Monday, September 28, 2009

Afternoon Links

Some interesting stuff on the interwebs today...

My personal favorite story thus far from Science Daily as a proponent of the City as Organism meme, is a new study comparing complexity of Cities to complexity of human brain development:
As brains grow more complex from one species to the next, they change in structure and organization in order to achieve the right level of interconnectedness. One couldn’t simply grow a double-sized dog brain, for example, and expect it to have the same capabilities as a human brain. This is because, among other things, a human brain doesn’t merely have more “dog neurons,” but, instead, has neurons with a greater number of synapses than that of a dog – something crucial in helping to keep the human brain well connected.
It's important to think of those synapses, those connections between different segments of the brains as those "connections" that influence design, as a street communicates with a building design and vice versa. The more factors affecting the design, the smarter the design is likely to be, much like the greater the complexity of the city the smarter the city is likely to be.

My one issue with the study is that it accounts for highway exits and density (and perhaps this is strictly for ease of the study), so how does one rate Venice for example in this study? There are no highway exits, does that mean it lacks complexity and interconnectedness. This doesn't account for various forms of transportation when having said various forms might be the MOST critical component to complexity.

A better study would be either intersections per density (Venice still has intersections - they just are populated and crossed by bike and foot) or building entrances by block per density.

GOOD has a series of links to forward thinking systems ranging from transpo to education in cities throughout the world.

Gizmag, which reeks of gizmo green, writes of a coming study quantifying the efficacy of green roofs:
Now researchers have attempted to quantify the benefits of covering urban rooftops with plants. The scientists found that replacing traditional roofing materials with ‘green’ in an urban area the size of Detroit with a population of about one-million, would be equivalent to eliminating a year's worth of carbon dioxide emitted by 10,000 mid-sized SUVs and trucks. Their study is the first to examine the ability of green roofs to sequester carbon that may impact climate change and the findings are scheduled to appear in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Smart Growth America says the spike in oil prices lead to a rise in transit ridership. Another 10% rise in transit use might result in complete independence from Middle Eastern oil. One way to make driving more difficult and increase density and transit ridership, make it more expensive.

And lastly, Planetizen op-ed that HUD needs to stop pushing home ownership and rethink about some rental. From the law of unintended consequences:
This situation has been exacerbated by an unprecedented decline in HUD-financed rental units during the past two decades, as obsolete public housing projects have been demolished and replaced with lower-density communities containing a mix of sales and rental housing, including some housing priced at market rates. However, this spectacular transformation of some of the nation's worst public housing sites has substantially reduced the supply of affordable rental housing in many of the cities that need it most.