Pecha Kucha Rundown: Denser, Part 3


Noelle and I had fun at Pecha Kucha in San Francisco at the SPUR Urban Center on June 21.  For those unfamiliar with the Pecha Kucha format, each speaker has 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide. The format makes for a fun but focused look at what a wide range of professionals is working on and thinking about. Presentations are loosely organized around a theme. The theme this time was “Denser.”

Using my notes, I am putting together a set of posts that lists the presenters in order, along with links to their website (if I could find them) and any major thoughts I jotted down. For some presentations, I took a number of notes. Other presentations have fewer notes (maybe I was looking at the images more carefully?). All of the presentations were more interesting and beautiful than revealed by my notes and these posts.

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Julie KimHot Studio

essay – “Why We Lie to Kids” – Paul Graham

suburban existence – capsule to capsule

organized chaos – systems for sharing space in dense areas

suburban promise – control enables freedom

2 symbols – house + car

urban reality – loss of control enables freedom

worlds colliding in “meatspace”, the real, physical, non-virtual world

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David Baker – Architect – David Baker + Partners Architects


hot & dirty


looking at density per square mile and the carbon footprint per person

Portland Pearl District full of 300 x 300 blocks

poem – “Lines in Potentis” – Ben Okri

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Gabriel TanOut of Stock Design, Singapore

members of the firm are from different countries, but find a way to work together online

umbrellas in internal gutter to drain

mix of handcrafts and mass production

very focused on flatpack furniture

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Antonio Roman-Alcalá – SF Urban Agriculture Alliance and Alemany Farm

“The Political Economy of Urban Land, and Its Relation to an Urban Agricultural Future”

farming and cities have co-evolved

our population is no longer “mostly farmers” – not directly tied to the land

what society values – highest-earning college majors vs lowest-earning college majors

can’t urban plan our way out of mining and destruction of rainforests

17th & Folsom = “future park” – park for kinds + urban garden

who gets to decide the best use of the land? the owner of the land or the community?

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Part 1 is posted here. Part 2 is posted here.

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Peter Calthorpe – Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change


Last week I saw Peter Calthorpe speak about his new book, Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.

A highly influential planner, designer and urban thinker, Calthorpe has spent decades advancing holistic approaches to the built environment, most famously as a champion of  New Urbanism.

His latest book lays out the case that urbanism, i.e., creating more dense and livable cities, is the only real defense against climate change. If climate change is hastened by runaway carbon emissions, and carbon emissions are linked to the energy intensity of daily life, then it follows that altering the built environment and transportation patterns are key to its mitigation.

This may not be news to anyone, but Calthorpe’s book is about skillfully unpacking this data for a non-technical audience and showing how sprawl is not just a little more carbon intensive than denser urban development, but more intensive by orders of magnitude. Read it for a study of “the big picture”.

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Location Location Location


(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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A recent article in the LA Times discusses efforts by green builders to quantify the energy used in reaching the building, not just used in and by the building itself.

From the article:

If you plop a green building in the middle of nowhere, is it still green? … … …

Experts say the ability to quantify the energy spent getting to and from a building could force businesses to reconsider what it means to be green. Transportation emissions account for 29% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and the newly quantifiable data could spur development in urban areas served by public transportation.

Commutes to work matter, said Emma Stewart, senior manager for sustainability at Autodesk Inc., a San Rafael, Calif., maker of 3-D design software applications. Overall, one out of five trips and one out of four miles are traveled in commutes, according to Census Transportation Planning Products. For work, people fly to conferences, hail cabs on lunch breaks and drive to far-flung suburbs.

“This is a new frontier in carbon accounting,” said Stewart, who is part of a separate effort to digitally map buildings and infrastructure like train lines for urban planning purposes. “The practice thus far has really been focused around direct emissions.”

You can read the entire article on the LA Times website, here.

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Environmental Impacts of the World Cup

 Infographic by EU Infrastructure

As far as major international sporting events go, short of the Olympics, it doesn’t get much bigger than the World Cup. Massive international travel, infrastructure upgrades to accommodate the influx of visitors, building or renovation of stadiums, and the large amounts of waste generated by spectators are all part of the preparation and running of such a massive event.

This got us thinking, just how big is the carbon footprint of something like the World Cup? And what sorts of mitigation strategies are already in practice?

The answer to the carbon footprint question is: BIG. According to a pre-event study estimate by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in conjunction with the area Norwegian embassy, the carbon footprint for the event is 2.8 million tons. To quote Mike Berners-Lee, posting on the UK Guardian’s Green Living blog, “(that) is roughly equivalent to 6,000 space shuttle fights, three quiet years for Mount Etna, or 20 cheeseburgers for every man, woman and child in the UK.”

Levity aside, it is important to note that estimates of the impact vary widely, and what is important is to look at the overall pattern. Without question, the lion’s share of emissions are associated with athlete and spectator travel. This can make it hard for a more remote locale such as South Africa to remain competitively “green” compared to an event such as Germany’s 2006  World Cup event, which drew many of its participants via Europe’s centralized rail systems.

To the second question we posed, what are the best practices already in place for mega sporting events?

It is heartening to note that the problem of lessening impacts of major international sporting events is being taken seriously as a factor in weighing bids to host events. The bar was set by the the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the Lillehammer winter Olympic games in 1994, which incorporated sustainability dimensions in its planning. Incorporating sustainability concerns was then supported formally the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and has been a consideration of LOC’s at all subsequent Olympic games (Sebake & Gibberd, 2007). The bar was raised for the World Cup event by Germany’s 2006 LOC in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and the Oko-Institut, who together developed a “Green Goal Initiative”.

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World Cup 2010 Fun Fact:

SABMiller and Crown developed a full aperture beer can for the event that allows the patron to fully remove the lid and use the can as a drinking cup. This will cut down on the waste from plastic concession cups.