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Summary

Analysis suggests LEED buildings perform no better, and in fact perform worse, than non-LEED buildings. Many recommended actions, especially those selected by users, have little to no effect. Too few of its standards are results-driven, with high pay-back in areas other than environmental stewardship. Its rewards are self-serving, and used more often by a narrow group of elite users rather than a broad population. Recommendations include recognizing the shortcomings of current use characteristics, bringing clarity to the essentials of desired end performance, and refashioning certification standards to alter use of the program.

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Robert Orr

Robert Orr

Robert Orr, FAIA, is a seventh generation Hoosier and an award-winning architect and planner present at the first sip of coffee that became the grounds for the New Urbanism. Robert Orr & Associates LLC furnished more than 6,000 hours of services to storm-ravaged Gulf Coast Mississippi and New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. A Founder of the Seaside Institute, a think-tank on community design and development, Robert also serves on Boards of many other vision-based organizations in Florida, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhodes Island, Washington, Vermont, Maine and Connecticut. Robert is President of the Congress for the New Urbanism — New England Chapter. Robert teaches in the graduate architecture program at the University of Hartford, where he also is formulating a new two-year post-professional Master of Urbanism program. He received his M.Arch. from the Yale School of Art and Architecture and his BA from the University of Vermont and State Agriculture College. A practitioner, adjunct professor, business entrepreneur, Real Estate manager, and avuncular writer/commentator, Robert lives with his wife and four children in New Haven, Connecticut.

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  Publications

April 15th, 2015

Lean Urbanism and the Right to the City

Summary

The potential for a natural partnership between Lean Urbanism and social-justice groups is self-evident and should be explored. A growing movement of social-justice organizations across the world are coalescing behind the concept of “the right to the city” as a means to garner support for a wide range of social issues that can be characterized by a belief that everyone has a right to design and shape their community. These groups have the energy and determination to alter the status quo of financial and regulatory structures that prevent people who lack access to resources and capital, such as millennials and immigrants, from becoming active in small-scale development. But these groups often also lack the technical knowledge to achieve such goals. Lean Urbanism can provide tools and know-how that these groups need.

April 15th, 2015

Regulatory Barriers to Home Construction and Rehab

Summary

Regulatory barriers make housing less affordable to millions of households in the US and abroad. If regulatory barriers were reduced, small developers could provide housing at more affordable prices. This article assesses the current state of knowledge about the effects of federal, state, and local regulations on the supply and cost of housing.

April 7th, 2015

Low-Fat Vanilla Finance – A Simple Financial Model

Summary

New developers should create their own financial models. Only by doing so will they truly understand the variables and how each affects financial performance. This paper attempts to walk new developers through a financial model that includes development budget, annual return, and capital return. It is simple enough to create but sophisticated enough to present to investors and lenders. It represents one small residential rental building — not condo, and not office or retail.

April 6th, 2015

Lean Financing – Alternatives to Conventional Capital

Summary

Financing Lean Development requires both conventional and non-conventional sources of capital. This paper focuses on project equity from non-conventional sources. Years of observations and anecdotal conversations with developers of small, innovative projects suggest that Lean Development is coming of age, but it has significant hurdles to realizing its potential, and financing is among the more difficult to overcome. Understanding the motivations, requirements and techniques for working with non-conventional investors is critical to overcoming one of the primary hurdles for Lean Development.

April 3rd, 2015

Pilot Projects – Testing Tools, Building Platforms

Summary

The Lean Urbanism movement will come to life through pilot projects, as they will spread the knowledge from the professionals to community builders and entrepreneurs. They are at the core of the Project for Lean Urbanism, as they will serve to demonstrate the potential for and value of incremental, community-scale revitalization and development by tapping local physical, financial, and social assets that are currently underutilized. The pilot projects will also be used to test and refine the tools, to identify and seek solutions to common barriers in regulation or practice that inhibit small-scale development or rebuilding, and to serve as models for use by other communities.

April 3rd, 2015

The Lean Scan – Activating Community Assets

Summary

The Lean Scan is one of the key tools of the Project for Lean Urbanism. It is a method for uncovering hidden assets and opportunities within a neighborhood, district, corridor or town, and for identifying why those assets are underutilized. The Lean Scan will be deployed in a series of pilot projects beginning in 2015. It will be tested and refined in those projects before being released to the public as a free tool.

September 3rd, 2014

Basic Lean in Gabon, Africa

Summary

What can urbanists learn from West-Central Africa? That Lean describes a way of life for many residents, merchants, and builders who encounter a thick layer of buronic bureaucracy on the one hand, and a lifestyle often stripped down to basic necessities. Working around both extremes builds Lean muscle.

Education should foster innovation. To succeed they should take the risk. Youths should not wait to have a lot of money before they can venture into business. They should think big, start small, and start now.

– Eric Kinoti, MD, Shade Systems, East Africa (Kenya)

September 2nd, 2014

Lean Governing

Summary

Lean Governing is not government reform. It is the action-focused exercise of collective will by local elected officials and citizens. It is a process of discovery, of robust experimentation and learning by doing.

How might Lean Governing be applied in places where local leaders believe in Lean Urbanism and want to support it? The term Lean Governing is used here to connote a network of distributed leadership among public entities, citizens and businesses, focused not on a massive, long-term reform of government, but rather on robust experimentation with alternative models through a set of opportunistic partnerships.

June 10th, 2014

Lean Infrastructure – Better Than Gold-Plating

Summary

Lean Infrastructure is Transect-based engineering and landscape works that support Lean Urbanism projects through incremental improvements that can be quickly and economically implemented by subsidiary players without the need for massive equipment, capital or protocols. It is infrastructure designed to fit the needs of a particular level of urbanization (a block or so), but can be frugally upgraded or downgraded to the adjacent level, or adapted to changing conditions.

June 2nd, 2014

Legislation Affecting Lean Urbanism

Summary

The legislation enabling building codes and other targets of Lean Urbanism is often inspired by straightforward protection of health, safety and welfare, but then comes to serve many other purposes. Environmentalists have sought for many years to reform codes for new buildings to allow greater innovation, and Smart Growth advocates have worked since the ‘90s to reform building rehab codes. In some ways these efforts have been very successful, while in others they have left in place many impediments to a certain scale of development. This scale of development occurs in the inner city and in severely damaged suburbs and rural villages, and becomes more valuable to a locality when the market for larger-scale development disappears and is very sensitive to cost, delay and complexity. Additionally, legislative interventions are necessary to remove regulatory barriers that inhibit robust development at this scale. The method for identifying appropriate legislative adjustments to the building codes can be applied to other regulatory scenes which interfere with the revitalization of neighborhoods.