eco friendly miniHome

We’re all about sustainable here at Urban Workbench, and weekends are for links and side projects. The thought of living in a trailer while building a new home sends shivers up my spine, until I came across this Canadian constructed miniHome linked at the Inhabitat Blog.

Inhabitat Blog Archive PREFAB FRIDAY: Sustain miniHOME:

DAWN.jpgEven when the miniHome was only 1-day old out of the factory, it didn’t have any of the noxious off-gassing and poor indoor air quality that plagues most vehicles, trailers, houses and manufactured products. That’s because we set out a very exclusive set of criteria for our manufacturer, which demanded:

Continue Reading →

Cul-de-Sacs and Turning Heads

Some people love them, others hate them. Personally, I think they are useful to maximise the lot yield of terrain dependant sites, but when used to attempt to create private roads and spaces with no regard to the form of the land, Cul-de-Sacs become pretty tiring. (If you can’t access the NY Times article, there’s a pdf of it here.

Why Some Towns Place Roadblocks on Cul-de-Sacs – New York Times:

Highly popular after World War II, the cul-de-sac is essentially a dead-end residential street, often but not always ending with a large circular patch of pavement allowing vehicles to turn around. The form was initially embraced as something that promoted security, neighbourliness and efficient transportation…

Homeowners found that the cul-de-sac limited traffic, creating a sense of privacy, while encouraging ties among neighbours, who could hardly avoid one another. Developers liked the cul-de-sac because it made it possible to build on land unsuited to a grid street pattern and because home buyers were willing to pay a premium to live on one…

…while people within a cul-de-sac may know one another well, they are less likely to know people who live on other streets. “What was lost is a sense of community,” [Michael Lykoudis, dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame] said.

What I dislike more than Cul-de-Sacs are

Continue Reading →

Water – The New Pedestrian Control Device

29-08-06_0749.jpgNewcastle City Council has been busy fixing some of the inner city intersection, to improve pedestrian safety, and in one case to realign a blocked stormwater pipe. The images below are from one of the intersections, you can see the new kerb blister to shelter pedestrians contemplating the crossing, the new stormwater pits, and most obviously, the large puddle on the corner. Check out these three photos taken on my way to work.

It’s a fair embarrassment when the city council, responsible for approving engineering development’s drainage designs, is permitted to leave a design like this in use. I will admit that the options are few, but it is not impossible to fix.

Continue Reading →

Solar Powered Biofuel Service Station

One of the awesome things about watching growth in sustainability, is seeing mainstream, traditional industries such as gas stations make inroads to sustainable outcomes.  In Australia BP recently incorporated solar panels to several of their stations in Sydney, with a graphic display of energy savings and even carbon offsets they were acheiving.  This story from Oregan takes the concept one step further and shows that big companies see value in investment in these technologies, whether from an attempt to improve public perception, or perhaps from a cost benefit, environmental analysis perspective.  Either way, this article over at treehugger outlines some of the “innovative”, (I use that term loosely, as this really is inovative for a traditional industry!).

Treehugger: First Solar Powered Biofuel Station Opens

The biofuels are only part of the story behind this unique business, however. From first glance at the SeQuential retail site one can see that this is no ordinary pit stop.
The site considers the role of the automobile while integrating the belief that commerce and the natural environment can co-exist. Renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable design elements are themes throughout the site.

Continue Reading →

Freeways for Sydney?

The Sydney Morning Herald recently ran this story about the US transportation and planning expert Wendell Cox who is arguing for more freeways in Sydney to allow for greater home ownership.  (H.T. Planetizen).

Back to the ‘burbs – the case for the car – National – smh.com.au

…if inadequate public transport is not the reason, why does Sydney have such transport problems? Cox says the city needs more freeways. Of 30 urban areas in the developed world with a population of more than 3 million, “Sydney ranks 29th for lane kilometres of freeway per square kilometre. Only London has fewer. Sydney is also relatively poorly served by arterial roads.”

You can read my comments on this issue, as someone who occasionally has to navigate the back streets of Sydney to get anywhere, at Planetizen, check out the other comments about Cox’s credibility too.

Continue Reading →

Some dubious traffic statistics questioned

An interesting traffic discussion over at Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space. Richard had a set of figures on urban traffic densities, (rules of thumb), that he realised were not applicable to the project he was looking at, a freeway…

Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space: Freeway vehicle capacity

In spouting those mode capacity figures, while talking with the people who ambled by (and being questioned about the numbers!), I realized that the vehicle capacity numbers I knew weren’t relevant to the freeway part of I-66 (or the Wilson Bridge).

Continue Reading →

Prime Minister Announces Urban Stormwater Harvesting

Under a new plan unveiled by the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, stormwater will be harvested in urban areas around Wyong, on the Central Coast of NSW, treated and re-introduced into the water cycle to maintain natural flows and water levels in the Porters Creek wetland area. This project comes at a cost of $16M, and involves a mix of local and federal government fund. From the Prime Minister’s Website:

Harvesting Stormwater to protect the Porters Creek Wetland – 23 August 2006:

I am pleased to announce that the Porters Creek Wetland Stormwater Harvesting project on the Central Coast of New South Wales is the eighth New South Wales project to receive funding from the Australian Government?s Water Smart Australia Programme. Wyong’s population is expected to increase by 40 000 by 2025. Australian Government funding of $2.6 million toward a $16 million investment will help protect a significant wetland area in NSW from stormwater that will flow from urban development in the catchment.

Continue Reading →

A Brief Argument Against Stormwater Pipes

Some History

Urban stormwater systems were historically designed to move water away from built up urban areas, using big lined channels and smooth pipes to quickly and efficiently remove this water to prevent flooding and inundation. As roof areas and impervious paving increased the volume of runoff increased and the need for efficient stormwater systems was born.

In today’s regulatory environment, there is still a definite bent toward the hard engineering forms of stormwater management , particularly pits and pipes, mainly because these systems remove the water from the roads and roofs quickly, maintaining safe driving surfaces and minimised downtime of any services or routes.

Continue Reading →