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Skyscrapers in Paris and "green density"

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  • Christopher Miller
    From Fast Company online, this article about plans by Foster + Partners to build a sustainable skyscraper development in Paris:
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 13, 2009
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      From Fast Company online, this article about plans by Foster +
      Partners to build a "sustainable" skyscraper development in Paris:


      Foster + Partners are the same group responsible for the overall
      design of Masdar in Abu Dhabi. Seems they are taking Old Paris to Abu
      Dhabi and transporting the suburbs of New Dubai to Paris...

      The end of the article online has a link to an opinion piece in
      todayy's New York Times at http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/the-lorax-was-wrong-skyscrapers-are-green/?hp
      which argues that urban density is greener than living in
      suburbia. Various points in this article can be contested but one
      important thing among them is the author's simplistic contention that
      skyscrapers are possibly the most sustainable building form. He seems
      to ignore the fact that the most prominent skyscrapers in New York
      City are nonresidential, and that density (high overall F[loor]/A[rea]
      R[atio] can be achieved other ways, i.e. by mid-high density
      residential building more evenly distributed over a given area rather
      than superhigh density building alternating with very low density
      automobile transportation corridors.


      Foster + Partners Building Sustainable Twin Skyscrapers in ParisBY
      Ariel SchwartzFri Mar 13, 2009 at 9:09 AM


      Mixed-use buildings are becoming increasingly popular, and now famed
      architecture firm Foster + Partners is tossing its hat into the ring
      with the tallest mixed-use towers in Western Europe.
      Hermitage Plaza will consist of the two 1,060-foot high buildings and
      a public piazza running to the River Seine. The towers will house
      everything from a hotel and spa to apartments and offices. Shops will
      be built at the base of the structures.
      Foster + Partners hope to achieve an BREEAM "excellent" rating --
      comparable to a high LEED rating--with help from the towers' glazed
      facade panels that catch light throughout the day and promote self-
      shading. Vents can also be opened to bring fresh air inside. And of
      course, mixed-use, high-density buildings always deserve kudos for
      minimizing transportation needs by providing multiple services in one
      place. As a recent Green Inc. post speculated, maybe skyscrapers
      really are the most sustainable buildings around.
      [Via Inhabitat]


      Tags: Innovation, Technology, Ethonomics, skyscrapers, Foster +
      Partners, pars


      Here is the NYT "green density" piece. Again, the comments at the
      online article contain a series of very good rejoinders:
      March 10, 2009, 7:04 AMThe Lorax Was Wrong: Skyscrapers Are GreenBy


      Edward L. Glaeser is an economics professor at Harvard.

      In Dr. Seuss� environmentalist fable, �The Lorax,� the Once-ler, a
      budding textile magnate, chops down Truffula to knit �Thneeds.�

      Over the protests of the environmentally sensitive Lorax, the Once-ler
      builds a great industrial town that despoils the environment, because
      he �had to grow bigger.� Eventually, the Once-ler overdoes it, and he
      chops down the last Truffula tree, destroying the source of his
      income. Chastened, Dr. Seuss�s industrialist turns green, urging a
      young listener to take the last Truffula seed and plant a new forest.

      Some of the lessons told by this story are correct. From a purely
      profit-maximizing point of view, the Once-ler is pretty inept, because
      he kills his golden goose. Any good management consultant would have
      told him to manage his growth more wisely. One aspect of the story�s
      environmentalist message, that bad things happen when we overfish a
      common pool, is also correct.

      But the unfortunate aspect of the story is that urbanization comes off
      terribly. The forests are good; the factories are bad. Not only does
      the story disparage the remarkable benefits that came from the mass
      production of clothing in 19th-century textile towns, it sends exactly
      the wrong message on the environment. Contrary to the story�s implied
      message, living in cities is green, while living surrounded by forests
      is brown.

      By building taller and taller buildings, the Once-ler was proving
      himself to be the real environmentalist.

      Matthew Kahn, a U.C.L.A. environmental economist, and I looked across
      America�s metropolitan areas and calculated the carbon emissions
      associated with a new home in different parts of the country. We
      estimated expected energy use from driving and public transportation,
      for a family of fixed size and income. We added in carbon emissions
      from home electricity and home heating. We didn�t try to take on the
      far thornier issues related to commercial or industrial energy use.

      This exercise wasn�t meant to be some sort of environmental beauty
      contest, but an estimate of the environmental costs and benefits
      associated with living in different parts of the country. In a recent
      City Journal article, I gave a brief (and somewhat polemical) synopsis
      of the results.

      In almost every metropolitan area, we found the central city residents
      emitted less carbon than the suburban counterparts. In New York and
      San Francisco, the average urban family emits more than two tons less
      carbon annually because it drives less. In Nashville, the city-suburb
      carbon gap due to driving is more than three tons. After all, density
      is the defining characteristic of cities. All that closeness means
      that people need to travel shorter distances, and that shows up
      clearly in the data.

      While public transportation certainly uses much less energy, per
      rider, than driving, large carbon reductions are possible without any
      switch to buses or rails. Higher-density suburban areas, which are
      still entirely car-dependent, still involve a lot less travel than the
      really sprawling places. This fact offers some hope for greens eager
      to reduce carbon emissions, since it is a lot easier to imagine
      Americans driving shorter distances than giving up their cars.

      But cars represent only one-third of the gap in carbon emissions
      between New Yorkers and their suburbanites. The gap in electricity
      usage between New York City and its suburbs is also about two tons.
      The gap in emissions from home heating is almost three tons. All told,
      we estimate a seven-ton difference in carbon emissions between the
      residents of Manhattan�s urban aeries and the good burghers of
      Westchester County. Living surrounded by concrete is actually pretty
      green. Living surrounded by trees is not.

      The policy prescription that follows from this is that
      environmentalists should be championing the growth of more and taller
      skyscrapers. Every new crane in New York City means less low-density
      development. The environmental ideal should be an apartment in
      downtown San Francisco, not a ranch in Marin County.

      Of course, many environmentalists will still prefer to take their cue
      from Henry David Thoreau, who advocated living alone in the woods.
      They would do well to remember that Thoreau, in a sloppy chowder-
      cooking moment, burned down 300 acres of prime Concord woodland. Few
      Boston merchants did as much environmental harm, which suggests that
      if you want to take good care of the environment, stay away from it
      and live in cities.


      Christopher Miller
      Montreal QC Canada

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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