Boston Cleans Up the Harbour

Boston has had problems with sewage and keeping water clean, and all of that is set to change thanks to a new initiative. They are are going to increase fines on people illegally dumping sewage and use that money to clean up the waterways surrounding the city.

“Boston is entering a bold new phase as a city poised to lead the nation in clean water,’’ said Anthony Iarrapino, lead attorney on the case for the Conservation Law Foundation.

The agreement includes a penalty of $395,000, but the real cost will be much higher as the Water and Sewer Commission fixes problems that it promised to correct under the agreement. John P. Sullivan Jr., chief engineer of the water agency, said ratepayers will see increases as a result of the settlement, but he said the agency will not know how much until it performs an analysis next year.

“We were doing many of these projects anyway,’’ said Sullivan, whose assessment was echoed by local environmental groups and the Conservation Law Foundation. “Now, we have strict deadlines.”

Read more here.

Build a City by Limiting Parking

Parking spaces for automobiles take away precious land from other uses and too many parking spaces can effectively kill a community. In Boston where they do anything to ensure cars reign supreme urban planners are turning their backs on providing parking spaces in order to revitalize the city.

The pro-car attitude is very 20th century and it’s good to see that more and more cities in North America are finding ways to ensure people can use the city as more than a place to drive and work.

City planners are in the middle of an extensive re-thinking of Boston’s zoning codes. As they work, neighborhood by neighborhood, to update the code, they’re flipping the conventional thinking about parking on its head: Instead of mandating that minimum levels of parking accompany new developments, they’re pushing to establish maximum parking caps.

Minimum parking requirements are relics of a time when urban vitality depended on developers’ ability to draw suburbanites into the city to work, shop, or live. As the suburbs boomed, cities imported suburban-style infrastructure and grafted it onto a decaying urban fabric. The result wasn’t just a landscape scarred by highways and pockmarked by monolithic concrete parking garages; this postwar shift also left reams of zoning code built on the assumption that the world revolved around the automobile.

Patterns of living, and travel, have evolved. Residents now work and shop in closer proximity to their homes. The city is no longer at the automobile’s mercy. But zoning hasn’t caught up to this new reality. Until now.

Environmental officials imposed flat parking caps downtown during the 1970s, but this new approach is surgical. The old parking cap made wide allowances for automobiles at residential developments. City planners are now arguing that residential developments should be given less leeway, not more, since many urban residents don’t need a car to get to work. That’s true in the Back Bay and downtown, and especially along the waterfront, where the BRA is trying to create a critical mass of technology and innovation firms by pushing small business incubators and cheap live-work space.

Developers aren’t huge fans of large parking requirements for urban apartment buildings, since parking garages are expensive to construct. Often, the cost of building parking spaces can make or break a project. Developers are also finding that renters aren’t demanding as many parking spots as they used to. Archstone’s Chinatown tower, for example, was built with a glut of excess parking; the last two residential towers to enter permitting in that neighborhood have been designed with dramatically lower quantities of parking. And the envelope can be pushed even further.

Read the rest at the Boston Globe.

House Made From Big Dig Materials

The Big Dig was a transportation infrastructure project for Boston that built a giant underground tunnel for automobiles. An architecture firm got their hands on left over building materials from the insanely expensive underground highway and decided to build a house.

As a prototype building that demonstrates how infrastructural refuse can be salvaged and reused, the structural system for this 3,400sf house is comprised of steel and concrete discarded from Boston’s Big Dig utilizing over 600,000 lbs of salvaged materials from elevated portions of the now dismantled I-93 highway. Planning the reassembly of the materials in a similar way one would systematically compose with a pre-fab system, subtle spatial arrangements are created from the large-scale highway components.

Solar Powered Trash

trash binBoston has got some new trash receptacles on their sidewalks that are solar powered trash compactors. It means that more trash can fit in a box without costing the city, the city might even be able to save money because the bins don’t need to be collected as much. This is a yet one more neat use of solar power.

“Developed by a Jamaica Plain inventor, they are powered by photoelectric panels, which supply power to motor-driven compactors inside. Workers extract neat, 40-pound trash bricks instead of trying to manhandle the messy contents of an overflowing can.”

Boston is not the first city to use this technology though. There are bins located in Vancouver; Cincinnati; Queens, N.Y.; Needham; Newton; and Worcester. What city is next?

A novel use of the sun, however, they still need some work as “some people downtown mistook them for mail drops or traffic-light switch boxes.”

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