October 2010

As zoning codes become more sopisticated and/or cumbersome (depending on the code and how you look at it) with regards to urban form, some municipalities are adding solar access to the mix of criteria that new development and rehabs must comply with. By solar access we do not mean residents being able to claim rights to a certain amount sun shining into their dwellings (and thus being provided with yet more grounds for opposing development), but rather residents being able to claim rights to the sun as it could be harnessed for existing or potential solar power. Boulder, Colorado is one of the first municipalities to fold solar access into its zoning codes with regards to built form. Within certain zones, new development and additions have to comply with a set of spatial criteria that seek to minimize how much that development blocks the sun from reaching solar panels on adjacent dwellings and buildings. While perhaps not of the utmost concern in low-rise suburban residential areas in the Southwest, the potential for existing and new solar panels finding difficulty catching the sun’s rays could be adversely affected as cities begin to densify and build upwards. To these ends, Boulder is taking one of the first steps to ensure that a more solar-friendly density can unfold within the evolving American city.

Read more

Infrastructure in the US is rapidly falling apart. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently graded the condition of the nation’s infrastructure, and gave it a D, with the disaster of the Minneapolis I-35 Bridge collapse a tragic and wholly avoidable case in point. What is perhaps more troubling than the ongoing decline of the nation’s roads, rail systems, and bridges, is the simultaneous surge in efforts to block any and all funding for improvements to this infrastructure. This anti-tax have-your-roads-and-drive-on-them-too mentality, rooted in pure ideology, fails to explain where funding sources will come from to maintain the vast network of infrastructure we use on a daily basis. We are hard-pressed to find one American whose life consists of living completely off the grid and never once setting wheel or foot on a public road – but, feel free to call our bluff.

Read more