Category Archives: Cars

How are millennials changing cities?

The following post is by DJC staff:

Want to know more about the way millennials are changing Metro Vancouver — and other cities around the world, like Seattle?

You can catch a free public talk on the topic next week in Vancouver or watch a live webcast on Tuesday, Sept. 16, starting at 7 p.m.

The speaker is Dr. Markus Moos, assistant professor of planning at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. He will share insights into millennials focusing on their values; housing and commuting decisions; and transportation preferences — especially what this means for employers, developers, planners and other residents.

The talk is presented by TransLink and Simon Fraser University’s City Program.

Fewer millennials hold drivers’ licenses or own a vehicle.

iStock photo

If you want to attend the event it will be in SFU Harbour Center at 515 W. Hastings St. Registration to attend is required.

Millennials are the folks who started to reach early adulthood around 2000 and they outnumber even the Baby Boomers. A press release from Simon Fraser University says there are roughly nine million millennials in Canada and more than 500,000 in Metro Vancouver. They think, communicate, travel and work differently from their parents and grandparents.

SFU offers some stats about millennials:

• More than 25 percent of Metro Vancouver’s population are millennials.

• The percentage of young adults living in neighborhoods near transit is two to three times the Metro Vancouver average.

• Living close to downtown is important to millennials in cities across North America — in Vancouver, proximity to transit matters more than to downtown alone.

• Fewer and fewer millennials hold drivers’ licenses or own a vehicle, with a more than 10 percent decrease among 25–to-29-year-olds and five percent among 30-to-34-year-olds from 2004 to 2013. Young adults in 2011 used transit 11 percent more than their counterparts in 1999.

SFU says Markus Moos is a planner and assistant professor who does research on the changing economy and social structure of cities. He has examined the factors shaping Canada’s housing markets; the changing characteristics of suburbs; and the implications of change on affordability, sustainability and equity.

He lived in Vancouver from 2006 to 2010 and completed his PhD at the University of British Columbia.

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45 mini-parks pop up on city streets

The following post is by DJC staff:

Two Capitol Hill residents, Gillian Graham and Isabel Blue, moved their living room out onto the street at Pine and Boylston as part of PARK(ing) Day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. The annual event gives city residents the chance to temporarily turn a parking space into a park.

A mini-park takes over a bit of Capitol Hill street parking.

It gets people thinking about how we use space and how much of the public space is devoted to storing and driving cars. And it raises awareness about what makes cities livable and healthy.
SDOT says on its website that the idea originated in San Francisco and has grown into a global movement, with close to 1,000 parks in more than 35 countries last year.
SDOT approved applications for 45 parks around the city this year.
This year PARK(ing) Day 2013 is part of the Seattle Design Festival, which runs from Sept. 13 to 22.

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Olson Kundig’s idea of sustainability – from art haven to car heaven

It’s been an Olson Kundig Architects week here at the DJC. On Tuesday, we wrote this story on Art Stable, the new artist loft space in South Lake Union. On Wednesday, we wrote this story on the new Stadium Nissan dealership near Safeco Field, developed by Greg Smith of Urban Visions. Both were designed by Olson Kundig. Extensive photos are available here.

In covering these two, very different projects, I’ve had a little time to think about the sustainable

Art Stable
Image courtesy Katie Zemtseff

Art Stable

hot spots of each. In Art Stable, what really sticks in my mind is the idea that it is designed to be turned into different things over time. It’s already zoned for commercial so it could be that. But little things, like high ceilings, placing utilities along the building’s perimeter, using durable materials and having a flexible floor plan, could easily allow it to be other uses over time. There was thought put into how the space could change. It is also pre-wired for solar photovoltaic to the roof and for electric car charging in the garage. Granted, I would hope to get a little foresight in a space that costs between $500 and $800 per square foot. But this is pretty unique to me: a team that really looked at the longevity of space. It seems like it’s a consideration generally missing from our land use and project debates.

These two quotes encapsulate the idea:

From Kirsten Murray, managing principal for Olson Kundig: “I think sustainability is above all about the longevity, the useful long life of a building. There’s an idea that the structure is sort of the foundation for what kind of becomes the life of the building.”

….and from Chris Rogers, CEO of the building’s developer, Point 32:“If you think of turn-of-the-century buildings that have been repurposed, we’re thinking about this building in the same terms but in a more contemporary format,” he said. “You’re creating a structure that could be used for multiple purposes long into the future… You’re prolonging its life essentially.”


Nissan dealership, courtesy Katie Zemtseff
Second, this week I ran into Tom Kundig at the Stadium Nissan dealership opening. The dealership will sell the all-electric Leaf car, once it goes on sale in December. It is the first dealership the internationally known firm has designed.

Kundig told me the sustainability of the space, as well as his firm’s design aesthetic, had a lot to do with restraint. Instead of covering materials with paint or toxic-fueled finishes, they are left alone and allowed to weather naturally. Materials in the building, from wood to steel to concrete, are left raw, allowing people to see their inherent beauty. “Rather than trying to cover it up or be sort of artificial about it.”

Kundig said the space is also sustainable in that the dealership reused and improved the old building while uncovering its beauty.

Tom Kundig
Kundig said the main purpose of the space was to show off the people in the room and the Leaf. Architecture is meant to support that goal.

“Good architecture to me is quiet architecture, oddly. That usually means sort of quiet use of resources because… it’s not about showing off the thing, it’s about looking at it in a totality,” Kundig said, adding that architecture is about the wholesomness of something, rather than the individual pieces. The more a space can resemble a symphony, the better. (He also said this is a really tough idea to get across in print so I hope I’ve done it justice!)

I spoke to Mayor Mike McGinn briefly about his perception of the space. He said its LEED gold goal was impressive as was its adaptive reuse, unfinished floors and exposed wood.

“It really did have a different look and feel and I think they were demonstrating an environmental consciousness of the building and its operations as well as what they were selling,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a usual trait that you see (in car dealerships).”

And for those of you who say any space dedicated to the car can’t be sustainable, yes, I asked Greg Smith about that aspect too. Empirically, he said you may be correct, but for now, that’s not the reality. He said the opportunity to be a part of something like the Leaf that will revolutionize the auto industry for the better “moves the dial” enormously.

Interesting stuff, don’t you think.

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Giuliani says clean tech is America’s next big market

This week, I interviewed former Mayor of New York and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani on clean tech. The story is in the DJC here and nicely sums up our conversation. But if you’re interested in why

Rudy Giuliani. Photo By Katie Zemtseff
Giuliani is interested in clean tech or what he thinks the next big thing or heck, whether he likes Seattle or not, I suggest you view our discussion.

The discussion is split into three video interviews. Here they are:

Click here for part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:


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What Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. had to say in Seattle this morning

This morning, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. keynoted the BuiltGreen Conference 2009 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. It was not your typical green conference keynote.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Most talks focus on one topic and explore it. At green events, that talk is usually centered around a project, a theory or a problem that we need to fix. This talk was mostly political and discussed everything from the benefits of “true free market capitalism” (many), to how the Bush administration tore down environmental rules and tenets (disastrously), to who was who in Washington, D.C. politics (lobbyists), to how much mercury human beings have in their bodies (a lot), to how the press has covered these issues (very poorly).

Honestly, he spoke about so many different things I don’t really know what to tell you, dear reader. So I’ll start with energy.

Kennedy spoke a lot about the energy grid. The largest technical problem in weaning ourselves off oil, he said, is that we don’t have a grid that can handle new sources of energy like wind or solar. Developing a system that would reach every American home would cost $1 million per mile, he said, or $150 billion. It’s a one-time expenditure, he said, and would benefit national security. He said we’ve done it before with computers and the Internet; all we have to do is make the commitment.

He also said we need to change the way the energy business works. Utilities today, he said, benefit by creating and selling more energy. We need to redevelop it to focus on conservation. “We have to change that incentivized system,” he said, “So that they can make the same money by getting people to conserve, not consume.”

He also spoke a lot about a business he is a part of called Better Place. Better Place is a venture-backed company that seeks to build an electric car network based on today’s technology. Kennedy said the company is beginning with Israel, where it hopes to transform the market over the next three years. The company will give electric cars away for free – made by Renault and Nissan – to anyone who signs a contract with the company. Under the contract, the person owns the car while Better Place owns the car battery (which costs $20,000). The company pays itself back by charging a premium on the power the car needs to run, outlined in the contract. He said the company has similar contracts with Denmark, Australia, Hawaii and north California, and would love for all of North America to follow suit.

“The electric car is the way this country is going to go,” he said.

Kennedy also took a hit at the mainstream media, calling it “negligent” in reporting important stories over the past decade. Instead, he said the media has become entertainment rather than information, which appeals to the prurient interests in the reptilian parts of our brains. Ouch.

Were you there? If so, what did you think was the most interesting thing he said and how would you rate his speech?

P.S. The information Kennedy shared about his personal levels of mercury (if he were a woman, he said a doctor told him his children would have cognitive impairment) was pretty frightening. If you want to test your mercury levels, visit the Waterkeeper Alliance, another organization Kennedy is affiliated with, here.

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Could efficient homes save the U.S. housing market from an Asian takeover?

First off, let’s be clear. I’m not fear mongering, my point isn’t to scare people. But the doomsday scenario of China’s taking over the U.S. housing industry the same way Asia took over the U.S. auto industry was a driving factor behind Parr Lumber’s development of a building science-based efficient home product. 

takeover1.jpgIn case you missed it, I discussed the product (and Asian threat, real or not) in an article last Thursday here.

The product is called the Parr High Performance System. Parr takes an architect’s plans, tweaks them, builds pieces of a house’s frame at a climate controlled plant and assembles the building’s envelope on site. It’s quick, easy and they say more efficient.

Parr says it reduces energy bills, reduces job site lumber waste by 75 percent, shortens the construction schedule, and provides cleaner air and consistent room temperature.

Oh, by the way, Toyota Housing Services has already entered the housing market in San Antonio, Texas.

Apparently, Toyota has been in the housing business since the 1970s. For more information on what the Japanese modular homes look like, see below or click here.

toyota-home.jpgNate Bond, director of sales at Parr, says houses have been built the same way since the stud frame home was invented in the 1800s. He says something needs to change to keep American homes competitive and efficient. If Asia brings a great, cheap, modular house to the mass American market, he said, “They would take over the U.S. housing market without firing a shot.” What do you think? Is he right?

If he is right, could efficient easy homes be the answer?

For an overview of the housing market from a mortgage planning perspective, check out this post called Brian’s Blog O-Parr-Tunity here.

For more on the Parr product, where the idea came from, how it works and building science, read my story in the DJC here.

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And you thought the Prius looked weird… Cars of the future at Globe2008

Cars, cars and more cars were on the Globe2008 trade show floor, from the buyable 2008Toyota's Hybrid X concept car Chevy Malibu Hybrid to Toyota’s futuristic Hybrid X concept car.

As far as fun goes, the Hybrid X was clearly the star of the show. Its design is sleek and sexy with eye-catching seats, steering wheel and lines that made conference attendees gawk and press their noses up against the car’s window panes. But much to the dismay of gawkers asking when they could purchase it, the car will not be manufactured. For more information and pictures, press here.

Other cars at the event looked similar to what you’d see on the road but featured hybrid, fuel cell and cellulosic ethanol propulsion systems. Ford Focus hydrogen fuel cell carThe Ford Focus fuel cell vehicles are hybrid electric fuel cell cars that never use a drop of gas. Ford made 30 of them in 2004 that are currently being tested in different climates like Florida, Michigan, and British Columbia. The hope is to eventually mass produce them.

If cars aren’t your dig, there are always electric scooters and bikes that plug into your wall. Canadian company Ecodrive Technology Group was exhibiting different models.

Other cars from Volkswagon, Chevrolet, General Motors and Peugeot were displayed.

Cars like this will help move the auto industry away from being petroleum-based, said Beth Lowery, vice president for environmental energy with GM’s global operations. And those cars will get more important as the world’s population grows, she said. Today, there are 6.6 billion people in the world and 890 million vehicles, she said, but by 2020, there will be 7.5 billion people and at least 1.1 billion cars.

Lowery also advocated for international and market-based regThe engine of a Saturn Aura Green Line Hybridulations that could be applied on an economy-wide basis, rather than state standards, which impede the auto industry’s ability “to improve our technologies globally,” she said.

What do you think? Will the auto industry ever totally move away from petroleum? Are you despairing that you will never buy the Hybrid X or is its design just too odd? Let us know!

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