the Pivotal Decade by Ann Edminster
  • Chapter 13: The Next Three Decades: Where Do We Go from Here?  15 by 50
    Box 13.1 Case study, Trent University’s Forensic Science Building
  • Chapter 14: What’s Next? Wow. Just, wow.

I can’t say they’ve hit on the right solution, but those making building decisions (architects, developers, code officials, etc) should give this a serious review. If you’re planning new construction or a major renovation project these ideas might also be good food for thought.

— Steve Patterson

 

Rethinking Interstate 64 (aka U.S. 40) In Midtown St. Louis, Between Compton & Grand

August 15, 2022 Accessibility, Featured, Midtown, Planning & Design, Transportation, Walkability Comments Off on Rethinking Interstate 64 (aka U.S. 40) In Midtown St. Louis, Between Compton & Grand

Regular readers know I have a strong dislike of the interstate highways that were forced through existing dense urban neighborhoods, destroying social networks and dividing neighborhoods. So it’s no surprise I’ve thought about I-64 in Midtown St. Louis for decades.

Aerial of the vast area immediately west of Compton. Source: Apple Maps. Click image to view area in Google Maps.

It was August 2021 when I learned MoDOT would be undertaking the huge task of rethinking the stretch of I-64 between Jefferson and Kingshighway.  Nine months later, in May 2022, the Future 64 planning project finally went public:

The I-64 Corridor between Kingshighway and Jefferson is an essential route for homes, schools, and businesses. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is working with the community to determine the future of the corridor in terms of needs and desired outcomes. Before MoDOT makes any improvements to the corridor corridor, it will evaluate the existing conditions of roadways, interchanges, surface streets, and bicycle/pedestrian access.   

The method the department is using is formally known as a Planning and Environmental Linkages study or PEL. This PEL study will look at the potential impact future projects will have on the environment, the community, and connectivity in the area. MoDOT is conducting the PEL now so when funding is identified for corridor projects, construction can begin sooner.

The PEL study for the I-64 central corridor is called: Future64: Community. Transportation. Together. The title reflects the importance of public engagement and community involvement in this process. As a result, this study will incorporate ongoing engagement that is equitable and inclusive to help ensure that a wide range and extensive number of voices are heard, and that equity is the focus of proposed solutions. (MoDOT/Future64)

Typically MoDOT doesn’t take the time to rethink, they just replace what was there. Example: the South Broadway bridge over I-44 downtown being replaced without any pedestrian sidewalk (see This Is Our Chance To Reconnect Two Neighborhoods Long Separated By Highways).

So this planning effort is an important milestone.

After the project went public some immediately began posting their ideas, but I’m a little slower in both my analysis and presentation.  Now, a year after I began thinking about specifics, I’m ready to share what I’ve come up with — and why.

First we need to look back at what the area looked like pre-interstate. In February 1909 if you were heading west on Market and reached Jefferson the main road bent to the left but became Laclede. Market west of Jefferson was a minor residential street. Between Beaumont & Leffingwell the road split again, with Laclede continuing ahead and Manchester off to the left. To repeat: Market briefly became Laclede, which split off to Manchester at a diagonal. Yes, Manchester used to run at a diagonal heading through what later became known as Mill Creek Valley toward downtown.

From the February 1909 Sanborn map we see Manchester, not Market, intersecting with Compton. Click image to see the full page view on the University of Missouri digital library website.

Go ahead, look at a map and visually draw a line between Manchester & Vandeventer and Compton & Market. Because of the many rail lines Manchester wouldn’t have been a straight line, it would have bent to the north of them. My point is a century ago streets continued uninterrupted, but highways/interstates (and industrialization) radically altered the landscape to make life easier for those behind the wheel of those noisy new horseless carriages (shaking cane). It’s possible the Manchester  connection was severed prior to the highway but I didn’t want to further delay this post while searching the Post-Dispatch archives for the answer.

It’s a given that I-64/U.S. 40 will not be removed, or buried in a big dig. What is happening now will determine how it looks and functions for the next 50-70 years. Next we need to list and look at what I see as the problems to solve by changing how the highway and interchanges are currently configured.

  • Large amount of land used, wasted
  • Pedestrian & bicycle navigation of area is challenging, nearly impossible, the local street network decimated
  • Driving the area is also challenging, with awkward & confusing on/off ramps
Looking west northwest from Compton & Spruce…if only I had a drone to get video/aerial photos
The Grand exit from eastbound I-64 may have made since in the 1950s/60s but not today
After a right right turn back drivers that exited eastbound I-64 are facing west at Grand

Okay, here’s my proposed solution.

Below I’ll look at this in two sections. Click image to view larger version.

Key:

  • Yellow: existing streets
  • Green: new or revised streets
  • Red: interstate
  • Purple: existing ramp
  • Orange: new on/off ramps
  • Light blue:

Let’s start on the left/west side.

The biggest change from the left is the awkward existing Grand exit from eastbound I-64 has been replaced by a more conventional ramp. Drivers would be going up as they exited, but that would help them slow down. With the current ramp gone the building right at Grand & I-64 could be incorporated into a new development on reclaimed land. I’d also bring Forest Park Ave up to grade at Grand for a more conventional intersection.
The new exit would come up to Grand, the light could be moved. If the elevated section is completely replaced it would make this easier. The new eastbound exit would be similar to the one at 14th — just up instead of down.
Removing the current exit would free up a lot of land that can be used for new construction near the Grand MetroLink station and the heavily used #70 Grand MetroBus.
With Forest Park ducking under Grand the intersection on top is awkward for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. As with Forest Park & Kingshighway, this intersection needs to be at grade and conventional.

Ok, lets move down to the big area to the east.

It makes sense to continue to allow interstate drivers in both directions an exit in this area. but it can be accomplished in a far more compact manner.  Specifics below.

The two green circles are roundabouts. Market Street could continue into the center of the newly developed area. Ideally 5+ story building would be built as a terminus to the view when heading west on Market. A new north-south connection through the new development would allow access to Spruce Street and the other parts south of I-64. The eastbound lanes of I-64 would need to be shifted north to give room for the on/off ramps at roundabout at Compton & Spruce. The westbound lanes of I-64 can shift south to free up land for development.

I’m not a traffic/civil engineer so I might not have sufficient room for say acceleration/deceleration on on/off ramps or some other detail, but I think this accomplishes the job of fixing the current problems. It gives more room for development, and increases connections for all modes of travel.

I’d love to see the new development include a variety of residential price points from low income to top market rates, parking available at a rate of less than one space per dwelling unit. It shouldn’t all be expensive housing geared toward college students. Other uses include office, retail, small manufacturing, perhaps business incubator space, etc.

I don’t know that I’ll live long enough to see any changes, but hopefully these ideas will be helpful to the process.

— Steve Patterson

 

Potential North-South & County Light Rail Line Should Include ‘Green Track’

June 30, 2022 Environment, Featured, North City, Planning & Design, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on Potential North-South & County Light Rail Line Should Include ‘Green Track’

No, I don’t want the rails to be painted green. Instead I want the space between the rails to be green with vegetation, where possible.

Why? Aesthetics, cooler temperatures, management of stormwater runoff, etc.

Pre-Katrina you could see natural green track in New Orleans LA, April 2004

Green track isn’t limited to only historic lines, it’s increasingly common in Europe with some limited use in North America.

Over more than 6 (six) decades Green Tracks are popular through out Europe in dense urban areas. They are a fantastic tool to mitigate stormwater issues, to reduce noise and certainly to beautify their integration. Green light rail tracks demonstrate environmental responsibility and they value their customers by making things nice, green and beautiful. Today there are over 500 miles of Green light-rail tracks in Europe.

The living green layers within and around the tracks reduces the noiseand absorbs stormwater. Thus, reducing combined sewer overflow. Modern track systems are typically Ballastless Tracks or Slab Track systems. Basically, a traditional elastic combination of ties/sleepers and ballast is replaced by a rigid construction of concrete or asphalt. Because such systems are ideal for greenery, it is even possible to create additional stormwater retention and detention from surrounding impervious areas with the system.

Already, in 1995 Green Roof Technology filed patents for greening systems on Ballastless Track systems. Currently there are around 300 miles of green tracks in Germany alone. As a result, these tracks eliminate at least 150,000 gallons of water per years from entering the combined sewer system.

In North America, Baltimore started with some experimental Green Light-rail Tracks in 2011 insisting on Sedum mats. The testing was less promising because Sedum mono-cultures are not a good choice for most green light-rail track system. Unfortunately the advice from Green Roof Technology using a smart mixtures of grasses, herbs and wildflowers was not heard. Some call it learning by doing – well – they just don’t do it. (Green Roof Technology).

Typically rails are supported by ballasts, treated wood or concrete pieces set into the ground perpendicular to the rail. Our original 1993 light rail line used wood ballast, the 2006 Shrewsbury extension (aka Blue) line was constructed with longer-lasting concrete ballasts.

Our current lines are Red & Blue so naturally I’d like this new line to be the Green Line. Green track for the Green Line!

It can’t be everywhere, but in many places it can be. A lot of the new line would be in the center of Natural Bridge, which recently went through a quick traffic calming project that reduced vehicle travel lanes to one per direction. Adjacent to Fairgrounds Park the center is green — would be greener if not on top of asphalt.

Looking east toward Grand
Looking west from the same location.

I think the green looks nice, helps keep the area slightly cooler.

While we’re on the subject of alternatives to impervious concrete, another would be water — yes, wet track! Rail going through a fountain…

Not sure if or where this might work, but I think it’s very interesting. Perhaps on Jefferson near the stop near Olive or Market? Guests in new hotels could look down from their rooms and see transit & water converge.

I’d just like us to consider something other than boring ordinary impervious paving.

— Steve Patterson

 

North-South MetroLink Study Update Looking To Stay On Jefferson Avenue, Avoid Previously Planned Circuitous Route

June 16, 2022 Environment, Featured, Planning & Design, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on North-South MetroLink Study Update Looking To Stay On Jefferson Avenue, Avoid Previously Planned Circuitous Route

The idea of a North-South MetroLink light rail line has been discussed for many years — too many. We’ve had a couple of studies and locally preferred alternatives over the 15+ year period. Currently Metro is looking at the most recent and “tweaking” it to make it work financially with the city funds from our transit tax. So when I heard this would be included in the Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) June “Talking Transit” online event I immediately registered. It took place a week ago, but it’s online — link in a moment.

The last alternative was eastbound on Natural Bridge, coming south on Parnell/Jefferson to Cass (to include the large NGA workforce), east to 14th, eventually to 10th, back over to 14th, west on Chouteau, south on Jefferson.

2018 detail map showing the North-South MetroLink in orange. This is no longer possible because of the convention center expansion project closing 9th street.

So basically on Jefferson north of Cass and south of Chouteau, but taking a highly circuitous detour to go through downtown — and briefly east of Tucker.  The distance between those two points on Jefferson is 1.6 miles — in basically a straight line that would require no left or right turns.m

In a 2006 post I suggested a modern tram route on Jefferson, with a new MetroLink station where Jefferson crosses over the existing light rail line, so riders could transfer between lines. Well 16 years later they’re looking at doing basically just that — run in-street light rail on Jefferson with the addition of a MetroLink station at Jefferson. This was disclosed by Bi-State Development President & CEO Taulby Roach at 3:23 in CMT’s event a week ago (watch 0n YouTube).

Bi-State graphic, the orange-yellow mostly vertical line in the center shows the initial phase being evaluated now.  The pink sections are “areas of persistent poverty.”

 

With the NGA, Centene Stadium (MLS) and planned new hotels (Jefferson & Market) this a hot corridor.

The rail wouldn’t be a tram in mixed traffic, it would be in a separate dedicated center section, still low-floor though. The vehicles for both are nearly identical. In-street light rail vs tram basically means dedicated right-of-way and fewer stops, to improve overall speed.

Obviously I’ve long thought a stop at Jefferson on the original MetroLink was a good idea — the distance between the Union Station & Grand stations is just so excessive. I often talk about focusing on corridors, not circuitous routes, and Jefferson is an obvious corridor for a transit project.  It’s not a perfectly straight line, but it would eliminate a huge amount of turns.

Like previous North-South studies, the idea of going out west on Natural Bridge allows a future phase to connect into North County. This could help get county residents to employment opportunities at NGA, and in Downtown West/Midtown.

The American-made Brookville Liberty vehicle can go off-wire for short distances. Dallas TX April 2015

The study update is looking at the latest low-floor vehicles to use. Because of some tight points they’re looking at vehicles that could run for short distances on battery, with the usual catenary most of the distance. This is called off-wire. An example is the Brookville Liberty, in use in cities like Dallas, Milwaukee, and Oklahoma City.  I have no idea which specific vehicles Metro is considering, but the technology to go without a catenary for a short distance is proven.

Interior of Brookville Liberty with low center section and step up seating at each end. Dallas TX, April 2015.
Brookville Liberty at a stop in Milwaukee WI, June 2021
Low-floor center section of Brookville Liberty makes boarding easy. June 2021.

I’d hoped to have visited Oklahoma City by now and ride their Brookville Liberty vehicles., but rental cars & flights have just been too expensive. Again, I’m not sure what vehicles Metro is considering, this is the only off-grid vehicle I’ve ever ridden before.

In the CMT event on Zoom Taulby Roach indicated they’re planning on closed platforms  — having to pass through a fare gate to reach the platform.  This coincides with Metro’s platform project to install fare gates at all MetroLink stations in Missouri & Illinois.

Hopefully Metro’s latest look at North-South rail will result in actual construction, eventual operations.

Steve Patterson

 

 

Two Buildings, One Small Lot

May 26, 2022 Featured, Neighborhoods, Planning & Design, Zoning Comments Off on Two Buildings, One Small Lot

In the past you’d see multiple buildings on a single lot. Usually this was house and outhouse, stable, or garage. Large fancy homes might have servant quarters over the stable/garage — such was the case at the Campbell House. In more modest neighborhoods you might see two houses or a house and a storefront. A longtime friend owns a property that has a brick front house with full basement and a smaller frame house with a crawl space.  This was not uncommon a century ago. People would build a small house at the rear of the lot and then later build a bigger/nicer house at the front.

What’s unusual about my friend’s property is the 896 sq ft brick house with basement was built first, in 1927. Then in 1936 a 440 sq ft frame house with crawl space underneath was built. My assumption is some combination of increased population and the Great Depression is why the smaller frame house was built later. Either the owner rented out the new frame house to supplement their income, or the owner moved to the frame house so they could rent the bigger brick house and avoid foreclosure. I like that the big house is less than 900 square feet.  I looked up the address in the Post-Dispatch archives, the husband died in December 1934. So his widow likely added the small house for different financial reasons than I originally thought.

My friend has lived in each of the two houses at different times, both are rented now.

Today smaller backyard units are called Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU):

An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a legal and regulatory term for a secondary house or apartment that shares the building lot of a larger, primary home. The unit cannot be bought or sold separately, but they are often used to provide additional income through rent or to house a family member. For example, an elderly parent could live in a small unit and avoid having to move to an assisted living facility.

  • An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is an additional residential building that occupies the same lot as a primary residence.
  • Examples of an ADU could be a guest house or a detached garage with a rented apartment above.
  • The establishment and use of an ADU will fall under different zoning rules and regulations depending on where you live.
  • An ADU can provide additional income in the form of rent.
  • An ADU costs money to build and upkeep and will increase monthly utility bills.

The ADU is also known as an in-law or mother-in-law unit, secondary dwelling unit, granny flat, or carriage house. An ADU usually has its own kitchen, living area, and separate entrance. An ADU may be attached to a house or garage, or it can be built as a stand-alone unit, but it generally will make use of the water and energy connections of the primary house.

Two structures on a single lot is different than the once-common two-family building, one unit over another on the same lot. The 1924 two-family I bought back in 1924 was like this, very typical for a rapidly growing St. Louis. There were also four & six unit variations.

The gray building on the left was torn down late last year, it was built on the same 40 foot wide lot as they red house on the right. Image: Google Streetview

This post is about another combination you no longer see happen — the addition of a commercial building on a lot with a residence.

In 1898 two matching red brick houses were built side by side, both 844 sq ft. Each on a 40 ft x 100 ft lot.

In this January 1903 map we see the two brick houses (pink) in a mostly wood frame (yellow) neighborhood Source: 1903 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, click image to view source page.

The houses were at 1915 & 1919 Cooper Street, between Daggett & Shaw avenues.

The twin houses were fourteen years old when, in 1912, one family built a 2-story brick commercial building on the same lot as the house at 1919 Cooper Street, its address was 1921 Cooper Street. A 40 foot wide lot with a house AND a commercial building!

The neighborhood was changing as more and more immigrants arrived from Italy. Multi-story masonry commercial buildings replaced many smaller wood frame houses. It’s not yet clear what business(es) initially occupied this new building, but in 1921 the family opened a funeral home.

In the late 1930s Cooper Street became Marconi Ave. In 1940 Calcaterra Funeral home moved to a new building on Daggett, just east of now Marconi Ave.

At some point between 1940 and 2021 the commercial building had the 2nd floor removed, the main floor converted to residential. It was 790 sq ft.

I don’t blame anyone for tearing down this building. Looking at the vacant spot now it’s hard to believe another building fit in the space for 109 years. See current on Google Streetview. Neighborhoods, including The Hill, continue to evolve.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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