Development Projects Featuring “Resilience” to Climate Change (Pt 2)

Pt 1 on the subject, a couple weeks back, was about The Wharf, a 24-block resilient development along 1 mi. of Washington, DC waterfront.

Today: Harvard’s Spaulding Rehab Hospital, located in the Inner Harbor of Boston. And, a late addition of related interest.

© Steinkamp Photography

Spaulding, set in Boston’s former Charlestown Navy Yard and opened in 2013, is designed for 4 days of “island mode” operations. All of the mechanical equipment, and the 13k volt electric switch-gear/service (drawn through a concrete chase) is located on the roof of the 9-story $225m building. Overall, it’s reported that resilence-programmed design and construction added about $1.5m to total development costs.

Designed by Perkins+Will, the 1st floor of the building is 30 in. above the 500-yr. flood elevation, keeping water out even during a catastrophic flood. A flooded 1st floor would not affect ongoing hospital care operations on the floors above.

© McNamara Salvia

Large blocks of granite discovered during site excavation have been repurposed as berms arranged to direct floodwaters from Boston Harbor and the Little Mystic River away from the property. Rapid site drainage from flooding has also been designed into the waterfront landscaping.

Another important concept of resilience, sheltering in place, is provided through keyed, operable (triple-glazed) windows that also afford significant daylighting. Another is a very high level of building insulation throughout. It’s reported that the energy EUI (energy use intensity) of the 262,000 sf, 132-bed hospital is 150 Btu/sf/yr. That’d be about half of that of the average American hospital.

(250kW gas-fired CHP roof-top plant – photo credit: Alex Wilson)

(gas booster for CHP system – photo credit: Alex Wilson)

Co-generation on-site provides about 25% of the building’s power needs, aimed at peak demand periods. Captured waste heat is used for water heating and other sues.

Power redundancy is provided by 2 rooftop back-up diesel generators which can power certain operating requirements for at least 4 days; or longer if electrical loads can be dialed back. The fuel tank and pump, located in the basement, are encased in a submarine-like bunker.

From the most recent presentation on Resilience attended (I walked a few blocks from my office to attend this one on the M.I.C.A. campus) came some knowledge about a fascinating project for Staten Island, NY. Daunting engineering, for one. Watch for it soon.

Return to Old Stomping Grounds for a Look at Flood Mitigation Devices

In Annapolis, city officials are considering flood mitigation devices to protect its historic City Dock area. Unlike new construction projects or a singular major renovation of an existing property where a business/es operate, the historic City Dock is populated by scores of mom-‘n-pop retailers, museums, restaurants, the Market House, a hotel and several B&Bs, and some retail or restaurant chains. Hard to elevate streets of ’em to storm surge and projected sea rise levels due to global warming.

AquaFence USA is one of two companies recently invited to demonstrate their mobile fence protection product.

The Capital‘s Chase Cook wrote: “The fence is a raised structure of varying heights [4′-8’] and a base that sits underwater. The weight of the water on the base prevents the forward momentum of the water from pushing over the fence, company officials said. And each plate is interlocked to the other with tarps that make it possible to shift and shape the fence as needed.

“Constructed of marine grade laminate, stainless steel, aluminum and reinforced PVC canvas, AquaFence systems become stronger as floodwater pressure is applied.” (Source: company’s website.)

The other company is U.S. Flood Control Corp. which displayed its TigerDam product.



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A Most Amazing Restoration I Have Yet to See…

(photo by Brian Rudnick, 2006)

The Miquon Creek Steam Restoration Project is today’s topic in honor of the recently celebrated Earth Day.

I learned about this project in a presentation by water resources engineering firm Biohabitats at “Engineering Green Maryland” last November in Baltimore. With permission from the school, Biohabitats’ Brett Long, P.E., shared information and images from his presentation.

The Miquon School, an independent founded in 1932, is located in Conshohocken, PA, an old mill town situated along the Schuylkill River in suburban Philadelphia. The name is derived from an Algonquin language and means either “elegant-ground-place” or “large-bowl-ground-place.” (courtesy Wikipedia.)

The school’s mission is Progressive Education for pre-K through 6th grade. Progressive education embraces 9 tenets. “The natural world is a place to learn” is one of ’em. In the recent years, Miquon has expanded its mission by adopting the SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) program which training of teachers and staff impacts classroom discussions, curriculum development, and educational activities across the grades.

To fund the stream restoration project, a $95k grant from the PA Department of Environmental Protection’s “Growing Greener” program was won. Another $71k was raised from school and camp families, alumni, staff and a small host of other contributors.

The project is located in the southerly end of the Schuylkill River Watershed. Here are images of the creek both under normal conditions and during a 2009 storm. (Note the vertical utility box in the background, verifying same location for the comparative photos.)

Down-cutting into an existing stream channel, called stream incision¹, may be seen in the pix right showing high channel embankments. What causes stream incision is watershed hydrology–runoff amount and duration following a storm–where the stream channel and adjacent floodplain come out of balance with one another.² One source of imbalance is flash flooding, or heavy storm flow events which in turn can cause stream bank riparian buffers³ to be lost through failing vegetation.

What adds to potential stream erosion is increasing average total annual precipitation and more extreme storms.

Healthy stream beds are ones where the water level is nearly even with the surrounding land (floodplain). This is more likely when the impervious cover in the watershed is a lower rather than higher percentage of total land. Too much impervious cover lessens ground absorption of rainwater, typically resulting in increasing flow rate with accumulating sediment headed to a river or stream embankment. This stimulates prospects for eroded streams, or stream incisions, in the watershed.

Biohabitats’ project manager advised the school that repair strategies include: pond retrofits; infiltration/sand berms; stream restoration; regenerative stormwater conveyance; and, bioretention. Examples of previously completed projects employing certain of these strategies are show in 3 before/after pix adjacent.

Miquon selected stream restoration since it was the most feasible option to immediately address watershed hydrology effects on its property. Adopting stream restoration strategies would:

  • eliminate hazards for recreation near the stream
  • provide water quality improvement
  • lead to aquatic and terrestrial habitat improvements
  • increase habitat diversity, and
  • improve groundwater recharge

Of the stream restoration strategies, one involved building in-stream structures such as riffles (raised stream bed “bridges” as in the first pix adjacent) and boulder cascades.

(during stream restoration)


This plan took 4 years to accomplish. From watershed assessment, concept evaluation, funding acquisition, design and multiple permits through construction. (One permit was for a Wetland and Bog Turtle Assessment.)

The recommended restoration strategies were synced with the school’s curriculum. Biology, ecology, botany, hydrology, math, etc. Even art. One related student project is something called Bioblitz!, a National Park Service program. Another is the Leaf Pack Network, an initiative of the Stroud Water Research Center.

In this belated Earth Day 2017 paean, hats off to Miquon School staff and students, project funders and the impressive work of the Biohabitats pros!

¹ Steam incision is further defined by stream bed embankments becoming two or more times higher than the stream “bankfull” (normal water level in the stream).

²  Perhaps this Channel Evolution model illustration helps?

³ Riparian buffers are vegetated areas that help shade and partially protect streams from adjacent land use impacts.



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Development Projects Featuring “Resilience” to Climate Change (Pt 1)

The more attention on resilience strategies/outcomes being added to our built environment the better I feel.

I blogged about resilience to climate change awhile back: “Resilience addresses shocks and stresses, and, while not geared toward any single shock or stress, anticipates a future way of life in our cities and towns that will reveal corresponding traumas. (Here’s that post.) Since then I’ve attended several presentations about the subject.

One was held back in March at the National Building Museum in D.C. Love this building for its scale, both outside and in.  The 1,200 LFT terra cotta frieze that wraps the exterior facades of this very large, historic building depicts Union armies of the Civil War. For many of its years, this 1887-completed building was known as the Pensioner Building. It housed the U.S. Pension Bureau which accounted for hundreds of thousands who fought.

The title for this presentation was “Resilient Design–District Wharf.” Katherine Burgess, of ULI’s Urban Resilience Program, introduced the program. Her definition of resilience complements the one I used. Hers: “The ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events.” Coinage of the word resilience these days often centers around extreme climate events.

Presenters: Hilary Birtsch, architect/Perkins Eastman project manager for The Wharf; Matt Steenhoek, development vice president for PN Hoffman/associate project director for The Wharf; and, Elinor Bacon of E. R. Bacon Development.

Overall plan of this 1-mi. long, multi-phased $2.2B waterfront “neighborhood” project of 27 acres includes these programming/design goals:

  • Multi-modal with easy access to all public transportation
  • Multiple architects and landscape designers for a range of design/overall appearance
  • Use of mews/smaller streets to counter a monolithic feel
  • Delineation of streets/sidewalks by textures of paver patterns and bollards for a more human-scale experience
  • 1,300-space “waterproof” underground garage
  • 400-ft. long District Pier

From a strict sustainability perspective, including resilience, project goals comprise:

  • Buildings built 1-1/2′ above the new FEMA requirement of 2′ above the 100-year flood event (a 3.2″/hr. rain fall)
  • Targeting LEED® ND (Neighborhood Development) Gold for the entire Wharf development; and LEED Gold or Silver for individual buildings
  • Nearly half of total area devoted to neighborhood parks/public spaces
  • Trees/other landscaping materials watered from cisterns
  • Other rainwater reuse systems
  • Substantial vegetative bioretention for stormwater runoff management
  • Green roofs
  • 340 sq. ft. of nutrient-level-reducing floating wetlands systems [love it!]
  • Multiple forms of on-site renewable energy production/conservation, including a co-gen plant, solar PV systems, and energy-efficient lighting throughout
  • Neighborliness, especially for helping each other during any extreme weather event/other emergency

Other notable, resilient buildings mentioned were the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s new Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach (blogged about here), and Harvard University’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, located in the Inner Harbor of Boston.

Spaulding Rehab will soon be featured in Pt 2 on this subject.

Don’t miss it. Subscribing to the blog is one way not to…



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The March for Science – by a U.S. Congressman, for one

This past Saturday, Earth Day 2017, coincided with The March for Science, as you know. (Isn’t this official poster awesome? Also looks like a horse rearing up, kicking its front legs in the air!)

From the #Resist: Baltimore website: “This Earth Day, join the effort to defend the vital public service role science plays in our communities and our world…

  • Science serves all of us.
  • It protects our air and water, preserves our planet, saves lives with medical treatments, creates new industries, puts food on our tables, educates the next generation, and safeguards our future.
  • Science isn’t Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative. Indeed, threats to science are pervasive throughout governments around the world.”

I’ve long held the view that there are more than enough lawyers planted in Congressional seats. We need diverse academic and work backgrounds to hope for governance in an enlightened fashion.

One example of this need is when former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia declared:

One non-lawyer is U.S. Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL). He’s the only physicist–a Ph.D–there. But, he speaks clearly. And, with even temper.

From his website: “Foster is a businessman as well as a scientist. He serves on the House Committee on Financial Services, a position he also held in the 110th and 111th Congress, and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.”

On Ira Flatow’s “Science Friday” show last week Foster opined that science is local rather than national. Just ask Jeanne Walton, a March for Science middle school teacher from York, PA, who “…worried about the effect of some current political rhetoric on her students. ‘I’m watching science being denied and undermined.'” (The Los Angeles Times, 4/23/17)

Following are excerpts from a recent opinion piece by Foster (linked here) at the Daily Herald‘s website. I’ve bullet-pointed ’em for easier reading:

  • “As the only Ph.D. scientist in Congress, I am honored to take my perspective…to Washington and make thoughtful policy decisions based on facts [with] an obligation to speak out when our national policies deviate from sound scientific principles…
  • “There is also little scientific doubt that global warming is being caused in large part by human activities.
    • [This] can be understood by anyone who has walked outside on a clear night after a hot summer’s day: when you hold out your arms, you can feel the heat radiating from the still-hot ground as it cools off by radiating its heat out into space. Anyone who has felt this heat must realize that if mankind puts something into the atmosphere that blocks this heat from escaping, our Earth will have trouble cooling off at night and will gradually heat up.
      • This is exactly the heat-trapping effect of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide and methane that scientists have been warning about for decades.” (Refer back to the Milkey-Scalia exchange quoted above.)
  • “Our response to the approaching climate change disaster has also been clouded and delayed by politicians who deliberately exaggerate the uncertainty that is present in any scientific measurement.”

This is due, in my view, to the out-sized influence and deception “bought” by monied interests these days, i.e., think tanks, PACs, and lobbyist-furnished drafts of legislation along with financial bennies of every kind. (Read Oreskes and Conway’s Merchants of  Doubt for a viewpoint.)

  • “Scientists are trained to accept uncertainty as a necessary feature of any scientific result. We are cautious to claim any result is an absolute because statistical uncertainty is inherent in the scientific process.
    • [While…] uncertainty remains, most experts believe that within the next 30 to 70 years we will begin to see very significant…then catastrophic, economic, and social consequences.
    • In our everyday lives, uncertainty means not knowing.
      • For scientists, however, it means uncertainty about how well something is known — not if it is known.”

Others are getting, or trying to get into the act. Linked here is a piece in Science magazine about a fly biologist making a bid for a U.S. Senate seat.

And, just for kicks: “What if every scientist and engineer in the U.S. marched?” How many would that be? See here.

Let’s get more of these types into governance leadership positions! (Lawyers staff up these public offices anyway.)

♠♥ Science Informs Sustainable Building and Low-Impact Development Design ♦♣

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National Park Week and Earth Day 2017

(photo by Dawn Kish)

In last weekend’s Baltimore Sun, a “Readers Respond” letter was offered by Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA):

“Last month, Sens. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, introduced bipartisan legislation dedicating funding to tackle the backlog [needed repair/maintenance of National Park Service sites/infrastructure] over the next 30 years.

“…we must…take this time to recognize that our national parks are facing $12 billion in needed infrastructure repairs and not enough staff or money for them.”

(photo my Logan Mahan)

A 3/28/17 press release from Sen. Warner’s office (linked here) says: “This bill will create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the National Park Service with funds for deferred maintenance projects, including $75 million of deferred maintenance in Ohio’s eight national park sites.” Further:

“Eighty percent of the funds in the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund will be dedicated for the repair and rehabilitation of key assets, including historic structures, visitor facilities, water utility systems, disability access, health and safety, and recreation. Twenty percent of funds will be allocated to roads, bridges, and other transportation-related projects. Amounts from the fund will not be used for land acquisition or used in lieu of funding made available for recurring facility operations and maintenance needs of the Park Service. The bill will also encourage public-private partnerships to help reduce overall deferred maintenance costs by allowing the Secretary of the Interior and Director of the Park Service to accept qualified private donations.”

Please–don’t miss this chance to inform your representatives in Congress of your full-throated support for S. 751 bill, the Warner-Portman National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund, and its funding provisions! (I have.) It’s a generation-to-generation thing, right?

Let’s not risk these most special places of recreation and life-long learning throughout our land to…

(2015 NPCA “Parks in Peril” campaign poster)

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Solar Power to Light Up Coal Mining Museum

Kinda ironic, eh? Old jobs lost / new jobs created.

(source: U.S. Energy Information Admin.)

Don’t get me wrong. Around the turn of the 20th century, coal supplied nearly 80% of all U.S. power. Miners back then were nearly a million strong; today, about 77k.

In certain of its forms, it remains necessary. But, “mining” by mountain topping (blowing up the mountain top “overburden” for access to coal seams) defiles nature in a hopelessly irretrievable way.

Coal as fuel for power plants? Thankfully, the market seems to be taking care of that so GHGs are being lessened by the use of cheaper, less-polluting natural gas instead. Asthmatics, suffering from dirty air, and our youngest people whose respiratory systems are still developing, may go on breathing with a bit less difficulty.

About the museum

“Tucked into a holler of Harlan County – the heart of Kentucky mining country – is a museum dedicated to all aspects of extracting coal from the state’s mountains,” begins a Washington Post story last weekend. The museum is called The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum.

Benham, KY, a so-called coal camp town, where it’s presently sunny and 78°F as I write, is the host of this museum which is situated on Main St. next to City Hall. Benham is located in the southeast corner of the state, bordering NC.

Enter renewable energy

The installation of an approximately 80-panel solar PV system was started last week atop the museum’s roof.

“‘We believe that this project will help save at least $8,000 to $10,000 off the energy costs on this building alone,'” an official of museum owner Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College told local station WYMT-TV. Philanthropic donations are covering the estimated $400-500k cost. (That would to panels plus  a bunch of roofing work, I’m guessing.)

The maximum of 60 watts output from the PV array should cover roughly a third of the average monthly electric bill. Any excess power generated will be redistributed to the grid. So, the local utility is cooperating…

“The museum will offer anyone passing through Kentucky a glimpse into an industry that help define part of America. Only it will be looking to the sky, rather than in the earth, to light the way,” concludes Post writer Travis Andrews.

OBTW, the museum has an exhibit dedicated to country music singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn whose repertoire includes the memorable “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. She was born in Butcher Hollow, KY, a 2-hour drive north of Benham. (Lynn once famously said about her rocky 50-year marriage, “he never hit me one time that I didn’t hit him back twice”.)

A localized after-effect

A word about abandoned mines:

These are some of the most dangerous environments you will ever encounter. Never access an abandoned mine of any sort without the proper training, people, equipment, and procedures in place. Mines were not designed to last for centuries, yet many were built hundreds of years ago leaving perilous conditions behind. Unstable rock, old rotted timber supports and ladders, unexpected drops (winzes), sudden roof collapses, invisible (flammable) gases, rattlesnakes and being buried alive are very real possibilities among many others. Deadly flammable gasses and black damp are of special concern in coal mines, in addition to the already formidable list of dangers mentioned above. Barometric changes above ground can cause the airflow underground to change, moving bad air into the area you are, or were; making escape impossible.

© Jeremy Blakeslee

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“Mercury Rising?”

That’s the title of a Spring 2017 National Parks magazine article by associate editor Nicolas Brulliard about the increase in mercury in the air we breathe and the food we eat.

Accompanying the text is this picture showing an adult dragonfly at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in AL.  At once beautiful and a marvel of aeronautics. )This insect has been a personal fascination ever since I was a kid.)

Looking again at coal and its deleterious effects on the biosphere, here’s a basics refresher.

“Mercury is a metal that occurs naturally in rocks, including coal. Emissions from coal-fired power  plants and the burning of other fossil fuels and certain waste are the primary sources of mercury pollution, but it is also released into the atmosphere through natural events such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires.”

“Wearing waders, the students [from a school near Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller National Historic Park in VT] enter the boggy waters and use their dip nets to scoop up peat-like muck from the pond floor. They’re looking for brown, alien-like larvae that can grow up to one-and-a-half inches long and eventually turn into one of the pond’s most scintillating residents: dragonflies.

Lake Pogue, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park

“Before they morph into their adult form, these larvae can spend years underwater. During that time, they gobble up smaller insects and accumulate mercury, a toxic metal that can have a devastating impact on wildlife.”

These samples are then sent by the students to scientists for mercury testing. The results? Anything but encouraging.

“The [mercury] pollutant can remain in the atmosphere for years and travel thousands of miles before falling to the ground in the form of raindrops or dust, so even isolated wilderness areas can be effected.

“Bacteria then combine carbon with mercury to create methylmercury, a compound that is ingested by creatures large and small. Because fish and other wildlife eliminate mercury very slowly, their contamination levels increase over time as they continue to feast on mercury-rich prey.”

There have been numerous studies of mercury’s effect on fish populations, but scientists offer that dragonfly larvae are even better candidates for sampling because they can also be found in waters where no fish live. The larvae are “relatively similar to each other, physiologically speaking. ‘It makes for an easier apples-to-apples comparison,’ states a scientist quoted in the article’.”

Humans can be harmed. Neurological disorders have been seen in a study of Minamata, Japan, residents who’ve been exposed to mercury pollution (poisoning) for decades.

“Almost everyone has trace amounts of methyulmercury, but the [EPA] estimates that each year more than 75,000 newborns in the U.S.A. are at increased risk of developing learning disabilities because of their exposure to the pollutant while in the womb.”

Mercury’s effects on the Adirondack Park in New York State as well as other national forests is well documented. Fish populations have been lost in the lakes there. Loons, other aquatic birds and bats have been and are being poisoned. So too are the evergreens.

A civil war continues, in a certain respect, at Gettysburg. Acid rain has been wreaking havoc on the monuments there for years. (The President’s donation of salary to the NPS will be used specifically for monument restoration/maintenance.)

The Islands and the Wales,” a 2016 documentary just screened at the Annapolis Film Festival, calls attention to the effects of mercury poisoning in the North Atlantic archipelago of the Faroe Islands.

At this link is the website for the movie which includes a trailer.

When next thinking about buying fluorescent bulbs, including CFLs, and disposable batteries, think again about alternatives that don’t contain mercury or are longer-lived as with re-chargeable batteries. Yes, they can be recycled by those of us who are so committed, but what about everyone else who doesn’t know or, worse, don’t care?

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Goodwill Stitched into the Urban Fabric

Late last year I wrote about GE’s new HQ, choosing new construction and renovation in Boston’s Seaport District in favor of its grassy suburban digs in Fairfield County, CT.

© Gensler

“We want our [new] campus to be a global epicenter of innovation, a place to foster relationships among our employees and the greater community,” said Ann R. Klee, GE’s head of Boston development and operations, in a statement.

“The 2.4-acre campus, designed by architecture firm Gensler, will open in two phases in 2018 and host 800 employees,” according to a 8/1/16 Boston Daily article.

© Gensler

“It will include a classroom workspace for startups, as well as university and high school students interested in STEM fields; a “convener space” for GE and community events; a co-working area for visitors; an incubator laboratory for between six and 12 early stage life science companies; and an innovation and exploration center, highlighting GE’s 124-year history.

“Plans also include an expanded, 1.5-acre Harborwalk, along with a coffee bar and ‘bistro-style restaurant’.”

The new HQ is situated in the Fort Point neighborhood of the Seaport District and borders the waterfront on one side. The lack of built infrastructure from that direction is addressed to the degree possible by a large pier and floating dock that now accommodates water taxis, boaters, public launch and boat (kiyak) rentals.

Given its immediacy to the Fort Point Channel, the buildings are designed to be resilient to sea level rise by raising the ground floors and critical operating systems in all buildings by about 4 ft., as well as through landscape design strategies such as green roofs.

From the company’s submission to the Boston Redevelopment Authority: “The GE Foundation is investing $50,000,000 in a series of initiatives to assist the Boston Public Schools, Boston area community health centers, and other area priorities.” The buildings will be LEED® certified.

© Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Likable too is what architect Renzo Piano Building Workshop and client Columbia University have planned for the new Manhattanville campus in West Harlem (upper Manhattan).

The first structure, now nearing completion, is the 450,000 sq. ft. Jerome L. Greene Science Center. The pen-and-ink drawing immediately spoke to me about protecting the private space overhead while welcoming public activities at grade level.

“Of course, Columbia’s new buildings touch the ground, but they are public on the street level; they’re permeable, porous, and accessible,” says Piano. “There is no frontier between the buildings, the city, and the street.”

As further quoted in the Spring 2017 edition of Columbia Magazine: “… Piano says the building’s glass facade provides the scientists inspiring views of the city while enabling passersbys to observe the researchers working in their laboratories.

How is this achieved? How does the new campus project a sense of dignity and trustworthiness without being guarded?” the writer asks.

Piano’s firm, along with SOM | Architecture, has planned no gates or walls for the new campus. This contrasts with the original Morningside Heights campus, opened in 1897. (The campuses are separated by about a 10-minute walk.)

“In fact, several streets that intersect the land on which the campus is now being built will remain open to traffic.”

“Beautifully landscaped pedestrian paths will extend out into the surrounding neighborhoods, beckoning local residents into the academic sphere.” I’ll be curious to see how these actually work beyond campus boundaries.

At the Greene Science Center, which is home of the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, there will be an education lab where school children can learn about brain science. A wellness center there will offer free medical care to community residents.

Yellow line/arrow delimits 125th St. Harlem corridor. Blue colored buildings to either side denote Columbia campuses.

Multiple buildings of varying academic disciplines and totaling about 6.8M sq. ft. will be built over the next few decades on the 17-acre Manhattanville campus between 125th and 133rd Sts. They’ll be LEED® certified under the Neighborhood Design rating system. Targeted for the Green Science Center is LEED® Platinum, the rating system’s highest.

What’s not to like about the approaches to integrated urban living shown in these examples by corporate and institutional leaders? They excite me as vibrant urban fabric where exchange, learning and understanding are fostered.

“Design is inherently optimistic.  That is its power.”  –Wm. McDonough



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Black Rail Bird Threatened (last week) – Offsetting Good News

Last week’s post ended:

“As sea level rise has been noted more recently, you might ask yourself if something else contributed to the Eastern Black Rail’s near-extinction over the 25-year period? How ’bout substantial coastal urbanization that’s included paving over wetlands? ‘Dozer blades versus biodiversity.

“Yes, several islands have already disappeared in the Chesapeake Bay, but inhabitants had somewhere else to move to.”

Today’s post –

Good news last year for jobs chipping away at climate change

New solar PV arrays being installed over white membrane roofing at St. Margaret’s Church, Annapolis, MD (2016)

“The U.S. solar industry added 51,000 jobs last year, report says.” (The Washington Post, 2.8.17)

In the year ended 2016, the solar industry has shown 4 consecutive years of job growth with a 24.5% gain from 2015 to 2016.

The Solar Foundation recently reported that more than half of the 51k jobs were in solar panel installations. Also noted as contributing to the rise in jobs was the expiry of the Federal solar tax credit in 2016–causing a spike, if you will. But, that tax credit has been extended through a phase-down period from 2019 and  2022.

That’s unless the climate-change skeptics now in charge decide to roll it back.

Meanwhile, the Foundation estimated that about 14 billion watts of electric power from solar was added to U.S. grids in 2016.

Wind turbine – ground up view

Wind energy installed ranks largest in Texas with 20,321 MW capacity as reported by the American Wind Energy Association. Gov. Rick Perry’s successful nomination as U.S. Energy Secretary brought this to bear when the president told him, to the effect, “keep doing what you’re doing,” a reference to energy production–fossil fuels, and (I hope he realizes?) renewable.

Texas is one of the biggest manufactures of wind turbines and component parts. Other related stats from the AWEA’s website:

Wind Generation
Percentage of In-State Energy Production: 10.8%
Equivalent U.S. Homes Powered: 327,000

Economic Benefits
Wind Industry Employment: 24,001 to 25,000
Wind Manufacturing Facilities: 40
Total Project Investment: $32.7 billion
Annual Land Lease Payments: >$50 million

Environmental Benefits
Annual Water Savings (gallons): 14.7 billion
Equivalent Bottles of Water Saved: 111 billion
CO2 Emissions Avoided (metric tons): 28.3 million
Equivalent Cars Worth of Emissions Avoided: 6.0 million

Today is U. N. World Water Day

From EarthEcho International’s website: “[Today] individuals, schools and community groups around the world will take a stand for clean water and healthy waterways by participating in the EarthEcho Water Challenge (formerly the World Water Monitoring Challenge).   Through the simple actions of testing and sharing data about a community’s water, EarthEcho Water Challenge participants become part of a growing movement of 1.4 million citizens in 143 countries who are working to conserve and protect water resources around the globe. Click here if desiring actual engagement with your kids/grandkids one day soon. (It’s easy.)

Reminder: Earth Day’s coming in just 30 days. It’s yours and mine to restore so how ’bout we get busier about it?

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Black Rail Bird Threatened – Offsetting Good News (next week)

The 6″ small Eastern Black Rail bird as harbinger of something huge

I once wrote for the worthy “Bay Journal Daily News” a story about natural shorelines; a particularly great project just off the Severn River at Annapolis.

In its lead piece on Monday, I was dismayed to find an article by Karl Blankenship about the Eastern Black Rail bird population being threatened by sea level rise. Their habitat, marshlands along the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere along the Eastern Seaboard, is being drowned.

But, let me interrupt this post for a certain kind of context-

“Regarding the March 10 news article ‘EPA’s leader dismisses climate-change science’: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has said that ‘measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do.’ I can note with experience that we can say the same about hurricane landfall: not precise, but devastating. We know it’s going to happen and the lack of precision does not stop coastal communities in harm’s way from preparing for the worst.

“D. James Baker, Washington. The writer was administrator of the National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Administration from 1993 to 2001.” Letters to the Editor, The Washington Post, 3.13.17

Back to the small Eastern Black Rail bird and the “Bay Journal” article.

“‘We know almost nothing about this species,’ …ornithologist Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology in Virginia, [told Blankenship]. ‘It’s very tiny and incredibly secretive. Even most bird watchers have never seen this species before.'”

The Black Rail bird is about 6″ long, and is active between midnight and about 4am.

“Now, even hearing their call is unlikely. Its habitat, a delicately balanced zone deep within coastal marshes, is being flooded by rising waters. And the Eastern black rail is disappearing fast — potentially becoming the first victim of sea level rise around the Chesapeake Bay and other areas of the East Coast.”

Its nests and eggs are what are going under as entire marshland habitats are flooded.

Because the bird’s population has dropped some 90% in well less than 3 decades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may protect it through the federal Endangered Species Act. A recommendation is expected to be made in later 2018.

As sea level rise has been noted more recently, you might ask yourself if something else contributed to the Eastern Black Rail’s near-extinction over the 25-year period? How ’bout substantial coastal urbanization that’s included paving over wetlands? ‘Dozer blades versus biodiversity.

Yes, several islands have already disappeared in the Chesapeake Bay, but inhabitants found somewhere else to move to.

 BTW, Earth Day 2017’s coming soon (Saturday, April  22)

Consider doing something about it. Check with local schools or area environmental non-profits for their sponsorship programs.

Among my choices are planting trees along Catoctin Creek, MD, sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Or, closer to home: Community Trash Cleanup with Friends of Herring Run Park, sponsored by Blue Water Baltimore.

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