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Category: Environment

Vision for a sustainable downtown Houston, 2030 [Original photo from The Positive Image, rendering by Kirksey EcoServices]

Future Shock: Downtown Houston in 2030

The architecture and interior design firm Kirksey was approached by the Houston Chronicle to provide a look at the buildings of the future.

The response was a green metropolis, where buildings are wind-powered, collect rainwater, and black top streets are replaced by parks and lakes.

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Sign marking the beginning of segment I-2 of Texas State Highway 99, also known as Grand Parkway. [Photo from Wikimedia Commons]

Headlines March 7 to 13

Perhaps the biggest news over the past few weeks regarding the Houston area built environment has been the struggle over Segment E of the Grand Parkway, which would run through the Katie Prarie. The debate has heated up as the state presses on to use stimulus funds to extend the outer ring road.

Friday March 13

Grand Parkway snarl: Stimulus funds should not be used to build toll roads. Tolls should. [Houston Chronicle] “Fees collected from users should foot the bills for these pay-to-drive roadways, which have come into ever-increasing favor across Texas. Funds to build them should not come from a huge pot of found money such as the stimulus. Those dollars can be put to better use on projects that are equally as necessary as the toll roads but which don’t come equipped with their own built-in revenue stream.”

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Erin Morrison and Professor Brent Houchens assemble the frame and header for an Apricus evacuated tube collector for a solar water heater. [Photo from Ze-Row Blog]

$olar $avings: Are Affordable Solar Powered Houses Possible?

The Fall issue of Cite included a short piece (pdf) on the Rice University Solar Decathlon Team. David Dewane, the lead architecture student, provides an update and analysis.

Rice students from the departments of architecture and engineering are engaged in a joint venture that seeks to answer one simple question: Can a 100 percent solar-powered house be affordable?

The answer, so far, is yes. There are a few catches, though.

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Emergency Response Artist Studio [Photo courtesy of Jonathan Ferrara Gallery]

Paul Villinski's Emergency Response Studio

The Rice Gallery features site-specific, commissioned installations and every one that I have visited there has been extraordinary. Last Fall, an installation by Aurora Robson used cut plastic bottles and rivets to create winding translucent tunnels and domes. When I took my two-year-old daughter to visit she ran through it with arms outstretched pretending to be a dragon. The gallery’s next adventure is a departure from the lyrical, morphogenic pieces I have come to associate with it. In fact, it’s a “FEMA trailer.”

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Galveston Bay [United States Geological Survey, Wikimedia Commons]

Enough: A Spiritual Quest

Below is an excerpt from Jim Blackburn’s September 30, 2008 speech at the Rothko Chapel. Mr. Blackburn is an environmental lawyer and contributor to Cite. He was the recipient of the Bob Eckhardt Lifetime Achievement Award for Coastal Preservation Efforts from the General Land Office of the State of Texas and was granted Honorary Membership in the American Institute of Architects in 2003, in recognition of his legal work associated with urban quality of life issues.

My quest begins in the 1980s, one of the most difficult times of my life.

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An ICE 3M train near Montabaur, on the Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed railway line. [Wikimedia Commons

Stimulus We Can Believe In

Originally published in the Houston Chronicle on November 16, 2008 By Tory Gattis, Carrol G. Robinson, and Christof Spieler

The Great Depression was a tough time for America, but it left us with an enduring legacy of good infrastructure. Bridges built in the 1930s bring commuters into San Francisco. Dams erected in the 1930s power the Northwest. An electric railroad from the 1930s carries high-speed trains from New York to Washington, D.C. A 1930s national park in the Great Smoky Mountains has twice as many visitors as any other national park. And in the 1930s, power lines brought rural Texas into the 20th century.

Today, as our economy continues to stall, congressional leaders are discussing a second stimulus plan.

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