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I loathe the term starchitect. All too frequently it’s employed to broadly dismiss any form of new architecture by painting architects (not just the good ones) as a ego-driven prima donnas. So you can imagine my dismay when Frank Gehry, the starchitect’s starchitect, opened his mouth and gave critics plenty of fodder by declaring that sustainability and the LEED rating system were “bogus” and “political.”

On the one hand he has a point. LEED is fraught with shortcomings. The fact that it gives equal weight to bicycle storage, which encourages environmentally responsible behavior, and heat island reduction, which actually provides an environmental benefit, is nutty. LEED-rated buildings in transit-inaccessible locations are generally less environmentally friendly than typical construction in … Continue reading

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Guest blogger: Lisa Mroszczyk

Yes, you read that right.  Many older buildings, particularly those constructed prior to 1920, are green. May is National Preservation Month and the National Trust for Historic Preservation is using the month-long celebration to highlight the important role that older and historic buildings play in environmentally and economically sustainable communities.

Often, older buildings were designed and built to work with the environment. Buildings with operable windows provide natural ventilation and daylight. Covered porches, awnings and shutters reduce solar heat gain in the warmer months. Thoughtful orientation of the building on its site maximizes wind and sun patterns.  In fact, U.S. Energy Information Agency research establishes that buildings built prior to 1920 are more energy efficient … Continue reading

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Apparently, Park and Planning is keeping pace with Google, PepsiCo, and Best Buy. As this New York Times article recounts, corporate vegetable gardens are the thing. Whether they are a way to break down corporate hierarchies, provide an employee benefit, or build green credibility, velvety sod is giving way to staked tomatoes.

Our garden is also linked to another news story. Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity task force released its report yesterday and among its recommendations: access to healthy affordable food. If the sun cooperates, our vegetables will be right outside our front door, just a few steps past the vending machine.

We planted yesterday and will post pictures soon.

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Last night, a full and diverse audience enjoyed a panel discussion with Tebabu Assefa, Rassa Davoodpour, Megan Moriarty, and Reemberto Rodriguez about the County’s changing demographics.

And I’m talking to you about it on this blog. While technology can make it easy for us to reach out, Davoodpour wonders if we are really communicating. Moriarity and the other panelists agreed, the best way to use social media is to layer it with personal relationships.

Despite the fact that Montgomery is about to become a non-anglo majority County, we still have “a way” of doing things, sometimes, as Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson pointed out, the same 200 people moving from room to room to make decisions.

So how do … Continue reading

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Last weekend we visited the Glover-Archbald Community Garden, near DC’s National Cathedral (and 2Amys Pizza!), to drop off some straw for a friend’s patch (Image above lifted from Prince of Petworth).  Nearly three acres, the community garden is one of several associated with the District’s Field to Fork Initiative.  Our Montgomery County Parks Department Community Gardens Program is a similar effort.  For folks without the proper room or aspect for gardens in their yards, community garden plots are an excellent opportunity to bring nature into more urbanized areas, connect people back to the soil, and produce some mighty fine fruit and veg in the process.

In addition to the programs mentioned above, urban agriculture is on the minds of … Continue reading

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There’s a new approach to that great American pastime–consumption–that may inspire thrift and creativity. As part of the Rethink speaker’s series, we heard from  Adeela Abbasi with the Restore, Ruthie Mundell with Community Forklift, and Jason Holstine with Kensignton’s Amicus Green Building Center.

Restore and Forklift resell used and usable building materials from doorknobs to floor joists. And they accept donations, from a contractor who ordered the wrong item or a homeowner sick of storing the half box of tiles from a years-ago bathroom renovation.

Amicus does all the homework to help you make the best green building decisions for your lifestyle and budget. Jason pointed out that often the inexpensive and least sexy option is the best–think insulating before geo-thermal.

We were … Continue reading

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One phrase in this Slate Magazine article about hand-drawn maps snagged on my brain–“ruthless editing.”

Sometimes planners love their stuff so much it’s hard to let it go. On a map about bike routes, do you need to show lot lines? Does the boundary line need to appear on every map?

We know we’ll hear what you think about our zoning recommendations, but check out our plans and tell us what you think about our maps.

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The debate over “plop art” continues – especially when art seems to provide more fizz than substance. Four sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle, which now sit outside the National Museum of Women in the Arts on New York Avenue, have some wondering if our exterior public spaces are given the same respect as our hallowed museum walls.

Despite their rotund nature, our local Post critic thinks they lack “weight”. Agreed. To a point. His take on it is that such engaging and fun works lack the potency of the subject matter on the canvases and sculptures within the area’s museums; that there is a dichotomy between our expectations of exterior and interior sculptures. As noted, some of de … Continue reading

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I think there is a particular kind of aesthetic beauty in the simple repetition of forms over large expanses of contrasting landscape. Even more so when those repeated forms provide sustainable energy.  The just-approved off-shore wind farm is one such example, solar “farms” are another.

Artists’ rendering of Cape Wind, via NY Times 

The well-heeled opposition to the mentioned wind farm has only posed the aesthetic argument that this visual intrusion into the seascape must by definition be negative.  I disagree.  I think it’s quite attractive, calming, and interesting.  I think the connotations only increase our appreciation of the natural environment that serves as the backdrop (or, more appropriately, the visual context/physical participant).  My interpretation is built on the … Continue reading

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For a County with few options when it comes to food cart dining, their potential sure has garnered a lot of attention. While I’ve always supported the idea of street vendors, much like I’ve supported the Washington Nationals since they moved to town – quietly, from a distance, without much thought – today I found new reason to throw my support behind sidewalk food sales.

After a meeting downtown this morning, I walked out of a drab, aging K Street office lobby overcome by hunger. In the block and a half between me and the Farragut North Metro entrance were three separate carts, each peddling their own heat-lamp and steam-cooked delicacies. My mouth watered. My stomach growled. My saliva … Continue reading