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Thread: About urban regeneration and functionality

  1. #1
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    About urban regeneration and functionality

    Cities usualy change in time. It`s because people change, habits change, the level of human needs change. Major changes can take place in the city and must be neutralized for the stability of life and all of its domains.

    Recession and low funds now reorientate urban planners more to regeneration and functionality conversion/convergence by using the current existing infrastructure and buildings above it, than erasing everything, planning and renewing.

    Parts of the city deteriorate without even major changes, we don`t like those places, we don`t feel confortable on the street or inside the house. The environmental ambient isn`t as attractive as it once was for certain reasons, and finding those reasons and more, getting solutions to fix them is the hardest challenge. Like building a supercar from scrap, using lesser components makes the satisfaction bigger.

    If you know some examples that match my description, throw them in so we can learn from others experience ! I`ll post some a little bit later !

    ~Cristian

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Boy can I show you some things....
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Boy can I show you some things....
    It would be pretty nice if you would post those things here !

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    Adaptive reuse of existing buildings is what you're talking about--it is generally cheaper, "greener" and simpler than demolishing everything and starting over (you don't use an eraser to re-start a neighborhood from scratch, you use a wrecking ball.) It also has a more positive effect on local economies, because a higher percentage of the project cost is labor, instead of materials, and the money paid to the laborer gets spent in the local economy instead of shipped off for materials.

    Of course, in older cities that haven't been hit too hard by the big metal wrecking eraser, it's not such a big problem. Trying to revitalize boom-era suburbs may be a bigger problem.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cristian View post
    It would be pretty nice if you would post those things here !
    I would not even know where to start. Start by googling Detroit check out the photos and be ready to see some awful and incredible stuff.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    urban desert

    I heard a piece on the radio talking about how some demographer has determined that there is actually a lot of vacant and very underutilized land in Detroit itself (he called it "the urban desert") and that there is some planning taking place to relocate people and begin a lot of good, slow urban renewal. Is there any news from the inside? Is it exagerrated or is there really such a large amount of vacant land in Detroit proper?
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    The desert part is exagerated somewhat. I've heard that term mostly linked to grocery stores. While it is true there are very few chain grocery stores in the City, the City is not without grocery stores, farmers markets or produce terminals. Along a two-mile stretch of the main road in my 'hood are three independant groceries as well as several produce markets. Surprisingly I have a Super Walmart less than a mile from my home as well. Most of Detroit's population is on the periphery of the City and close to the chain grocery stores in the suburbs.

    Many of the inner city neighborhoods have markets, though there are some areas where primarilly you have the choice of the liour store or travelling out of the area to buy food. These are pretty rare though.

    Detroit's biggest problem lies in the fact that it was built at a time when the industry required a lot more workers. For example, the Model T factory paid great wages and employed 100,000 on four rotating shifts to keep production going 24 hours a day 7 days per week. Today's plants are so efficient that you can get the same output with a few thousand workers. In addition, there is a lot more competition for building Detroit's product; both internationally and domestically. The Detroit of yesterday continues to require fewer workers, hence opportunities dry up and no one has stepped up with many other industires in a way that replaces the jobs that are lost. Therefore people move away.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  8. #8
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Very interesting, thanks for the detail (you don't get that from the radio, you know?) It would be interesting to see if that "form" is taking shape anywhere else. I'd bet it's not completely unique to Detroit, though maybe modified or heightened because of the changes in the plants, like you described. Very, very cool. Thanks again.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wburg View post
    Adaptive reuse of existing buildings is what you're talking about--it is generally cheaper, "greener" and simpler than demolishing everything and starting over (you don't use an eraser to re-start a neighborhood from scratch, you use a wrecking ball.) It also has a more positive effect on local economies, because a higher percentage of the project cost is labor, instead of materials, and the money paid to the laborer gets spent in the local economy instead of shipped off for materials.
    I don't think that this is true at all. It's certainly not cheaper because adaptive reuse is labor intensive. It's also a whole lot more complicated because of the necessity of reconfiguring old buildings to more acceptable floorplans without compromising their structural integrity. There's also the issues of lead abatement and asbestos removal. Also, making these buildings more energy efficient is costly and complicated. Have you ever remodelled an old house?

    I'm also not sure that these projects are as "green" as claimed. The exterior materials that are reused -- brick, mortar, steel -- are less environmentally hazardous than many of the interior materials that go to the land fill in either case.

    Quote Originally posted by wburg View post
    Of course, in older cities that haven't been hit too hard by the big metal wrecking eraser, it's not such a big problem. Trying to revitalize boom-era suburbs may be a bigger problem.
    Why would it be a "bigger problem"? Inner ring suburbs that have maintained the integrity of their housing stock with tough building codes/timely inspections/zoning rules don't need a whole lot of "revitalization". If the municipality doesn't allow a neighborhood to sink into a slum, it never becomes one, and most suburban towns are pretty diligent.

    I think the problems in suburbs come primarily from older apartment buildings/complexes that may be allowed to fall into disrepair as well as from suburban neighborhoods where there are many multiple dwelling units rather than single family homes.

    A municipality that does NOT diligently guard against slum growth gets slums. For decades, the politicians in Buffalo, NY, have ignored the neighborhoods where people live to concentrate on downtown "revitalization". The result is that huge swaths of Buffalo's East Side are now either vacant lots or vacant housing, and many neighborhoods on the West Side are plagued by numerous vacant houses and the crime that seems to escalate with the number of these derelict buildings. Buffalo has about 20,000 vacant buildings.

    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Detroit's biggest problem lies in the fact that it was built at a time when the industry required a lot more workers. For example, the Model T factory paid great wages and employed 100,000 on four rotating shifts to keep production going 24 hours a day 7 days per week. Today's plants are so efficient that you can get the same output with a few thousand workers. In addition, there is a lot more competition for building Detroit's product; both internationally and domestically. The Detroit of yesterday continues to require fewer workers, hence opportunities dry up and no one has stepped up with many other industires in a way that replaces the jobs that are lost. Therefore people move away.
    That's pretty much the tale of Buffalo, too. Buffalo's major industries were transshipping (prior to the St Lawrence Seaway), steel and other heavy industry, and flour milling.
    Last edited by Gedunker; 06 Mar 2010 at 11:39 AM. Reason: seq. posts

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    I don't think that this is true at all. It's certainly not cheaper because adaptive reuse is labor intensive. It's also a whole lot more complicated because of the necessity of reconfiguring old buildings to more acceptable floorplans without compromising their structural integrity. There's also the issues of lead abatement and asbestos removal. Also, making these buildings more energy efficient is costly and complicated. Have you ever remodelled an old house?

    I'm also not sure that these projects are as "green" as claimed. The exterior materials that are reused -- brick, mortar, steel -- are less environmentally hazardous than many of the interior materials that go to the land fill in either case.
    It can be cheaper than building housing of the same quality. Sure, it may be cheaper to put up a modern building using the cheapest possible materials and designs resembling a cardboard box, but replacing historic buildings with new buildings of similar levels of fit, finish and materials costs a lot more. Rehabbing costs about the same as replacement with the cheapest modern building.

    Lead abatement and asbestos removal costs about as much to pull from a demolished building as a standing one--it's not like those materials wouldn't have gone to the dump in a teardown vs. a rehab. They still go and still have to be dealt with, they just go with a bunch of other things that didn't need to go to the dump.

    The materials that are reused, brick, mortar, steel--are energy-intensive to create and replace. The energy used to create the original building is long since "paid for" in that sense, if it is still usable demolishing it simply wastes that energy. And of course, many of the materials used to build old buildings--like old-growth redwood and clear-heart oak--are pretty much unavailable, short of sneaking in and logging protected sites in a few national forests. Plus there is the energy required for the new materials, and the energy for construction, demolition, and site clearance, and the added space in landfills for rubble and new-construction waste material. The energy cost of demolition and reconstruction is more than the power consumption of a building over the course of many decades.

    http://www.thegreenestbuilding.org/

    In terms of its effects on the local economy, more labor costs means more local positive economic effects. In terms of regulation, modifying an existing building is generally simpler than demo, approval and construction of a new building, in terms of time and permit costs--assuming that the city's zoning codes don't prohibit things like mixed-use buildings. And if backed up by incentives and policies at the local government level, can act as a powerful "stimulus" effect--the federal program "Save America's Treasures" created one job per $20,000 of federal spending, while the overall ARRA "stimulus" package is creating one job oer $200,000 of federal spending. More bang for the buck!

    http://www.placeeconomics.com/blog.html

    I have remodeled a couple of old houses--the first time I got suckered into vinyl windows, the second time I learned how to repair and rehab the old wood ones, as well as things like curtains and awnings. It's not all that hard, because old houses were built during an era when energy was more expensive. Ways to more efficiently use that expensive energy were built into the house's design. Houses built before about 1930-1940 are generally more energy-efficient than any homes built afterward, up until about a decade ago. In conjunction with modern approaches, they rehab very well indeed.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    I think you are both right.

    There is no question that fixing up all but the most derelict existing building (especially a bulding with some masonry) is more energy efficient (once you include the energy 'congealed' in producing new materials) than tearing down and rebuilding. It also has other, less fashionable, advantages.

    OTOH, if the clients/community is willing to accept the lowest-conmmon denominator for a given structure, then remodelling/rescuing an existing 'quality' building is cheaper than erecting some new atrocity.

    Like I keep saying, the ugly bix boxes and inhuman sprawl will only disappear if people make a conscious decision to stop shopping and living there.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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