Monday, March 30, 2015

Zero Waste or the Six R’s

By: Allison Smith
Sustainable Associate

In primary school I was introduced to the three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. At school and at home, we sorted cans, glass, and cardboard for recycling. All the messages focused on recycling with a secondary emphasis on reusing, and little to no focus on reducing our waste. Zero Waste is a whole systems approach to waste reduction.

Today, advocates have expanded on the three R’s and frequently include a variant of the following: redesign, refuse, and rot. 

Redesign: goods should be designed to minimize their resource use, including packaging. A smart manufacturer should understand that waste is wasted profit. Though this is corporate responsibility, as consumers we can ‘vote with our dollars’ and buy long lasting, durable goods.
Refuse: As consumers we should refuse freebies (pens!), refuse printed receipts (opt for an emailed receipt), and refuse purchasing products with excessive packaging.
Rot: In lieu of throwing out compostable items, compost organics and encourage your community to establish curbside compost and/or biodigesters

Your compostable waste is packed so tightly at landfills that it will not decompose. As I continue to learn more about sustainability and regeneration, I’ve learned it’s not about the last two R’s I learned about as a kid, but really about the first neglected one: reduce. We need to focus on REDUCE-ing our resource use to create a truly sustainable society.  

Zero Waste, as defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance, is a means of “designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity or waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.” The process is similar to that found in nature, wherein resources aren’t disposed of to never be used again but are truly reused and recycled into new life.

Last year, following the lead of other worldwide communities, the city of Fort Collins adopted a Zero Waste plan. The plan focuses on four priorities:
Culture Change: raise awareness!
Reduce and Reuse: those other two R’s we learned in primary school!
Compostable Organics Out of Landfills: Rot!
Construction, Deconstruction and Demolition: divert debris from construction related activities!
The expansion of the city recycling requirement for construction projects and the development of a waste management plan is a move in the right direction. This is addressing the third-R and for those of us working with the built environment we should look for ways to promote zero waste throughout the design, construction, operations, and deconstruction of projects.

As we move forward we need to adopt zero-waste sensibilities at home, at work, and in the community. If you follow design blogs and periodicals trend pieces, you are aware that minimalism and tiny house living are gaining traction and are closely aligned with zero-waste principles. Many of us are unlikely to achieve the levels of BeaJohnson and her family’s trash reduction to less than a quart a year or of Beth Terry’s eschewing of plastic from her life, but each decision in reduction is a move towards a community I want to belong to. Perhaps Mahatma Gandhi said it best, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”


Additional Resources:
Books:
Connett, P. (2013). The zero waste solution: untrashing the planet one community at a time. Chelsea Green Publishing.
Humes, E. (2012). Garbology: Our dirty love affair with trash. Penguin.
McDonough, W., & Braungart, M. (2010). Cradle to cradle: Remaking the way we make things. MacMillan.
Royte, E. (2007). Garbage land: On the secret trail of trash. Back Bay Books.

Blogs and websites:
Plastic Free Life by Beth Terry http://myplasticfreelife.com/
Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson http://www.zerowastehome.com/
Zero Waste Fort Collins http://www.fcgov.com/zerowaste/

Movies:
Trashed (2012) documentary with Jeremy Irons


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

UPCOMING EVENTS: Designing for Hope Lectures

We are entering a time when many tipping points will be passed, resulting in unexpected consequences. Yet, a growing group sees opportunity and the potential of thriving cities and environments. Based on the book, Designing for Hope: Pathways to Regenerative Sustainability, Dominique and Joel will convey a beneficial way of re-imagining design and development. Designing for Hope contends that we can actively create a positive and abundant future through a living systems-based worldview. The presentation will pose questions such as: 'How can projects focus on creating a positive eco-footprint and contribute to community?', 'How does design focus hope and create a positive legacy?', and ‘If nature is the master designer, what are the lessons we can gain from looking at her patterns and processes?’ Dominique and Joel’s work are recognized by leaders in the movements of Regenerative Development, Sustainable Cities, Biophilic Design, Biomimicry, Permaculture, and Positive Development.

Designing for Hope Lecture in Denver

Lecture featuring Dr. Dominique Hes
Wednesday, March 25th
5:30pm-7:30pmThe Alliance Center
1536 Wynkoop St, Denver, CO 80202


While the lecture is free, registration is required. Space is limited.
>>Register Here<<


Patterns for a Hopeful Future Lecture in Fort Collins

Lecture featuring Dr. Dominique Hes and Joel Glanzberg
Thursday, March 26th
6:00-8:00pm
New Belgium Brewing Company, Tasting Room500 Linden St., Fort Collins, CO 80524

While the lecture is free, registration is required. Space is limited.
>>Register Here<<

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Biophilia and Placemaking: Influencing Design Decisions

Sustainable Building Associate

What role does nature and our inherent need for natural connections or biophilia play in placemaking?  To understand the relationship between placemaking and sense of place and biophilia, we must first understand biophilia, biophilic design, and placemaking.
According to E. O. Wilson (1984), biophilia is defined as “the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life; the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”.  Wilson and Kellert (1993) take this definition one step further, and define it as “the inherent human inclination to affiliate with natural systems and processes, especially life and life-like features of the non-human environment”.   So if biophilia is the connections we seek with the rest of life, it would make sense that biophilic design would be the “deliberate attempt to translate an understanding of the inherent human affinity to affiliate with natural systems and processes (known as biophilia) into the design of the built environment” (Kellert, 2008).
Placemaking or sense of place as it is sometimes called is thought to be “an overarching idea and a hands-on tool for improving a neighborhood, city or region” (What is Placemaking, 2015) that is “a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces” that “capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, ultimately creating good public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and wellbeing” (Placemaking, 2015).
How might we use biophilic design to promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being?  According to the text Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life (Kellert, 2008), there is an element of biophilic design that specifically addresses place and place-based relationships.  This element and the corresponding attributes can be used to connect the built environment to the area in which it is located.  Kellert (2008) defines place-based relationships as “the successful marriage of culture with ecology in a geographical context”.  Through biophilic design you can create place-based relationships through a historical, cultural, geographical, and/or ecological connection to place.  You can also use the landscape and materials of the location to create place through the use of indigenous materials, use of the landscape in defining the building form, and creating wildlife corridors and promoting biodiversity.

While the Biophilic Design text gives wonderful descriptions of these elements and attributes of biophilic design, it was still somewhat theoretical and conceptual to me as a designer and educator, so I sought out images of that I thought exemplified some of these attributes.


Cultural and Historic Connection to Place:

Mesa Verde Visitors Center, Mesa Verde National Park, CO   Design by: Landmark Design and ajc architects


 Indigenous Materials:

Myrick Hixon EcoPark, La Crosse, WI  Design and Photo by: Whole Trees Architecture & Structures


Ecological Connection to Place:

Nest Home, Onomichi, Japan  Design by: UID Architects   Photo by: Hiroshi Ueda







References:
Kellert, Stephen R., and Edward O. Wilson. The Biophilia Hypothesis. Washington, D.C.: Island, 1993.
Kellert, Stephen R., Judith Heerwagen, and Martin Mador. Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008.
Placemaking. (n.d.). In  Wikipedia. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placemaking
What Is Placemaking? (n.d.). In Project for Public Spaces. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://www.pps.org/reference/what_is_placemaking/
Wilson, Edward O. Biophilia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1984.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Self Driving Cars & the Future of Urban Environments

By: Austin Good
Sustainable Associate 

Self driving cars are coming. It’s not a question of if but when. Google has recently unveiled its latest self driving machine which will soon be hitting public roads for testing . It is theorized that these self-driving cars will be far safer than human operated cars as they are able to constantly survey their surroundings and are programed to take less risks than a person might. What if the introduction of self-driving cars could reduce the 1.3 million deaths from car crashes each year – most of which are largely due to human error. In addition, self-driving cars could also create huge advances in efficiency by communicating with each other on the road. The benefits seem overwhelmingly positive. But what will this mean for our cities?

Public car pools

Googles Latest Self Driving Car Prototype via Google
Once self-driving cars take hold, one likely scenario is that people won’t own private cars anymore.
Instead, whenever you would need to get around you would simply summon a car from the public pool, probably with your smartphone, and then be taken to your destination. This ‘ride share’  system could be run by private companies or by municipalities. This scenario would not only be more efficient than today’s private car model, but would be much more cost effective. Socially, this could mean more equal access to transportation regardless of wealth, ability, or age. This is also a huge win for the environment as only a fraction of cars would need to be manufactured.

Fewer parking lots, more parks

The urban environment we have built is largely based off of our love affair with the car. The infrastructure that cars require for parking and driving has shaped our cities. So what will self-driving cars and the likely outcome of car pools impact this infrastructure? Simply put, we would have a lot more space. Without the need for so many parking lots and parking garages per capita, imagine what we could design. Former parking areas would create  new infill opportunities within our current city boundaries, helping to rein in urban sprawl. We could create more walkable neighborhoods or reintroduce natural areas in the hearts of our cities. The amount of impervious area in our built environment could be cut down drastically, allowing for better handling of storm water and urban runoff. The safety and efficiency of self-driving cars could allow cities to reduce the number of lanes on roads, which could be reclaimed for green areas, expanded sidewalks, or bike lanes.  Self-driving cars would make it much safer to ride a bike or walk near roadways by reducing collisions. This could create new bike and pedestrian networks allowing people to live healthier lifestyles.
Space once used for parking and road lanes could
become urban gathering places, much like
Denver's 16th St. Mall.
One potential challenge of the self-driving can could be an increase in urban sprawl. Just as the car helped to create the suburbs, self-driving cars could allow people to live even further from work – due to increase driving speed, safety, and decreased congestion.  This could perpetuate the problems with urban sprawl, such as taking away farm land and natural areas.
In all likelihood, self driving cars are the future. This future presents many opportunities for us to strengthen our cities economically, socially and environmentally. In order to insure success, we need to begin imagining a new transportation system and a vision for our cities. Through innovative design and smart planning we’ll be able to create truly sustainable places in our transition to a more automated world.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

So you want to be a sustainable business?


By April Brown, Projects Manager

You might be asking yourself - What does a sustainable business look like? Where do I start?
The path toward organizational sustainability will look a little different for everyone. Simply speaking, a good first step is to make a plan that includes sustainability goals and activities that will support the organization becoming more sustainable overtime: it’s a journey, not a destination.
“In my opinion, there are four primary areas that you should consider when developing a sustainability investment plan: management infrastructure, eco-efficiency programs, strategic initiatives, and marketing programs,” reflects Geoffrey Barneby of the FairRidge Group. “Clearly, there is a need to address these areas somewhat sequentially; you cannot successfully market sustainability before making strategic changes, and you cannot develop strategic initiatives without already having an appropriate management infrastructure in place. There is, however, room for overlap and most mature companies manage to do all four in parallel.”
Setting measurable goals and tracking your progress is important, so it is good to identify your goals and opportunities before starting to retrofit the bathroom sink faucets. In a recent article on GreenBiz.com, a sustainability consultant shared feedback he's received from a client that also illustrates the traction integrated sustainability is gaining. He said, 
"We've gone through a paradigm shift on sustainable development in the last year. It's no longer seen as an environmental thing. It's fully integrated into the way we think and plan around economic growth."
Sustainability efforts are, also, most successful when you elect and empower someone to spearhead your sustainability efforts and make sure your goals remain on track. This position is a 21st century invention that has created jobs in the leadership ranks of most large companies, including Fortune 500 companies and political and economic powerhouses. Depending on rank, authority and responsibility titles range from “Chief Sustainability Officer” to “Sustainability Director” to or “Sustainability Analyst.” Sustainability professionals, like any high paid professional, require a certain level of knowledge and training. While there are more and more undergraduate and graduate degrees with a focus on sustainability, there is a shortage of qualified professionals to lead and implement strategic sustainable business initiatives. To help professionals keep up with the changing demands of the sustainable future, the Institute for the Built Environment at Colorado State University has created online courses for professionals to learn and practice the skills and tools they need to lead their organization’s sustainability initiatives. The online learning platform, which is being offered by OnlinePlus at Colorado State University, is intended for busy professionals; therefore classes are designed to accommodate typical business schedules.
“By participating in this program, you will enter into this important movement toward healthy economies, cities, and work practices and learn and apply real skills from leading researchers and professionals,” said April Brown, LEED AP BD+C, GGP.
"People that work in sustainability often come at it from one angle. They may ask, 'How do we best engage occupants for sustainability?' or 'How do we retrofit our facility to get the biggest bang for our buck?',” said Jeni Cross, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology, Colorado State University and expert instructor for the Integrated Sustainability Management Certificate program. "While these are really important questions, this program focuses on the systems approach, which will teach you how to use the work in one quadrant to leverage bigger change in the other quadrants.” 
To build the holistic mindset, the program is set up into 4 quadrants: people, resources, facilities, and organization.

When you have created your plan and you’ve designated someone to implement it, the next question you might ask yourself is – How? Much of the how relies on people adopting more sustainable behaviors. Much about behavior change is to be learned from social sciences. Jeni Cross, leading sociology researcher at Colorado State University, tell us about three myths of behavior change during a popular Tedx talk.

Cross explains that we all think we know how to encourage people to adopt sustainable behaviors, however, most of our encouragement actually does nothing to change anyone’s behavior. There are proven techniques for engaging behaviors of occupants and employees that support the organizational sustainability goals that should not be overlooked.

Business leaders worldwide agree that sustainability is an opportunity for growth and innovation, according to a 2013 report of CEOs’ views on creating a sustainable economy. Organizational sustainability is one of the fastest developing sectors of business in our modern world. Business is developing a heightened awareness on the importance of global issues, including social justice, climate change, energy independence, and water scarcity. Moreover, businesses are finding competitive advantage through sustainability and corporate responsibility. As an organization or business, taking sustainable strides will sincerely help you keep up with the growing market and increasing demand for transparency and responsibility. In the process, you can make a better place for your employees and a better product for your customers. Start by making a sustainability plan, then designate a knowledgeable Sustainability Coordinator to spearhead the initiatives outlined in the plan, and use tools from social science to engage your employees and building occupants and create a sustainability-minded culture to meet your sustainability goals and create lasting impact in your business.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

UPCOMING EVENT: Urban Lab Open House

By: Colin Day
Urban Lab Coordinator

The UniverCity Urban Lab- an organization based in Fort Collins that advocates for high-quality urban design and a livable city through community involvement and collaboration- is seeking input and guidance from the public as they shape the guidelines for a design competition to be launched early in 2015.

Come out and help us develop our Mason Street competition. Centered on the Mason Street transportation corridor, the competition will invite professional designers, students and others from around the world to propose improvements to the Mason Street Downtown Corridor, excluding the railroad right-of-way, which will enhance vehicle safety and the pedestrian environment. The goal of the competition is to inspire design possibilities that create a unique and memorable experience for those who visit the area.

The Urban Lab wishes to solicit feedback from the public on the proposed format of the competition as well as the specific requirements that competitors should prioritize. Possible topics include pedestrian and vehicular safety, sidewalk enhancement and public art.

Please provide feedback at our second annual open house event scheduled for Friday, December 5th at the former John Atencio Jewelry space at 1 Old Town Square in Fort Collins, from 5pm until 9pm, during the First Friday Art Walk. A feedback message board will also be available online at urbanlab.colostate.edu.  All interested community members are encouraged to attend and become involved in this important initiative.

About Urban Lab

The UniverCity Urban Lab is a catalyst organization dedicated to transforming the urban environment by convening private, public and academic partnerships to cultivate innovative change. Based in Fort Collins, the Urban Lab is a cooperative venture between Colorado State University, City of Fort Collins, Fort Collins Downtown Development Authority, professional designers, real estate developers, businesses and private citizens that was established in the summer of 2013.

Other current Urban Lab initiatives include the installation of the first ‘living wall’ in Fort Collins, scheduled for the spring of 2015, and the development of design and implementation guidelines for the Nature in the City Program, both in cooperation with the City of Fort Collins. The Urban Lab also contributes to the research agenda of Colorado State University, with a variety of funding streams from within the University to conduct research on a wide range of topics regarding the urban built environment.

Contact

To learn more about the Urban Lab and the Mason Street competition, contact:
Colin Day, Urban Lab Coordinator
Institute for the Built Environment
Colorado State University
970.491.5041
colin.day@colostate.edu

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Social Networks and Innovation

By Reanna Putnam
Sustainable Behavior Associate

Social networks can tell us a lot about how organizational structure promotes innovation. And don’t worry, this post is not about optimizing Facebook and Twitter to boost creativity. The term social network can be used to describe the relationships between any collection of two or more people, groups or organizations with common goals or interests(1).

Figure 1: Structural Holes(6)
There are different theories as to what produces innovation in social networks. One common explanation is that the presence of structural holes, defined as places of disconnection in the network, promote creativity in the individuals nearest to the structural hole(2, 3,4). Individuals who are near structural holes are more likely to have access to diverse, often contradictory, information and interpretations because they are able to draw on information from outside of their immediate connections(2). Encouraging indirect ties that bridge structural holes is a cost effective way for organizations to access diverse knowledge and contribute to innovation without adding to project expenses(5).


Another, perhaps conflicting, way to increase innovation in a network, is through strengthening relationships among members of a design team and creating a more densely connected network. This is important because it can increase performance(7,8,9), reduce conflict among team members(10), and increase in the duration of group membership(11).
Figure 2: Core Periphery Structure (12)
So how do we bridge these two contradictory concepts? One way is through promoting a core-periphery structure. A strong project team will consist of a densely connected core of key decision makers who are loosely connected to a peripheral network form which they draw ideas and information into the network. These loose connections to the periphery network allows for the network to be larger, bringing in new and diverse ideas. Because not all members of the core are connected to the periphery, innovation producing structural holes are formed.
Integrative design teams often take on this core-periphery structure. They do so by having a densely connected decision making core who are loosely connected to a diverse periphery of building users, facilities and operation staff, design specialists and construction professionals. The core-periphery structure allow for integrative design teams to come up with innovative design solutions that produce efficient buildings and increase occupant satisfaction.


(1) Anklam, P. (2007). Net work: a practical guide to creating and sustaining networks at work and in the world. Routledge.

(2) Burt, R. S. (2004). Structural holes and good ideas1. American journal of sociology, 110(2), 349-399.

(3) Walker, G., Kogut, B., & Shan, W. (1997). Social capital, structural holes and the formation of an industry network. Organization science, 8(2), 109-125.

(4) Powell, W. W., Koput, K. W., & Smith-Doerr, L. (1996). Interorganizational collaboration and the locus of innovation: Networks of learning in biotechnology. Administrative science quarterly, 116-145.

(5) Ahuja, G. (2000). Collaboration networks, structural holes, and innovation: A longitudinal study. Administrative science quarterly, 45(3), 425-455.

(6) Farral, Kenneth. (2004) Web Graph Analysis in Perspective: Description and Evaluation in terms of Krippendorff’s Conceptual Framework for Content Analysis (version 1.0). Retrieved from: http://farrall.org/papers/webgraph_as_content.html.

(7) de Montjoye, Y. A., Stopczynski, A., Shmueli, E., Pentland, A., & Lehmann, S. (2014). The strength of the strongest ties in collaborative problem solving. Scientific reports, 4.

(8) Balkundi, P., & Harrison, D. A. (2006). Ties, leaders, and time in teams: Strong inference about network structure’s effects on team viability and performance. Academy of Management Journal, 49(1), 49-68Lazega 2002

(9) Nelson, R. E. (1989). The strength of strong ties: Social networks and intergroup conflict in organizations. Academy of Management Journal, 32(2), 377-401.

(10) McPherson, J. M., Popielarz, P. A., & Drobnic, S. (1992). Social networks and organizational dynamics. American Sociological Review, 153-170.

(11) Borgatti, S. P., & Everett, M. G. (2000). Models of core/periphery structures.Social networks, 21(4), 375-395.