TR A NSFORM ATION A L THOUGHT
A LIVING COMMUNITY ON EARTH TR A NSFORM ATION A L DE SIGN
HOOD RIVER MIDDLE SCHOOL:
THREE YEARS & RUNNING TR A NSFORM ATION A L ACTION
FOR OUR COMMUNITYâ€“ BY OUR COMMUNITY TR A NSFORM ATION A L PEOPLE
KAT TAYLOR JULY 2014
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TR A NSFORM ATION A L DE SIGN BY OP SIS A ND INTERFACE
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Net-Zero Energy: Three Years and Running BY OP SIS A RCHITECTURE & INTERFACE ENGINEERING
Interview with Kat Taylor BY K RIS TA ELV E Y
A Living Community on Earth: The Swelling Horde, Carrying Capacity and a Constrained World BY JA SON F. MCLENN A N
COVER IMAGE © ISTOCK
For Our Community—By Our Community BY THE TRIM TA B EDITORI A L TE A M & MIR A NDA GA RDINER
contents J U LY 2 014
TR A NSFORM ATION A L PEOPLE BY K RIS TA ELV E Y
TR A NSFORM ATION A L THOUGHT BY JA SON F. MCLENN A N
NUTS & BOLTS
FWD: Read This
Living Cully: Building a Park and a Lasting Legacy BY JOA NN A GA NGI
Surviving Inclement Weather: A Cooperative Partnership in Native Alaska
Living Communities: Vision and Engagement
BY MOLLY RE T TIG
BY RICHARD GR AVES
A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
or the first time ever, the majority of the world’s population lives in cities. Studies suggest that this proportion will continue to grow—by 2050, 7 out of 10 people will live in a city. There is no doubt that urbanization is on the rise. Climate change is moving too fast for the “one building at a time” mentality. Cities and urban settings should be at the core of the sustainability movement in order to create a future society that is resilient. Within every city, there is a myriad of communities. Community can be defined in many ways—a neighborhood, school, church, or any group sharing something in common. Each community has different aspects that make it unique. And those specific aspects (demographics, history, culture, infrastructure, etc.) are what determine if a community is healthy, vibrant and thriving. What does it take to make a flourishing community? We devoted this Trim Tab to an exploration of this question. In this issue, we tell stories of people who are dedicated to creating communities that are resilient and sustainable, and it became evident that there is no person too small or no dream too big to make this happen. Creating these communities is a critical endeavor in order to restore balance with nature for future generations to thrive. Like hundreds of birds moving together as one, people can come together collectively as one to transform a community.
JOANNA GANGI International Living Future Institute Editorial Director of Trim Tab magazine
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B Y O P S I S A R C H I T E C T U R E & I N T E R FA C E E N G I N E E R I N G
NET-ZERO ENERGY: THREE YEARS AND RUNNING
T RAN S FO RMAT I O N AL D E S I GN
The Music and Science Building is the latest addition to the Hood River Middle School (HRMS) campus in Hood River, Oregon. The facility has received much recognition, including a Top Ten Green Projects award from the AIAâ€™s Committee on the Environment, and it was recently recognized as the first Net-Zero Energy Certified public school. The building is home to a new music room, practice rooms and teacher offices. It also houses the schoolâ€™s remarkable Food and Conservation Science Program, with a science lab and greenhouse adjacent to the garden.
PHOTO CREDITS: MATHERS
The interface between the building and its environmental and cultural landscape is particularly important at HRMS. A curriculum established around the ideas of permaculture was already in place—a creative process based on understanding the connections in all ecosystems and how as humans we can work with, rather than against nature. Science teacher Michael Becker, championed the Food and Conservation Science Program because of his belief that education is sustainability. He described the goals of the program as “not having school be a place where young people are held until they’re ready to go on to do something else. It’s a place where they start doing things with the information they’re working with. And they’re amazingly good at it.” The path to a Net Zero Energy building begins with significantly lowering the building’s energy demands. The HRMS Music and Science Building uses a variety of passive and active energy conservation strategies. Many of the passive design features have been used for centuries: daylight as the primary light source, thermal mass, shading to control heat and light, natural ventilation and operable windows with individual control. Reducing the energy demand low enough to
achieve net zero depends on student participation and actions. A green light / red light indicates whether outside temperatures are favorable for natural ventilation, engaging the students in the operation of the windows and rooftop ventilators in order to induce cross-ventilation. The children grow deciduous vines on trellises to shade the south-facing windows during the summer but allow solar heat gain during the winter months. To raise the students’ awareness of daily and seasonal natural cycles, a sundial was placed above the south entry, helping to provide a connection between the building and its place. The HRMS Music and Science Building and landscape are designed to support interactive learning through an immersion of project-based and place-based curriculum. Becker instills the ethical base of permaculture in his students: it’s about care of the earth, care of people, and care of redistribution. There is a progression of learning to move beyond the idea of sustainability so that we can get to regeneration—actually making places better over time. As Becker described it, “We can understand the parts. Then we can facilitate the relationships. And then, even better, if we’re going to start building these more productive systems, we
A curriculum established around the ideas of permaculture was already in placeâ€”a creative process based on understanding the connections in all ecosystems and how as humans we can work with, rather than against nature. Science teacher Michael Becker, championed the Food and Conservation Science Program because of his belief that education is sustainability.
There is a progression of learning to move beyond the idea of sustainability so that we can get to regeneration —actually making places better over time.
• The active systems used to heat and cool the building include a horizontal loop geo-exchange system buried 10 feet (3m) under the school’s soccer field, which supplies the heating and cooling for the radiant concrete floors. • Additional summertime cooling is provided by a nearby stream that is used to irrigate the soccer field. Before the water is used for irrigation, the cooler temperature of the water is extracted and fed into the radiant system. • When it is too cold to bring in fresh air through the operable windows, the building is mechanically ventilated. In order to temper the incoming cool air, heat recovery ventilators transfer heat from the exhaust, and CO2 sensors ensure that fresh air is only brought in when needed.
have to accelerate succession.” He works with students when they enter the program in sixth grade, and follows them until their graduation and beyond. The permaculture principles learned by students became the design lens for the project—inspiring the creation of a Net Zero Energy and LEED Platinum certified building. “Zero” became a fundamental concept that grew out of the principle of balance. Recognizing that zero is a special number, far more comprehensible to children than a metric like “80% reduction,” led to the commitment to be truly net-zero.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if someday we didn’t have to have a whole conference about sustainability—if it was just the way things were done?”
Students’ growing and harvesting efforts also serve the larger community; every Thursday, students sell their produce in the Gorge Grown Farmer’s Market that is hosted at the school site. A new amphitheater overlooking the greenhouse is accessible to the public and serves as an outdoor classroom. This setting also provides students with an opportunity to lead guided community tours of the building and to showcase their Ten years ago, students started building a garden, a latest permaculture projects. rainwater system and a small solar array to pump irrigation water. From this starting point, the team ex- The students have constructed a wood-fired cob oven, panded the palette of natural elements used as teach- which is guarded by a sculpture of a panther—the school ing tools. Following, are several examples of Food and mascot. The oven is sheltered by a student-designed and Conservation Science Program projects that students student-built shed roof that is decorated with painted have completed: flower vines. Opsis Architecture designed a commercial kitchen (located in the main building) where the A mixed native and edible plant area is located along students prepare their produce and cob oven recipes. the southwest border of the project site and reflects the school’s permaculture curriculum. It utilizes plants Students grow plants using water from a self-contained that attract beneficial insects, provide mulch, balance “biological filter.” Rainwater is used to fill several tanks, nitrogen in the soil and provide an edible yield, all which also house fish. The fish fertilize the water, which while providing a beautiful, place-appropriate environ- is then filtered by cycling through a hydroponic growing medium where a variety of edible plants are grown. ment for the building and students.
PROJECT TEAM Owner: Hood River County School District Owner’s Rep: Brent Emmons, Principal, Hood River Middle School, Dan Goldman, Superintendent of Schools Architectural: Opsis Architecture, LLP Mechanical: Interface Engineering Electrical: Interface Engineering Plumbing: Interface Engineering Lighting Design: Interface Engineering Geotechnical: PSI Civil: KPFF Consulting Engineers Landscape: Green Works PC Structural: KPFF Consulting Engineers Interior Design: Opsis Architecture, LLP Contractor: Kirby Nagelhout Construction Company Commissioning: McKinstry SPECIALTY CONSULTANTS
Acoustical and Technology Engineers: Listen Acoustics Graphics Consultant: Anderson Krygier, Inc
Recently, students built a “climate battery” to regulate the temperature in their greenhouse. The challenge with a greenhouse is that it can get too hot during the day and too cool at night. The students’ climate battery stores excess heat during the day in a high-mass material (the students used gravel in their design) and releases it at night to even out temperature swings. The Music and Science Building achieved Net Zero Energy Building Certification during the period analyzed, although it accomplished this in a manner that differed from the original energy model results. In general, the original energy model under-predicted the amount of heating energy needed in the building but over-predicted the energy needed for plug loads and cooling. Several factors contributed to a higher heating energy, including colder ground loop temperatures, lower heat pump efficiencies and longer operational hours of the radiant slab pumps. Conversely, on the cooling side, the free cooling provided by the irrigation water essentially eliminated the need to operate the geo-exchange system during the summer, which was not anticipated by the model. And the actual building used substantially less energy for plug loads and computer equipment than had been predicted by the original energy model. For the renewable energy systems, the photovoltaic array generated 16% more energy than predicted, which indicates that the solar income in Hood River is higher than the Portland, OR, weather file used in the original calculations. The
original energy model was calibrated based on the post-occupancy measurement and verification process and was brought to within 4% of the actual energy performance. Going forward, this calibrated model could be used to help troubleshoot any energy discrepancies monitored or predict potential energy savings from other measures.
and Science Building will continue to operate at net zero energy and could potentially produce even more energy with some of the suggestions above being implemented.
Becker and his students have teamed up with Opsis and Interface Engineering to present the evolution of HRMS’ Food and Conservation Science Program to the international design community at two recent Over the past three years, Opsis and Interface have Living Future unConferences. The Council for Educacontinued to check in with HRMS about the evolution tional Facility Planners International will also feature of the building and the performance of the sustain- presentations about and tours of the Music and Science able systems in place. Interviews with the staff indi- Building as part of their October 2014 conference. At cated that at times classroom temperatures became too the May 2014 Living Future unConference, Becker inwarm. If the heating set point for the radiant slab was spired the audience with his vision of real change, asklowered, the efficiency of the ground source heating ing, “Wouldn’t it be nice if someday we didn’t have to pumps would improve while they operate in heating have a whole conference about sustainability—if it was mode. Another potential improvement could be shut- just the way things were done?” ting off the radiant slab pumps during a block of hours Authored by ANDY FRICHTL when the building is unoccupied, such as the weekends. INTERFACE ENGINEERING is focused on If the thermal lag could be determined in the system, high-performance solutions for energy then the radiant slab pumps could be shut off at the end and water efficiency. They have designed of occupancy on a Friday afternoon and enabled again 15 net zero projects and over 125 LEED certified buildings. on Sunday evening or early Monday morning to bring the building back up to temperature. Hood River Middle School is an example of how, with the right space, tools, leadership, and support, we can actually make places better and more productive. Based on performance data, the team expects that the Music
Authored by ALEC HOLSER OPSIS ARCHITECTURE has focused on educational design for 15 years, completing more than 100 projects for clients in the Northwest ranging from K-12 schools to community colleges and universities.
Collaboration. Creativity. Community. Our green building strategy goes beyond checking the boxes.
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T RAN S FO RMAT I O N AL P E O P L E
Kat Taylor is the fearless leader and self-proclaimed “unconventional” CEO of Beneficial State Bank (formerly One PacificCoast Bank). Led by Taylor’s vision, the bank is making enormous strides for social and environmental well-being through a model known as Beneficial Banking. This concept aligns the bank’s ownership, lending focus and corporate practices with the public interest—bank profits (when distributed) must be reinvested into low-income communities and the environment. Beneficial State Bank’s operations are guided by the rigorous tenets of its triple bottom line: economic sustainability, social justice, and economic well-being.
Banking is convoluted, but essential nonetheless as it amplifies the money supply and facilitates commerce. BSB’s efforts to provide fair and transparent banking services stand in stark contrast to the extractive practices of banking that most recently produced the financial crisis and exacerbated income disparity in the United States. Sustainable design urges us to create transparent, closed-loop cycles that benefit the greater good. BSB is helping to provide economic sustainability for environmental and social justice champions—the missing link for sustainable business practices and environmental advocacy.
Thanks to the Beneficial Banking model, it is possible to fund green building projects while simultaneously investing in social capital. “It’s too easy to use banking to extract value from communities and the environment; we wanted to turn that propensity on its head.” Singer, cattleman and philanthropic entrepreneur are just a few of the titles in Kat Taylor’s repertoire. She joined us to share the philosophy behind Beneficial Banking and its potential applications in the green building industry.
Rebranding One PacificCoast Bank to Beneficial State Bank What does “beneficial state bank” mean? The organization rebranded in order to find a name and logo that reflected their vision, mission and commitment to their triple-bottom line. They have selected “beneficial state bank” because of the multiple meanings it has in support of those aims. Beneficial State Bank strives to be an institution that is beneficial to the clients they serve and the environment upon which everyone depends.
Why an acorn? The acorn represents their journey and plans for future growth. As a tiny community bank with big dreams of changing the banking industry, they are a tiny acorn hoping to grow to a mighty oak. There is also a slight nod to the organization’s place of origin, Oakland, in that acorns come from oak trees.
Why is the name in lowercase? The lowercase was selected to convey humbleness—sending the message that they are very young, don’t have all the answers, but are committed to the path they have set out on and are here to stay.
Please explain the philosophy behind Beneficial Banking, and what sparked the vision for the concept.
debt model that recycles repaid loan capital by lending funds back into the community.
We were guided by the activists of the Civil Rights Movement, who realized that economic rights and access are just as important as political rights. Banking is essentially the first form of crowdsourcing—collecting deposits from communities to lend toward (hopefully) constructive activities in those communities. Banking has several attributes that allow it to facilitate commerce in a powerful way: it is a disciplined way to allocate capital (underwriting and compliance are examined by regulators in order to protect the bank from losses that could burden the FDIC insurance fund that protects depositors); it’s a leverage model (for every $1 of equity that you put into banking, you can collect up to $9); and it is a
We strive to have a creative, constructive beneficial model, not an extractive one. It’s too easy to use banking to extract value from communities and the environment; we wanted to turn that propensity on its head. So we mandated a triple bottom line, and then gave all the economic rights of the bank (the right to take any profit from the bank) to our Foundation, which is a public charity. The profits from the bank are distributed to the public charity foundation and are reinvested in the low-income communities that we serve and the environment upon which we depend. This creates a virtuous cycle of reinvestment. Another important aspect of our ownership is that the foundation can’t sell its stock without our permis-
sion—it can only sell to a nonprofit, meaning there aren’t private shareholders who would have a tendency to insist on profit maximization at the expense of our triple bottom line. TT:
Could you provide an example of a non-profit that received a commercial loan, and describe how that organization is utilizing the funds they’ve received to expand their mission? KT: We measure our lending impact based on an internal point structure. Every loan is awarded points if it falls into one of our targeted sectors: affordable housing and neighborhood stabilization, sustainable food and agriculture, renewable energy, nonprofits, women and minority owned businesses, and more. GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit worth highlighting that should receive four or five points. They raised the capital and the energy tax credit to install solar on deed-restricted, low-income housing, which produces cost savings for families living in those homes and creates renewable energy.
GRID Alternatives provides workforce development using a barn-raising model where volunteers and job trainees gain tangible experience. They were also the primary political agent that aided in the development of public tax credits in the state of California. Now, their reach has expanded to Colorado, they are preparing to open offices on the East Coast and are working on tribal reservations, military bases and even overseas.
The International Living Future Institute’s Affinity Visa® Credit Card The card is offered in partnership with a triple bottom-line, community development bank, Beneficial State Bank. This partnership ensures that a percentage of every purchase made using this card furthers the Institute’s mission of working toward a world that is socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative.
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TT: Can you share a bit about your outreach strategies? KT: We’re really lucky to work with some extraordinary com-
panies and nonprofits—our main strategy is commercial lending; we think it’s very powerful. We’re a small organization with a light footprint; we don’t have many branches, a huge marketing budget, or that much market visibility; so we engage very actively in processes that verify our alignment. We are a B Corporation, JUST-labeled, CDFI (a Treasury designation), and we are members of the Global Alliance for Banking on Value (GABV)—we let our associations and certifications signal other aligned companies and nonprofits that we might be a better bank to look at when they’re looking for financial services.
Beneficial State Bank’s Ownership Model
Economic Interest is owned by the BSB Foundation
Owned by Tom Steyer & Kat Taylor
You’ve developed an innovative concept that flips the traditional banking model on its head. I’m curious—what do you see for the future? Will any traditional banking corporations revise their business practices to align more closely to your model?
new ethnic majorities give more openings to the beneficial banking movement. If we take this mission opportunity and work together, we might get somewhere.
We also offer an affinity credit card in partnership with several organizations, including the International KT: It would be preposterous say that we’re going to Living Future Institute (see sidebar for more detail). change the whole banking system. We have grown to These cards give each consumer an opportunity to have almost $500 million in assets, but Bank of Amer- vote with their spending for the type of banking pracica has $2 trillion in assets, a far bigger reach. Howev- tice that they want to see. Promoting the credit cards er, I think there’s a certain set of synergies happening is not to enrich any person or business; it’s really in the in the movement. Events such as the financial crisis, public interest model of the bank. For that reason, I awareness of market opportunity in aligned services, feel less bad about giving a call to action; it’s just one and new consumer markets like the Millennials and easy thing that people can do—use the affinity card,
receive the same rewards, and they give money back to their preferred organization with every dollar spent. When someone uses an affinity card, it is a signal to major banks that if they would align their lending practices with those of OPCB and our issuing banks, they might still have the privilege of serving them with a credit card. There’s one more way that I think we could be influential—as a triple bottom line bank delivering measurable social and environmental outcomes (and a reasonable financial return), we might be an appealing direct investment opportunity to family offices, private foundations or even community foundations that want total alignment between their programmatic activities and their securities portfolio. I’m certainly not making a security offering, but I think this is an interesting vector of change for us—an item on the menu for philanthropic investors.
He’s by far my best champion because I’m a very unconventional CEO of a bank. He believes in me and gives me good advice about managing a lot of responsibilities. He said: exercise every day, learn to compartmentalize because you can’t bring your work everywhere, and make sure you keep doing something that’s completely fun and has nothing to do with work. KT:
KRISTA ELVEY is the Communications Coordinator at the International Living Future Institute and Assistant Editor of Trim Tab.
As someone who has developed a successful (and beneficial) business endeavor, could you share any advice to aspiring philanthropic entrepreneurs who are just starting out? TT:
KT: Twelve years ago, my husband and I decided that we
didn’t want to be inactive in our philanthropy. If we want to invest money into new innovative models, we should be a part of running them, not just funding them—a perspective that provides extraordinary insight.
Then there’s crowdsourcing, which is a wonderful phenomenon. I don’t want to understate the risks or overstate its ability to replace conventional finance because we have to get the finance right, too. If you look at Kiva Zip or Community Sourced Capital—people have a shot at innovation and success. I think that’s encouraging.
TT: To loop back to your husband, Tom — the two of you
Invest. Operate. Conserve.
have a very powerful dynamic. Could you share some benefits of having your spouse as your business partner?
B Y J A S O N F. M C L E N N A N
“If the world is to save any part of its resources for the future, it must reduce not only consumption but the number of consumers.” B.F. Skinner (Introduction to Walden Two, 1976 edition)
A LIVING COMMUNITY ON EARTH The Swelling Horde, Carrying Capacity and a Constrained World “If we don’t halt population growth with justice and compassion, it will be done for us by nature, brutally and without pity and will leave a ravaged world.” - Nobel Laureate Dr. Henry W. Kendall
© ISTOCK 24
T RAN S FO RMAT I O N AL T H O U GH T
If it takes you about ten minutes to read this article, the global population will have increased by approximately 1500 people1 between now and when you reach the final paragraph. The same number of humans will join the roster of earthly occupants in the ten minutes that follow. And so the pattern will continue, in the minutes, hours and days ahead, until the carrying capacity of the planet is simply overwhelmed or our population is checked in some way.
even as we remain completely ineffective in dealing with the former.
Population control is a tricky issue. Political leaders are afraid to tackle it because it is so culturally, religiously and politically charged. The very nature of the population discussion can be extremely polarizing. Look to those who have broached the topic in the pastâ€”Malthus, Ehrlich, and othersâ€”only to be vilified and heavily criticized not Environmentalists and scientists have always un- just by their contemporaries but by subsequent derstood that we have a crisis in both overcon- generations as well. sumption and overpopulation, yet recently it has become nearly taboo to even discuss the latter, Just as with issues of race, gender and other social touchstones, we typically avoid serious exploration of overpopulation because of the minefield that must be navigated to get anywhere near the topic. 1. w ww.worldpopulationbalance.org/faq (140 per minute) Meanwhile, that net-growth population clock is www.census.gov/population/international/files/wp02/wp-02003.pdf ticking. (Since you started reading this piece, more (141 per minute) www.medindia.net/patients/calculatora/worldpopulation.asp than 100 people have been added to the global (150 per minute)
What are the impacts of so much of humanity being so disconnected from life and living processes when living in heavily urbanized cities?
“It is an obvious truth... that population must always be kept down to the level of the means of subsistence.” Thomas Robert Malthus An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798)
figures.) We can’t afford to wait any longer to ask and HUMANS, BY THE NUMBERS answer these fundamental questions: In October 1999, global population reached the six bil• How many people can the planet sustain and at lion mark. By October 2011, only 12 years later, populawhat acceptable quality of life? tion had increased by a further one billion. Currently, we are nearing 7,237,700,000 people. Demographers • What do we do about a rising global population in estimate that we are on track to be eight billion strong an ever-constrained world when increases in popu- by the spring of 2024 and that the ten-billionth human lation are unevenly distributed? How does rising being will be born in 2062.2 population change as the realities of climate change and habitat disruption become more evident? It is impossible for us to continue this rate of growth safely and sustainably. If this is not patently obvious, • Does one species have the right to expropriate a then we are delusional. The planet just can’t handle it; disproportionate amount of the planet’s resources? at the current rate of consumption, we are already usHow much of the biosphere can we claim before the ing more than one planet’s worth of renewably sustainsystem itself collapses? ing resources. Like locusts, we are literally eating the world and eating our future. When Malthus made his • How does humanity fit within the larger web of life? dire predictions about population in the 18th century, What is our responsibility and our role as stewards? 2 www.worldometers.info/world-population
Share of income going to the richest 1% 1981
68.7% of the world’s population owns $7 trillion
Source: Share of the World’s Millionaires; Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, 2013
Where do millionaires live?
Source: Global Wealth Report
Source: Facundo Alvaredo, Anthony B. Atkinson, Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, The Wold Top Incomes Database, Jan 2014
0.7% of the world’s population
owns $99 trillion
“We must rapidly bring the world population under control, reducing the growth rate to zero or making it negative. Conscious regulation of human numbers must be achieved. Simultaneously we must, at least temporarily, greatly increase our food production.” Paul R. Ehrlich The Population Bomb (1969)
the world was a very different place. He did not have the benefit of an interconnected network of scientific research to guide his predictions. Population was also growing rapidly in a context of a healthy, still largely undisturbed and therefore resilient planet. The same could even be said about the state of affairs when Ehrlich published his first warnings in the 1960s, although conditions were unquestionably beginning to tip at that point.3 Since then, however, our species has wreaked havoc on the entire climate and on virtually every ecosystem. Because of the damage we have caused, the planet is neither healthy nor resilient. Climate change makes things increasingly unstable as droughts, shifting rain patterns, rising temperatures and ocean acidification create significant new challenges. And all the while, we continue to grow in numbers as more of the world emulates the consumption patterns of the United States and other industrialized countries. As a global community, it is paramount that we engage in real dialogue and push the issue that there are simply too many of us. Population and consumption both should be a matter of political discussion at the nation3 See The Boundary of Disconnect: Life, Resilence and a Question of Scale in the January, 2013 (v16) issue of Trim Tab
al and international levels, yet our political discourse is more focused on stemming immigration, a shortsighted viewpoint that further demonstrates the need for thoughtful and compassionate leadership. By truly understanding the earth’s carrying capacity, based on a humane quality of living for every citizen of the planet, we can then explore rational and healthy strategies that will allow us to return to sustainable population levels elegantly, peacefully and cooperatively. It is my belief that one of the most critical and urgent of humanity’s goals should be to reach a truly sustainable population target as quickly as possible, while ensuring a humane quality of life for all. With the help of science, we can determine approximately how many people can be supported given Earth’s new resource and climate reality. We already know that this means many decades of below replacement rates for most countries. In each region, for each climate and within each local economy, what is realistic? What is equitable? What is livable? What is required to preserve the beautiful web of life that sustains us all? TAKE ONLY WHAT YOU CAN CARRY
One can’t discuss global population without putting the topic in the context of the planet’s ecological carrying capacity. It is universally understood that there are limits to what any environment can do to sustain the species that rely on it. A potted plant, for instance, can only draw nutrients from the finite amount of soil in that one pot. The same is true of all global species— including humans—that draw from what their natural environments can provide. We are not exempt from these fundamental laws, and yet we act as if we are. Those who insist that Malthus was wrong—that he was nothing more than a pessimistic alarmist—tend to use his failed predictions as proof that humans can always find technological solutions to manage whatever challenges come our way. But we can’t keep assuming that we can invent our way out of the problems we face. There is only so much a finite system can do to sustain us, especially one in which we’ve used up the
majority of its failsafe reserves. Period. No present or future technological innovation will be able to protect us if we keep multiplying and keep increasing our rate of consumption.
WHO ON EARTH IS RESPONSIBLE?
As is true with discussions surrounding climate change, we cannot allow ourselves to get sidetracked by petty arguments that pit sides—and nations— Not even better cities and greater urban density—a against each other. While we bicker about what is fair, topic that is currently in fashion and one about which just and holistically accurate, the planet continues to I have also written—can save us. 4,5 It is only very re- warm, and the future of our species becomes more cently that the majority of humanity is located in cities tenuous. Overpopulation is a global concern, and rerather than in rural locations, and this is an experiment sponsibility must be shared by both developed and developing countries. A shared approach must be imthat has yet to be adequately tested. mediate and not tied to one group or country having to act before the other does. Rich and poor countries 4 Too many people are falling into the trap that ‘cities will save us,’ putting may need to handle their approaches differently, and unrealistic hopes on the urbanization of the planet as a proxy for responsible certainly the economics and incentives will differ, but resource use. While urbanization can address some issues, it creates other problems that we don’t yet fully grasp. all parties must still be engaged. Population concerns 5 See Density and Sustainability—A Radical Perscpective in the Spring, 2009 exist regardless of geopolitical contexts. issue of Trim Tab (v02)
It is unfair to suggest that developing countries bear the burden of addressing both population and consumption without help—especially since most industrialized nations owe significant portions of their prosperity to the exploitation of people in developing countries, environments and economies.
It is arrogant to suggest to developing countries that they not aspire to the level of comfort and safety that developed societies currently enjoy—Living Buildings, by being more beautiful, healthy and successful, show that leapfrogging is not a downgrade but the best idea forward.
When it comes to consumption, without a doubt the industrialized countries are by far the most serious offenders—with the United States typically leading the way on most indicators. It is estimated that the wealthiest 20 percent of the global population is responsible for 76.6 percent of total private consumption, while the poorest one-fifth among us account for only 1.5 percent of consumption.6 Birthrates in most developed countries are declining, which is an undeniably positive trend—and interestingly enough, birth rates in many developing nations are dropping as well.7 If developing nations continue to follow the same trend, this will begin to tip the population side of the equation in the right direction in a short amount of time. The key is to reduce both consumption and birthrates in all segments of the global community at the same time. It’s a zero sum game if population drops only to see per capita consumption grow as a result. It is unfair to suggest that developing countries bear the burden of addressing both population and consumption without help—especially since most industrialized nations owe significant portions of their prosperity to the exploitation of people in developing countries, environments and economies. Indeed, it is my belief that a global framework around population is required and should be largely financed by developed nations as a way of elevating the immediate plight of the poor while also helping them to leapfrog over the worst stages of industrialization, which all too often is polluting, wasteful and consumer oriented. The cell phone revolution has shown that it is possible for countries to skip over conventional technological deployment and get benefits from an industry without as much ecological and industrial impact. As poor communities develop , if they can skip immediately to renewables without stopping along the way to build natural gas, coal and nuclear infrastructure—we all benefit. If poor communities that face sanitation challenges around water and waste can skip over our
6 www.globalissues.org/issue/235/consumption-and-consumerism 7 www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/05/13/ why-are-birthrates-falling-around-the-world-in-a-word-television/
Who is ever to say that any specific children should not be born, or that people shouldn’t want to build a family and play a role in the great and wonderful thread of life?
veloping countries the folly of our old ways and help them avoid some of the most brutal side effects of what we now recognize as outdated approaches. It is arrogant to suggest to developing countries that they not aspire to the level of comfort and safety that developed obsession with indoor plumbing and flush toilets and societies currently enjoy—Living Buildings, by being build safe, elegant and affordable composting based more beautiful, healthy and successful, show that leapsystems—again all of us benefit. Our work with Living frogging is not a downgrade but the best idea forward. Buildings around the world has shown that it is possible to create the physical infrastructure that we need KID STUFF for all human activity without being tied to out-scaled resource-intensive systems that are socially and envi- Populations grow one newborn baby at a time, so ronmentally degrading. tackling the topic must be explored on both the macro (global) and the micro (household) levels. Where, The Challenge provides a framework not just for water, then, do children and families fit into the larger discuswaste and energy in the built environment, but for resil- sion of population? This is where things can get pretty iency and self-sufficiency that can help sustain people interesting. and communities alike. More importantly, it provides a guide for corrective action so that developing coun- Let’s begin by recognizing that the cultural and sotries do not have to repeat the mistakes of developed cial impact children have on our society—indeed, on countries. By offering aspirational tools such as Living our humanity—is priceless. I believe that children are Buildings and Living Communities, we can show de- foundational to the emotional and physical health of
The population problem is one of the most serious symptoms of a patriarchal society.
our communities, and it’s my belief that we continue to let down our most important assets through the design of our communities.8 Our children keep us youthful and hopeful, while giving us a tangible reason to improve the world around us.
This isn’t a case of simply saying “Do as I say, not as I do”; the fact of the matter is that everyone needs to be part of the population discussion without judgment, guilt and shame—a lot of people are turned off exactly because they are positioned as part of the problem, and they automatically can’t live up to some “holier than thou” standard. Too easily, topics of population lead some to propose solutions based on judgment and discrimination that bring out the worst in humanity. In the same way that past societies stigmatized people without children, population solutions are also misguided if they stigmatize people who do have children or who want more of them. Seems like a conundrum —yet I believe actually it’s not. Addressing population head-on, while respecting our innate and beautiful drive to procreate and bear wonderful, amazing children is not contradictory—it is in fact part of the magic of life.
Still, as a global family, we need to commit to having Life is filled with issues that are not black and white, and this is one of them. My belief is that it is pressures fewer children in all nations, rich and poor. unrelated to the biological drive to reproduce that have I must acknowledge that I myself have a large family, caused the most harmful population spikes around the at least by zero-population-growth standards. My wife world. In the majority of cases over the last century and I have four children in our blended family, the old- (really the only time where humans have overpopuest of whom I had the great privilege of meeting as a lated the earth except in small pockets), population four-year-old when I met Tracy, and the youngest of increases in unhealthy ways due to man-made social, whom came as a bit of a joyful surprise. Given the size religious and economic inequities and injustices9— of my household, some may say I am contributing to especially attitudes toward women and their place in the population growth problem, especially since as society, and attitudes toward all people in situations Americans/Canadians we statistically consume more where the few control the destiny of the many.10 Withthan anyone per capita. Perhaps I am. But I don’t regret out these larger, negative societal influences, I believe my personal decisions for a minute—my children con- we would do fairly well as a whole at regulating our tinue to be the strongest motivator I have for the work I population within carrying capacity. do in the environmental and social justice realms, and they have made my life immeasurably more enjoyable Creating and enforcing hard and fast rules about how and meaningful. Who is ever to say that any specific many children are allowed by law—legislative, rechildren should not be born, or that people shouldn’t ligious, economic or otherwise—for any particular want to build a family and play a role in the great and family is not the answer. Draconian solutions that wonderful thread of life? place all the blame for overpopulation on certain 8 See Our Children’s Cities: The Logic & Beauty of a Child-Centered Civilization in the Summer 2011 issue of Trim Tab (v10)
9 And I mean literally man-made in this case—as in constructs designed by male-dominated societies. 10 More on that in a moment.
segments of the population are also not the answer. China’s one-child policy is a perfect example. Several decades ago, there was an understandable reaction to what the Chinese government saw as a convergence of coming social, economic and environmental crises driven largely by overpopulation. They enacted an unprecedented national policy to immediately address the situation. On a mathematical level, the one-child initiative has been a success—China’s growth rate has been greatly reduced even as the country, for a few more decades at least, continues to grow.11 But the policy has also created some horrible side effects: gender, disability and ethnic biases; an imbalanced male-female ratio; and a potentially top-heavy demographic with too few people available to care for a disproportionately large elderly population. In recent months, the policy has been relaxed, and more exceptions have been granted for replacement rate family size. Still, this institutionalized attempt to attack the problem provides a good case study of what does and doesn’t work, especially when compared to countries, such as many in Europe, that did not take such actions yet have achieved similarly significant population growth rate reductions and growth rates below the replacement level of 2.1 (refer to graphic on page 33). A WOMEN’S ISSUE
Getting serious about global population means first focusing on the plight of women and girls around the world. The places where women do not have control over their own bodies and are treated as secondary citizens to men are almost always the places where unhealthy population pressures exist. In places where women have full access to education, leadership and healthcare, birthrates have declined below the replacement rate in almost every case. In other words, the population problem is one of the most serious symptoms of a patriarchal society. Too often, patriarchy-based religious beliefs push women to have more children than they want or can safely take care of. When they are educated and empowered,12 women as a whole make the smartest demographic and family planning decisions possible.13 11 It will take until approximately 2030 for China’s population to peak and then slowly decline. 12 www.earth-policy.org/data_highlights/2011/highlights13 13 www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2011/pop994.doc.htm
DOLLARS AND CENTS Some worry that a lower national birthrate could adversely affect a country’s gross national product. But Japan, for one, is proving that theory wrong.14 In spite of a shrinking population with a proportionately large senior demographic, Japan’s GDP per capita is getting stronger. In the modern era that allows “workers” to stay productive well into their later years (thanks to a shift from agrarian to technology-oriented economic models), combined with advances in medical science that support healthy aging, there is less of a correlation between older demographics and GDP. Japan is teaching us that new paradigms reflecting current realities are possible. Many other of the leading GDPs in the world are countries where population rates are below replacement level.
14 globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2014/01/20/ is-japans-aging-population-a-good-thing
Measuring the Global Gender Gap: Best and Worst Countries in the World to be a Woman The metrics of the Gender Gap Index measure gaps rather than levels, capture gaps in output variables rather than input variables and rank countries according to gender equality rather than women’s empowerment. The Four Fundamental Categories of the index are: Economic Participation & Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health & Survival and Political Empowerment. Due to lack of sufficient data, a country must have data available for at least 12 of the 14 indicators that comprise the Four Fundamental Categories. A total of 136 countries were measured. Source: The Global Gender Gap Report, World Economic Forum, 2013 BELOW REPLACEMENT RATE 2.1 Children/Family
ABOVE REPLACEMENT RATE 2.1 Children/Family
20 Best Countries (2013 rankings)
20 Worst Countries (2013 rankings)
BIRTH RATE total births per woman
131. Côte d’Ivoire
130. Iran, Islamic Rep.
127. Saudi Arabia
125. Egypt, Arab Rep.
*Anamolies in the top ten are countries with strong religious pressures pushing for large families and against family planning measures.
BIRTH RATE total births per woman
Sources: The Global Gender Gap Report, World Economic Forum, 2013; “Fertility rate, total (births per woman),” World Development Indicators, The World Bank, 2012
So, ironically, the best solution for population control is not to impose restrictions on birth—but to eliminate restrictions on women’s rights and reproductive health.
I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable.
Overpopulation is neither a developed or developing world problem. It’s a human problem. A messy, enormous, complicated human problem. Children are beautiful, essential part of why it’s worth being human, and any solutions put forward must honor and support their well-being. Perhaps more tragic than the lack of So, ironically, the best solution for population control attention paid to overpopulation is the lack of attenis not to impose restrictions on birth—but to eliminate tion to the health and security of the children that are restrictions on women’s rights and reproductive health. born each year in this world. We must take care of what we have, while we take care of how many we have. Women, who carry the largest burden of bearing and raising children, are best equipped to make the majority of decisions in this area— and men, after centuries of abysmal decisionmaking in this area, should cede leadership.
TOO MUCH TO ASK
Yet clearly there are simply too many of us, and every There are those who say that humans and the planet nation in the world must find its path to below replaceare adaptable; that we could never starve the environ- ment levels as soon as possible. Too many of any one ment to the point of starving ourselves; that we will species in any environment creates an imbalance withfind new food sources if things get so crowded here on in the web of life. We are no different. Nature, in its Earth that we run out of the things we’ve always relied wisdom, always works to correct systems that are out on. Bugs are full of protein; we can eat them, they say. of balance. My hope is that we, in our wisdom can see the need to address population with ideas and policies All is well. of leadership before brutal corrections happen regardBut all is not well. New food sources do not justify less of our intentions. a human population that continues to swell beyond the bounds of sustainability. Nothing does. It’s a zeroJASON F. MCLENNAN is the CEO sum game. No matter how much energy and resourcof the International Living Future es we conserve per capita, we are sunk if the “capita” Institute. He is the creator of the Living keep growing. Building Challenge, as well as the author of five books, including his latest: Transformational Thought.
B Y T H E T R I M TA B E D I T O R I A L T E A M
FOR OUR COMMUNITY – BY OUR COMMUNITY
© ISTOCK 36
T RAN S FO RMAT I O N AL ACT I O N
In working toward a living future, we should redefine our relationship with the everyday places we encounterâ€”appreciation of place and a deep understanding of the global connections to that place are imperative in this endeavor. Community engagement is the primary method of achieving positive change; it is a powerful tool that must remain at the forefront of our attention. The International Living Future Institute united the Cascadia and Living Building Challenge Collaboratives in the summer of 2014 to form the Living Future Network (formerly the Ambassador Network and Cascadia Branch Collaboratives). In doing so, we have created a combined platform for global outreach and engagement that remains rooted in the Cascadia bioregion. Each Collaborative takes the vision of community-driven transformation and applies that philosophy in a place-specific context. Collaboratives help to unleash the creativity of each local community to inspire transformative change through the web of relationships they form.
PHOTO CREDITS: METRO VANCOUVER COLLABORATIVE
Each city and region across the globe has its own niche, and no one is more wellequipped to articulate the essence of a place than someone who is rooted there.
COLLABORATIVES IN THE COMMUNITY The Metro Vancouver Collaborative offers a dynamic model of involvement—turning the principles and rigorous tenets of the Living Building Challenge into onthe-ground action. In 2009, the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, released the Greenest City 2020 initiative, which challenges residents to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world by 2020. With the initiative’s deadline rapidly approaching, the Collaborative has successfully boosted their group’s membership and achieved increased involvement from students and young professionals. Along with the other Collaboratives across the Cascadia bioregion and around the globe, the Metro Vancouver Collaborative supports the mission of the International Living Future Institute by engaging their community members to drive lasting change. This place-based focus fosters powerful engagement on a local level because community members know the intricacies and needs of their particular city.
A TOOLKIT FOR CHANGE Effective community engagement is place-specific, and as such, strategies for change should be formulated with a solid understanding of the targeted people and climate.
We must know and appreciate the nuances of each place if we hope to be effective change agents. The Metro Vancouver Collaborative’s successful programs and events can work as a toolkit for our global network of highly capable volunteers who educate, advocate for and engage with their communities. The Vancouver Collaborative has a firm understanding of the importance of creating community partnerships and exploring various perspectives of the green building industry. The vignettes below provide examples that other Collaboratives can use as they generate ideas for ways to interact with their cities. EDUCATE A key to successfully cultivating interest in a movement is to relay facts and information in a manner that is both enticing and accurate. Collaboratives are encouraged to host educational sessions, workshops and charrettes on green building topics that are relevant to their area. Living Materials Design Charrette
The Metro Vancouver Collaborative joined forces with other Collaboratives across the bioregion to host a design charrette around materials sustainability. The charrette was accompanied by an interactive presentation from the Google Green Team, who inspired
active participation from all involved parties through their presentation of innovative new products. Participating professionals (representing a wide spectrum of the building sector) were able to answer each other’s questions and provide clarity on challenging, materials-related questions. Design Forum
Telus Garden Discussion
Metro Vancouver teamed up with Integral Group, CaGBC, and the Metro Vancouver Steering Committee to host a presentation on green building rating systems that included updates on LEED® v4 and its application in the Canadian market. They also provided a roundup of recently certified Living Building Challenge™ projects and outlined an application of sustainable solutions through a case study of the new Telus Garden building in downtown Vancouver. The audience was actively involved and examined specific LEED and Living Building Challenge requirements, team responsibilities throughout design and construction, and solutions for easing application processes.
To discuss the complexity of building operations, the Metro Vancouver Collaborative partnered with colleagues from Colliers International, DIALOG and Ledcor Review to share insights from different operational perspectives. This well-attended event effectively disseminated information on a topic that tends to inspire debate. Effectively operating a highly efficient building is often a missing link in resilient design, but the Metro Sustainability Throwdown Vancouver Collaborative found a compelling way to Inspired by the ever-popular bar trivia nights, the Metro Vancouver Collaborative, in partnership with bring this knowledge to their community. Cascadia’s Board of Directors, organized a Sustainability Throwdown to test green building professionADVOCATE als on the Living Building Challenge and sustainable Policy and advocacy are two of the most challenging design in general. Participants self-organized into aspects of the green building movement. Collaborateams to answer difficult questions over beers, snacks tives are key instruments to achieving more stringent and absorbing conversation. This creative strategy to environmental policy at the local level through capacitychampion green building knowledge is a great way to building strategies. further sustainability.
To cultivate community involvement we must first empower individuals to take ownership of their city by demonstrating tangible solutions to local issues.
On a broader scale, the Cascadia bioregion is overflowing with abundance. Cascadia is home to some the world’s most fruitful industries, which are located in unique and bountiful climates. There are few other places in the world where one can watch a sunset on Shoreline Cleanup the ocean, forage mushrooms in a temperate rainforest, In conjunction with the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean- ski down a snowcapped mountain and hike through a up, the Collaborative organized over 50 volunteers for a desert—all in one weekend. half-day cleanup of Locarno and Jericho beaches in Vancouver. The day’s itinerary began with a presentation on Each city and region across the globe has its own niche, shoreline restoration by Sharp & Diamond Landscape and no one is better equipped to articulate the essence Architecture, Inc. Participants included families, stu- of a place than someone who is rooted there. Collabdents, and members of Cascadia and the local commu- oratives are essential to the green building movement nity. Those involved gained a newfound appreciation for because they are made up of the unsung heroes who waterfront development and history, and were able to cre- believe that change is possible, love the places in which ate a tangible positive impact on the community. they live, and contribute their valuable time through community engagement. To cultivate community involvement we must first empower individuals to take ownership of their city by demonstrating tangible solutions to local issues.
ROOTED IN THE REGION The Metro Vancouver Collaborative is tuned in to the Cascadia bioregion, and understands how to effectively engage with the city. Vancouver, British Columbia, is an integral part to the region—a global city with a great deal of diversity and influence. Often ranking high on lists for cleanest or most livable cities, Vancouver has a bustling economy, several universities and excellent public transit.
Co-authored by MIRANDA GARDINER, a Senior Sustainability Specialist with Stantec and the co-chair of the Metro Vancouver Collaborative. When she’s not working to further green buildings, she enjoys running marathons and supporting other charitable causes.
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Your ingredients here. Declare your product and stake your claim in the transparent materials economy. Consumers are demanding a new kind of information about the products they buy. They want to know what’s in the air they breathe, the food they eat and the buildings they occupy. Declare. It’s an ingredients label for the building industry, and it lets you connect with your market on a whole new level.
MEMBERSHIP Planting the Seeds of Transformation in Your Community Why become a member? • You support the uptake of the Living Building Challenge and other visionary programming in communities around the world. • You invest in the infrastructure needed to create a robust global network of Living Building Challenge Projects, Ambassadors and Collaboratives. • You amplify the deep green voice in critical policy issues. • You give a gift to yourself: members receive discounts on all our events, including our Living Future unConference • Your membership contribution may be tax deductible.* • You make a public commitment to creating a Living Future for all to share
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BY JOA NN A GA NGI
Living Cully Building a Park and a Lasting Legacy Creating a healthy, safe and vibrant community starts with dedicated residents who are committed to lasting change. The Cully neighborhood in Northeast Portland is rich with culture and diversity, yet it is one of the most underserved communities in Portland. In a city where there is a plethora of parks and ample green space, the Cully neighborhood severely lacks access to this basic service. A team lead by Verde1 has been working to bridge this environmental justice gap and bring a much-needed park to the community with the Let Us Build Cully Park coalition. Once complete, the Thomas Cully Park will include 1 Verde is a Portland-based non-profit that serves communities by building environmental wealth throughÂ Social Enterprise,Â Outreach and Advocacy.
a community garden and a safe place for children and adults to play and enjoy.
was contagious to the design team as they included the residentsâ€™ ideas to the composition of the space.
Recently, the International Living Future Institute and founding sponsor Interface launched the first Legacy Project and teamed up with Verde to transform a rundown public right-of-way into a safe, beautiful and refreshing green space. The Cully Adopt-a-Spot plot sits adjacent to the Thomas Cully Park and helps frame the parkâ€™s entrance to be an accessible area for residents to enjoy. The Legacy Project team worked with the Cully neighborhood residents over the course of four months to make this transformation possible. The process included three public workshops with the largely Spanish-speaking community to listen to their concerns, develop ideas together and design lasting solutions. Many of the residents expressed their desire to make this a safe and enjoyable walking path, as it is a highly utilized area and borders a busy roadway. The community modeled their vision for the space, and the passion
The collaborative planning process culminated on May 24, when members of Verde, Interface, The Institute, Cully residents and volunteers rolled up their sleeves and spent the day planting and building the Cully Adopt-a-Spot. Interface was integral in the process by sponsoring the event and will continue to sponsor the project through completion. Dozens of shrubs and trees were planted in the ground. A walkway was constructed through the middle of the space to provide a safe and accessible avenue to local businesses. And a wall was built to border the busy roadway. All of the materials used were compliant with the Living Building Challenge materials Red List, which helped inspire the design team to seek certification, making it the second park ever to attempt the Living Building Challenge.
“It’s hope in transformative change and a living future for all that brought Interface and the Institute together to launch the inaugural Living Future Legacy event. The collaboration was a beautiful alignment of values as legacy projects have been a significant part of Interface’s culture for at least a decade. It was an honor and a privilege to support this while working with local residents to create a positive legacy in Portland’s Cully neigborhood.” Nadine Gudz, Director, Sustainability Strategy, Interface
Neighborhood families and children of all ages participated in the work party and were very excited to see the space transforming before their eyes. Children were enthusiastic to take part as they dug, filled wheelbarrows and watered the new shrubs. One child said, “This is like a work party, work isn’t fun but this is fun!” Another child stated, “I never came here before; it was gross and there were people here that we didn’t want to be around. It was scary and now it is so pretty!” Numerous people honked their horns in support as they drove by— showing that this not only effects the Cully residents but also effects people who would have never thought to look at this site before. It seemed that everyone involved, from young to old, knew the importance of investing in a community that lacks certain services like access to nature. As the walkway began to take shape, the newly formed
pocket park portrayed a positive sense of community in the Cully neighborhood. The residents were all committed to making their home beautiful. And working together really proved that transformation is possible with a community-led effort. What was once an overgrown lot filled with weeds is now a beautiful, well-lit pathway, complete with a curving steel graphic wall and colorful landscape design filled with plants. The Cully community is a shining example of dedicated residents who care for their neighborhood and are committed to growing a healthy and vibrant community. The engagement of all involved parties is a testament to the potential for seemingly small community initiatives to serve as a catalyst for positive change.
JOANNA GANGI is empowered by the fantastic beauty of nature residing in Seattle where she works at the International Living Future Institute as the Editorial Director of Trim Tab.
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SURVIVING INCLEMENT WEATHER: A COOPERATIVE PARTNERSHIP IN NATIVE ALASKA
Photo Credits: CCHRC Spring 2014
In the summer, the Kuskokwim Bay in southwest Alaska is rich with king salmon, seals, walrus and beluga whales. Yup’ik Eskimos have populated the region for more than 10,000 years, and the village of Quinhagak was established on the bay seven centuries years ago. This is one of the largest river deltas in the world, where the mighty Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers empty into the Bering Sea. Most households in the village of 700, a traditional hunting and gathering community, still subsist on moose, caribou, birds, fish and berries. “The king salmon runs started and people are out there fishing with their nets. They’ll cut the fish into strips to dry and hang on their fish racks,” said Quinhagak resident Willard Church.
tures like roof overhangs and drip edges, so they have succumbed to moisture, mold and rot over the past few decades.
The situation in Quinhagak mirrors a trend across rural Alaska, as crippling energy prices and lack of affordable housing force many Alaska Natives to move to urban areas, threatening the indigenous culture and traditions of these communities. Furthermore, climate change is impacting Alaska at an accelerated rate, causing coastal erosion, Residents traditionally lived in small sod permafrost melt, crumbling infrastructure homes, and upgraded to wood-framed and significant ecological change. “Really it homes when missionaries arrived in the comes down to adaptation. All of us are gomid-20th century, bringing lumber and ing to need to think about our relationship other materials from the outside world. “A with the natural systems if we’re going to big house was 16 feet by 20 feet (4.9m by have a healthy future,” said Jack Hébert, pres6.1m), with 16 kids, mom and dad living in ident and CEO of the Cold Climate Housing it,” said Church, the housing project man- Research Center (CCHRC) in Fairbanks. ager for the Native Village of Quinhagak. Today, nearly half the homes in the region In 2009, Quinhagak invited CCHRC, a are overcrowded. A third of the housing in nonprofit applied research center that dethe village is in structural failure, as the wet, velops and vets cold climate building techwindy climate eats away at 1970s-era homes niques and energy systems, to work with that were not designed for coastal Alaska. the community to design an affordable, “They came in two halves on barges, and energy-efficient prototype house that could were designed for houses in the Midwest withstand the elements and be replicated region of the United States,” Church said. by a local crew. A team of CCHRC designThe pre-fabricated homes lack critical fea- ers and builders traveled to Quinhagak to
By using an integrated design approach that factored in materials, shipping and labor costs, the prototype house came in at half the cost of the last house of equal size built in Quinhagak.
A CCHRC building instructor secures a steel hub that ties the roof trusses together in the center. Half trusses were used to reduce shipping costs.
CCHRC designers blended this local knowledge with applied research to create a house that would reflect the climate and culture of Quinhagak. Based on the design charrette, CCHRC presented a concept design and floor plan to the village. The home’s octagonal shape mimics the traditional round homes and open floor plans of the tribe and helps the wind scour snow RESPONSIVE DESIGN rather than drifting it against the house. It’s also more energy efficient than a rectangle, with less surface area The fierce, erratic wind on the bay can be strong exposed to the cold for the same square footage. An enough to blow a home off its foundation. Wind dielaturaq, or arctic entry, wraps around two of the eight rection changes with the seasons, and wind-driven walls, further fending off the cold and the wind. rain often infiltrates the siding of houses and rots out the wooden framing. The ambient relative humidity In summer 2010, CCHRC instructors trained a lois so high that once something becomes wet, it rarely cal crew in building the first prototype home. Unlike dries out. most homes in Quinhagak—which use the same standard 2x4 stud walls found in Missouri or North CaroAccessible only by plane or boat, Quinhagak also faclina— the prototype house has super-insulated walls es a tremendous cost of living and a shortage of jobs. that can withstand the cold and wind. The 4-inch Residents pay nearly $7 a gallon for heating oil, three (10cm) metal studs have a standoff wall connected times higher than the national average, which amounts by 3.5-inch (8.9cm) plastic bracing. The plastic spacer to more than $6,000 a year to heat the average house. prevents heat from conducting through the metal to That’s a serious burden in a subsistence community the outside, drastically reducing heat loss without the with a median household income of $25,000. added material of double wall construction. The enmeet its residents and the tribal council and to gather local knowledge about the climate, soils and traditional housing principles. “Working with and listening to people from a culture that has lived in this region successfully for hundreds of generations is critical to realizing better housing,” said Hébert.
CCHRC building instructor Ilya Benesch oversees a local crew raising the first wall of the prototype house built in Quinahak in 2010.
tire 7.5-inch (19.1cm) wall cavity was filled with soybased polyurethane spray foam insulation, a thick, tight building envelope with no thermal bridging. The insulation value (roughly R-45) is at least double the average home in Quinhagak, warm enough that it can be heated by waste heat from the lights. “If you leave the floodlight on overnight, you go into the house in the dead of winter and it’s warm,” Church said. The wall sections were also light enough to be carried and raised by four people, important in a village with no heavy equipment. The roof design was driven by shipping costs, which can eat up half the budget of construction projects in rural Alaska, as all materials must be flown in or barged during the few months that rivers are open. The roof comprises of half trusses that fit compactly on a DC-6 plane. The trusses tie into two central steel hubs, similar to a helicopter rotor, which join the roof components into one strong assembly. A 1.5-inch (3.8cm) vent between the trusses and the roof prevents heat from transferring to the exterior and allows any potential moisture to dry out. Metal studs that nest together and spray foam insulation that ships in 55-gallon
(208L) drums and expands to 30 times its original volume were also chosen to reduce shipping costs. Building foundations is a huge challenge in a wetland like Quinhagak. In the summer, the treeless ground is so saturated with moisture that you can’t walk on it without sinking. It also contains permafrost, permanently frozen ground that underlies most of Alaska, creating extremely unstable conditions for construction. Most homes in the village are built on wood piles to break contact with the ground. As the ground freezes and thaws throughout the year, the piles often move, threatening the structural integrity of the home. “The ground is constwantly shifting. Any type of foundation system we’ve tried needs adjustments,” Church said. This proved true for the prototype foundation as well, a light-gauge steel diaphragm resting directly on a gravel pad and filled in with 10 inches of spray foam insulation to thermally isolate the home from the ground. Building on the ground was an unconventional approach that improved the energy efficiency and warmth of the floor, but it also meant the floor was more susceptible to ground movement. After the first year, frost heaving in the active layer along the perim-
The prototype home used approximately 200 gallons (757L) of heating oil a year, 80 percent less than the average home in the region. The prototype foundation consisted of steel floor joists filled with 10 inches (25cm) of spray foam insulation to thermally isolate the home from the frozen ground. Typical homes in the region are elevated on piling foundations, resulting in cold floors.
The prototype home was completed in six weeks, and a local family moved in. The village has built five more super-insulated homes in the past few years—four octagonal designs as well as an updated rectangular design using an integrated truss. This assembly incorporates the floor, walls and roof in each truss cord, allowing for fast framing. While the octagon is the ideal shape for the climate, according to Church, the integrated truss wins out on ease of construction. “When By using an integrated design approach that factored it comes to meeting shorter schedules, the integrated in materials, shipping and labor costs, the prototype truss is the must-have house.” house came in at half the cost of the last house of equal size built in Quinhagak. CCHRC monitored CCHRC has worked on sustainable housing projects in the energy performance and indoor air quality of the more than a dozen communities around the state. As economic and environmental challenges grow in Alaska, so home for two years through a grant from the National does the need for efficient housing and energy. “Alaskans Renewable Energy Laboratory. The prototype home have always found a way to survive in some of the harshest used approximately 200 gallons (757L) of heating oil conditions on the planet,” Hébert said. “We have to work a year, 80 percent less than the average home in the together if we’re going to thrive in the centuries ahead.” region. Relative humidity and carbon dioxide levels The partnership with CCHRC and Native Alaskans is critical in order for indigenous cultures to continue to thrive in were also measured to ensure healthy air quality in a world with ever-growing climate and economic threats. the home. Ventilation is critical in a cold climate, as excess humidity can build up and cause moisture and health problems. A heat recovery ventilator in the MOLLY RETTIG is a Communications Manager at the Cold Climate prototype house conserves heat while maintaining Housing Research Center in Faira constant supply of fresh air to all the living spaces. banks, Alaska. She is a multimedia “Any tight house like this needs to have good air exjournalist and focuses on science change so the house is breathing like it’s supposed and technology. to,” Church said. eter of the house resulted in movement underneath the building and a sagging floor. Workers removed a floor panel and spray-injected jacking foam to re-level the house. The next iteration of homes has an adjustable cribbing foundation that can be easily leveled if there is any movement. While slightly less energy efficient, the house is still close to the ground—minimizing the effect of cold winds.
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B Y R I C H A R D G R AV E S
LIVING COMMUNITIES: VISION & ENGAGEMENT
People began to abandon the nomadic lifestyle and live in villages 11,000 to 12,000 years ago when agriculture was on the rise. At approximately the same time, the development of writing began, and humans started to document and envision the future of their communities with plans and maps.
The oldest map in the world, which is inscribed on a mammoth tusk, was discovered in Ukraine in 1966. Archeologists believe that this map shows dwellings along a river, much like many early civilizations. While planning may seem abstract at times, this archeological example shows that we, as humans, have a long history of creating community visions that reflect our values and beliefs.
Our cities are like organisms: They grow and develop but also decline and die.
We assume that cities are always more sustainable than their rural counterparts—density reduces the pressure on land and encourages lower-impact transportation choices. Yet this is not necessarily the case when all impacts are truly accounted for. It’s critical to find the urban “sweet spot,” balancing ecology, economics, social and cultural factors to create a thriving and resilient community with not only a reduced impact, but also the ability to heal and regenerate like biological organisms.
They have tremendous ecological footprints in their use of energy, materials, water, food and other resources needed to support modern life. However, we have not been able to
Cities must be designed with an understanding of carrying capacity. The era of cheap fossil fuels has allowed us to disconnect cities from local and regional sources of food, fuel
Unfortunately, for the last 100 years, our communities have been designed and remade to reflect a vision that humanity is separate from nature and that we can master our environment through technology. However, as we know all too well, that vision is unsustainable and quickly becoming obsolete.
make our cities truly organic: having the ability to maintain stability or sustainability over time in response to stress. With careful and thoughtful planning, our communities can be transformed to be environmentally sound, culturally rich, socially equitable and economically vibrant.
increased populations and the pursuit of a “modern” lifestyle, urban areas will double in size in the next 20 years. Karen Seto, a professor of the urban environment at Yale and the lead author of the paper, calculates that by 2030 urban areas will expand by more than 400,000 square miles (1,035,995 square kilomeDystopia ters) and cover 10 percent of the planet (often formerly arable land). Most of the urban expansion will be unand other supplies. As global resource flows change, planned in small to medium cities in Asia and Africa, resilient cities will be highly connected in the regen- and global urban expansion will be modeled after the eration of their local and regional life support systems. current unsustainable, car-centric, resource-consumDesigning to the limits of climate, local food, material ing cities of North America. Many large cities will benetworks and decentralized infrastructure can foster come mega-cities and mega-cities will expand to an creativity and innovation. In North America and in unimaginable scale. The world needs a better model: other developed countries, creating new cities from Living Communities. the ground up is not feasible; instead we will need to transform our existing communities. Like living or- We have been working on a series of Living Commganisms, our cities can regenerate over time to be unity pilots at the International Living Future Instmodels of ecologically sustainable urbanization, and itute to explore the possibility of planning commas a result, communities will be stronger and safer. unities that are: The National Academy of Sciences released a paper last year about the global process of urbanization in the future and the enormous impact it will have on biodiversity and climate change.1 To accommodate 1 “Global forecasts of urban expansion to 2030 and direct impacts on biodiversity and carbon pools.” Seto, Karen C.; Burak Guneralpa; Lucy R. Hutyra. PNAS Science portal: pnas.org/content/109/40/16083. full?sid=ac40f89c-9b9d-41c7-b55b-370709e306b0.
Blue Green Street in Bend 56
• Energy independent—existing buildings are retrofitted to be very energy efficient, new buildings are energy neutral or even positive whenever possible, and energy is balanced at a district scale. • Focused on walking and biking primarily with the support of transit as a transportation system. • Water independent and waste neutral.
Our community-scale work over the last few years informed and inspired the creation of the Living Community Challenge, which was released at Living Future in May.
Street View of the Living UniverCity
â€˘ Secure with distributed systems and connected In Burnaby, British Columbia, we worked with the cultural communities that are resilient in the event Simon Fraser University Trust on the next phase of their development for UniverCity. Using our prinof negative impacts. ciples to re-evaluate zoning and infrastructure reguâ€˘ Integrated with local food and agriculture to grow lations, the Trust is creating a development using a food in and around the city. district approach to energy and water to achieve the highest levels of environmental performance within â€˘ Connected to nature and natural systems. their current budget. Our Living Community work addresses a prevailing and pressing need for an ambitious, compelling In San Francisco, California we are working with the and actionable vision for radically transforming how San Francisco Planning Department on their sustainexisting cities relate to the resources they rely upon. able systems framework for existing neighborhoods. The current work with three pilot communities has Unlike most traditional urban redevelopment projbeen very successful: ects that revolve around a pre-designated master plan, the city is focused on the transformation of neighIn Bend, Oregon, we created a proposal for the Central borhoods in place by providing tools and resources Area Redevelopment, which finds the ideal scale for to neighborhood groups to promote grassroots enenergy generation and water treatment and capture to gagement and empowerment. Our advice to the city be at the neighborhood level. This approach will allow is focused on the application of the Living Building economic development and maximize ecological and Challenge to existing buildings and infrastructure social benefits while minimizing the need for expento avoid relying on large-scale new construction or sive centralized infrastructure. development plans.
What will it take for people everywhere to commit to transforming their community to be resilient and sustainable: a socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative “Living Community”?
Street view of San Francisco
Our community-scale work over the last few years these questions if we want urban development in the informed and inspired the creation of the Living next 20 years to create places where life can thrive. Community Challenge, which was released at Living Future in May. The Living Community Challenge is an exciting new program of the Institute that helps RICHARD GRAVES, is the Executive Director of the International Living planners and developers rethink how they design Future Institute and the new Directheir community-scale projects, providing certifitor of the Center for Sustainable cation at both the master planning stages as well as Building Research at the University for fully built community- or campus-scale projects. of Minnesota. Whether your project is a street, block, corridor, small or large neighborhood, or campus—it has a home in the Living Community Challenge. It also can be used by people living anywhere to integrate Living Future thinking into their community expectations and vision. In the next year, we are working with more communities to continue to learn and inspire the creation of transformational models. How do we create visions and plans that are bold enough to address our current ecological and social challenges? Can we create communities that fulfill the best of humanity’s creative potential—places that heal and inspire? What will it take for people everywhere to commit to transforming their community to be resilient and sustainable: a socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative “Living Community”? It is urgent to answer
LIVING COMMUNITY CHALLENGE 1.0
A Visionary Path to a Regenerative Future
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MOVING UPSTREAM & MAKING WAVES ELECTRIC VEHICLES GAIN TRACTION
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Interested in a concise, articulate overview of the Challenge?
outlines the proliferation of electric vehicles in the past organization’s recommendations for cultivating the EV industry.
REPAVING THE WAY Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts is taking a dilapidated asphalt parking lot to the other end of the spectrum—they’ve stepped up to the Challenge with
the design for a new Campus Portal. This building will
house an admissions office, store, and shared learning
a comprehensive overview of the Living Building Challenge. Look no further.
THIS BUILDING IS (MORE THAN) SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN Take a look at the beautiful UniverCity Childcare Centre at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. Designed to
achieve Living Building Challenge certification, the project combines restorative design with education and play.
spaces. Click to explore renderings and learn about the inspiration for the design.
COMMUNITY SUPPORTED SOLAR Peer-to-peer volunteer models are an emerging trend. Sunlight solar has developed an electrifying model to help residents vet options for installing solar on their
homes—the model is catching on and being replicated nationwide.
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A RIVER RUNS THROUGH
The Los Angeles river flows through the middle of the city, yet the only thing people notice is the monstrous drainage canal that fractionalizes adjacent neighborhoods. Mia Lehrer + Associates don’t view this canal a disruption, but as an opportunity to unite communities and create public space.
GAMBLING WITH CLIMATE CHANGE
Numbers don’t lie—there is a clear financial incentive for immediate action to abate the effects of climate change. This report examines the harsh economic impact that is and will impose on the United States as a result of inactivity.
The race is on to realize the potential for 3-D printing’s applicability in the building sector. With over half the world’s population living in cities, we need an affordable and an efficient means of meeting the booming housing demand—learn how a team in Amsterdam is exploring solutions to this issue.
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A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
What happens when a campsite is the context for creating your house? You arrive at an “outdoor space you close down rather than an indoor space that you close up”. Check out the beauty of well-integrated design.
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STANDING ROOM ONLY
It’s common knowledge that sitting for 8+ hours a day is detrimental to a person’s overall health. Designer David Manning crafted a sleek, fullycustomizable standing work space that would fit in even the smallest studio apartment.
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