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Position Papers

Leaning Toward Live-Work Units

Strong economic, demographic and household trends reveal a tremendous pent-up demand to use homes for employment, pressuring the marketplace to accommodate all types of live-work units. Yet for the past half-century, live-work units have essentially been made illegal or discouraged in most places. Changes to zoning and building codes, as well as management and permitting procedures, are required to allow the full spectrum of live-work options to be restored.

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Lean Interpretations from Philippine Vernacular Architecture

The U.S. housing market has seen significant transformation in the last few years. The recent mortgage crisis and the ensuing aversion to sprawl; issues of climate change, energy and affordability; and a renewed appreciation for context and community have ushered a return of smaller, more efficient dwellings. An examination of vernacular housing models, particularly those from locales where pragmatic building practices are still common — such as in the Philippines — may offer useful techniques for developing Lean housing types.

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The Problems with LEED

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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The CNU Charter – Through a Lean Lens

The 27 principles of the Charter of the New Urbanism were formulated by a broad cross-section of thinkers, practitioners and officials who recognized some of the shortcomings of post-WWII development, planning and design on the continuity and coherence of American cities. The Charter reflects a durable and broadly agreed upon standard of regional and urban livability, sustainability and civility.

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Lean Charrettes

Over the past decade, even as there has been a growing fascination with the benefits of charrettes as a tool for planning and public engagement, there has been a constant complaint that charrettes are too expensive. This complaint has become more common and more urgent in recent years, with shrinking budgets and tightening competition among firms for a smaller pool of available work. Lean Urbanism has introduced a new set of concerns about the costs of the process. It is particularly difficult to fit a charrette into the budget of a project when the goal is to “make small possible.” But Lean Urbanism isn’t just about streamlining the planning process. In the simplest terms, it is about reducing the time and resources invested in planning and dedicating them instead to getting things done, in more manageable increments, with less top-down intervention or public investment, creating more opportunities for individual action, with smaller increments of investment.

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Legislation Affecting Lean Urbanism

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.

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Lean Infrastructure – Better Than Gold-Plating

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.

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Lean Governing

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.

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Basic Lean in Gabon, Africa

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.

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