Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Now’s the Time -(Charlie Parker song from 1952)

What I have indicated so far about the future is well known for most planners and architects but we seem to have some “commercial” blinders on. We must ask ourselves – Are we advising clients and decision-makers the right things?

Clearly not - so where do we go from here?

Well – let’s have a look at some tables from the Canadian Architects blog. We start with “Measures of Sustainability – embodied energy” – the basis for trying to be energy sufficient – the “embodied energy” in the building materials used and recommended by architects is important.  Follows here:

As can be seen – architects here are mostly preferring steel, aluminium, glass and other materials that are on the top/bottom of the “embodied energy” list. Why? Is it just that the well-known “icons” used it frequently in the past? Should it be the same today – they would certainly not have done that (remember Alvar Aalto).

And those materials, by necessity seemingly, give us high-rise buildings in need air-cons, lifts etc - in a country that already is on her back because of power breaks and badly planned supply – and as we know, power will be severely more expensive in the future if even a bit more reliable some doesn’t think so, by the way!

It should also be noted that the table is “Canadian” – the transport factor is consequently less than for Botswana!

How do we handle this knowledge in a world of less abundance of cheap energy?

Firstly, we have to encourage local production of building materials – we have all raw materials needed for that! Secondly, we have to design buildings that are not inherently in need of excessive energy for longevity – including normal maintenance. The former resident architect Ian Marshall once indicated that for us. (And Boidus has an interesting article by IM that I hope they will print one day.)

He made some ground clearing designs for UB and Government in the 80-ies that are in good shape (and good looking) still!

Now we have to look into the next important design issue for architects – Measures of Sustainability (incl. operating energy). These are highly important factors for sustainable design but unfortunately impossible to make an abridged presentation of here – we have to advice the interested architect to go to the sources – http://www.canadianarchitect.com/asf/perspectives_sustainability.

The conclusion of that paper reads as follows:

“Although both energy use and greenhouse gas emissions increased in Canada between 1990 and 1999, the increase would have been much greater if not for improvements in energy efficiency. As a result of this progress, Canadians are saving about $5 billion per year in energy costs, and greenhouse gas emissions are five percent below what they would otherwise have been.
Viewed from the perspective of national debt, operating energy is a vital indicator of sustainability.”

Yes – so much for architectural design and sustainability! Let’s go to town planning.

For you to understand – I must confess the following:

I’m an architect from Sweden (exam from 1965) – totally against the bureaucratic dictatorship of planning regulations! Town planning was in my learning time quite subordinate to the art of architecture and building. In my mind, so it should be – putting a lot of responsibility upon architects.

And here we are – a situation when “town planners” are making up plans for 2025 and more, extrapolating 1995 trends into 2025!

In my answer book, I have the concepts we used we used in Stockholm City Planning Department - we made “provisional plans” and started a discussion with the architects appointed for the jobs. Not until an agreement was reached, the plan was taken for approval!

The plans were indicative until the architects were in agreement. And this attitude goes well with a future of “less abundance” and more or less zero growth.

So I see so called specialized town planners unnecessary – a revival of the old academic teaching concept of architects will do. The “technical and rational” town planning concept is a part of the site planning for the architect – as it has been for centuries prior to the neo-liberal concept of putting harness onto architects. Seems hard as an opinion but nevertheless true! The economical pundits never liked the “jack-of-all-trades” - the architects. Or any intellectuals, by the way!

However, here we are, we so called town planners, for some time, still.

What can we do in a situation of no economical growth and less energy?

Well, let’s be happy we are not in the US! For more than 50 yrs the so called “suburban concept” has been implemented and now looks like a dead end. No way out except by turning around 180 degrees, and money will not be available for such a turn. So, they must find a way of getting services and jobs within walking distance for the people with no choice!

The suburb will be there for generations as the infrastructure was expensive and there are very few dollars in the future. US planners have serious problems when trying to “recycle” their suburbs, indeed. But it is possible, I think.

For them and us the problem will be Public Transport. And finding a changed school system as – no private schools scattered all over town – local schools, instead – a challenge for the authorities!  Schools and services within walking distances!

As I understand, it is possible here in our towns and settlements, but, as I said – a revised (esp. educational planning policy) is needed. We must plan what we can implement in the near future.  And leave some pointers, arrows, whatever for the long term unknown future. The days of the 25 yr planning period are gone – totally unknown to us (as it has been for many yrs to the ones who read reports from various energy authorities).

I have been writing about the importance of a change in the transport and road system for yrs, now. And finally I find a learned friend, Jayson Sechele – listen to his advice, if you don’t believe me! That’s how things should be handled. 

Let’s start the discussion, now. It’s soon too late!

 (Continuation > click HERE to read 

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