Change the Rules of Housing and Let Tiny Houses & ADUs Flourish

Right-sized living is far from a new idea. The architect Le Corbusier was a pioneer, from his cabanon at the Cote d’Azur to the super-efficient and well-designed density of Unite d’Habitation. This was a good idea then, as it is now. This is a classic case of the importance of the underlying rules of the game – the land use regulations, zoning, and building codes that guide our built environment. These more technical matters aren’t nearly as sexy as the shelter porn in Dwell magazine. But you can’t have one without the other.

5 Ways to Democratize Access to Clean Energy Technology

California recently became the second state to pass a 100% clean energy standard, three years after Hawaii passed a similar law. As the fifth largest economy in the world, California has a tall order to fill in terms of making the transition to clean energy. How can California, and other states that wish to follow suit, fulfill this ambitious task? They will need to provide affordable, relevant, and accessible energy options to every one of its residents, prioritizing those who have historically been overlooked and left out of the clean energy conversation due to economic circumstance or social inequity.

7 Recommendations from Health and Transportation Focus Groups

Planners, engineers, and public health professionals all speak different languages. They may even use different terms to express similar ideas: for example, a planner may recommend tactical urbanism to improve neighborhood walkability, whereas an engineer may ascribe experimental countermeasure terminology to the same scenario, and a public health professional may view the solution in terms of an intervention. And community members may find all these terms unintelligible. In our focus groups, we heard that practitioners need to “get people on the same page” because of the differences we carry in our heads about transportation concepts.

A Research Toolkit for Building the Ultimate Urban Forest

As communities and municipalities around America are grappling with extreme weather events, it is even more vital to incorporate smart urban tree canopy and green infrastructure planning into all resiliency and climate change planning. Assessing your community’s current green infrastructure assets and deficits provides immediate information for maximizing your quality of living but also sets out the road map for how prepared your community may be for extreme weather events – from flooding to hurricanes to drought. Take advantage of the Vibrant Cities Lab site and any of the tools in this urban forestry “starter pack” or wade in by reaching out to the experts at the USDA Forest Service.

How Community-Funder Collaboratives Can Build Regional Power

How Community-Funder Collaboratives Can Build Regional Power

Foundations are notorious for creating their own funding strategy without any guidance from the communities they seek to support, imposing their strategy on grantees, and expecting them to achieve pre-determined outcomes that support those strategies. Within the Collaborative, we ask that funders listen to and trust the grassroots leaders and organizations, who we know are best positioned to propose the most effective solutions for their communities.

Planning & Implementing BRT in South Africa

Planning & Implementing BRT in South Africa

A big assumption was that BRT would take root and work well in South Africa simply because it has been so successful across Latin America. Unfortunately, while yes, BRT has been very successful in Latin American cities, as with most things, there’s no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to transit.

Transit and Climate Adaptation = Transit and Equity

Transit and Climate Adaptation = Transit and Equity

The importance of this assessment is to provide information and data that can be used in creating effective policy that impacts transit access for those that are vulnerable during storm events. A vulnerability assessment can be undertaken by combining storm surge and extreme rainfall projections with transit availability characteristics to assess geographic vulnerability in regards to transit access and equity.

Key Findings from Climate Adaptation Report

Key Findings from Climate Adaptation Report

At the request of Kresge, a leading philanthropy focused on adaptation in the US, I joined with Dr. Susi Moser with Susanne Moser Research and Consulting and Aleka Seville at the time with Four Twenty Seven Inc. to conduct interviews and surveys with almost 100 leaders representing the public, private, and NGO/civic sectors and academia, covering a wide range of adaptation-related expertise and perspectives.

The Frontlines of Community-Driven Clean Energy

The Frontlines of Community-Driven Clean Energy

What does an African-American church in East Oakland, California and a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Little River, South Carolina have in common? They both are solar powered thanks to the efforts (and dollars) of their empowered community members.

5 Reasons EVs Alone Aren’t Enough to Address Climate Change

5 Reasons EVs Alone Aren’t Enough to Address Climate Change

For all the promise of electric vehicles, we can’t lose sight of one simple fact: The environmental burden of transportation in the United States isn’t a vehicle problem, it’s a problem with our transportation system as a whole. Simply swapping out internal combustion engines for electric motors won’t be enough to meet that challenge.

Why the Airport is the Future Hub of Robot Cars

For the city itself, there’s an enormous benefit in integrating intermodally with the airport. In the potential futures presented by autonomous vehicles, there’s the capacity for the airport to become essentially estranged from the city, a faraway piece of infrastructure relegated to long-haul travel, which wouldn’t be a future at all for many regional, non-coastal airports. Having the airport serve as one of the city’s core intermodal hubs draws the airport and city closer together functionally and emotionally.

The Humanability of Smart Cities

Lighting infrastructure is a perfect example of futureproofing. As cities are swapping out traditional high-pressure sodium street lights with energy-efficient LEDs and smart nodes that can remotely monitor and control the lights, don’t just be thinking about a smart lighting solution. Think about the position those streetlights are in to support so much more, like intersection safety analytics, parking optimization, and gunshot detection.

3 Key Strategies for Successful Civic Engagement Using Technology

The idea of multi-channel civic engagement and the role of the grassroots community marketer is being implemented by forward-thinking smart city leaders who understand the  importance—and economic benefits—of giving their constituents a voice. More investments are being made into digital systems that reach and engage the public.

Cities Need Forecasted Data to Make Impactful Emissions Reductions

From an energy type standpoint, a city’s electric utility can make a big difference regarding which actions cities should undertake. For instance, a city in the service territory of an electric utility with ambitious plans to decarbonize its generation mix may want to focus greater attention on future emissions scenarios versus current emissions when making decisions on priorities. This would mean focusing actions on transportation, space heating, and industrial processes, since those would likely be greater contributors to emissions (vs. electricity) in such a future scenario.

The Value of Analytics in Smart Parking

While it may sound like a simple process, there are challenges to consider when it comes to the effectiveness of parking sensors, such as their location. For example, in-ground sensors, a technology used by some cities in the past, presented a myriad of problems, including ineffective readings that can result in unreliable data and lost revenue.

Uber’s Mobility Dream Might Be a Consumer Nightmare

In the long run, even the largest, most powerful cities will struggle to rein in sophisticated global mobility companies. Thoughtful regulation at the state and federal level will eventually be necessary. Cities are becoming more active in setting policy for emerging services like bikes and scooters, and can incorporate thoughtful requirements in their license schemes. There are steps that government can take today to avoid some of the worst long-term risks.

Trees Play a Key Role in a Sustainable Urban Future

Urban trees remove over 710,000 tons of air pollution per year in the U.S., which has a major impact on fighting respiratory illnesses like asthma. Trees also filter up to 80% of phosphorus out of stormwater before it pollutes waterways and drinking water. And tree canopy shade, along with evapotranspiration (the return of water vapor from trees and vegetation back to the atmosphere), can lower peak temperatures by 2°-9°F—a key tool in combating the heat island effect present in many cities, which disproportionately impacts lower-income neighborhoods and other vulnerable populations.

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