SHoP architects references hondura’s mountainous landscape in US embassy design

the new embassy compound (NEC) is expected to break ground in late 2018 and to welcome its first occupants in 2022.

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BMW vision iNEXT car recreates the familiarity of my favorite space

ahead of the world premier of the BMW vision iNEXT, jose casas pena explores his favourite space and how this feeling is recreated in the new electric car.

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Modelling the Near Future/Collision & Mutation

Element Plus in partnership with Tacchini will be hosting a lecture by renowned architect and designer Luke Pearson of London-based design & innovation studio PearsonLloyd at Salone del Mobile Milano, Milano, Shanghai on 22-24 November 2018.

The Future of Power Distribution Arrives on the South Side

This model of the Bronzeville Microgrid district is on display at the Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation at the Illinois Institute of Technology. (Photo by Audrey Henderson)

On Chicago’s South Side, one outgrowth of the Great Migration of African Americans from the Jim Crow South during the early and mid-20th century was an outpouring of scientific and business innovation. Daniel Hale Williams, an African American surgeon based in Chicago, was one of the first to perform successful open heart surgery. Supreme Life Insurance, the first black-owned insurance company in the northern United States was founded in the area that has become known as Bronzeville.

Cultural riches also flourished in Bronzeville. Thomas Dorsey drew inspiration from grief to become known as the Father of Gospel music. Literary figures like Lorraine Hansberry and poet Gwendolyn Brooks made their homes there. Influential black-owned newspapers such as the Chicago Bee, and the Chicago Defender(still in publication today), along with Johnson Publications, home of Ebonyand Jet, were all established in Bronzeville.

Therefore, it seems fitting that Bronzeville emerged as the optimal location for a 10-year pilot microgrid project by Commonwealth Edison — Chicago’s electricity utility, also known as ComEd. The project will be on showcase this week during the 2018 Greenbuild Conference in Chicago.

A microgrid is defined as a local energy grid connected to the main grid, but which can also operate autonomously during an emergency. The Bronzeville microgrid is included as part of ComEd’s Community of the Future in Bronzeville initiative. A comprehensive study of locations within ComEd’s service area within northern Illinois revealed that locating the microgrid in Bronzeville provided the optimal potential for security, resiliency and “an ability to promote public good.”

The boundaries for the Bronzeville microgrid footprint are 33rd Street to the North, 38th Street to the South, State Street to the West, and South Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Drive to the East. The completed project will serve approximately 1,060 residential commercial and industrial customers.

Construction began on June 26, 2018. Ten facilities will benefit, including the City of Chicago Public Safety Headquarters; De La Salle Institute, a Catholic high school located adjacent to campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology; Perspectives/IIT Math & Science Academy; a library, public works buildings, restaurants, health clinics, public transportation, educational facilities, and churches, according to ComEd.

“It’s really a major learning experience and opportunity to gain information relative to the integration of renewable energy into our system,” says David O’Dowd, corporate communications and reputation management for ComEd. “It is a great way to be able to do that and at the same time provide increased resiliency for the Bronzeville community.”

ComEd developed the microgrid project in close cooperation with both the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership and the Illinois Institute of Technology. The Partnership is a grassroots economic development organization focused on information technology, heritage tourism, hospitality, workforce development, preservation and sustainability. Showcasing the microgrid at Greenbuild, one of the world’s most prominent sustainability conferences, was a logical choice for the Partnership, according to founder Paula Robinson.

“We see preservation as the highest form of sustainability. We’ve been saving and restoring some of the city’s most important historical landmarks for years. The Bronzeville community’s movement into environmental and energy sustainability is vital to preserving our history and our community going forward,” Robinson says.

Paula Robinson speaks during the Illinois Institute of Technology Smart Cities Workshop on Oct. 24, 2018. The workshop was organized by the Illinois Institute of Technology Sustainable Business Innovation Clinic and Commonwealth Edison. (Photo by Audrey Henderson)

ComEd encountered numerous challenges in launching the microgrid. In 2016, the utility was unsuccessful in its bid to impose the cost for five microgrids to ratepayers in a comprehensive energy bill passed by the state. Controversy also surrounded whether a single microgrid should be defined as a power plant or a distribution plant — the ultimate designation would determine whether the utility could retain ownership of the microgrid and require ratepayers to cover its costs.

ComEd finally received approval from the Illinois Commerce Commission in February 2018. A $5 million grant from the Department of Energy will cover a fraction of the total projected costs of $30 million. The remainder will be covered by $25 million charged to ComEd’s ratepayers. ComEd, however, will not retain microgrid generation ownership. Instead, the utility will issue requests for proposals to buy or lease microgrid generation from private electricity generation providers.

Once the microgrid is completed, there will be a 10-year pilot period during which the microgrid will be tested and measured on a series of metrics. These metrics include grid security and reliability, optimal microgrid site locations, energy resource coordination with the larger energy grid, operation within and independent from the larger grid, adaptability to emerging technologies, and possible economic development benefits for the area surrounding the microgrid, according to O’Dowd.

ComEd has planned initiatives related to the microgrid designed to benefit the larger Bronzeville community. Projects either in the planning stages or already underway include an electric vehicle transportation service, sensor-based technologies, off-grid wind and solar-powered LED streetlights, an outdoor interactive digital display technology providing community news, and free Wi-Fi throughout the area.

ComEd also hosted an Ideathon in December 2017 for high school students in Bronzeville to provide young people with opportunities to apply STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills to design smart city and smart grid technologies. Finalists advanced to a “Spark Tank” event in May 2018 where cash prizes were awarded.

Projects like these, along with the microgrid, fall precisely in line with the vision that Robinson has for the area.

“It has been our ability to develop partnerships and marshal local resources from tech and energy section leaders like ComEd, Illinois Institute of Technology and the Illinois Green Alliance that will enable us to retrofit and repurpose our historical landmarks into tech and data centers. It is why the nation’s first clustered microgrid is now being installed in Bronzeville,” Robinson says.


solidsprout reimagines bangkok’s shopping malls as mountains of greenery

in their latest conceptual project, solidsprout has reimagined the urban landscape of bangkok with mountains of green spaces.

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jameel arts centre by serie architects opens in dubai

to learn more about the ambitious project, designboom spoke with serie architects' co-founder and principal, christopher lee.

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Atlantans Not Giving Up Yet on Better Megadevelopment Deal

A tract of land known to locals as The Gulch is shown Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, in Atlanta. Local leaders narrowly approved a proposal to build a $5 billion project with more than three times the office space of New York's Empire State Building. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Tanya Washington, a professor of law at Georgia State University, was at Atlanta City Hall late last Monday night. She was there that day as one of many who opposed the mayor’s plan to subsidize the redevelopment of “The Gulch,” a sunken, 40-acre morass of railway lines and surface parking lots in the heart of Atlanta. At 9:30 p.m., she and her kids drove to south Georgia where she would work as an election protection volunteer the next day.

“I was exhausted, but it was necessary,” Washington says. “Both things were necessary.”

The timing of the final vote — close to midnight the night before a contentious election for governor that is still undecided as of today — rubbed some advocates the wrong way, as many of the activists who were opposed to the Gulch project were also working to get out the vote.

The timing was a coincidence, a spokesperson for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says.

Washington became involved with the Redlight the Gulch campaign in September, and had immediate concerns about the procedural aspects of the proposal. Specifically, she was alarmed that Mayor Bottoms was asking the city council to approve the public subsidies so quickly after receiving details of the agreement with the developer.

“I’ve been teaching law for 17 years and still, a 600-page document full of legalese is intimidating,” Washington says. “You need more than three days to read it.”

Beyond procedure, Washington says that the deal is structured to benefit the developer far more than the public. The millions in tax increment financing benefits — they’re called Tax Allocation Districts in Georgia — would deprive the public school system of resources it would otherwise have over the next twenty years, she says. And the city, which owns part of the Gulch, is giving up land as well.

“My biggest issue is, we’re going to subsidize $1.5 billion worth of this project and we’re not going to own any of it,” Washington says.

It was late last year, in the waning days of former Mayor Kasim Reed’s final term, that details began leaking out about a plan to redevelop the Gulch.

The project is massive: Nine million square feet of office space, a million square feet of retail, 1,000 residential units and 1,500 hotel rooms, all propped up on a podium of parking garages and laid out on a grid of new streets that would be publicly accessible but privately owned. The proposal was a joint effort of Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler and the L.A.-based real estate firm CIM Group, which was co-founded by Ressler’s brother, Richard. Early reports put the cost of the project at around $1 billion. But by late summer of 2018, the projected cost was set at $5 billion, and Mayor Bottoms had made the Gulch’s development a central effort of her first year in office.

In September, Bottoms announced the broad outlines of the proposal, which by then involved close to $2 billion in public financing, and said she expected city council to vote on the plan by the end of the month. She began publishing op-ed pieces urging Atlantans to “Greenlight the Gulch,” a slogan that was also the centerpiece of a campaign organized by the developers. Over the next two months, a coalition of housing and anti-displacement groups, urbanists, and transit advocates across the city began crying foul. At first, they just wanted the city to slow down and allow surrounding communities to negotiate with the developers. But later, as many began to determine that the deal was bad for Atlanta residents, and unlikely to get much better, they organized a campaign of their own, urging city council to Redlight the Gulch.

Late last Monday night, after ten hours of public testimony, the city council finally sided with the mayor, approving a package of tax incentives for the Gulch development by a narrow 8-6 majority. After amendments, the city’s portion of the cost adds up to around $1.9 billion in tax increment financing and a newly created Enterprise Zone that would capture future sales tax revenue from the redeveloped site. In exchange, the developer has promised to build at least 200 units of housing that’s affordable for households at 80 percent of area median income, and pay $28 million into an affordable housing trust fund, among other givebacks.

To many advocates, the deal is hopelessly lopsided in favor of the developers and signals a missed opportunity to develop more affordable housing, provide better transit access, and elevate community voices in the development process.

“The Gulch deal, from a lot of different angles is, to me, a hot mess,” says Taiza Troutman, a graduate student in urban studies at Georgia State University and former organizer with the group ATLisReady. “And it’s representative of all the intersections of issues that come with Atlanta development.”

For opponents, the drawbacks of the proposal are as expansive as its ambitions. As recently as 2012, plans were in the works to transform the Gulch into a transportation hub, with one study projecting that plan would create or attract more than 15,000 jobs and drastically reduce vehicle miles traveled on area highways. But despite a promise of fast-tracked funding from the Obama administration, the hub never got off the ground. As the Greenlight the Gulch campaign developed, some Atlantans complained that the current proposal is not just a bad deal on its own terms, but it also misuses one of the best opportunities to create better transit infrastructure in a city that is often choked by automobile traffic.

“A couple years ago this was supposed to be a multimodal passenger terminal, and we were excited about that because transit and transit equity is important,” says Deborah Scott, executive director of Georgia STAND-UP, a “thinktank for working communities” and one of the organizing members of the Redlight the Gulch coalition.

Scott says that advocates weren’t outright opposed to the project when Bottoms first announced it late in the summer. Instead, she says, they were hoping that residents of the surrounding neighborhoods would get a chance to negotiate a community benefits agreement with the developers before the project moved forward. As a candidate for mayor, Bottoms had said she was in favor of requiring legally binding community benefits agreements when public dollars were put to use for development projects. But opposition hardened as it became clear such an agreement wasn’t on the table.

“Look, it’s a hole in the ground — we want it to be something,” says Melonie Tharpe, a Redlight the Gulch organizer.

But the problems with the proposal go way beyond the lack of a community benefits agreement, Tharpe says. From many advocates’ point of view, the city’s gestures toward community engagement were superficial. One public meeting about the Gulch project in late September was described as “tightly controlled” in a local public radio report. And advocates say the Gulch proposal would have improved if it had gone through Atlanta’s formal Neighborhood Planning Unit process.

“Even if you’re not going to listen to [residents’] ideas, at least provide them a venue to get those ideas out there,” Tharpe says. “The city seems to have just rolled over and said, ‘Great, we’re so happy to have you. We will give you the keys to the kingdom.’”

A spokesperson for Mayor Bottoms noted that the public had a chance to weigh in at four separate city council meetings — no vote was held at the first three because the proposal didn’t have enough support to pass — and that Bottoms held a live-streamed public Q&A in September. There were also “numerous community meetings” in several city council districts about the project, the spokesperson said.

For Darin Givens, co-founder of the urbanist group ThreadATL, the prospect of privately owned streets patched into the street grid downtown is disturbing as well. Before last Monday’s city council vote, ThreadATL released a letter urging the council to vote “no” on the project, noting that private streets could mean a crackdown on public demonstrations.

“This part of downtown Atlanta is an area that has seen so many marches,” Givens says. “We participated in a couple of large marches, me and my family did, that went right past the Gulch … It just makes sense to me and to ThreadATL that any streets that go in here should honor that history of protest, that history of freedom in our public domain.”

One of the biggest concerns about the Gulch project is its impact on housing. Georgia STAND-UP’s Scott says that a major influx of luxury housing in that part of downtown Atlanta could raise property taxes in surrounding low-income communities, and there are no anti-displacement measures in place to mitigate that. And the affordable housing component of the proposal are meager, in many opponents’ eyes. In an independent review of the proposal, five local university professors and economic development professionals called the affordable housing giveback “the faintest of promises.”

Tim Franzen, an organizer with the Housing Justice League, says that the affordable housing component of the proposal is both too small and not affordable enough. With the amount of subsidy the city is providing, it should expect many more reduced-rate units, affordable to people at a range of incomes, Franzen says. Units that are affordable to people making 80 percent of area median income are still out of reach for many low-income Atlantans.

“We can no longer use the term affordable housing in these development footprints unless it’s actually meeting the neighborhood need, and the neighborhood need is not $1,200, one-bedroom units,” Franzen says. “This approach to development — and I’m not the only one that has this opinion — it’s what continues to thrust us forward in being the most unequal city in the country. This is another example of a mayor saying one thing on the campaign trail and then very swiftly after taking office doing something different.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Bottoms said that the mayor began negotiating the affordable housing component of the Gulch plan after taking office last January, and used the city’s recently adopted inclusionary zoning policy as a starting point.

“Mayor Bottoms then expanded those policies to increase the percentage of units and address affordable housing on a city-wide basis in the form of the $28,000,000 trust fund,” the spokesperson says.

It should also be noted that the developers have committed to using close to 40 percent minority and women-owned business for contracting, along with other components of the project listed as public benefits.

While they weren’t able to stop city council from approving the subsidies, some advocates see a silver lining. The project has brought a range of advocacy groups together in an “unlikely coalition,” says Deborah Scott, and they can point to concrete benefits of their efforts. After initial opposition to the proposal, Bottoms agreed to remove a ten-year extension of the tax allocation district, which advocates say will save the city and school district hundreds of millions of dollars.

And even though the project has been greenlit, opponents haven’t given up. Prior to the city council vote, the coalition sent a legal analysis to City Council President Felicia Moore suggesting that the project’s planned use of Enterprise Zone tax benefits ran afoul of the state constitution. Moore was unavailable for an interview, but said in a statement to Next City that she had reviewed the analysis, but was waiting for the city’s Law Department to weigh in before rendering an opinion of her own.

The “unlikely” coalition has set up a GoFundMe to cover the costs of a potential legal challenge. And they’re hopeful that the force of their opposition will make for a better process the next time around.

“I think that perhaps this sends a message to the mayor and council that people are not going to stand for business as usual, and that they need to adhere to a protocol that is more inclusive,” says Washington. “Not because they’re doing us a favor, but because it actually will be a better deal.”


showerboard shoes are mini hoverboards for your feet

'showerboard' is a set of hoverboards for your feet, equipped with 54wh batteries that are capable of offering a range of up to 8 km.

The post showerboard shoes are mini hoverboards for your feet appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.


persimmon drying season in japan looks like christo and jeanne-claude’s the gates installation

with a town dressed in orange, japan continues to celebrate the persimmon, a fruit that represents good harvest and longevity.

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The Dollars to Shape Cities

The more you go to city council hearings, town halls or other forums where cities are discussing affordable housing, economic revitalization or environmental sustainability, the more you hear it — like the refrain of a classic song that everybody seems to know, even if it’s not their favorite. It goes something along the lines of “the public sector will have to play a role, but it won’t be enough.”

The scale of the challenges at hand are just bigger than any public sector budget can handle — meanwhile, the private sector controls the lion’s share of capital.

But “the private sector” isn’t a monolith. There are different pools of capital with different constraints and means of accessing them. In this slideshow, we’ve compiled the basic facts about the main “buckets” of private sector capital, along with examples of how those in cities have gained access to them to meet the scale of the challenges they face.

Perhaps the most familiar to everyone. Individuals, as well as institutions, hold savings deposit accounts or certificates of deposit at banks or credit unions, which are chartered by the federal government or by state governments and which are usually insured by the federal government.

Commercial banks in the U.S. currently hold around $12 trillion in deposits, while credit unions hold $1.2 trillion in deposits.

Banks and credit unions use deposits to fund the loans they make, as well as to invest in regulator-approved financial instruments such as conventional stocks and bonds, as well as more exotic or sophisticated products

Banks currently hold around $9.4 trillion in loans, while credit unions hold around $1 trillion in loans.

Under the Community Reinvestment Act, passed in 1978, banks have an obligation to meet the credit needs of the communities where they do business. But banks also experience pressure from shareholders to seek higher returns by investing in more sophisticated financial products.

According to the latest available data from federal regulators, banks reported making $96 billion in community development loans throughout the U.S. in 2017. That includes loans to build or preserve affordable housing or revitalize commercial or industrial property.

Northwest Bank, in the Pacific Northwest, provided a letter of credit to a commercial property on the east end of Portland (pictured in the heading above), allowing residents around the property to buy ownership shares for as little as $10 a month.

Retirement savings mostly come from individual retirement accounts, 401k or 403b accounts with matching dollars from employers, and public and private pension funds.

Retirement assets in the United States total $28.3 trillion, according to the Investment Company Institute.

Most retirement savings are aggregated into mutual funds, bond funds, money market funds or other pools, each with a target level of risk and financial return. Firms that select investments for each pool can range from large Wall Street firms to smaller “boutique” shops.

Retirement savings are typically invested in the stock market, or the bond market. A smaller slice goes into real estate or commodities (oil, coffee, timber, etc.).

The Reinvestment Fund (which financed the project pictured in the heading above) is one of several community development lenders that are now accessing the bond markets. These community development lenders, all nonprofit organizations, have issued $300 million in bonds and counting since 2017.

Worker cooperatives are accessing capital through networks of financial advisors whose clients want their retirement savings to do more than just earn the maximum financial return.

Community Preservation Corporation, a community development lender, has had a decades-long arrangement with New York City and New York State to manage the investment of public pension fund dollars into affordable housing.

Community Preservation Corporation, a community development lender, has had a decades-long arrangement with New York City and New York State to manage the investment of public pension fund dollars into affordable housing.

Insurance policyholders pay trillions of dollars a year in premiums to companies selling health insurance, life insurance, car insurance, property insurance and other forms of insurance. After paying out claims, subsidizing administration and operations, and paying any dividends to shareholders, the companies can invest any cash left over.

Insurance companies currently hold around $6.5 trillion in investments and cash, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Insurance companies manage some of their investments internally, but they also farm out a lot of investment management to many of the same mutual funds, bond funds and other funds containing retirement assets.

Since most insurance companies can predict with reasonable certainty how much they’ll have to pay out in any given year, they typically prefer safe, predictable investments such as bonds. There are $41 trillion in the U.S. bond market — much of that coming from overseas investors.

Until recently, the state of California had a program to promote and monitor insurance company investments in affordable housing, clean energy, women- and minority-owned startups and other socially beneficial projects. At the state’s last count, insurance companies had $21.85 billion invested in qualified projects across California. The program expired at the end of 2016 and has not been resurrected by or replicated in any other state.

Prudential, the insurance and financial services giant, made a seed investment into a fund that will help finance stormwater retention improvements to properties in Washington, D.C. That fund invested in the project pictured in the heading above.

University and foundation endowments come from their founders and have been supplemented over the years by donors and benefactors as well as each endowment’s’ own annual investment returns.

Foundations hold $890 billion in their endowments, while universities hold $547 billion.

By IRS regulations, private foundations must spend at least five percent of the value of their total endowments every year. The other 95 percent gets invested, typically in the same manner as retirement assets or insurance company dollars. Community foundations and universities don’t have to follow the same rule, but they often do as a rule of thumb.

Beginning in 1968, the Ford Foundation pioneered the use of “program-related investments,” or loans at below-market interest rates made in accordance with a foundation’s stated mission, which count as part of a foundation’s annual five percent.

New Day Chester, a local artist-led organization revitalizing an arts corridor (pictured in the heading above) in Chester, Pennsylvania, got a program-related investment from the Barra Foundation, a small foundation based in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Program-related investments helped seed the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund, providing access to capital at interest rates that make it financially feasible for nonprofit organizations to acquire and preserve the affordability of buildings that would have otherwise been flipped into luxury housing.

Increasingly popular, donor-advised funds are like mini-foundations for people who don’t have the time or resources to set up their own family foundations. Donors make a contribution to their fund (which they can’t take back), receive the charitable tax benefit right away, and then decide later where to grant those dollars.

In 2016, there were around $85 billion held in nearly 285,000 donor-advised funds. In that year, donor-advised funds made nearly $16 billion in grants, while taking in an additional $23 billion from donors.

Donor-advised funds are sponsored by public charities, such as a community foundation or other registered public charities. Some of the largest sponsors are those associated with large financial services firms. In 2016, Fidelity knocked off United Way as the top annual recipient of charitable donations in the United States — thanks to its affiliated donor-advised fund sponsor vehicle.

While money is sitting in donor-advised funds, waiting to be granted out, it gets invested in various ways. Some get placed into the same mutual funds alongside retirement assets, insurance company dollars, and endowments. Some also goes into accounts at local banks or credit unions.

The Central Valley Community Foundation recently moved $2.6 million in deposits from donor-advised funds and other benefactors into a new account at Self-Help Federal Credit Union, helping the credit union’s Fresno branch (pictured in the heading above) fund first-time homebuyer loans and car loans for underserved populations.

The Philadelphia Foundation recently pledged to move $30 million in assets under its management (including donor-advised funds) into the PhilaImpact Fund, which will be used to finance community development projects in the Philadelphia area.

Benefit Chicago is an initiative combining donor-advised fund dollars managed by the Chicago Community Trust with a program-related investment from the MacArthur Foundation to finance community development around Chicago.

None of these sources of capital can replace the public sector. In most of the stories featured, some type of public funding or subsidy is also present. But these sources of capital aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

The newly passed Opportunity Zones tax incentive has created a new channel for private sector investment that is already attracting billions of dollars of potential capital to be invested in low-income census tracts. Whether that investment actually benefits the 35 million residents of the 8,700 designated Opportunity Zone census tracts remains to be seen, but it is one more bucket to add to this list.

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. To stay informed on the latest regarding Opportunity Zones or how cities are accessing any of these pools of capital in support of equitable development, affordable housing or environmental sustainability, subscribe to our monthly Bottom Line newsletter. The Bottom Line is made possible with support from Citi Community Development.

Our features are made possible with generous support from The Ford Foundation.


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Architect Mahmood Fallahian

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