Passive Housing Techniques Increase Efficiency and Reduce GHG Emissions in NYC Buildings

Article: Sendero Verde, country’s largest Passive House project, tops out construction on phase one, by City Realty Staff


Article: East Harlem’s affordable Sendero Verde project to get 37-story mixed-use building, by Ameena Walker

Post by Joshua Herrig, jlh2208

Sustainability Problem: Many, if not most buildings, are energy inefficient and are big greenhouse gas emitters. In New York City, buildings account for 47% of all GHG emissions. Another problem is that this technique costs more upfront, usually making it inaccessible and unaffordable.

Solution: Passive Housing techniques are being built into new buildings and retrofitted into old ones to make them, in some cases, 90 percent more energy efficient. One such apartment complex is being built in East Harlem called Sendero Verde. Sendero Verde is also affordable housing and is making this technique affordable and accessible.

Passive Housing must use 5 principles: 1. High quality insulation 2. Heat control and robust windows (often triple planed glass) 3. Airtight construction 4. Heat recovery ventilation 5. Thermal bridge-free design. The whole system is succinctly explained in this video: Passive House Explained in 90 Seconds.

This technique, once implemented, is cost efficient to the point where some buildings can be heated by the sun alone and reduces the heating bill to almost zero. As more and more buildings in NYC become electrified they will also need to retrofit their buildings unless the tenants will have to start paying higher heating costs. As of now, most NYC buildings run off of oil heaters which are terrible GHG emitters and polluters but building owners pay for it, not the tenants.

Which is why Sendero Verde is such an appealing project. The vision of the project is to build a “Community of Opportunity.” and will have very affordable heating and cooling bills for its tenants. The poor in New York City must often choose between paying their heating bill and paying for groceries and they often choose groceries. Passive housing techniques will significantly lower bills allowing them to not have to make that decision.

Stakeholders: 1. New York City government. 2. Architects 3. Construction and building managers 4. Tenants of the building 5. Citizens of New York

Implementation of this technology: 1. Teaching architects, builders, city planners of the Passive Housing techniques 2. Change of policy requirement (passive housing will work nicely with Local Law 97, which is requiring buildings to greatly reduce their GHG emissions. 3. Building and retrofitting buildings with passive housing techniques


Sponge Cities to Combat Flooding Caused By Climate Change

Article: Meet the Architect Whose Revolutionary “Sponge Cities” are Helping Combat Climate Change, by Siyuan Meng

Article: Should Los Angeles Transform Itself In A Sponge City, by AHBELAB

Post by Joshua Herrig, jlh2208

Sustainability Problem: Climate change is causing the temperature and sea levels to rise, thus causing flooding and storm surges in cities around the world. Since 2008, the number of Chinese cities affected by flooding has more than doubled. During 2019 alone, the United States was impacted by 14 separate billion-dollar disasters including 3 major inland floods, 8 severe storms and 2 tropical cyclones.

Solution: The “sponge city,” an idea created developed by landscape architect Dr. Yu Kongjian, is “one that is designed to retain, clean, and reuse stormwater.”

Dr Yu Kongjian founded and runs the architecture firm Turenscape and they have over 500 designs built and implemented around the world, but especially in China.

Inspired by peasant farming techniques, such as irrigation systems used in Chinese mulberry fish ponds, Turenscape uses nature based solutions to solve ecological problems.

Yu calls the design concept “negative planning” a term that means to put green spaces at the core of city panning. The sponge city designs include developing rooftop gardens, ponds, filtration pools, and wetlands, with permeable roads and public spaces designed to soak rainwater back into the ground.

The sponge city concept is the same for every project, however the specifics change depending on the location. For instance, in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, Dr Yu and his team revitalized a dying wet-land with a cut-and-fill strategy that added ponds and mud flats to already existing wetlands while in Shanghai Houtain they transformed a former industrialized site into a natural water treatment center, which cleans up 634,000 gallons of water daily.

The sponge city design not only lowers the risk of flooding but also increases biodiversity, decreases pollution, stops combined sewer overflow, and may even make citizens happier through access to beautiful park space.

Stakeholders: Turenscape architecture firm, city and country government, citizens of the city, (in America or Europe: NGOs that want to revitalize areas, and various neighborhood groups that surround the landscape)

3 Steps in Deploying: 1. Design sponge city landscape based off of the area’s needs, 2. Convince city government and perhaps big business donors as well as local citizens that the design should be built 3. Build the design

I found this part of the article rather enlightening in how Dr Yu was able to deploy the idea of the sponge city in China, despite some resistance: “Part of Yu’s success in China has been his ability to have the ears of the country’s top leadership. After being implemented as an integral part of China’s “ecological civilization” movement — which effectively made sustainability part of nationwide urban planning policy — Yu says that the model was more quickly implemented into a wider range of projects.ur He adds that he has delivered over 300 lectures to mayors around China, and a book documenting the subsequent conversations with these figures has been reprinted over 15 times. The book was later published in English as Letters to the Leaders of China: Kongjian Yu and the Future of the Chinese City in 2018.”

Toyota Builds Their Own Smart City

Post by Joshua Herrig, UNI : jlh2208

Article: Toyota just started building a 175-acre smart city at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. Photos offer a glimpse of what the ‘Woven City’ will look like. by Katie Warren

Sustainability Problem(s): As we have seen in class, implementing new technologies into existing cities can prove difficult due to a host of problems, from cultural to financial to bureaucratic. The city itself will also tackle sustainable problems of energy, construction, and transportation amongst others.

Solution: By building their own smart city from the ground up, Toyota will be able to use the city as a lab and test bed for new technologies and will be able to bypass common hurdles of implementation.

The energy for Woven City city will come from a combination of hydrogen fuel cells and solar paneled roofs.

Transportation will have three types of roads that will be separated from each other: one for pedestrians, one for bicycles and one for cars. There will be testing of various sizes and types of electric, self driving vehicles. Drones will deliver goods to businesses.

Construction will be done with sustainably forested wood.

It is being built over what was once a Toyota car factory. Construction has begun and 350 people will move into the 175-acre site including families, inventors and senior citizens.

A concise video on the city can be seen here.

Some hurdles of a new city city run by one corporation: though I love the idea of building a new city from scratch, I also know that history is littered with failed utopias, as explored by the first season of the NICE TRY! podcast. There will be many issues with privacy and laws. Will everyone be tracked 24/7? What happens if a crime is committed in this city? There could be problems of monopoly and competition. What if another company comes up with a better new technology that competes with a Toyota product? Will they ban it from this city? I also think about project’s like Norman Foster’s design of Masdar City in the UAE, which looks really great and is intended to be a sustainable city of the future, but doesn’t seem to have many people actually living in it and has been called a “gimmick.” Maybe I’m preemptively judging it though.

Organizational Stakeholders include Toyota, of course, Toyota’s employees, and the citizens of the new city. Though they are never mentioned, I’m assuming the Federal government of Japan must approve the site. Another stakeholder is the architecture firm Bjark Ingels, who are the major designers of the city.

Steps for Deployment: 1. Design the city 2. Build the city 3. Run the city and 4. Have functioning citizens living and working in the city.

Flying Cars? Flying Cars!

UK Flying-Taxi Hub Aims to Develop Blueprint for Aerial Roads, by Christopher Jasper

Post by Joshua Herrig, JLH2208

Problem: Traffic congestion in cities causes health problems from exhaust pollution and inefficiencies of worker commutes and deliveries for goods and services for restaurants and businesses. It’s also an aesthetic blight on a city and a danger to bicycle drivers and walkers.

Solution: A hub for flying taxis and cargo drones is being built and trial operations will begin by the end of 2021 in Coventry, England, a city of 400,000 people. This will then test “aerial roads” for the taxis and cargo drones that then can be further developed and refined for efficiencies and safety. It will also be an electrical vehicle charging center.

Once the stuff of science fiction, flying taxis and logistic drones now have test pilot programs in Singapore and Florida. All of the programs hope to alleviate traffic from delivery trucks and eventually commuters.

There are still many hurdles to fully implementing flying cars into the fabric of urban life. The first problem is that these flying taxis will initially be very expensive. Another problem is safety and perceived safety. Until the program is up and running it may prove difficult to get enough people to take the flights. Also, the logistics of using the flying taxi won’t make much sense for most people who would have to drive to the hub and then commute to their destination. Also the building out of infrastructure for where these taxis and delivery drones can land needs to be fully implemented.

Despite these hurdles I hope that our future does have flying cars in it and congested highways and city roads will be a thing of the past.

Stakeholders: City government of Cambria, the company Altitude Angel, and citizens and business owners of Coventry, UK.

Implementing the technology: 1. Building the physical hub, building the flying taxis and cargo drones 2. Test flying them 3. Figuring out logistics of where best to have “aerial roads” 4. building infrastructure on where these fling taxies and cargo drones can land and take off 5. Actually running and operating the hub and taxis with real customers.

Fighting Sewage Problems With Sensors

Student: Joshua Herrig (Uni: JLH2208)

Sustainability Problem: Waste, or Combined Sewer Overflow. In many cities the sewers that are used for sewage are also used for rainwater overflow (thus “combined sewer”), so when it rains the sewage, rather than backing up into people’s homes and business plumbing, overflows into rivers, oceans and lakes.

SUMMARY: In America, combined sewers dump 850 billion gallons of raw sewage into waterways. In South Bend, Indiana, in 2008— the worst year for storm and wastewater overflow— 2 billion gallons of untreated sewage flowed into St. Joseph River.

Article: One city’s fight to solve its sewage problem with sensors, by Andrew Zaleski.

  • In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency forced South Bend into a consent decree, demanding $863 million worth of sewer upgrades. However, South Bend’s citizens would have had to pay $10,000 each to pay for the upgrades, nearly impossible in a town with the average income of $40,000.
  • A company called EmNet, formed by engineer Michael Lemmon and fellow engineers and researchers from Notre Dame University, have deployed a system of sensors in South Bend’s sewer system.
  • After the sensors were installed, South Bend and EmNet implemented a real-time control system, with valves that automatically open and close in response to the sensor data.
  • Since the sensors and control system have been installed overflow has dropped from 42.8 million gallons to 6.9 million in 2020, with the intention of getting overflow to zero.

STAKEHOLDERS: EmNet (private company), South Bend Sewer Department (government), EPA (Federal government), South Bend citizens, humans downstream of the sewage overflow, the environment downstream of the overflow

TECH DEPLOYMENT: This technology has been deployed and seemed to have taken these steps 1. Install the sensors throughout the system 2. Measure where there is overflow and how much. 3. Deploy the valves and real-time control system 4. Implement the valves to respond to overflow and 5. Re-measure how the system is working and fix accordingly.

EDIT: I just realized the MIT story is behind a paywall. Here is a PDF of the story: