Photos of BART Under Construction

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The San Francisco Chronicle website has a gallery of photos from when the BART system was originally under construction in the 1960s and 1970s. You can see the photos here.

There is a photo of people on a walking tour through the Transbay Tube.

Also, there is a photo of then-President Nixon riding BART in 1972.

Go. Look.

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(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Dublin Pleasanton BART Station under construction, much later, in 2009.

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Finding Local Stimulus Projects

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Recently while driving around Northern California, I’ve seen a number of signs saying “This project is supported by ARRA funds.” And I started wondering where all the local projects were. It turns out that if you go to Recovery.Gov, there is a map (here) where you can search by state or zip code to find nearby ARRA projects, as that information has been reported by the recipient of the funds.

photo credit: recovery.gov

You can click on each dot to get information about the organization and amount awarded.

You can see summaries by state (see California here) for different categories – by zip code, by top recipients, by top infrastructure projects, top congressional districts, by the funding federal agency, and by the jobs reported created.

Editorial – How Much Space is Enough?

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Houses have been getting bigger. Over the past fifty plus years (until 2008), the size of the average new house more than doubled, from 1,000 square feet or less in 1950 to 2,265 in 2000 (values from NAHB). The percentage of new homes smaller than 1,200 square feet has been dropping since 1987, while the percentage of new homes larger than 2,400 grew from 21% to 38% between 1987 and 2001 (values from this study). Interestingly, the size of the average new home dropped in 2008 (data here and an article here).

The general trend of larger and larger houses has a direct impact on the environment. Larger houses require more land to build on, more materials for construction, more energy to heat, cool, and light, and result in more waste, both during construction and demolition. While it is expected that there may be some “economy of scale” as houses get larger, there is a widely held suspicion that larger homes consume proportionally more materials because they often have higher ceilings and more complex geometry. Larger houses also require more materials to furnish and decorate.

It should be noted that larger homes are not only increasing in area (square footage); they are also increasing in volume, which may ultimately have a larger impact on the energy consumption of the house. Larger houses are usually constructed with extra features that are not surface area efficient (such as complicated roofs and dormer windows) and which consume more energy for heating and cooling than a compact house of the same volume.

New houses should be both smaller and more compact.

However, it has been difficult to build smaller homes. Aside from the social cache afforded those with larger homes, zoning rules and mortgage practices have also pushed “bigger is better.” For example, mortgage lenders often required the home to be “three times the value of the land,” which then determined a minimum house size for a certain area.

The recent, slight tilt towards smaller home is likely due to the recession and the constrained finances of those building, financing and buying homes. But it is encouraging. When considering what they could afford financially, people chose smaller houses. If we consider what we can “afford” using metrics of energy, water, and materials, we should prioritize building smaller houses.

Anna’s Links – 5/26/10

A round-up of interesting (and depressing) analysis of the recent oil rig explosion and oil spill…

A “live” feed of the BP oil spill is now posted online (though traffic has been so high that it’s not always possible to view) – U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee.

Experts examining a previous video of the oil leak released by BP estimate that the size of the oil spill is much larger than official estimates – NPR.

Scientists fault the government for “failing to conduct an adequate scientific analysis of the damage and of allowing BP to obscure the spill’s true scope” – New York Times.

Some experts are starting to say that the oil leaks could last for years because “we don’t have any idea how to stop this” – National Geographic.

Aerial photos of the Gulf oil spill show its vast size – NASA Earth Observatory.

A scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab notes that some of the detergents used to clean up spill sites can be more toxic that the oil itself – Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

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Other interesting tidbits from the web…

Two campuses of the University of California system, Berkeley and Davis, have been given  MacArthur grants to launch a new master’s degree program in sustainable development practice – UC Berkeley and MacArthur Foundation.

Developers in Las Vegas are cranking up their sales pitches for brand new homes again, even though the city has 9,500 empty houses and another 5,600 that were repossessed in the first quarter of 2010 – New York Times.

Las Vegas as a whole has been very dependent on growth and construction – the recent drop in new construction had a major impact on municipal funding – Aguanomics and Bloomberg.

Federal officials want public input on a proposal to revise policies for managing urban water shortages in the Central Valley – meetings will be held in Sacramento on May 26, June 23, July 20, and August 19 – The Sacramento Bee.

profile

Nina Maritz

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This post is part of our series exploring the ways people and communities reuse, recycle and dispose of waste around the world.

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I saw a presentation by Nina Maritz in San Francisco in 2006, and I have continued to think about her approach periodically over the years.

Nina Maritz is a Namibian architect whose work reflects local building strategies and is built with local labor.

One project that showcases her work is the Habitat Research and Development Center in Windhoek, Namibia. Among many goals and activities listed for the center are “promote sustainable and environmentally appropriate housing” and “develop local skills in sustainable housing construction methods.” The completed project is site appropriate, made from local materials, and uses a number of passive cooling methods to keep the occupants comfortable. Each design decision addresses a number of design challenges (for example, by using poles from invasive species, she could abstain from using rare local hardwood).

What I found particularly striking about Nina Maritz’s work, and what I keep returning to, is the careful reuse of materials throughout the project.

(Photos on Flickr and in ArchitectureWeek)

Wherever possible, it seems, the architect worked with local workers and artisans to reuse materials such as corrugated metal, storage drums, cans, and tires, in both functional and decorative ways. While this approach is difficult in many places because of stringent building code and the expense of labor, it evokes an entirely different way of looking at the world, where every object holds potential not just for its intended use but also for future uses.