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New Urbanism

City planners, architects, developers, and others are working together to create more balanced, compact and walkable neighborhoods and city districts. New Urbanism is based on principles of environmental responsibility, mixed-use development and efficient access to both work and play. From modest beginnings, the trend is growing to have a substantial impact. More than 500 new towns, villages, and neighborhoods are built or under construction in the US, using principles of New Urbanism. Additionally, hundreds more smaller-scale New Urban projects are restoring the urban fabric of cities and towns by reestablishing walkable streets and blocks in communities throughout the country.

On the regional scale, New Urbanism is having a growing influence on how and where metropolitan regions choose to grow. Large-scale planning initiatives now commonly incorporate new urban planning ideas — such as walkable neighborhoods, transit-oriented development, and sociable, pedestrian-scale streets. Form-based codes and better-connected street networks are two instruments by which New Urban ideas are being implemented.

And we are well poised to lead the way in the principals of New Urbanism. We were among the first in the field to earn certification in form-based code and have vast experience in greenlighting mixed-use projects. We assist government entities in developing these districts – whether through wholesale changes to municipality’s zoning and subdivision codes, or through targeted initiatives for a particular area.

Because of our intimate understanding of local government processes and planning objectives, we can assist private developers seeking entitlements for New Urbanism projects whose design and densities are likely inconsistent with existing codes. Our experience has included the drafting of comprehensive plans, zoning codes and architectural design regulations incorporating smart growth and New Urbanist concepts. We have also represented a variety of clients undertaking projects infused with New Urbanist principles, including mixed-use, transit-oriented town centers and entirely new neighborhoods.

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Top Ten Green Trends of 2011

Green building and sustainability consultant Jerry Yudelson says that the green building industry will rebound in 2011 in spite of the continuing economic difficulties in most developed countries, citing 10 major trends. Check out some of his predictions for the coming year:

1. The worldwide green building movement will continue to accelerate, as more countries begin to create their own green building incentives and developing their own Green Building Councils. More than 70 countries, on all continents, will show considerable green building growth in 2010.
2. Green building will rebound in 2011, as measured by the new LEED project registrations as a proxy for this growth. “The reduction in commercial real estate building in many countries,” he said, “was not offset by other sectors such as government, and so the growth rate of new green building projects fell dramatically in 2010.”
3. The focus of the green building industry will continue to switch from new buildings to greening existing buildings. “The fastest growing LEED rating system in 2010 was the LEED for Existing Buildings program, and I expect this trend to continue in 2011,” said Yudelson. “My 2009 book, Greening Existing Buildings, documents the strategic components of this trend.”
4. Blue will become the New Green. Awareness of the coming global crisis in fresh water supply will continue to grow, leading building designers and managers to take further steps to reduce water consumption to increase sustainability. This will be done in buildings through the use of more conservation-oriented fixtures, rainwater recovery systems and innovative new water technologies.

5. Green building in the U.S. will continue to benefit from the Obama presidency with a continued focus on greening the executive branch. New announcements of a commitment to a minimum of LEED Gold for all new federal projects and major renovations confirm and highlight this macro-trend.
6. Zero-net-energy designs for new buildings become increasingly commonplace, in both residential and commercial sectors, as LEED and ENERGY STAR ratings become too common to confer competitive advantage.
7. Performance Disclosure will be the fastest emerging trend, highlighted by new requirements in California and other states. Commercial building owners will have to disclose actual building performance to all new tenants and buyers.
8. Certified Green Schools will grow rapidly as part the LEED System. This trend will accelerate as understanding of the health and educational benefits of green schools grows. Already by mid-year 2010, green schools represented nearly 40% of all new LEED projects in the U.S.
9. Local and state governments will step up their mandates for green buildings for both themselves and the private sector. We’ll see at least 20 major new cities with commercial sector green building mandates. The desire to reduce carbon emissions by going green will lead more government agencies to require green buildings.
10. Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow. This trend will be enhanced by the increasing focus of municipal utilities as they need to comply with state-level renewable power standards (RPS) for 2015 and 2020. As before, third-party financing partnerships will continue to grow and provide capital for large rooftop systems such as on warehouses. However, we may very well see a slowing of large solar and wind systems, as federal grant support, in lieu of tax credits, is phased out.

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Modern “Out of the Box” Green Living

“Living Green” has gone vogue and so has finding new creative “out of the box” ways to do so.

Next month, the forward thinking Phoenix-based development firm of UpCycle Living lead by Ashton Wolfswinkel and Jason Anderson will break ground on a cutting-edge residential community known as Switzer Terrace in the beautifully forested mountain top city of Flagstaff, Arizona, utilizing stacked shipping containers.

Recent years has seen eco-friendly developers look for new ways to promote sustainable living and this new form of housing has emerged as a phenomenal way to reuse these virtual “LEGO-blocks” as modern sustainable modular homes.

Shipping containers were invented more than 50 years ago, and are certainly recognized as the basic unit in our global distribution network of products. Every commodity imaginable is shipped throughout the world from toys from China, textiles from India, grain from America, and cars from Germany. Yet these visionary developers, architects and green designers such as Upcycle Living and green living enthusiasts are increasingly turning to these strong, cheap boxes as source building blocks to create some amazing modern architectural wonders.

According to the Upcycle Living’s architects, the modified containers are “nearly indestructible,” as well as resistant to mold, fire, and termites. The shipping containers can be readily modified with a range of creature comforts and can be connected and stacked to create modular, efficient spaces for a fraction of the cost, labor, and resources of more conventional materials. Some of the recent green living uses include disaster relief shelters to luxury condos, vacation homes, and off-the-grid adventurers.

With its modern lines and appealing spaces, the containers turn heads. Upcycle Living’s forested Switzer Terrace community boasts __ individual 6,000 square foot lots. One such model includes a two bedroom, 2.5 bathroom, 1,200 square foot spacious modern home with a 2 car garage. This luxury mountainside showpiece is built from four prefabricated, recycled steel shipping containers, along with some traditional building materials. Seventy percent of the building will be efficiently assembled in a shop, saving time, money, and resources.

One such configuration includes the home perched on a hillside lot, with the four containers on top of a two car garage. Alternatively, the unit could be configured on a level lot with the garage along the side of the home.

On the inside, the home also demonstrates the importance of a livable floor plan and a well-orchestrated flow of space. On the ground floor, this open-plan module contains the living room, dining area, and kitchen and can be entirely open to the outside by incorporating vast windows or enclosed. Classic modern furniture provides comfort and style without taking over the room. The open kitchen, with its gleaming stainless steel appliances, is ideally suited to the love of entertaining the curious green living friends and family. Upstairs, private spaces are more compartmentalized. The master bedroom at one end of the unit could look out onto a grove of trees (and will eventually have its own private deck). The simple lines of the office area at the opposite end are highly conducive to concentration. Overall, this Upcyle Living home is a striking example of what can be achieved with a well-thought-out modular system of construction and design that focuses on sustainable living.

Upcycle Living has clearly taken a giant leap forward in introducing such a housing product in Arizona and only time will tell whether progressive Flagstaff homebuyers will catch the vision of this truly “out of the box” green living alternative.

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