The Original Green Blog
This blog discusses in plain-spoken terms various in-depth aspects of Steve Mouzon’s proposition of the Original Green, which is that originally, before the Thermostat Age, the places we made and the buildings we built had no choice but to be green. The Original Green is holistic sustainability, and broader than Gizmo Green. If this blog interests you, please subscribe to it by clicking the RSS button to the right.
The following are tweet-casts of the Atypical Building Types session at CNU22 in Buffalo last week. I’ve edited the tweets lightly whenever I remembered something else the speaker said.
• Simple, flexible, & replicable: those are our new flex-building ideals.
• We want to be able to aggregate buildings in small increments because that’s what makes financing work in today’s market.
• The keys to making incremental buildings work are paying attention to fronts, backs, & shared courtyards.
• The most adaptable buildings are a designed on a single chassis that allows many buildouts over time.
• I'll talk about Baldwin Park and several types we use that have good vertical mix.
• We're all about getting stuff implemented, not just being theoretical.
• Building type choice is one of the most important, if not the single most important, decision we ever make in place-making.
• New types need to be "better than market" to really show the success of the type, otherwise nobody will take a chance on building them if they’re not more compelling.
• “Individual entry stacked flats” is a term we use for units that are similar to a mansion apartment… so long as it’s the type of mansion apartment that has only one front door.
• Individual entry stacked flats are a great way of integrating 1 bedroom units into an existing larger-home context because it doesn’t seem like you’re building out of character with the neighborhood.
• Individual entry stacked flats can look just like townhouses when they’re attached.
• Individual entry stacked flats bulk out to fit in a street full of larger row houses.
• Multi-entry stacked flats are great corner units because they can have entries on each frontage.
• Flex units can attune well to the market because of their adaptability to today's market.
• Flex units are designed to easily morph from their inaugural residential condition to retail when the time is right.
• The first level of a flex building should be a 1-story flat because that's what converts to retail later on.
• The podium building is most far-reaching & evolving type in our toolbox today. It mixes construction types, pushing wood to its limits in the code.
• CNU should take a lot of credit with the push for podium buildings, which let us build 5-6 story buildings.
• A podium building is typically concrete on the main level, with a 4-level wood building above.
• SuperWood buildings are a new type of podium building composed of 5 stories of wood construction (type 3A) on a concrete podium with upgraded fire rating on all exterior walls.
• SuperWood buildings can put bigger box retail in the concrete base.
• The concrete first level of podium buildings can be extra-tall for large tenants who need tall ceilings.
• Viewed from downhill, our new SuperWood building is an amazing thing to see, with a tall main level and two lower parking decks. All told, it looks like 9-story mostly-wood building!
• Let's look at Julie Sanford's Edge Dwellers.
• In America, we've created construction where we can't live in buildings without outside air.
• There are many international sources of design inspiration for these case study houses.
• Edge dwellers are designed to produce more energy than they use.
• All of these case study houses are meant to be built of locally available materials.
• The tent dweller is a model of disengagement with the land, hovering lightly above it.
• The eco-dweller admits natural light & amplifies breezes, and is meant to live off the grid.
• Eco-dwellers are raised on piers, treading very lightly on the land, preserving existing drainage patterns.
• Our Belize project aims to reinvigorate local traditions of hardwood construction.
• These Belize cottages have no insulation in exterior walls, and are built without highly skilled labor.
• The Belize cottages reduce the number of layers we typically build in a building. What you see is what you get: studs, sheathing, and siding.
• We want to build a much smaller conditioned core of the building.
• After the meltdown, the lenders weren't there any more, so builders could no longer build spec houses. In some ways, this was a good thing.
• The problem is, you can't get the pace of construction to sustain a project without the financing of individual buildings.
• One of the greatest puzzles to American construction today is how to increase the capacity of building without the financing we once had.
• We are now looking at modular construction to boost our capacity.
• Modular is not less expensive than good stick construction - it's about the same. The bonus is speed.
• We're doing Marianne Cusato modular designs by Clayton Homes.
• One really interesting thing about modular is that it fits great on the tiny lots of old towns because the modules have to be small enough to travel down the highway.
• Going from the staging area to the building site in an existing town with a modular house can be an adventure. We have a special subcontractor for that.
• “Lift off” is that moment when your heart's in your throat with a modular house in the air and destined to go between two existing houses.
• The smallest cottages have porches built with the house in the factory. Larger houses have site-built porches.
• This presentation is mainly about the building types I'm not allowed to build.
• My idea for this new type began with English leasehold from the Middle Ages.
• Today, the threshold of an urban development is to have a pro forma that's better than surface parking.
• Here’s the core question: How do you get the price down so low you don't need a public-private partnership for an urban infill?
• You can get tremendous variation along a street just by making the boxes a little larger or smaller than the ones next door.
• Our tiny incremental $300,000 building in New Haven has 6 tiny units & flex space on street… and still, the landowner elected to keep his surface parking!
• My day job is to work for a luxury apartment developer. At night, I do townhousecenter.org.
• T4 didn't really exist before Miami21. It now applies to about 1,000 acres in the city.
• If we can figure out T4 in Miami, we can build quite a lot of it as successional upzoning occurs.
• We designed a 25' wide row house type to fit two abreast on Miami’s typical 50’ lots.
• Our Miami townhouse type doesn't have parking. Miami21 requires 1.5 spaces/unit, which is a problem.
• We're working on an exemption to off-street parking for small buildings near transit in Miami.
I will write up my presentation and post it sometime soon.
• Roughly ⅔ of the buildings once existing in New England have been torn down.
• It is interesting that parking is considered part of the burden of the lot rather than part of transport system.
• Someone should initiate a parking credit for blocks with Zipcars.
• The key to the best new building types is funding that doesn't require Wall Street.
• The biggest problems with live-works are fire codes & finance.
• CNU is working with the FHA to get the allowable percentage of work area in live/works increased.
• Working at home should be a basic human right.
Plans can be poetic on several levels, from simple sensual beauty to deeply embedded meaning. Great planners create profound poetry in their best plans, and while this doesn’t rise to those levels, I feel it is some of my best work. Here’s what it means:
CNU kicked off last year in Salt Lake City with a competition to redesign the Mormon Block. Salt Lake City is built of these mammoth blocks, measuring 660 feet on a side and containing exactly 10 acres. What do you do with blocks that big? Because the Original Green’s ideas on Nourishable Places had an early influence on Agrarian Urbanism, I was asked to lead a session on Agrarian Urbanism and the Mormon Block. My competition entry on Wednesday served as the basis for my presentation on Saturday.
The idea of putting a garden in the city has potential story lines that trace back thousands of years. In the Judaeo-Christian heritage, paradise at the beginning of the world was a garden and at world’s end, it will be a city. Many of the most beautiful places on earth not yet ruined by sprawl put these two ideals together, allowing you to look directly from the city out into the countryside, such as this view from High Street in Broadway, one of the most beautiful towns in England's Cotswold hills.
It is just as poetic to see the town in the distance from the countryside, so long as the town is small enough to perceive all at once, like Chipping Camden is as seen from this meadow. The trick to building a garden inside a Mormon Block is that there’s no way you’ll feel like you’re out in the countryside because you simply cannot get that far from the urbanism all around the edge of the block. And while a small patch of garden embedded in urbanism can be profound in the hand of a master, it’s easier to make an impact by pulling off the feeling of moving from city to garden in a short distance.
I set out, therefore, to try to move from the city to the garden in ten paces. It’s not as difficult as it sounds… it happens all the time in villages like St. Alban’s in England shown here. And then it occurred to me: maybe, if I could pull a few planning tricks, it might be possible not just to move from city to garden in ten paces, but actually move from city to what felt like country in ten paces. So I set out to try to figure out how to do it.
One obvious solution is to make sure that there are turns in the road. This country road winds for miles through England’s Dartmoor National Forest, but you can never see more than a few dozen yards ahead of you because the path is constantly twisting and turning along the contours of the land as it searches out the more level tracks through the landscape.
Hedgerows are another useful technique for controlling the view, and because England is famous for them, here’s yet another British image. A hedgerow is tall and thick, creating a view wall so that you cannot see into the adjacent field. Hedgerows can also be edible, planted with fruit or berry bushes. And while bedding crops often grow at more than arm’s length, edible hedgerow plants bring the fruit right up to your face if you’re walking along the edge of the path.
Street width isn’t often discussed as a technique for making the way seem longer, but it can be highly effective. It’s simple proportion: moving 300 feet along a street that’s ten feet wide seems like a much longer distance than traveling an equal distance on a boulevard that’s 200 feet from building face to building face. Take this simple test: Look at the second image above, then imagine walking from one end of Pienza to the other, then imagine walking one block in Salt Lake City. Which seems like a greater distance? So the path should clearly be narrow.
It’s not possible to completely hide the buildings at the street from within the garden, but it is possible to clothe the insides of the buildings with green. New Orleans does a fabulous job of this, adorning buildings with galleries that are practically begging you to hang a lush garden of potted plants, such as the one that is shown in this image.
So here’s how the idea developed: The first move was to decide that there should be something special in the middle, which is where you’re furthest from the city. Working edible gardens need a place for the work of the harvest, and the time of harvest has been an occasion for festivals throughout human history, so it seemed appropriate to put the place of the harvest at the center of the block. And because the block is square and urban, a harvest place that is round and green seemed to be the perfect counterpoint on several levels.
That mammoth block size was the very next thing that had to be addressed. Portland is famous for its walkability in part because of its very small block size, where block faces are around 195 feet per side. Dividing the Mormon Block in thirds creates sub-blocks with similar block face dimensions once you take out the width of the sub-block passages. And in order to create the best walkability, there should be corner entries as well, which create iconic flatiron buildings. All told, this scheme creates twelve gateways into the garden: four at the corners and two along each side.
So the basic scheme was set: enter through the city walls at the twelve gateways and proceed along narrow, curving, hedged pathways through the garden to the place of the harvest. Here’s the basic idea of one of those pathways. But should they just curve in one direction, like giant turbine blades? Doing this would give you no choices along the way from the city streets to the center of the garden, making each path pretty much identical. Once you’ve walked one, you’ve pretty much walked them all. So I decided there should be intersections along the way. But how, and how many?
Intersections are easy if you run the pathways both to the right hand side and to the left. How much should they curve? Curve too little, and it’s pretty much a straight shot to the center. Curve too much, and each of the plots of the garden becomes tiny as the block is eaten up with too much roadway. A perfect balance seemed to be to lay out the pathways for seven intersections between the city sidewalks and the place of the harvest. At each of the seven intersections, you could turn right, or left, going further out or further in. And so your path from each of the twelve gates to the place of the harvest could take innumerable paths as you selected your way through the seven circles of choices.
So that’s how the paths laid out. You’ll also notice a few more things: The twelve cottages scattered around the outer edges of the garden house the gardeners. Bio-intensive gardens this big would be full-time work for these twenty-four people (with maybe some occasional help from their children.) Just outside their cottages, at the outer circle, is the orchard border that further frames the green circle of the garden. And the innermost circle of sunburst-shaped buildings are the sheds where the tools of the garden and the tools of the harvest are stored.
There are other stories here as well, but I’ve gone on long enough. What do you see?
I dreaded the idea of moving my office worse than a root canal, but it might turn out to be one of the leanest, greenest, and all-around best things we’ve done in a very long time. At first, we didn’t even consider moving home because we simply have too much stuff. We were in a 1,500 square foot office a few blocks away from our 747 square foot condo; how is it possible to condense every three square feet into one? But late one October evening, I asked Wanda “do you think we should consider the unthinkable?” And so it began.
Moving your office to an equal or larger space is easy: you just call the movers and then spend a day or two getting set up to work again. But combining 1,500 square feet of work space and 747 square feet of living space into 747 square feet of live/work space is much more difficult because you have to look at every single thing and say “do I really need this?” It’s an intense exercise in getting lean with living and working. We spent almost the entire month of January doing exactly that, and the three months since sorting it all out. Here are some things I learned, organized by simple rules of thumb… and you can click on the bird to tweet a rule of thumb if you like.
Get lean by ditching flab, which is anything I don’t need today.
We keep far too much stuff because we might need it someday, just as our body does with fat… storing calories because we might someday need them. When we moved, we gave loads of furniture, office supplies, and the like to MakeShop Miami, the maker group I wrote about here. They can use it today, while I only might need it someday.
Sentimentality is a hard master, forcing me to carry a heavy load just to see it again someday.
Take pictures. Good ones. They take up no space at all in your place, especially if you store them somewhere in the cloud. I had several architectural models I’d kept since school. At this point, they looked like models of ruins because the models were ruined. I also got rid of a lot of drawings from school, saving only my best work. I keep all my professional drawings, of course, but the idea that anyone would want to see my lesser work from school just doesn’t make sense.
Lean by lack is poverty, but lean by choice is highly treasured.
No diet is pleasant at the moment, but the leanness that comes afterward can be great fun. Getting lean has caused a massive 4-month hit to my productivity, but it promises to pay off for years to come.
Work somewhere too small to clutter.
I once thought a space large enough to clutter was a luxury but it’s really a burden. Here’s a huge point about the images in this post: Nothing was prepped for the shoot. All “straightening up” took 30 seconds or less. This is how we work. We can’t afford not to. And it saves a ton of time cleaning up every few months and searching for stuff every day in between.
Label stuff crisply and neatly. The smaller the space, the cleaner it needs to feel.
You can get away with hand-scrawled labels in a big office, but a small office needs to feel more composed. And where would you rather be working anyway: somewhere really sloppy, or somewhere that raises your spirits? When space is small it is more important to surround yourself with things that lift your spirits.
Shred with text left-to-right so ribbons of paper include only a digit or two of an account number.
I had every check I’d ever written, all the way back to when Wanda and I got married when I was just 19. Why? Because I’d never taken the time to recycle them. The IRS says you have to keep 7 years of records, but I kept everything back to when we moved to Florida, 11 years ago. I kept tax returns older than that… or at least the ones we had. We had three back-to-back floods in our office several years ago during a rooftop construction project, and they destroyed tons of drawings and company records, so what we have is really spotty. But in any case, don’t just recycle it. Identity thieves might be able to do something even if the record is really old, so make sure you shred everything before recycling.
Never lay junk mail anywhere except in the recycle bin… next, get on the National Do Not Mail List.
In a small space, you can’t afford to handle stuff twice… especially if it’s something you’re not planning to keep. So go straight to the recycle bin when you check your mail.
Have an invisible inbox. A massive stack of stuff to do is demoralizing.
See the white cabinet just to the right of my red chair in the image above? It’s an Ikea shoe cabinet, but it makes an awesome inbox. I can pivot it open, drop stuff in, and let it close… and it stays out of sight until I’m ready to work on it.
Keep things you use each day close around, but store further away what you use less often.
People say storage units are a sign of hoarding, and an indicator of not getting rid of enough stuff. Quite the opposite is true if you’re moving your office home. We have three workplaces: the stuff we need every day is in our two tiny workspaces at home. The stuff we need weekly is in a small storage unit a bike ride from home. The stuff we need monthly or less is in a larger but less expensive (per square foot) storage unit on the mainland. All three places are set up for work. Without the two storage units, working from home would be impossible for me.
Rinse junk mail instead of scrubbing. Don’t fear the inbox.
Ever notice how something you could have merely rinsed right after you used it takes some real scrubbing if you let it get hard and crusty? Junk mail is that way. It’s more important in a small space to not feel the walls closing in around me… including the digital walls of stacks of email. So every morning, I delete all the spam that my spam-catcher doesn’t catch, plus all the emails that aren’t exactly spam, but which I have no intention of ever answering. This leaves me with a small fraction of what greeted me when I first sat down, making it more likely that I’ll actually look at what’s left… and then respond to it.
The first act of simplification is discovering which things can do double-duty… or more.
Start with your furnishings, such as these bookshelves which are actually doing triple-duty.
Next, consider your equipment. Do you really need all of it? We’re now down to just two computers: Wanda’s laptop and mine.
Then think about your digital business. Dropbox doubles as a cloud server and a backup system for me, for example. But it’s expensive, so I’m storing several terabytes of files that don’t often change on a WD My Cloud server I can access from anywhere on earth. Before saving stuff there, however, I’m organizing it all. It’s something I should have done years ago, but I’m using the move home as the reason to finally get it done.
My digital setup is an entire post’s worth of material. I’ll put that post up soon on Useful Stuff. The essence, however, is this: when you work in a small space, your biggest enemy is clutter. Both physical and digital. So you need to spend an unusual amount of time simplifying things in the beginning. You’ll thank yourself countless times from that point forward.
Small equipment can go many places that are impossible for larger equipment.
We’re down to just one letter-size scanner, which sits snugly on the end of my desk. Our old printer was a beast, but our new one sits neatly on top of my drawing files.
Take advantage of the space under a desk that's over and around your feet.
Wanda stores copy paper on a shelf above her feet, and Buddy, Tanner, and Sally make a bed around her feet. I store stuff to either side of my feet because why should all that space be wasted?
Work in a garden room whenever possible. It’s a luxury most people never get to enjoy.
I work outdoors whenever the weather is good for several reasons. It’s a change of scenery. It’s a great pleasure. On a good day, the light is excellent. It’s easier to focus if Wanda is on the phone indoors. And it gets me acclimated to the local environment so I can live in season, often not needing to turn on the air conditioning when I return indoors. I’m working inside right now, for example, with only the breeze of the ceiling fan needed for comfort.
What It Means
There are obviously many lessons here, and I’ve just touched on some of them briefly. Is there anything you want to know more about? If so, I can blog about it in greater detail… or we could just talk about it here. What makes the most sense to you? And what do you wonder the most about, if you don’t already work from home?
Earth Day began in 1970 with a mission to steer the passions of the day into environmental protection, but things are afoot today that may finally help channel the environmental movement into its real mission: building a better future. American rivers were ablaze in 1970, and industrial cities lived under a perpetual pall belching continuously from its smokestacks. I grew up a hundred miles away from one of them, and one of our playground insults was “you stink like Birmingham.”
Recovering our skies, our waters, and our lands from the ravages of industry’s degradations was the essential first step… no doubt about it. But just as an alcoholic’s eventual goal shouldn’t just be to get sober but to live a better life, our goal as earth’s residents shouldn’t just be to clean up our messes, but to build better places.
Some people have been working on this for a long time. The New Urbanists, for example, started working out ways of building more sustainable places as far back as 1980. More recently, a number of them have taken on the mammoth problem of recovery from the addiction of sprawl.
The engine of sprawl was fueled by the 20th Century’s energy glut and the mirage of perpetual expansion, making it a bloated target for anyone interested in building more sustainably. But sustainability’s allies have also become part of the problem. The LEED rating system, for example, was created with the very best of intentions, but it has also become so flabby that there are now calls for a lean alternative. And place-making regulation at all levels of government, environmental or otherwise, has become not just a thicket, but a complete unnavigable hairball of regulatory centipedes. Conjures up some disgusting images, right?
It’s time to come lean. Fortunately, there’s a small crack team already working on that. The Lean Initiative doesn’t advocate for a complete free-for-all, but rather for “pink tape” instead of red tape… in other words, lightening the load so that more of us can get meaningful stuff done. The Lean Initiative is built on seven Foundations. Here’s a quick look at some of the lean things some of us have been building upon them:
• No equipment is so efficient as the machine that is off. Tweet
• Single-crew workplaces make many business possible in your neighborhood today that would be impossible larger. Tweet
• Build places where you can make a living where you’re living, and walk to the grocery. Tweet
• Working at home should be a basic human right. If it were harmful, humanity would have perished centuries ago. Tweet
• Do business with agreements that don’t require a lawyer to tell you what you agreed to. Tweet
• Don’t advertise. Spam has vaccinated us against ads. Be the marketing you want people to see. Apologies to Ghandi. Tweet
• Sustainable places: nourishable, accessible, serviceable, securable. Green buildings: lovable, durable, adaptable, frugal. Tweet
• Begin every rule “we do this because…” so the people know why, not just what. Consent of the governed arises from why. Tweet
• Whenever possible, set up things that regulate themselves, not requiring lots of external energy to run smoothly. Tweet
• Don’t grow regulatory “scar tissue” the first time something unpredicted goes wrong. (Thanks, Jason Fried!) Tweet
• A building for 2 people should not be regulated like a building for 2,000. In a lean world, regulation follows risk. Tweet
• Free gardens & small farms from industrial food chain regulation. They feed neighbors, not millions of strangers. Tweet
• Those making regulations should be affected by them. We have no right to burden others with loads we do not bear. Tweet
• Regulations must be regional. Green building standards on Cape Cod look ridiculous on the Gulf Coast, and vice versa. Tweet
• Generate services as locally as possible. You can borrow from your neighbors if the outage doesn’t affect them. Tweet
• Make beautiful sights and sounds with the rain, then get it back into the ground as soon as possible. Tweet
• Trading lane width for sidewalk width is one of the best infrastructure exchanges, and full of virtues. Tweet
• No sign of a vibrant, lovable place can be seen from further down the street than a line of street trees. Tweet
• Put parking on streets, on alleys, or in garages. Few things are more corrosive to cities than surface parking lots. Tweet
• Nothing reduces infrastructure as broadly and as much as doing business in your own neighborhood. Tweet
• Dispense with the gym. You can get fully fit working out on a park bench, which should be lean infrastructure's icon. Tweet
• Tell the children why, not just what. With what, you only pass or fail. With why, you can figure stuff out. Tweet
• Today’s kids will spend most of their lives on stuff that doesn’t exist yet. They must learn how to figure stuff out. Tweet
• Embed the greatest wisdom within that which can be loved, so that it may spread broadly. Tweet
• Lessons learned from things nearby stick with us easier than those from things we cannot see. Tweet
• Put homework on blogs, so each student’s work is visible to the world, and commenters help them get it right. Tweet
• Build places that put old and young together because the old are those with the most wisdom and the time to teach it. Tweet
• Combine proverbs with hyperlinks so the idea sticks with you and directs you. This might be education’s future. Tweet
That’s a lot of stuff… what are your thoughts? What parts of this make sense?
Maker Spaces are fascinating on several counts, but the most important one is something you might not have thought of: the secret sauce of Maker Space innovation isn’t something inside the building, but rather what’s around it. The Maker Spaces themselves only need to be large, open, cheap, and wired... and you can find places like this almost anywhere. It’s what they’re connected to around them that determine how innovative their work is likely to be.
What Makers Do
Makers do two basic things: They recover old crafts, and they figure out how to do new stuff. So a Maker Space is part school and part laboratory. Makers are both learning and doing, and they must learn skills in order to make stuff. Often, they’re working with supplies or components that are old and cheap, but it is specifically this low entry threshold that makes what they’re doing so accessible and empowering, as they hack and crack their way under the hoods of disciplines as diverse as cooking, computers, sewing, and rocketry.
Why They Do It
Actually, you should ask one of them why they do it, as you’ll get some interesting answers. But at their core, Makers are a lot like the free bird above. While the rest of us might be more like the birds caged inside, comfortable and out of the elements because we’re supported by all our complex systems from air conditioning to the industrial food chain, makers relish getting outdoors. And in the process of learning the skills they learn and figuring out the things they’re discovering, they become much more robust and resilient as they become acclimated to the inner workings of things the rest of us take for granted.
Ask a random person on the street about innovation and how it is produced, and chances are, they’ll begin to tell you about companies like Apple that work with big budgets, the latest technology, strong corporate infrastructure, and maybe piles of cash. This corporate sort of innovation depends on large power structures and massive infrastructure. Maker innovation is almost completely opposite. Budgets can be small or non-existent, often using found or donated materials. Technologies might be decades (or sometimes centuries) old. And while it’s completely impossible for one person to create a product like an iPhone on their own, almost all Maker innovation occurs in small groups that are often as tiny as a single person. Maker innovation removes the necessity of as many outside power structures as possible, depending often on little more than a roof overhead and electrical power.
Things That Spark the Mind
Entire books are written on innovation-rich environments… far too many to reference here, although Richard Florida’s Creative Class series of books are some of my favorites. But in any case, it’s clear that some settings foster going through the same motions repeatedly, while others are seedbeds of innovative thought. Innovative settings tend to be those where many things are possible… places where there are many ways to turn, and where on a whim you might turn another way and end up at a different place. There, you might see someone you didn’t expect, or maybe even meet someone new. And if that person doesn’t do what you do but wants to hear about your work, then you just might be entering that most insight-rich zone of looking at your work through the lens of another discipline.
Corporations with a highly innovative culture and track record are often insanely focused on a narrow product line, as Steve Jobs famously characterized when he said "I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things we have done.” It should be no surprise that getting thousands of corporate creatives focused on those few products seems to call for an inward-looking setting. Makers, again, are almost exactly opposite. There aren’t normally enough of them to just happen into very many unplanned meetings with other disciplines inside the Maker Spaces… at least not every day. Sometimes it works, but you’re dealing at most with a few dozen people on any give day, not thousands. So it’s essential for Makers to look outward, connecting broadly with who's around.
Three Maker Innovation Essentials
The workplace is obviously essential, as this is where the work is done, but there are no absolute essentials for the workplace beyond being big, open, cheap, and wired. The second essential is the walkspace around the workplace, which is the collection of paths leading to the third essential category, which is where connections with others can occur.
Beyond the essentials of being big, open, cheap, and wired, there are a few other attributes that are helpful: First, unless you’ve found a really cheap warehouse, an old building in a soon-to-be-recovering neighborhood is important because nothing else is likely to be cheap enough, as Jane Jacobs pointed out years ago. You need the space wired with electricity, but also equipped with wireless Internet. There should be places to work alone and places to work together, places to meet and present, and places to post stuff to read. There should probably be a paint booth, and definitely a place to clean up.
Here’s where it gets fun. The innovative potential of the paths that make up the walkspace is directly proportional to the Walk Appeal of those paths because you’ll walk much further (and therefore reach far more connection points) on paths with great Walk Appeal. But it’s not just about self-propelled transportation. "Thinking on your feet” is no longer just a euphemism for the ability to think quickly; we now understand that walking (and other physical activity) may actually stimulate the brain. So just as fostering better Walk Appeal builds a stronger customer base for businesses, that same better Walk Appeal builds a more innovative walkspace around a Maker Space. So Maker Spaces should be doing everything they can to enhance the Walk Appeal of their walkspaces, both the measurable things and the immeasurable, knowing that those things directly build their chances of innovation.
What should Maker spaces hope to connect to? Makers are disproportionately young, and the young tend to be less wealthy than the old. And because Gen Xers and Millennials are less likely to own cars, it’s important to be close to housing most of them can afford. Affordable housing can be smaller units like one- or two-bedroom cottages, or it can be accessory units like carriage houses, rear-of-lot cottages, upstairs or lower level apartments, rear lane cottages or even mews, all located on lots with larger houses that are normally occupied by the landlords. Maker spaces should be located near civic space such as a park, green, square, or plaza because that’s a destination where you don’t have to spend money. Walkable places to eat are a must; the two essentials are third places where you can set up shop and work. Coffee shops are a type of third place that arguably spawned the Enlightenment a couple centuries ago, and they are the adopted homes of today’s Creative Class. There are more connection places that are also good Sprawl Recovery tools, but these are the first essentials.
The Tactical Urbanists (a group populated by quite a few Makers) are great at starting things on shoestrings… their own well-worn shoestrings, in fact. Build your Maker Space walkspace and foster connections along the way as tactically as you can. And pay particular attention to the new Lean Urbanism initiative… Makers are fundamentally Lean, so many ideas should be cross-pollinated between these groups. And by all means, recognize that Makers are arguably creating the most vibrant living tradition in our culture today… so use the tools of living traditions to build the walkspace and its connections. The opposite to a living tradition is the command & control operating system, which is perfect for building armies and factories. It’s the operating system best suited for most corporations. Living traditions, on the other hand, are the best operating systems for building buildings and towns… and the thriving Maker movement. Command & control thrives on large numbers, global trade, and petroleum. Living traditions thrive at scales too small for the factory and with local trade, and are fueled by ingenuity. Command & control depends on us taking orders. Living traditions depend on us talking to each other. They are the highest form of ideas that spread, and are characterized by “plant small, harvest large."
PS: If you want more on this, I’m doing three-hour presentations on these ideas at the Traditional Building Conferences in Boston in July and St. Paul in September. If you’re around, please come!
The LEED rating systems were a great idea in the beginning, but they have become a symbol of all that is wrong with green building today. Getting a LEED rating is slow, difficult, and expensive, and the rating is skewed heavily to Gizmo Green solutions that are completely ignorant of where the building is being built, and for whom. We need the opposite sort of system today: one that is intelligent about where a building is built and who it’s being built for, and that is fast, friendly, and free so that anyone can use it.
The Anti-LEED rating system will be smart in four new ways… three about where it is, and the fourth about who it is serving. First, it must know where in the world it is, as we just discussed, because a highly sustainable building on Cape Cod is ridiculously unsustainable on the Gulf Coast. Once the region is known, it must also know where in the region it is: is the place being rated in or near a city, town, village, or hamlet? Being green near Chicago is very different from being green in Cheyenne, for example. Once we know that, it’s important to know if the place is in town, in the suburbs around town, or in the countryside because sustainability on the farm looks very different from sustainability downtown. And finally, it must also know who it is serving, because green building solutions that work for the wealthy almost certainly won’t work for the poor, and vice versa.
If the Anti-LEED system is to be fast, friendly, and free, then its calculations must work very differently from LEED’s. Contrary to common opinion, the US Green Building Council that sponsors the LEED systems is a private company, not a part of the US government. And it reportedly makes most of its money by certifying LEED Accredited Professionals, or LEED-AP, for short. I am one. It is essential that LEED be complicated, otherwise there would be no need for certified professionals to administer it, and the USGBC’s primary money-maker would vanish.
But it’s not just complicated; it also “hides its eyes” by being point-based, letting a project accumulate points any way it likes, ignoring common-sense things along the way. For example, you can score almost as many points by installing a bike rack as you can by preserving an entire historic building.
It’s also fragmented. The LEED-ND system might rate your neighborhood as Platinum while all but turning a blind eye to the true sustainability of the buildings within your neighborhood. And you can build a Platinum house or office in a place that is hideously unsustainable.
The Anti-LEED rating system shouldn’t just count points. Instead, it should multiply the "batting average” of the settlement (city, town, village, or hamlet) by that of the neighborhood by that of the building to finally find out how green a building really is. And it should do most of the calculations “under the hood,” so that someone using the system only needs to take simple measurements. Ideally, a person who knows how to balance their checkbook and do their taxes should be able to rate their building in about an hour.
Those simple measurements, if chosen carefully, can actually be indicators of the performance of complex systems. For example, LEED for Homes is supposed to be simpler than most of the LEED systems. Yet if you want to discover what your credit is for landscape irrigation, it’s 3 pages of relatively complex calculations. The Anti-LEED system should ask one incisive question: “are you using native or well-adapted plants that don’t need long-term irrigation here?” If the answer is “yes,” you get the credit. If not, you don’t.
And now, it’s time for a confession: maybe Anti-LEED isn’t the best term for what this new green rating system needs to be… because LEED actually works at some of these settings. LEED is designed for Northern regions where it’s important to close up tight and capture the heat efficiently, but looks completely inept in the hot and humid places where I do much of my work, and where all of these pictures were taken. LEED-ND loves cities, tolerates towns, dislikes villages, and hates hamlets. And you’re in good shape if your project is built in the city, but out of luck entirely if you’re building in the country. Finally, because it’s predisposed to Gizmo Green solutions, LEED can work fine for you if you’re really wealthy, but not if you’re middle-class. And if you’re poor, forget it. So let’s put it together: LEED works well if you’re a wealthy person building within a Northern city. But that probably includes about 1% of the world’s population. We need a green building rating system for the rest of us.
Airbnb gets at the heart of one of the essentials of the Original Green: using what we’ve got. If sustainability means “keeping things going in a healthy way, long into an uncertain future,” then that begins with “keeping things.” And that means supporting the good existing fabric of places first. To be clear, you probably can’t prevent a developer from putting up a new hotel, but you can choose where you stay. And I’ve learned about a new (for me) choice.
I wrote a couple years ago about the virtues of having a bed & breakfast in your neighborhood. But with Airbnb (“air B&B” if you’re not familiar with them), you can have several… or many… B&B suites in your neighborhood. I’ve participated in the sharing economy in a number of ways for years, but had never tried Airbnb until now. But I’m loving it now on so many levels that I’ll likely look here first from now on for my travels. Here’s why:
For one thing, it’s just simply more interesting. Corporate hotels are just so uniform. If Wally’s suite I stayed in recently is any indication, Airbnb rooms will be a pleasant respite from the sameness. And there’s nothing like a change of scenery to sensitize your eyes to other new things in a place you’re visiting. As a matter of fact, I believe it’s this “eyes wide open” condition that allows us to appreciate and then come to love a place we have never visited before. More on that soon in another post.
You’ve also gotta love the fact that except for Airbnb’s commission, all the money you spend goes into the local economy. And more specifically, it goes to these places that look cool enough to you on Airbnb’s site that you say “I’ll give this one a try.” So consider yourself to be supporting coolness. Would you rather do that, or would you prefer to help fill the coffers of some faceless corporation headquartered thousands of miles away?
Like so many other things local, this is an opportunity to actually meet interesting people. “Know your farmer” has become a mantra of the local food movement, and “know your innkeeper” is something Airbnb allows you to do as well. Trust is essential to the success of sharing economy businesses like this, and Airbnb makes sure that you can easily hook up with your hosts and get acquainted before setting off on your trip to their place.
One more thing… I’ve written this entire post so far from the viewpoint of the traveler. But do you have a suite, or even a room, that you don’t use most of the time? If so, you might think about listing it. Do the math, and you’ll see that it can be quite rewarding. You’re not tied down, as you only have to list your place for the times that you’re there. And if you discover that being a part-time innkeeper just isn’t for you, it’s really easy to de-list yourself. But you just might discover that it’s a really good thing.
Just curious if you’ve stayed at an airbnb suite? Or if you have one? If so, please let us know how it’s working. And if you’re ever in the Jacksonville area, be sure to stay with Wally… not only is his suite incredibly cool, as you see here, but it’s also just a block from the beach.
Note from Steve: I’ve had a long-running neighborhood structure discussion with Chip Kaufman that stretches back for years, but it has been far too spotty to date due to time limitations. I posted a few months ago asking Where’s the Edge of the Neighborhood? Chip offered this essay in response. I have high hopes that we might actually resolve this question in what I hope becomes a running series of posts here on this issue. Also please note: the diagrams are Chip’s, whereas the photograph (from a commercial centre of Islington in London) is mine… and I have lightly edited his essay for its current setting in a blog versus its original setting in a book.
A difference of understanding among New Urbanist practitioners about town and neighbourhood structuring risks dysfunctional urban structures on the ground for some New Urbanist projects, and this problem urgently needs to be resolved. New Urbanism is structured around the walkable neighbourhood. It is imperative that we address the challenges of achieving viable neighbourhood centres. A resolution is needed.
In my view, the urban structuring problem is currently manifesting itself in certain designs for ‘neighbourhoods’ without feasible centres, and oversized and/or badly structured towns. Such structuring needlessly limits walkability, public transport, local jobs and social interaction. The following will explain urban structuring at the scales of towns and neighbourhoods.
Urban centres have always capitalised on custom by locating at intersecting trade routes. This applies to all urban centres, including smaller neighbourhood centres. However, mid to late twentieth-century sprawl road network planning concentrated vehicular traffic into oversized and too widely-spaced trunk roads instead of providing for more dispersed, smaller-scale and direct street networks.
This relatively coarse movement network planning has spawned oversized shopping centres at oversized intersections, capitalising on oversized and more car-dependent shopping catchments. Neighbourhood centres within these oversized catchments, deprived of custom by an overly coarse movement network that bypasses them, will wither and never be able to deliver the vibrant social and commercial interaction that the local community and economy deserves. In our experience, such urban structuring problems come from an insufficient understanding of the ‘Movement Economy’.
‘Movement Economy’ is a term coined to describe the relationship between an urban centre and the combination of its location within its catchment, and how well the street network ‘feeds’ that centre. A beneficial Movement Economy will optimise the position of its centre between being central to its walkable catchment, and locating the centre to maximise ‘capture’ of custom flowing through it daily, en route to and from a larger destination such as a city centre. Structure planning that isolates community or neighbourhood centres away from the Movement Economy will deny such centres of crucial commerce (as well as public transport), which should
also bring people to such centres.
Any informed observer of sprawl and/or post-war English new towns will recognise this systemic planning error, where neighbourhood centres were systematically isolated from the Movement Economy. Those centres continue to struggle because their community facilities alone cannot attract enough custom or activity. Community and Commerce are compatible and interdependent, as they always have been. Urban structuring can and should combine the two, to their mutual benefit.
We should not be perpetrating English new town or sprawl problems in Australian New Urbanism. As with English new towns, the town and neighbourhood structuring in certain plans separates the neighbourhood centres from the Movement Economy. On the other hand, urban structuring, whose Movement Economy feeds all centres including neighbourhood centres, will optimise their sustainability.
The following diagrams clarify the assertions of this essay. The circles indicate walkable neighbourhood catchments, with radii from their centres of about 400m, which is generally about a five-minute walk. The finer-grained street networks are not shown, but neighbourhood connectors and the arterial network are. Diagrams 1A and 1B show how a neighbourhood centre can be fed by or deprived of the Movement Economy.
Diagram 1A shows a neighbourhood centre fed by the Movement Economy and bus transport via ‘Neighbourhood Connectors’, which can usually be just two-lane streets when the regional movement network has a filigree of such connectors spaced at about 800m and passing through each neighbourhood centre. In this context, and with at least 800 dwellings, most neighbourhood centres should support the synergistic co-location of a corner store/café/deli, childcare centre, bus stop, and possibly other small businesses and home-based businesses.
Diagram 1B shows a neighbourhood centre deprived of the Movement Economy and with little hope of a bus passing through its centre, because bus routes generally follow the larger movement network that links major destinations most directly. All that these deprived “neighbourhood centres” can hope for is a small park and maybe a community centre of some sort, which is likely to struggle for users because most users are out on the main movement network heading to other important destinations. This is not, in our view, really a neighbourhood centre, within the principles and objectives of the New Urbanism.
Diagrams 2A and 2B show neighbourhoods clustering to form towns, the first with a more viable structure, size and Movement Economy than the second. Diagram 2A shows a town centre that is its own walkable catchment with a 400m-long main street, which has eight neighbourhoods clustering around it to form a town. At 15 dwellings per gross hectare, this catchment can support about 18,000 people, which is generally enough population to support two competing supermarkets and a wide range of businesses and community facilities at its town centre. Of course, when applied to real sites, such a diagram needs to adjust to fit its context.
Diagram 2B shows a town and neighbourhood diagram promoted for two decades by Duany & Plater-Zyberk in Miami and its followers. Its four neighbourhoods are separated from the main Movement Economy, which passes between them to serve the town centre. But this town centre, with its stronger attractions, creates its own de facto walkable catchment, and thus starves the neighbourhood centres located about 500m from the town centre, of custom and purpose. At 15 dwellings per gross hectare, this may support a population of only 8,000 people, which may barely support a small supermarket centre, plus relatively limited businesses and community facilities because of its smaller catchment.
Such a small town centre has little chance of competing against the larger usually stand-alone single-use regional shopping centres, which have proliferated across much of Australia and the Western World. Diagram 2A has a much better chance of competing against stand-alone regional shopping centres, because with its larger population it can offer a wider shopping choice, co-located with other business and community destinations.
The plan for the Western Sydney Urban Land Release, the Public Transport Plan for the Leneva Valley (Wodonga), and the plan for West Dapto all show how these towns will occupy and serve their own catchments, complementary with and efficiently feeding public transport into the single regional centre or city centre. Located to optimise the regional Movement Economy, the regional centre or city centre is the same structure as Diagram 2A, but it has more population density and a higher concentration of higher level services, jobs, government and culture.
Diagram 2B has further structural shortcomings in my view. It is impossible for a bus route efficiently to serve both the neighbourhood centres and the town centre, without a very circuitous route. The urban structuring of Diagram 2B needlessly cripples both its neighbourhoods and its smaller town centre, in comparison to Diagram 2A.
On the other hand, the neighbourhood centres in Diagram 2A are at least 800m from its town centre, and they are fed by the Movement Economy and public transport, meaning they will be more viable economically, and thereby also better for community interaction.
Diagram 3 shows an overly large grouping of over 20 neighbourhoods, with one very large town centre with a population at 15 dwellings per hectare of 40,000 or more. Large supermarkets, discount department stores, bulky goods and other car-based retail will jump at the chance to locate in that town centre, exactly because it is has a very large and cardependent catchment. Of course, the downside of this model is that all the neighbourhoods outside the inner ring around the
town centre are doomed to travel a needlessly greater distance to reach daily needs and jobs. Plus most public transport will be travelling along the main movement network, which bypasses and deprives all these neighbourhood centres of custom and resultant viability.
It is important to tune the movement network to disperse traffic (custom) to feed neighbourhood centres, town centres, regional centres and city centres. To help ensure economic viability for neighbourhood centres, each neighbourhood connector should carry from 3-5,000vpd and the movement network should at least accommodate public bus transport from commencement of development. This volume of vehicular traffic can quite feasibly deliver high pedestrian/cyclist amenity and safety.
To deny this traffic volume from the neighbourhood centres is to deny their economic viability, and in turn will needlessly force too much traffic onto larger arterials, increasing vehicle kilometres travelled, car dependence and retail gigantism. Well-tuned slow-speed traffic dispersion through the neighbourhood centres will also reduce the prevalence of giant intersections in coarse movement networks, and the resultant need for such measures as dual couplets to accommodate the needlessly high traffic volumes.
The three diagrams above, provided courtesy of Peter Richards of Deicke Richards in Brisbane, document the existing urban structure of Inner Brisbane, which demonstrates the urban structuring advocated here. This part of Inner Brisbane has withstood the test of time and will continue to flourish because its urban structure feeds all centres with good Movement Economy.
Hopefully this will clarify what the ‘neighbourhood’ circles on plans in this book should mean, and the need for continued debate on this issue, which is so pivotal to urban sustainability. Australian New Urbanism needs to and can structure the complete hierarchy of vibrant and complementary urban centres, including neighbourhood, town, regional and city centres.
There's a thorny question that preservation and sustainability must answer if they hope to make it to the altar for the marriage of these two ideas that should be considered one. Here’s the question: When is a tear-down a more sustainable choice than preserving a building?
On the one hand, how can we sustain things if we can't preserve them? Things we don't tear down are inherently more sustainable than what gets demolished because the carbon footprint of a building is meaningless once its parts have been carted off to the landfill.
We have, unfortunately, built some of the most unsustainable places and buildings in human history over the past century, which is not entirely surprising because it was during this time that we have experienced the greatest energy glut humanity has ever known. Le Corbusier famously encapsulated the ethos of this era: "I shall live 30 miles from my office in one direction, under a pine tree; my secretary will live 30 miles away from it too, in the other direction, under another pine tree. We shall both have our own car. We shall use up tires, wear out road surfaces and gears, consume oil and gasoline." Our buildings followed suit, because we expected electricity to eventually become too cheap to meter.
So now energy hogs are scattered all across the American landscape. We've tried to retrofit them over the years, but the best we can do in most cases is invest in better gizmos. Perhaps the rise of Gizmo Green should come as no suprise.
So what should we do? Anyone familiar with this blog knows that it's essential to build sustainable places before it's meaningful to talk about green buildings within them. And while sprawl is cancer of the city, it is possible to recover from sprawl, transforming even the most egregious subdivisions and strip malls into sustainable places over time. If a place is already sustainble or is committed to achieving sustainability through sprawl recovery, then the question of where to live boils down to these:
The most sustainable thing is to fall in love with an existing home in a thriving neighborhood with lots of workplaces and shops nearby so that your web of daily life is mostly or even entirely within walking distance. This is usually the simplest choice; sometimes you can find a home that's a good enough fit that you can move right in with little more than a coat of paint.
The next-best choice is to find a vacant lot in that same thriving neighborhood. Such lots usually have a street in front and maybe an alley in back, as well as water, sewer, electricity, and other utilities already installed… so your home won't require new infrastructure to be installed.
Those two were easy… now on to the tougher ones. What if you can’t find an existing home or a vacant lot that works for you? Thriving neighborhoods with lots of shops and workplaces and filled with lovable homes are usually quite expensive, so maybe you simply can’t afford to buy or build there. If not, three not-so-easy choices remain: buy a house in an unsustainable place or build a house either where nothing has been built before (a greenfield) or where something has been built before (a tear-down).
If you buy a house in an unsustainable place like a 20th-century subdivision, you need to be committed to being the neighborhood activist that assures that your subdivision enacts a vigorous Sprawl Recovery program. Building where nothing has been built before means new infrastructure is being installed for your building and you are likely building further from existing services. Many argue that this is the worst choice, and I agree… if the developer isn’t committed to building a place with high Walk Appeal that is compact and has a mix of uses to which you can walk to your daily needs. That leaves us with tear-downs, and the virtue of a tear-down depends largely on what is being torn down.
The best tear-down candidates were built during the "Dark Ages of Architecture," which is the half-century between 1930 and 1980 when the wisdom of designing sustainably and building well had been lost… and the years since have only seen a slow recovery, so we're not so far ahead of 1980 as I would like. Here are some indicators of houses that were never built to last:
• 8’ Ceilings: This is an idea imported from the cold Northeast where it made perfect sense to the deep South where its implementation has wretched consequences… and is almost impossible to fix. It also vertically compresses the proportions of most architecture, making it less lovable.
• 2x4 Exterior Walls: Unless you’re in the southernmost reaches of the US, 2x4 exterior walls don’t allow for enough insulation.
• Slab on Grade: A house built close to the ground can’t be far enough from the street that people feel comfortable sitting on the porch, which is a huge indicator of an unwalkable place. It’s also far more susceptible to flooding than a house that is properly raised. One more thing… slab-on-grade houses are typically some of the most unlovable houses you can find, because those building cheap and fast in the post-WWII decades didn’t care much about the lovability of their products.
• Brick Veneer: This is a construction technique that uses a thousand-year material in a 50-year configuration. Let the steel lintels go without painting for just a few years so that they rust, and you've got to rip it all off.
• Drywall: As we discussed last year, drywall only works so long as you keep it dry so you can’t afford to open your windows to catch a summer breeze because a summer shower may pop up, and a bit of rain through the window will turn your drywall into a mucky, moldy, mildewy mess.
The modern preservation movement began with the destruction of Penn Station, a lovable building designed to last centuries that was replaced by the wretchedly unlovable Madison Square Garden. It was easy for millions to get behind such a movement. But many in the preservation movement now support preserving buildings that are not lovable, durable, adaptable, or frugal… and are therefore unsustainable. I hope the movement has not lost its way.
The top-down part of saving a building by making it make financial sense to a developer is the hard work, but building a bottom-up cause that creates a market for that building can actually be a lot of fun. The first creates supply; the second builds demand. I've covered the know-why and the know-how of most of these techniques in great detail in New Media for Designers + Builders, which I believe you'll find helpful.
The most important point of building a cause aimed at saving a building today is to turn neighbors into advocates for the businesses that may soon occupy that building. People may like the idea of historic preservation in theory, but they love the idea of a coffee shop just down the block. They'll nod their heads in agreement if you talk about saving our architectural heritage, but they'll get out and ring doorbells to stir up conversations with their neighbors if you're talking about bringing in businesses that will make their lives easier and more interesting… especially if they can just walk around the corner to those businesses rather than having to get in their cars and drive somewhere. You don't just want people to agree with you; you want them to go out and change things. Here are the objectives of building a cause, and the tools for getting it done:
Nothing helps sway a potential shopkeeper's decision to open a store like a groundswell of future customers. You need to find ways for the neighbors to show what they want and how many of them want it. Look at the storefronts below the "Welcome to Shock" sign. OK, that's actually the "Welcome to Shockoe Bottom" sign, but in any case, the signs and the storefronts below are all painted on the flat side wall of a building facing the parking lot. One cool way to illustrate demand is to paint the storefronts on the building, then paint the glass of the storefronts with chalkboard paint. At the top of each "window" paint "Here's what I'd like to see here:" and then paint blank lines below, and leave a lot of chalk. People will tell you what they want. In the case of the Tennessee Brewery we just talked about, the architecture is there already and doesn't need to be painted. Just paint on the boarded-up windows and storefronts… that's all the people will need.
People are more likely to talk about the businesses they'd like to see in the building you're saving if you get them together in the same place. And when you do, they'll think of other ways of supporting the cause that we can't even conceive of right now. Some part of the building or its outdoor space should likely serve as a physical gathering place for the community you're creating… someday. But you need to create the community now, and the easiest and quickest ways to do that are online. Advocates for the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati are doing an excellent job of building community not just for one building, but for their entire historic district. You should study them. They use many of the tools that follow… and you should consider using several of them as well. People that are on Twitter don't necessarily spend a lot of time on Facebook and vice versa, for example. So cover your bases by using several (or all) of these tools:
Open your Twitter account today. Allow your most passionate advocates to post there. And encourage others to open similar Twitter streams as well, or to tweet about the building on their existing streams. Here's one of several that support Over-the-Rhine, for example.
Start a Facebook group next. It's a great way to get a group of neighbors talking and working together quickly. Be sure to post links to all the stuff below as you start generating content on your other nodes.
Instagram is the most social image site… by far. So open an account for the building and start posting beautiful images of the building, even if it's in a dilapidated state… that can be romantic. And whenever you're around places that have been restored and repurposed, shoot them and say "here's what we could have at the Tennessee Brewery" or whatever.
Start a YouTube channel for the building. If you're lucky, there may already be great stuff up on YouTube like this excellent segment on the Tennessee Brewery. You can easily link to existing videos, and then do some of your own as well. It doesn't have to be nearly as professional as this video, but it does need passion… which comes in many flavors.
Any serious effort to save something good really should have a blog, which is the keystone of most New Media ecosystems. Let several of your most passionate advocates blog there. You don't have to start with the blog, but consider adding it soon. The Alton Road blog is a great example.
Expand your blog with supporting pages. I'd strongly suggest pages for three groups: developers interested in buying the building, business owners interested in locating there, and customers or clients interested in doing business there. Consider these your "matchmaker pages"… or "online dating for historic buildings."
Once the idea picks up steam and someone offers to spend a little money to support it, consider printing Idea Cards that tell people in a few words why you're so passionate about the building and then direct them to other parts of your New Media ecosystem.
Life After the Building is Saved
If you save the building, you probably won't just close up most of these New Media assets. Instead, you'll likely find that they have become digital cornerstones of a community of people that are now neighbors, not just co-habitators of a certain part of town. Because of this, many of these things may live on for years, doing cool stuff for you and your neighbors that you can't even anticipate today.
Here's the link to the book I mentioned earlier. It describes how to do all of these things in detail, assuming that you're starting as a complete beginner. And it does some other cool stuff as well, like putting ⅔ of the content on the web so that the only stuff in the book is what everyone needs and you don't have to slog through a lot of stuff you don't need. But this post isn't primarily about selling books… it's about saving buildings. So get out there and get started today!
What do you think? What have I missed? What other great strategies and techniques have you heard of that I haven't included here?