New York and California are Building the Grid of the Future

How we integrate the distributed  energy network into the existing power supply system is a key question fro sustainable energy growth and the problem of vested interests delaying this process is a evident in Cape Town, where pilot projects are only now getting underway and the City of Cpae Town as the power supplier is at odds with allowing the resale of power at the same price as it pays, as it is electricity sales that are one of the prime sources of income of the City, these examples from New York and California , show our situation is not unique From RMI Outlet

In The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell popularized the process—first described by Everett Rogers—by which innovative ideas, policies, and products start with a small but influential minority of early adopters and then spread rapidly to a much wider segment of the market. The planning and design of the electric grid could be at just such a tipping point, with New York and California leading the chargeon how to integrate significantly higher amounts of distributed energy resources (DERs) onto a grid historically built around centralized assets like large power plants.

While New York and California have different existing levels of DER adoption, electricity policy objectives, history, and market structures, the two initiatives share common drivers. Both states recognize the importance of fundamental changes to the regulated investor-owned utility business model and distribution planning process. Both processes are designed to position the electric system to succeed in an environment of changing technology costs and capabilities, improve system resilience and customer opportunities, and address the electric system’s impact on climate.


In April 2014, the New York Public Service Commission launched the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding. The ambitious initiative is the first in the nation to propose an entity to perform the role of a “distributed system platform (DSP) provider.” The DSP model gives life to a new market for distributed resources to provide energy services, similar to a distribution-level independent system operator (ISO) but focused on DERs rather than central grid assets.

The DSP in NY will interface between the bulk power system, utilities, DER providers, and retail customers. While much is yet to be decided, the REV proceeding envisions DSPs as platforms for innovation and market-based deployment of DERs.

California launched a rulemaking proceeding in July 2014 pursuant to Assembly Bill 327, which requires the state’s investor-owned utilities to develop distribution resources plans (DRPs) to better integrate DERs onto the grid. California is the national leader in installed capacity of solar PV, and therefore faces unique challenges related to an existing, scaled deployment of DERs that has not yet materialized in New York.  Moreover, due to the California statutory requirement to focus on DRPs, the process is focused on technical matters related to DER integration, and does not explicitly explore how utility business models may need to change to better integrate DERs. The California initiative does not create a new distributed resource market like the one envisioned in NY. However, like NY, the California process intends “to mov(e) the IOUs towards a more full integration of DERs into their distribution system planning, operations and investment.”


To understand where each state may be headed, we focus on four key questions:

  • What is the role of markets versus mandates in creating the future system?
  • What does distribution system planning look like in a high-DER future?
  • What is the best market structure and regulatory framework to attract data-driven innovation and new energy services?
  • What are the roles of the customer and the utility in the future system

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Where Chaos Is Normal: How Times Square Operates

Public Space as spectacle is exemplified by Times Square in New York , behind the endless event that is experienced by every visitor to it is a lot of unseen hard work supported by a governance process that make it possible: From Urban Omnibus


Times Square runs on spectacle. Bigger and brighter is always better. And though plenty of New Yorkers wear their criticism of Times Square as a badge of local honor, calling it a tourist trap stripped of its former authenticity, there is no denying its place as one of the most iconic public spaces in the world. In recent years, as stretches of Broadway formerly open to vehicular traffic have been repurposed as pedestrian plazas, opportunities to activate the “crossroads of the world” with events, performances, and public art installations have ballooned. The Square hosts hundreds of events, film and television shoots, and public art installations and performances every year. Each has to maneuver around the hundreds and thousands of workers, commuters, visitors, and business owners that pass through every day, and negotiate the regulations and priorities of a host of city agencies.Damian Santucci is Director of Production and Operations for the Times Square Alliance, the business improvement district that covers 41st to 53rd Streets from 6th to 8th Avenues and 46th Street’s “restaurant row.” As such, he’s responsible for overseeing and facilitating all on-the-ground activity in the Square, from a small public art installation to the annual New Year’s Eve extravaganza. Here, Santucci explains the particular challenges and perks of operating one of the busiest and most recognizable places in the world and walks us through the logistics of making the spectacle happen.–V.S.

Varick Shute: What does the day-to-day work of the Director of Production and Operations for the Times Square Alliance entail?
Damian Santucci: I manage on-the-ground operations in the Square, which includes working with our internal sanitation and public safety departments and the various city agencies that need to be involved in whatever is happening on a given day. As a business improvement district (BID), our budget comes from assessments paid by the business and property owners in Times Square, so technically we work for them. Part of my job is making sure their businesses can operate efficiently in the middle of everything else happening around them.

On the production side, I coordinate with event producers and oversee the set up and staging of events — going on walk-throughs, making approvals, looking over drawings, and making changes — and deal with complications that come up during that process: where are the fire lanes? How is a truck going to get through? How is an installation going to be built? Can it stand up to the weather — wind, rain, snow, ice? How is it going to affect the public? I’m there on overnights making sure that things get loaded in correctly or making sure the shoots are abiding by the rules.

Your work is funded by the businesses in the Square, but the area is also one of the most iconic public spaces in the world, from which the public expects certain things. How does the Alliance serve all those constituencies?
We have to balance what’s good for the owners, what’s good for the Square, and what’s good for New York, and sometimes those interests don’t line up. If you’re a business owner in Times Square, the main thing you care about is that people come here and walk past your store. They might not want a variety of public activities that could block their entrance. For example, nobody makes money on New Year’s Eve; the businesses are mostly closed. But New Year’s Eve is New Year’s Eve — it keeps people coming to Times Square and it’s very good for the city. So there’s a tradeoff, and we try to keep everybody happy.

What role do you think Times Square plays in the city and for the people who live here?
When I first thought about taking this job, Alliance president Tim Tompkins asked what the Square meant to me. The best explanation I could think of was my experience with Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Everyone knows Michelangelo and everyone has read about, studied, and seen a thousand pictures of the Sistine Chapel. If you get to visit it, your expectations are to the moon and back; nothing can meet them. When I finally went for myself, it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever see in my life. It made my expectations seem so small. That’s how people all over the world see Times Square. I take great pride in making it so that somebody can walk into Times Square and her expectations are just as blown through the roof as mine were at the Vatican. I want someone’s first reaction to Times Square to be, “Oh wow, this place is amazing.” If that happens, we did our job.

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Mobilizing Power: Street Vendors and Urban Resilience

Th role of street traders in the public space of cities is constantly undermined in the extension of City Improvement Districts who see them as competition of the rate & rent paying proprietors and owners of urban land. Froth perspective of visitors and tourists and the local population street vendors add a unique ambience to the urban scene. Some problems that are used to justify the control of them and limit their spread is that they are  are often not independent, but owned / financed by hidden entrprenueurs who provide the goods and services of their trade through many small vendors who are intact just employees and this result is the street vendors not supplying anything unique, but simply multiplying the trade in grey imports of commodities such as panties and face creams, or fizzy drinks and chips,a s is ht case in Cape Town, where it is difficult to see any reason for having the rows of stalls all  still selling the same goods. Genuine  traders not selling endless commodities or poor reproductions of tourist nik-naks are hard dot find, ye the y are obviously seeing their goods to someone, but as the stall space is limited the opportunities for real traders are limited by this competition. From Urban Omnibus a report on New Yorks traders:

For more than 200 years, street vendors have been an integral part of New York City. Department store giants Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, after all, started as collectives of door-to-door salespeople. And even more so than those institutions, New York’s estimated 20,000 vendors — by way of their highly visible sidewalk sale of food, flowers, art, books, and more — are embedded firmly in the city’s collective imaginary. When it rains in Manhattan, an umbrella is so easy to come by that a T-Mobile billboard once claimed that its network was faster than an umbrella vendor’s anticipation of rain. The public nature of vending extends to the roles vendors actively take on as direction-givers or go-to sources of change for a $10 bill.

Despite their provision of sought-after services, fellow business interests and policymakers often dismiss vendors as problematic, in part because their lack of a rent payment is considered an unfair leg-up on nearby brick and mortar shops. Regulation of the profession reflects this: vendors’ sidewalk presence is managed under convoluted rules too often used to remove them from areas where they’re deemed unwanted. Tellingly, the map of the city’s Business Improvement Districts, which are funded by local business interests, is roughly congruent with the map of streets where vending is prohibited. This bias against vending extends beyond the BIDs’ domains: across the city, vendors receive on average 40,000 tickets a year. A ticket can carry a fine of up to $1,000 for an infraction as minor as operating an inch too close to the curb or failing to display a vending license around one’s neck. Vendors are arrested roughly 10,000 times a year for reasons ranging from vending without a license to failing to comply with a police officer’s order to move, even when they are lawfully set up.

The cooperation of different New Yorkers, including street vendors in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy calls for a new emphasis on urban collaboration and symbiosis in disaster planning and city planning more broadly. Rather than offering free batteries from their Power Forward truck when the electrical grid shuts down, Duracell could partner with street vendors to distribute them, increasing their coverage area and stemming the use of short-term business tactics like price gouging. Rather than hiring an extra information guide, tourist agencies could work with vendors already performing this role in Lower Manhattan, allowing them to officially do so. Rather than deploying additional solar mobile charging stations, AT&T could invest in the social infrastructure of the city by having street vendors offer charging on the street in exchange for additional revenue.

Opportunities abound, especially when it comes to retrofitting street carts or food trucks to mitigate the pollution and noise that comes with their gas generators. Rather than invest in a project like Simply Grid, which provides on-demand sidewalk access to grid electricity through fixed kiosks, we could power vendors with energy sources like solar panels or biofuels that do not reduce their physical mobility or ability to remain operational when the main energy grid goes dark. Projects aspiring to this already exist: the solar-powered GrowNYC van in Union Square, Our Lady of Detritus’ “sunbrella”-powered mobile A/V system, the Solar Power Pops Truck, and the vegetable oil-fueled BLK Projek mobile green market in the South Bronx. Encouraging such programs and incubating new partnerships would not only lessen overall demand for energy and increase the amount derived from renewable sources, but street vendors acting as ambassadors for these models would increase the visibility of alternative energy sources in our most accessible and prominent public space: the sidewalk.

Because of their mobility, position on the sidewalk, and diverse demographics, street vendors are uniquely positioned to improve urban resilience. But if we are to build upon the unrecognized social role that vendors already play to help us further mitigate, adapt to, and recover from times of crisis, we must ensure that their multiple daily struggles are addressed. When vendors’ right to the sidewalk is threatened, not only are their livelihoods in danger, but the city loses out on this potential. Let’s build on infrastructure that already exists by facilitating strategic partnerships that will valorize, legitimize, and enable street vendors to work beyond their reductionist primary function and confront broader urban issues. It is time for the City to stop treating vendors as a nuisance, and to instead recognize their latent potential as rapidly deployable social infrastructure that can address existing and future needs.

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Gowanus by Design: WATER_WORKS Competition Winners

With this weeks focus being water – opportune because our borehole pump is broken and I am having to stand and water the garden with hose – even though it’s pretty water-wize it still needs some water in mid-Summer  in our Winter rainfall Western Cape. From bustler

Detail of the winning project in the category Community Programming:

Detail of the winning project in the category Community Programming: “Flood Courts Gowanus” by Josip Zaninović, Krešimir Renić, Ana Ranogajec, Tamara Marić, and Branko Palić from Zagreb, Croatia

The competition jury comprised Richard Plunz, Pofessor, Columbia University GSAPP & Director, Urban Design Lab; David J. Lewis, Founding Partner, LTL Architects; Robert M Rogers, Founding Partner, Rogers Marvel Architects; Andrew Simons, Chairman, Gowanus Canal Conservancy; and Joel Towers, Dean, Parsons The New School For Design.

While reviewing the over 150 submissions, the jurors agreed that no single entry fully addressed the multitude of challenges presented by the competition brief and therefore decided to award winners in three categories instead: Urban Ecology, Architectural Design, and Community Programming.

Category: Urban Ecology

1st Place: Water_Works<br /><br />
Studio TJOA: Audrey Worden, Alex Worden; Brooklyn, New York

1st Place: Water_Works Studio TJOA: Audrey Worden, Alex Worden; Brooklyn, New York

1st Place: Water_Works
Studio TJOA: Audrey Worden, Alex Worden; Brooklyn, New York

Honorable Mention: Modular Floodplain and Community Center<br /><br />
Pilot Projects: Scott Francisco, James Wilson, Drew Powers; New York, New York

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Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center Opens to the Public

A deeply embedded building which fits it s site and use  from and innovative pair of architects who see buildings, landscapes and infrastructure as serving people via arch daily

© Albert Vecerka/Esto

Accompanied by Mayor Bloomberg yesterday in an early morning ribbon cutting, New York City-based practice Weiss/Manfredi celebrated the grand opening of the new Botanic Garden Visitor Center. Embedded into an existing hillside at the Garden’s northeast corner, the sinuous glass building appears as a seamless extension to the existing topography as it leads into the 52-acre garden. In addition, the $28-million Visitor Center incorporates numerous environmentally sustainable features—most notably a 10,000-square-foot living roof—that are aimed toward earning LEED Gold certification. The project has been recognized by the New York City Public Design Commission with an Award for Excellence in Design.

Continue reading after the break for the architects’ description.


© Albert Vecerka/Esto

The 20,000-square-foot Visitor Center was conceived as a new threshold between the city and Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBC) that transitions from an architectural presence at the street to a structured landscape within the Garden. The Visitor Center invites visitors from Washington Avenue into the Garden via a curved glass trellis before opening into major garden precincts like the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and Cherry Esplanade.

© Albert Vecerka/Esto

The primary entry from Washington Avenue is visible from the street; an additional entry from the elevated Overlook and Ginkgo Allée at the top of the berm bisects the Visitor Center, revealing framed views of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, and descends through a stepped ramp to the main level of the Garden.

© Albert Vecerka/Esto

The curved glass walls of the Visitor Center offer veiled views into the Garden, their fritted glass filtering light and deterring bird strikes. In contrast to the southern face of the building, the north side is built into a preexisting berm, which increases thermal efficiency. Its clerestory glazing—along with the fritted glass on the south walls— minimizes heat gain and maximizes natural illumination. A geoexchange system heats and cools the interior spaces, and a series of rain gardens collect and filter runoff to improve storm-water management.

© Albert Vecerka/Esto

The leaf-shaped living roof hosts over 40,000 plants—grasses, spring bulbs, and perennial wildflowers—adding a new experimental landscape to the Garden’s collection.

© Albert Vecerka/Esto

The green roof will change throughout the year, literally transforming the nature of the architecture each season. The Washington Avenue side of the building features a pleated copper roof that echoes the Garden’s landmarked 1917 McKim, Mead & White Administration Building and will ultimately weather to green.

Nearly 60,000 plants were installed around the Visitor Center, including cherry, magnolia, and tupelo trees; viburnums; native roses; and three rain gardens full of water-loving plants. In combination with the green roof, this ambitious installation seamlessly weaves the Visitor Center into the green tapestry of the Garden.

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ONE PRIZE: Water as the 6th Borough – Winners Announced

Terreform ONE has announced the winners of ONE PRIZE: Water as the 6th Borough, the open international design competition to envision the sixth borough of New York City.
ONE PRIZE is an annual design and science award to promote green design in cities. The 2011 edition turned its focus to New York and its waterways, re-imagining recreational space, public transportation, local industry, and native environment in the city. Contestants proposed designs for the NYC BLUE NETWORK and the E3NYC CLEAN TECH WORLD EXPO by expanding waterborne transportation and linking the five boroughs with a series of green transit hubs as well as providing in-water recreation, water-oriented educational, cultural and commercial activities, and demonstrations of clean technology and renewable energy.

Detail from the submission board of the competition-winning concept NY Parallel Networks

Click above image to view slideshow
Detail from the submission board of the competition-winning concept NY Parallel Networks

The jury panel included Amanda Burden, New York City Planning Commissioner; Charles McKinney, Principal Urban Designer NYC Parks Department; Michael Colgrove of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); Helena Durst of the Durst Organization; Matthias Hollwich of Architizer;  Bjarke Ingels of BIG; Roland Lewis of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance; Roberta Weisbrod of Sustainable Ports; Kate Ascher of Buro Happold Consulting; James Corner of Field Operations; David Gouverneur of the University of Pennsylvania; and Victoria Marshall of Parsons School of Design.

Prizes were given to many young architects and designers who submitted the four selected entries. The grand prize winners, Ali Fard and Ghazal Jafari are both recent graduates of the University of Toronto. The three honorable mention teams are the Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design led by Kevin Bone, an entrepreneurial design practice RUX Design, New York, and a group of recent graduates from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Ali Fard and Ghazal Jafari, Canada

NY Parallel Networks, stood out to the jury with a synthesis of economy, environment, transportation, and recreation in a versatile, attractive proposal. A scaleable, flexible design, Parallel Networks remained compellingly feasible with an exciting public space integrated with energy production, water cleansing, and habitat creation.

Commissioner Burden praised NY Parallel Networks with these words, “The winning entry, NY Parallel Networks, is very rich proposal that takes on all of the major themes of the City’s new waterfront plan, Vision 2020. The design includes an exciting public recreational space in the Bronx integrated with energy production, water cleansing, and enhancement of natural habitats. In addition, the proposal referenced the needs of the maritime industry, and included boat tie up and maritime services on an artificial reef.”

WINNER: NY PARALLEL NETWORKS by Ali Fard and Ghazal Jafari, Canada

WINNER: NY PARALLEL NETWORKS by Ali Fard and Ghazal Jafari, Canada

WINNER: NY PARALLEL NETWORKS by Ali Fard and Ghazal Jafari, Canada

WINNER: NY PARALLEL NETWORKS by Ali Fard and Ghazal Jafari, Canada

ONE PRIZE’s multifaceted design brief brought in a wide variety of proposals, and the jury selected three honorable mentions to represent the three general groups of entries: Developing water-borne culture; Envisioning a comprehensive transportation system; and addressing intensifying environmental challenges.

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City Beautiful: The Secret Life of Trees (via Encountering Urbanization)

Trees are life and he urban forest should surround all of us – not just the privileged few in our “leafy-suburbs…

City Beautiful: The Secret Life of Trees Despite tree-hugging tendencies, I'm trying my hardest not to hate trees and other blossoming urban flora right now as they wake up from a long winter and their wanton pollination causes my awful allergies. To feel a little better, it's a good time to remember that while urban forests dish out suffering to those of us with sensitive immune systems, they do take a lot of abuse from us too. In late February the New York Post reported a shocking exp … Read More

via Encountering Urbanization

ExpoTENtial’s Par Corps Lab – Exercise in the City?

Can we build cities that are able to exercise both our bodies and our minds – an experiment in New York reported by [polis] that we would like to see a different version of here in South African Cities, where a large proportion of the cities population walk many kilometers in the early hours of the morning to avoid expensive mini-bus taxi fares in order to get to work on time, while their more affluent co-inhabitants  sit in their cars jammed on the freeways….

Can urban intervention create opportunities for fitness in public spaces? Can well-placed “extensions” to existing urban structures, such as scaffolding or bike racks, turn a city into a free gym? Par Corps Lab — led by curator Shonquis Moreno, Robyne Kassen and Sarah Gluck (Urban Movement), and Tucker Viemeister (Rockwell Lab) — investigates these possibilities through a series of physical experiments in the city of New York. Observations of passers-by, as well as the skill sets of team members (Gluck is also a yoga instructor), led to the concept of cities as exercise machines. As a preliminary research phase, the documented experiments are presented as a film installation designed by Pure+Applied, which will open this evening at theCenter for Architecture‘s Helfand Gallery. Continue reading

Can New York City Achieve Carbon Neutrality in Buildings by 2030?

From HUFFPOST ARTS by JacobSlevin

Are New Yorkers up for the Challenge? Our problems of climate change and diminishing energy supply are greater than ever, but architects and designers can have a significant impact in improving the state of the planet. Buildings are responsible for over 75% percent of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions, and there is a tremendous opportunity to effect real change through energy efficient and innovative design.

Ed Mazria is an architect who is making a big difference, as a preeminent leader and visionary in the field of sustainable design. With a career spanning 45 years, he has been engaged in environmental issues since the 1970s. He is the author of the “bible” of solar design, The Passive Solar Energy Book. Most significantly, he closed his practice in 2006 to start Architecture 2030, a nonprofit that challenges designers to achieve carbon neutrality in buildings by the year 2030. Carbon neutral buildings are ones that do not emit greenhouse gases or offset any emissions by producing renewable energy.


Ed Mazria. Photo credited to Jamey Stillings.
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New York City Planners Janette Sadik-Khan and Amanda Burden Share Their Wisdom With Cape Town

With the upcoming municipal elections in South Africa and the fight over the Mayors position and role, especially in Cape Town, this report from Cape Town Partnership website about a visitors from the Big Apple highlights the impact a charismatic and powerful civic leader can have on a city. We hope and look forward to our future leader being able to mobilize and  transform our bureaucracy  and deliver on their campaign promises! Additionally we see the difference in scale and priorities of an urban megapolis like New York and sleepy hollow Cape Town!

“City partners were privileged to host Janette Sadik-Khan, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation and Amanda Burden, director of the New York City Department of City Planning this week to discuss issues of public transport, NMT, public space and city planning.Described as activists for change in their city, both Sadik-Khan and Burden have been major players in New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bid to transform New York into a green city by, among other things, reducing the city’s carbon footprint by 30% by the year 2030 while improving the livability and quality of life of the city Continue reading