The Sims Municipal Recycling Facility will open soon on the Brooklyn waterfront, providing countless environmental benefits. The large in-city recycling center will be able to process 20,000 tons of recyclables a month; for comparison, at its peak Freshkills received 29,000 tons of trash every day. While it might seem like a drop in the bucket, having a recycling center on the Brooklyn waterfront where loads can come in by barge will save the Department of Sanitation 260,000 miles of truck route every year. That’s equivalent to a sanitation truck driving over ten times around the earth. Reduced truck miles will help with traffic congestion, improve air quality, and decrease fossil fuel emissions.
Beyond the environmental benefits of constructing a new recycling center, the design of the building reflects a focus on sustainability derived from a practice what you preach attitude. The building is constructed using over 90% recycled steel. The roof boasts the current largest solar array in the city, generating 500kW of energy (enough to power about 150 homes). The design firm, Selldorf Architects, even included a spot of green space in their design by incorporating trees and bioswales to capture storm water runoff.
The buildings purpose and design coalesce to make it an incredible opportunity for environmental education. The facility “include[s] an education center that wasn’t just a repurposed closet with an instructional video to torture captive schoolchildren.” With classroom space and cat walks through the plant, students will have the opportunity to experience the process of recycling first hand. Hopefully, some of these students will become champions of recycling and help us build a more sustainable New York City.
How do you design a space to maximize its social and ecological resiliency? A green space where the community gathers and plants help clean the air and absorb storm water. You might think that such a space could only be achieved in a large park like Freshkills, but the newly released 2013 Street Design Manual demonstrates how the street in front of your doorstep can be transformed into a place that fosters social interactions and supports wildlife.
The street design manual unveiled by Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Kahn at the 2013 MAS Summit highlights designs for “place making plazas” that transform endless swaths of concrete into gathering places. While the most visible of these transformations was the closing of Time Square, these plazas can be developed on a run-of-the-mill sidewalk by adding seating and landscaping to a barren wide stretch of concrete. These types of designs are successful at fostering community precisely because they are requested and maintained by the communities where they are installed. Adding places where neighbors can stop, smell the flowers, and get to know one another could be another way to boost social resiliency.
Not only do the new street designs foster more social connections amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, but they also strive to improve physical resiliency with suggestions for landscape design. The manual has recommendations for tree pits, bio swells, and rain gardens that will help reduce the issue of combined sewage overflow that overwhelms the city’s infrastructure. The guidelines on plantings also include information on storm and drought tolerance so that plantings can be made with future climate change in mind. While these plantings work to adapt to the effects of climate change, the plan also proposes steps to reduce carbon emissions with new LED street lamps.
We’re looking forward to seeing how this new street design manual transforms the urban landscape of NYC into one that has more capacity to withstand and adapt to climate change.
Energy storage is the Holy Grail for renewable energy producers. In an ideal world, they would be able to capture that burst of wind at two in the morning and use it to power your coffee maker when you wake up at seven. A solar project in Arizona called Solana is using an innovative solution for energy storage: molten salt.
Imagine pure salt so hot it looks, and moves, like liquid water. This molten salt is the substance inside large insulated tanks that allows the Solana project to store heat for up to six hours. Most of the solar thermal energy is channeled directly to the steam generator that produces electricity, but some of the heat is diverted into heating up these molten salt tanks whose energy can be harnessed long after the sun has set from the sky.
These molten salt tanks make Solana the largest solar thermal project with energy storage in the world. Using heat to store energy is fairly new; some other solar power plants use expensive batteries to store electricity. While storing energy as heat is not mechanically efficient, the economic benefits of producing energy at peak demand may make the molten salt storage worthwhile.
Solar energy typically does a fairly good job of matching peak demands for electricity during the daylight hours, but can fall short in the early morning when people are getting ready for work or in the evenings after the sun goes down. Energy storage capabilities would allow renewable energies like solar to be harnessed around the clock, making them a more formidable competitor to fossil fuels.
(Photo: Solena Project by Abengoa Solar. Article via: New York Times, “Arizona Utility Tries Storing Solar Energy for Use in the Dark”)
Though the 2012 Olympic Games have come to a close, the landscape of London’s East End has been dramatically transformed for the long-term utilizing a ecologically-based design approach that has much in common with the Freshkills Park master plan.
According to The Dirt, nearly 250 acres of formerly-industrial land were turned into a beautiful setting for the Olympic venues inspired by Victorian and post-war English pleasure and festival gardens. The landscape design, by LDA Design and Hargreaves Associates, incorporated hillocks with views of the surrounding city, stormwater management practices including bioswales and rain gardens, and new bio-habitats such as wildflower meadows, wetlands, and wet and dry woodlands. The site designers even had an Olympic Park Biodiversity Action Plan to attract native species like kingfisher, sandmartin, and European eel! The River Lea, which flows through the site, was previously canalized, but now benefits from wider, more natural banks. All of these designed landscape improvements contributed to the 2012 Olympics being heralded as the most sustainable Olympic Games yet.
Many of the same types of interventions are being incorporated into Freshkills Park, as the former landfill site is transformed into an expanse of rolling hills and restored woodlands and wetlands. Many of the native flora and fauna have already begun to return to the site!
The Olympic site in London will now be converted to public park land. James Corner Field Operations (the landscape architecture firm that created the master plan for Freshkills Park) has re-designed a 55 acre piece of the new public park, set to open in 2014 as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. According to inhabitat.com:
The redesigned Olympic Park will include a 12-metre wide tree-lined promenade that will open up to a series of outdoor “rooms”, separated by tall grasses. These active spaces will host a classic carousel, an amphitheater and a play space with a climbing wall. There will also be spaces reserved for picnics, concerts and other events.
(via The Dirt)
After the success of The Highline in New York, it seems that every city is now attempting to transform abandoned or underused public spaces into lush urban parks. Treehugger has reported on the recent developments in unusually located parks, the latest being the Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, Texas. The 5.2 park, which is set to open this fall, is currently being constructed over a busy highway. The park itself will be built upon a deck-like structure, providing the surrounding neighborhood, and the city at large, with much needed public recreation spaces, including a pedestrian promenade, gardens, restaurants and performance pavilions.
While Klyde Warren Park represents Dallas’ admirable commitment to the revitalization and creation of urban green space, Treehugger duly notes that an even more enivronmentally and innovative friendly plan would have been if the city of Dallas had opted to convert the entire highway into a park, as they have done in Seoul, Korea.
The City of Seattle is implementing an innovative program to protect their reservoir water supply and create 76 acres of new open space. Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has already replaced five open reservoirs with underground structures – a system that both improves water quality and provides better security for the water supply – and an additional project is in the works. Seattle Parks & Recreation (Parks) is working to eventually transform the new open space into “full-fledged parks.”
As part of the program, SPU covers the new underground reservoir structures with a layer of drain rock, soil, grass and other low maintenance plants so the community can use the additional open space immediately. Parks will then work with the community to create master plans for the parks, which will move forward when funding becomes available. The total costs for converting the Beacon, Myrtle, Maple Leaf and West Seattle Reservoirs is estimated by SPU at $150 million. A portion of the funding comes from the 2000 ProParks Levy.
(via Seattle Public Utilities)
The Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) will be holding a FREE public event at 105 Water Street, Staten Island on Saturday, July 28th. Visitors will have a chance to preview the site-specific submissions to the 2012 LAGI NYC design competition, while also learning more about the interaction between renewable energy technologies, land art and public art. Attendees will get to take home a complementary copy of the LAGI publication, A Field Guide to Renewable Energy Technologies. We’re excited to see all the submissions and hope to see you there!
An interesting experiment in water pollution management is taking place in the Bronx River estuary near Hunts Point in New York City. Scientists are testing the use of a ‘Mussel Raft’ for addressing nitrogen pollution from treated sewage that ends up in the water from a nearby treatment facility.
Mussels are known for their filtration properties and are being tied to lines on the raft to assist in water filtration. Non-edible ribbed mussels were chosen in the hope they would not be harvested to be eaten. The mussels filter about 1.6 liters of water (0.4 gallons) every hour. Find the full story in The New York Times.
A new method for lighting spaces adjacent to urban waterways uses renewable energy powered by water currents. The ‘Light Reeds,’ from New York City-based Pensa, mimic the reeds you might find along creeks or other natural waterways and provide a more ambient light source than harsh street lights. The Light Reeds are powered by the water currents and an underwater rotor, and even sway with the currents. There’s a video of the innovative sustainable lighting product.
‘Renewable energy can be beautiful.’ That is the tagline for the 2012 Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) international design competition. The open LAGI competition calls for ideas to “design a site-specific public artwork that also functions as clean energy infrastructure for New York City.” This year the contest partners with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and the site is within the 2,200 acre Freshkills Park on Staten Island. There is a $20,000 jury-awarded prize and a related $1,000 design prize for high school students. The competition opened January 1, 2012 and will close on July 1, 2012.