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Rethinking the Street Space: Toolkits and Street Design Manuals

Amber Hawkes and Georgia Sheridan, Planetizen
As we’ve seen in our first two articles in the series on Rethinking the Street Space, cities are taking steps forward to re-evaluate both the form and function of their “street spaces” – understanding that the design and quality of public space affects its use, investment, and the overall Livability of their communities. Over the past decade, Seattle (2005), Los Angeles (2008), New York (2009), San Francisco (Draft, 2008), and several other cities and non-profit groups across the U.S. have released new street design manuals and toolkits. In this 3rd article, we give an overview of a growing number of new street design manuals, comparing goals, policy priorities, design elements, and implementation strategies from a range of cities, nonprofit organizations, and national agencies.

What are the Goals of the Manuals?
The primary goals of the new street design manuals are often quite similar. Common goals include:
1. Livability and Placemaking. Making streets places to linger and places to cherish.
2. Access and Mobility: Improving the public right-of-way for all users.
3. Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety: Supporting design improvements such as raised crosswalks, bulbouts, bike lanes, and roundabouts that improve safety for pedestrians and bike riders.
4. Flexibility: Giving designers choice, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
5. Context: Designing streets based on their place within a hierarchy of streets and their relationship to surrounding land uses, densities, and commercial activities.
6. Balance: Maintaining several functions in the street that include safety, roadway infrastructure, environmental sensitivity, and others.
7. Healthy Environment: Minimizing negative environmental effects and creating places that encourage walking and exercise.
8. Visual Excellence: Improving the overall aesthetic with an emphasis on high quality, lasting design and materials…
(31 Aug 2009)

One day, all houses will be built this way

Debbie Andalo, The Guardian
Social housing tenants could soon be living in state-of-the-art green homes built from natural materials such as clay, hemp and sheep’s wool, which are being pioneered as part of Prince Charles’ campaign to create beautiful sustainable property.

Building work on The Natural House started in April and is due to be completed this month. With a construction price tag of around £100,000 and fuel bills predicted to be half that of a traditional bricks-and-mortar home, the property is being promoted by the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, which is behind the scheme, as a realistic option for social housing. Earlier this year, Prince Charles said: “The Natural House is an attempt to introduce a new model for green building that is site-built, low-carbon and easily adapted for volume building.”

Once completed, the house is expected to achieve a four-star rating under the government’s Code for Sustainable Homes, the code that ranks properties according to a list of green credentials including energy efficiency, renewable materials and water consumption…
(23 Sept 2009)

Stockton Williams on urban retrofits, Obama, and the sexiness of caulking guns

Katherine Wroth, Grist
Earlier this year, officials from sixteen U.S. cities gathered in Cambridge, Mass., to compare notes on a surprisingly hot topic: building retrofits. The meeting was held just as the Obama Administration announced the creation of a “Recovery through Retrofit” interagency working group, and hopes were high that federal funding, green jobs, and energy savings would flow forth. I dropped in on that event and spoke with Stockton Williams of conference sponsor Living Cities, a coalition of foundations and banks—including such heavyhitters as the Gates Foundation, Morgan Stanley, and Deutsche Bank—that aims to “improve the lives of low-income people and the urban areas in which they live.” Brimming with quiet confidence, he’s one of those people who leaves you feeling like good things actually can happen—and are happening. I decided to follow up with him to see what came out of the conference, what he thinks of Obama’s urban efforts so far, and what advice he has for the rest of us.

Q. Tell the good people: what is your occupation, and what does it look like on a day-to-day basis?
A. I am senior advisor and director of green economy initiatives for Living Cities, a consortium of global foundations and financial institutions that invests in local efforts to expand opportunity for low-income people in U.S. cities. I work with cities and nonprofit organizations to design and implement building energy retrofit initiatives and other strategies to create clean energy jobs and foster more sustainable urban development. I also work with federal, state, and local officials to develop policies that will make the green economy work for low-income people and places…
(24 Sept 2009)