Life without Parking in San Francisco

Life without Parking in San Francisco

Sustainable
In December 2018, San Francisco became the largest U.S. city to eliminate parking requirements for new buildings, including new residential buildings. In other words, developers can now design and build multi-story, multi-unit buildings without any on-site (i.e., off-street) parking. Since then, several new buildings have been approved, designed, constructed, and are under construction without a single parking space. And even though I currently do not own a car and use my bike, plus public transit and the occasional taxi, I was surprised to see the plans for these new buildings without the typical underground parking structures. It wasn't easy to imagine a new building without parking since I have been a licensed civil engineer for some time now. Everything I have ever designed, including residential, commercial, or industrial facilities, had…
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The Housing Crisis and Program Management

The Housing Crisis and Program Management

Sustainable
Over the past few months, as a member of a land-use committee, I have been reviewing new construction projects in the Mission. I have noticed two things: 1) the residential projects lack any parking but do include bike storage, which I like; and 2) there seems to be a disconnect between the buildings being proposed and the general idea of increasing affordable housing and decreasing displacement. And it is easy to understand why. In the architectural-engineering-construction (AEC) industry, we work project by project. However, housing, homelessness, crime, and other “phenomena” that affect us collectively, must be addressed in the same manner: collectively. In housing, for example, we gather the stakeholder requirements, agency regulations, design criteria, and so on and stay focused on our site, but these issues are not contained…
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Water Recycling Options

Water Recycling Options

Sustainable
Water recycling has been around since the dawn of humanity. Back then, it was mainly in the form of rainwater harvesting, as far as we know today, but currently, there are many other options available to us. Therefore it is surprising why we do not employ more techniques, especially in the middle of a drought, which officially started at the turn of the century here in California. The simplest answer is that we can still turn on faucets and flush toilets unhindered. Therefore, there is no incentive to do anything more. But what would happen, for instance, if the water supply were severely reduced? Well, then it would be a priority, and we would turn into water supply hunters, which we might turn our future descendants into. And that is…
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Missed opportunities in the Built Environment

Missed opportunities in the Built Environment

Civil Engineering, Sustainable
A few months ago, I joined a non-profit committee, which reviews new building construction in a San Francisco district. The main purpose of the review is to make sure the new building will fit aesthetically in the neighborhood, advocate for affordable housing, and reduce resident displacement. However, I am always surprised how developers and their architects often do not even try to design any sustainability features into the building. And I understand well enough how expensive it is to build in the City. Still, my concern is that if people in a city as progressive as SF do not care about sustainability, what can we expect from other parts of the country and the world at large? Recently, I was part of a review team for a new building, which…
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Greening the Urban Landscape

Greening the Urban Landscape

Sustainable
A couple of decades ago, a colleague told me he envisioned turning Montgomery Street into a city garden. His vision was to someday walk up Montgomery Street after work and literally pick fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and other veggies for a dinner salad. At the time, I thought he was out of touch with reality; however, currently, the idea does not seem quite as farfetched. Of course, that is not to say that I expect to see bulldozers tearing up the streetscape on Montgomery. Still, we are starting to see a stronger shift towards sustainability, including water rainwater harvesting, green roofs, and the surprising news that California and GM want electric vehicles to be the norm by 2035. As far as replacing roads with urban gardens, we are starting to see…
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Sustainability begins at home!

Sustainability begins at home!

Sustainable
Personally, the pandemic reinforced the meaning of the adage “necessity is the mother of invention.” However, I would add innovation to this old refrain. In addition to inventing new ways to get around the pandemic, such as the popularity of using “zoom,” we also had to make some innovative changes to get by. For many of us, this innovation was necessary to save resources, save money, or increase our efficiency at home, work, or both. For example, when the hardware stores closed, I developed ways to use materials I already had at home to fix and/or jerry-rig some things. In this same vein, I recommend finding ways to further the cause of sustainability by starting with some household modifications and upgrades. We all slowly but surely begin to understand the…
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The “greening’ of San Francisco

The “greening’ of San Francisco

Sustainable
Although sometimes it feels like “positive” changes occur at a glacial pace, change is still happening all around us for the sake of a ‘greener” environment, such as workshops on reclaiming water at home for garden landscaping, planting trees in the Mission (www.missionverde.com) to turning underutilized public-right-of way properties into parks. Whatever the project is, it is slowly but surely moving us in the right direction. For me, my pet project has been turning as much paved area back into dirt or grass, especially around my neighborhood: Bernal Heights. My family and I have not owned a car for nine years, though we think we might need to break down and get one since our daughter’s new school is all the way up near Fort Mason. Still, the last nine…
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Sustainable Buildings in San Francisco

Sustainable Buildings in San Francisco

Sustainable
We usually only hear about sustainable buildings, otherwise known as “green” buildings at times, because we see them on the news, or we see a plaque from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), or someone informs us to make a living or working there more attractive. Recently, for example, I ran across the following website that the City of San Francisco created to log their LEED Buildings. As you will note, a considerable amount of these buildings are “Gold” and “Platinum” rated, which means they far excel the basics of “green” buildings per the USGBC: https://data.sfgov.org/Housing-and-Buildings/Map-of-SF-LEED-certified-municipal-buildings-and-i/7utx-cs9k. Sustainable Buildings in San Francisco “Green” buildings, on an environmental basis, can help reduce carbon emissions, reduce potable water and electricity use, and enhance the working environment, among other benefits. Therefore, it is…
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Sustainable San Francisco

Sustainable San Francisco

Sustainable
Even with all its big-city ills, San Francisco is considered one of the most sustainable cities worldwide. This is due, in part, to the City legislation mandating sustainable development and setting goals, and drafting legislation for utilizing renewable energy, achieving zero waste, and reducing single-occupancy driving trips, among others. Another factor contributing to San Francisco’s sustainable vision is its population. San Franciscans (either born here or transplants) tend to be progressive and well-educated. Therefore, they are supportive of accomplishing sustainable goals, but they also participate extensively in these programs. If you are a resident of San Francisco, and or work here, and are interested in sustainability, either professionally or personally, you will find a wide range of opportunities and resources, such as: Transportation The City has created numerous initiatives that…
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What is Sustainable Civil Engineering?

What is Sustainable Civil Engineering?

Civil Engineering, Sustainable
For the longest time, civil engineers seemed like the antithesis of sustainability. We were seen as “land reapers,’ or wanting to “pave” the world, and so on. And, for the most part, it was partly true in earlier decades. We, as civil engineers, were expected to design safe roads, effective infrastructure, and even contour the land to provide space for new houses. Very little attention was placed on sustainability. In fact, the civil engineering curriculum worldwide lacked any courses or even references to sustainability. Fortunately, this has all changed, and we civil engineers now have a golden opportunity to engage the environment in a more eco-friendly manner and reverse some of the negative impacts of previous construction projects. For example, as a fan and proponent of open spaces and slow…
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