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Posts Tagged ‘future’

The Urban Land Institute released an important report today on real estate trends to 2020, asking the question that is on everyone’s mind – what’s next? The report is tied to the 75th anniversary of ULI. Two years ago, prognosticators were looking for green shoots. Today, organizations like ULI are finally acknowledging the effects of the Great Recession/Lesser Depression as “fundamental societal change.” The major findings of ULI are summarized as:

  • Technology will reshape work places. Office tenants will decrease space per employee, and new office environments will need to promote interaction and dialogue. Offices will be transforming into meeting places more than work places, with an emphasis on conference rooms, break areas and open configurations. Developers will craft attractive environments to attract young, talented workers.
  • Major companies will value space that enables innovation. They will continue to pay more for space in a global gateway served by a major international airport, or in 24-hour urban centers. Hard-to-reach suburban work places will be less in demand.
  • The influx of Generation Y, now in their teens through early thirties, will change housing demand. They are comfortable with smaller homes and will happily trade living space for an easier commute and better lifestyle. They will drive up the number of single households and prompt a surge in demand for rentals, causing rents to escalate.
  • For most people, finances will still be constrained, leading to more shared housing and multi-generational households. Immigration will support that trend, as many immigrants come from places where it is common for extended families to share housing. This may be the one group that continues to drive demand for large, suburban homes.
  • The senior population will grow fastest, but financial constraints could limit demand for adult housing developments. Many will age in place or move in with relatives to conserve money. Developers may want to recast retirement communities into amenity-laden “age friendly” residences. Homes near hospitals and medical offices will be popular, especially if integrated into mixed-use neighborhoods with shops, restaurants and services.
  • Energy and infrastructure take on greater importance. Businesses cannot afford to have their network connections down, and more will consider self-generated power or onsite generator capacity. Developers, owners and investors are realizing that the slightly higher costs of energy- and water-saving technologies can pay for themselves quickly, creating more marketable and valuable assets. Ignoring sustainability issues speeds property obsolescence.

On Asia and Europe:

  • Nearly all Asian countries are going through a radical urban transformation, and many believe that the next decade of Asian urbanization will drive the global economy. By 2020, China alone will have 400 cities with populations over 1 million. Asia’s surging middle class is projected to reach an amazing 1.7 billion in 2020. Water availability—and the maturation of real estate capital markets—will be major issues.
  • In Europe, the global financial crisis has made investment capital increasingly hard to obtain. Resilient cities, those with a strong city government and high degree of market trust with investors and businesses, will be most attractive to investors. With companies operating in increasingly global markets and citizens expressing a desire to reduce their commute times, European cities must place an even greater emphasis on effective, state-of-the-art transportation systems.
And the effects on urban planning and design?

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Zombies? Well, you’ll have to read past the break for those! Until then, some rather dry … that is, critically important … discussion of research in landscape architecture.  : )

Practitioners in the academy are often an awkward fit. Professional education (e.g., landscape architecture) sits alongside natural science, social science, and humanities disciplines in university settings, and yet the culture of academic programs in the professions can differ sharply from the rest of the campus. Longer hours spent in studio classes, more time spent on outreach/service to communities, and research focused on applied problems are typical differences for faculty in professional design programs. Research productivity differences between practice-oriented faculty and faculty in other academic disciplines can be significant. On university campuses across the U.S., there is increasing demand by administrators for greater research output by all academic units, and these demands have created consternation in some landscape architecture circles. How do we maintain the traditional culture of professional education in landscape architecture and also begin to resemble more our research colleagues in natural science, social science, or the humanities?

The answer for some landscape architecture academics has been to adopt the research strategies of either natural science, social science, or the humanities, in some cases aided by Ph.D.s in a traditional research discipline. Urban and regional planning programs are largely populated with Ph.D.s in political science, economics, and other social sciences (usually with a lawyer thrown in for good measure), but with few faculty who have ever practiced planning. Could that be the future of landscape architecture education too?  Some clues to another possible future after the break. (more…)

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Here’s an interesting synopsis of global initiatives by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from a speech delivered to Sydney University on September 8th. How/to what extent the aspirations are fulfilled, of course, is key, but the aims are impressive. The Secretary General was seeking to counter the common belief that countries around the world are hamstrung in their attempts to mitigate climate change. He pointed to some good news, while also being clear about the long road ahead. The entire speech can be found here.

China has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity by up to 45 per cent in the next decade. It now produces half of the world’s wind and solar equipment and is growing its capacity rapidly. It has already surpassed the United States to lead the world in installed clean-energy capacity. The European Union has committed to cut emissions by at least 20 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020, regardless of what actions other countries take. The European Union’s commitment has not wavered, even in the face of tough economic times.

Mexico has launched a plan to reduce 51 million tons of carbon dioxide next year alone. That’s equal to four-and-a-half years of pollution from all the vehicles in Mexico City. Korea devoted 80 per cent of its stimulus programme to green growth, an investment that stands to deliver major economic, as well as environmental, benefits. India is also in the race, planning to increase investment in the clean energy sector by more than 350 per cent in this decade.

Japan is aiming to create 1.4 million new green jobs. Denmark is moving to be free of fossil fuels by 2050. Brazil committed to reducing its deforestation rate by 80 per cent by the year 2020 and is years ahead of schedule – even as it also continues to prove renewable energy can power a major economy.

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Susan Riya, Director of the New York State Water Resources Institute, shared the following map with the State of Upstate conference attendees in June. I have been thinking of this map ever since. The map was derived from the hydrologic landscape regions of the United States dataset published by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2003. It depicts the ratio of potential evapotranspiration (PET) to precipitation (PPT).

Hydrologic Landscape Regions of the U.S.

What is striking to me is the blue swath that runs from the tip of Maine to Louisiana as well as the lighter blue area along the Eastern Seaboard. I have called many communities in these two regions home; I know the landscape well. The map depicts current conditions, and I am eager to see similar maps that depict projected change. I know that New York State is expected to remain water-rich, and I suspect that much of the darker blue region will as well. But the area along the seaboard, especially the Southeast (portions of Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia), has already been experiencing droughts, and I fear that the region might be much drier in the future. Personally, I think it would be heartbreaking to see the steamy lushness replaced by crunchy dryness! The other effect is that the cool, water-rich places will be very attractive to people escaping the heat and dry conditions. New York State – get ready for a resurgence in population!

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What do you do when historical data is no longer useful for predicting the future? Climate change is making the already-difficult proposition of predicting environmental phenomena even harder. Consider societal efforts to manage the flood system. The concept of a 100-year flood is based on the idea that history is useful indicator of future states and “most likely” scenarios. A 2010 paper by Gersonius et al.* tackles the question of how we might begin to plan for shifts in flooding regimes by using adaptive management strategies. This paper is at the leading edge of climate adaptation design research, and there is a need for much more.

Gersonius et al. contrast the traditional approach with an adaptive approach. They say that traditional approaches are based on the assumption “that it is possible to define a singular optimum adaptation strategy according to the ‘most likely’ or average future projection” (p.15). Big investments of public dollars are common with the traditional approach – essentially a large bet on the promise of a singular optimum strategy (one-off interventions). The paper’s authors argue for an adaptively resilient approach instead, an approach better suited to the uncertainties of climate change.

Rather than taking a traditional approach, responsible climate adaptation requires an alternative approach that attempts to assess and manage the resiliency of the flooding system for long-term future change. The aim of this approach is to keep the system within a configuration of states that give at least acceptable functioning despite the occurrence of possible changes (Walker et al. 2002**). This means that the approach acknowledges that projections are ‘always wrong’ and that it is necessary to plan for a range of possible future conditions.

The authors’ modeling results suggest that adaptation decisions that include LEARNING about future climate parameters could reduce overall costs between 5 and 17% over a single high risk traditional, or “robust,” intervention. The figure below illustrates the concept.

(a) Adaptively resilient approach contrasted with (b) traditional "robust" approach

*Gersonius et al. 2010. Managing the flooding system’s resiliency to climate change. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers ES1: 15-22.

** Walker et al. 2002. Resilience management in social-ecological systems: A working hypothesis for a participatory approach. Conservation Ecology 6:14.

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Kat West, head of the Multnomah County (Portland, OR) Office of Sustainability had a lot of sleepless nights as she considered the possibility of climate refugees inundating her region as the West and Midwest become increasingly drought-stricken. How can you plan for something that is so uncertain? What if a wave of refugees does become reality and you haven’t prepared at all?

As West helped draft the Climate Action Plan three years ago and pored over research on climate disruption, she found herself unable to sleep at night.

“Then I came to a place: I can try to make my community as resilient as possible. And that allowed me to sleep again.”

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Search online for “sprawl is dead” or “end of sprawl,” and, not surprisingly I think, you’ll find a lot of articles and blog posts (e.g., How History Killed the Suburb and Beyond the Requiem for Sprawl). The Great Recession has decimated sprawl for the foreseeable future according to a growing consensus. But talk to a group of die-hard sprawl warriors, and you’ll find them still engrossed in battle planning or, at a minimum, on guard for sprawl’s return. It’s understandable, I suppose, given the amount of passion that some people devoted to the anti-sprawl effort, but it is now time to redirect those passions. Dan Bertolet of the Citytank blog provides a handy list of “well-documented and intensifying megatrends” that suggest it’s reasonable to redirect energy.

And now there’s speculation that we’ve even reached “peak car use” in cities all across the developed world. Eric Jaffe of The Infrastructurist makes this argument yesterday, giving us 6 reasons why driving has peaked in the U.S. Can you wrap your head around that idea? It’s more amazing than the collapse of the homebuilding industry. I think these megatrends mean that we can stop railing against the bubble-fueled Growth Machine, which was a monstrous force, no doubt, and now focus on another set of forces that are also beyond our control – the ones listed in the Citytank and Infrastructurist blogs. These forces are much more in line with what planners and designers have been hoping for. Perhaps now is the time to act on those dreams, limited budgets notwithstanding.

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When a community’s best hope for site redevelopment is a Kwik Trip. News from the Twin Cities. This relates to a prior post on the land use effects of a weak economy. The American landscape is shifting. I do not believe that we are talking about this enough and analyzing the implications – for communities, for our professions, for education.

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I say broadly! Several posts in this blog are directed at new graduates and job seekers (check the Recession Watch category to the right). This one follows in that vein. It is common for landscape architecture education to be narrowly tailored and made to conform to accreditation standards. This means that the end goal of landscape architecture education has been traditional design practice, even if that goal is unstated (there have always been alternative career paths). Curricula are developed to facilitate this outcome and maintain accreditation. What happens if the likely outcomes for graduates are something other than traditional design practice, as is happening now? What does that mean for the value of LA design education? If traditional LA practice were the only use for a LA education, we’d be doomed. As a pragmatic type, I’ve struggled with this question. But I’ve decided that a design education, and a landscape architecture design education in particular, is a tremendous opportunity for students these days – even if the slim job offerings say otherwise. Why would I say that? (more…)

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2010, 2005, 2007, 2009, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2004, 2001. What do these years have in common? They are the top 10 hottest years (in descending order), according to NASA, since records began in 1870. 2010 and 2005 are tied for being the hottest years (combined land and ocean surface temperatures). So what was going on in 2008? I guess it’s the data point that “proves” nothing is going on?  😉

What can physical planners and designers do to help people, especially city-dwellers, adjust to a future of deadly heat waves? Designers already have the knowledge and skills to create comfortable outdoor spaces, but can heat-mitigating designs be ramped up to a scale necessary to save lives? How would we do this? What more do we need to know? All new research begins with a review of what we already know, and I have an initial summary of research literature for this topic. If this interests you, click here to read more. The diagram below (click on the image for a better view) is referenced in the link. And if you experienced a snowmageddon or snowpocalypse last winter, you might summon up that memory now as an escape from the high temps of July and August.

Framework for reducing urban vulnerability to extreme heat (Wilhelmi and Hayden 2010)

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