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.
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.
Lean Codes have compact formats, bare-bones standards, and lighter (pink) red tape, in contrast to the excessive controls, redundancies, contradictions, delays, and unintended consequences created by conventional codes (and some form-based codes, for that matter). Lean Development Codes are Transect-based, as it is Lean to connect disciplines and support local contexts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Camp Meeting ground is a land-use form particularly American, evolved to create community, integrating architecture, nature, and urban design using innate rules of human behavior. Camp Meeting grounds are the source for uses as diverse as resort villages, bungalow courts, trailer parks, condominiums, home owner’s associations, land trusts, even some town centers. They are also about self-building, occasional prefabrication, and compact, human-scaled structures. The ideas and social experiments, construction know-how and urban layouts have influenced the country for hundreds of years. The lessons still hold.
The built environment accounts for approximately half the energy use and carbon footprint of the United States. Lean Buildings reduce energy flows by tapping basic natural heating and cooling techniques and renewable energy sources in ways that are region-specific and climate-sensitive. Seven defensive and offensive strategies — from use of local and recycled materials to heavy insulation, from building orientation and passive solar systems to dense urban configurations — address the reduction of material and energy consumption in the U.S and similar climates. Issues of energy quantity and quality, energy codes and metrics, as well as building size and configuration, are also discussed.
Owning a small piece of your neighborhood can be good for you and good for your city. Owners of small buildings benefit by generating income and building wealth, as the immigrants to New England who bought and rented out “triple-deckers.” Small building ownership faces challenges, mostly due to lack of economies of scale. However, every asset class has inherent challenges, so budget for them and focus on the benefits.