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1 of ? in a series of Things I didn’t Know.

This magazine called Esri ArcNews comes to my house randomly addressed to someone who lived here a long long time ago. So of course I read it. One article struck me because it is all about what we are learning in class, how to use natural systems/natural capital to drive our own systems.  New York City has 2,000 square miles of watersheds. Nineteen reservoirs supply New Yorker’s with 1.2 billions gallons of drinking water daily. In the 1990s New York City had the choice of either making a new water filtration plant or investing to protect and restore their watersheds.  Using GIS and GeoDesign landscape architects and engineers were able to create habitats, preserve farmland, and create more recreational parks in the watershed area. Not to mention NYC has very clean drinking water now. Now I know.

Also, the practice of hydraulic fracturing has been a problem in New York and has come under much scrutiny.  It is unsafe for humans and for the environment.  It is or was happening near the watersheds and many are protesting it. The practice is banned already in many countries. France was the first to ban it. .  “Fracking” is a process used to extract natural gas and petroleum by initiating a fracture in a rock layer with pressurized fluid.



Case Study: Vizcaya

Subject of Study: Vizcaya was built in the early 1900s but was designed to look like it was an Italian estate that had been there for 400 years. The residence was a winter home in the Miami area for James Deering, vice president of International Harvester Company, from 1916-1925 when he died. He heirs inherited the house and the extensive art collection inside. In 1933 it was restored by the original architect, Paul Chalfin, after major hurricane damage. In 1955 Dade County made it and its gardens a permanent museum, which need to be maintained regularly and restored more times than you would think.

I will study the flows or air and people from the house to the gardens. I will also look into the design considerations for circulation within the complex and how the space has been used through history and if the system works well for human behavior and climate conditions.

Significance of topic: Vizcaya is a preserved historically significant piece of architecture. It is the embodiment of the American affinity in the early 20th century for earlier Italian Renaissance architecture.  It was built specifically for the site and is a reflection of Miami’s early development. The house and grounds are the greatest work of Chalfin and associates. Over 1000 people were employed in the construction of the house and gardens.

Method of research and intended final product: In my study of Vizcaya I plan to diagram its history, susceptibility to hurricanes, restoration plans after major storms, and the organization of the grounds in general. I would like to make an animation or physical model.

– Rybczynski, “Vizcaya:An American Villa and Its Makers (Penn Studies in Landscape Architecture).”

-Littlefield, “Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Miami, Florida.”

-Wharton, “The Decoration of Houses.”{read by Chalfin for his training}

-Stewart, “Historic Homes of Florida.”

A day in the life: A 4 hour time span

I come home from the University over Thanksgiving breaks to Vienna, Virginia and every year my breaks are the same. I spend Thanksgiving Day with family but the other days are packed with doing things with my best friends such as running errands, eating, playing, and just doing whatever there is to do.
Around noon I would meet up with half of them and we would get lunch (Chipotle), watch tv, and wait until 2 until everyone else has woken up and we have to go pick them up. Then we would play soccer outside until we get hungry again. We pack in a lot of activity in a short amount of time.

The most energy used is from Electricity, Natural Gas for heating, and Oil in a day in the life. The electricity and oil needed to transport, store, and mass produce burritos is more than the energy cost of making burritos at home. A different kind of energy, metabolic energy and calorie outputs, would be spent if all 9 of us try to make burritos in the same kitchen. It would get pretty hot in there. Also, the fact that there are 9 of us means that more body heat is being radiated in the room and therefore we could probably turn down the heat when we watch tv. Another idea would be to watch less tv in the 4 hour period and play more soccer. If we played board games instead of computer games, that would conserve even more energy. Looking at ways to conserve energy, it really is about a life style choice. Personal changes can expand to my family, my neighborhood, and then the town itself if many people got involved. On the other hand, if there was a higher demand to go green then corporations would have to take initiative. Something I noticed about my diagram would be that there are very clear inputs and outputs that follow a path. If there was a way to utilize the waste and relate it back to the resource then there would also be less energy waste.

Over Heating of the Earth and where is comes from


Thats the textbook answer to the global climate change happening. Many scientist and environmentalist know there is more to it than that. Sulphates, Nitrogen, and oxidized iron contaminate water. Freshwater is especially a problem. Rice and Herman (Envi Sci professors at the University of Virginia) wrote on the relation of global heating to the acidification of water in their newly released scientific publication titled “Acidification of Earth: An assessment across mechanisms and scales” relating to applied geochemistry.Rice and Herman Acidification of Earth 2011 Applied Geochemistry .  In it they  explain that acidification of water a large source of atmospheric toxins. The United States the China are the biggest contributors to acid drainage. Acid drainage from the production of coal and reduction of metal ores also works its way into soils and affects farm land. They talk about nitrogen overload from fertilizers as well, from which I remembered the effects of the Bay Game.  Right now the most populated countries are the greatest contributors to earth’s acidification and pollution. Yet countries in the middle east, some of the largest producers of energy, are expected to raise their population and will soon contribute to earth’s acidification. The more troubling thing is that there in no universal plan yet for making healthy damaged soils and waters except time. However, we can all actively cut back on our consumption to help the health of the planet using carbon “neutral” design techniques.

The UVA Bay Game: The Waterman

The Chesapeake Bay watershed purpose is as a home for a variety of wildlife. It is also a buffer between the rivers and runoff of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware and the Atlantic Ocean. Elements such as land development from population growth, climate conditions, and sustainable versus conventional farming methods affect the amount of pollution and waste headed to the Bay. Residents of states near the Bay share the same goals of keeping the Bay healthy, which is the mindset out of which the system of regulations and sustainability arise. Regulators try to manage waste from both types of farming and the extent of developments expanding. Yet as the population grows the amount of homes being built and the quantity of food produced grow as well. The Bay absorbs nitrogen and phosphorous coming from cattle farms and crop waste. The Bay also takes a toll from land development waste, especially if it is green field land development because there is a lot of digging and implementation of infrastructure. The more profit that is made from land development then the more that development will continue unless regulators makes rules. The Bay Game tries to simulate real life situations and interconnections through multiple algorithms.

Being a waterman from the Potomac region is more of a reactionary role than anything else in the game. I had to decide how much to pot and dredge and how much equipment to buy. I had little control over the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous affecting the Bay health. What I did decide on was that I should dredge less because when you dredge you stir up the waterbed and displace wildlife and settled minerals. On top of that, the crabs need that time to reproduce. Another thing that I experienced was when I bought more equipment I caught more crab than my competition. Then I had more profit than my competition and with more money I bought more equipment creating this reinforcing feedback loop.

One of my leverage points is Meadows’ buffers leverage point that stabilizes the stock to increase the flow. Yet again, if the stock gets too large then the system gets out of control. Then there is the option of “self-organization” which in the case of crabs would be to literally change the DNA of the stock. You could yield a heartier and possibly tastier crab but that technology could also have negative results that we can’t imagine yet. As stated before, a waterman’s reinforcing feedback loop that I experienced is powerful. The rich get richer and in the case of crabbing the more profit mean more efficient equipment which then leads to more crabs and more profit.

If the Bay game were to be improved I would say that we should play multiple roles during different times of the course so that we all get to experience every role and can apply new knowledge each time. Also, knowing what decisions other people are making during the game, especially regulators, would greatly impact our own decisions.

“Technology is socially constructed”-Moe

Technological progress throughout history has come about because of social progress or change. The way we live our lives determines the social interactions we engage in and the commodities we buy. Mumford writes ” Machine itself makes no demands and holds out no promises: it is the human spirit that makes and keeps promises.” Essentially the things we want and decide we need we have to invent. We have to design it. We want warmth, light, water, and beauty. We also want to preserve the resources we have on earth. Kiel Moe is hesitant about the use of machines. There is risk and it limits your possibilities to what the machine can do. Therefore we have to design. Then in class John Quale said the exact same thing in his lecture. These problems of fossil fuel efficiency and renewable resources are real. Technology is not a quick fix. Technology comes about when we need it and should be discarded properly when they become unusable and ineffective. Analysis of life cycles of materials and renovation of the design impact the sustainability and there are ways through design to find how to reuse much of the waste.

For example, the “Caterpillar House” in San Lucia, California is a residence that implements sustainable living and built in a contemporary ranch style. Living spaces are centered around the kitchen (ideas of the hearth from Frank Lloyd Wright) and large window apertures are open to the non-uv intensive sunlight during the day. The roof overhangs on the south side extend and retract. Photovoltaic panels are integrated in the house to allow the house to produce its own energy. The walls are made of repurposed earth that was excavated on the site to build the house. The rammed earth acts as a thermal mass to keep heat inside in the winter and cool the room in the summer. Rain water collects in containers near the house. In no way is this the most sustainable and “carbon neutral” house that can be designed. People have varied comfort zones and that is another aspect of design that could push or pull ideas of sustainability in many directions. Design, just like technology, evolves in response to social and global factors.


PS. photovoltaic glass =


The Town Green

A few years ago my town tore down a teen center and built  a town green with a stage area for outdoor concerts and a memorial fountain with the American flag and Virginia flag sticking out of it. It is a 2.25 acre landscape with a bathroom pavilion on the side and multiple bike racks and bench seating lining the path. The town green now also has free Wi-fi. At first many people were concerned, being unaccustomed to change and worried about where there would be a safe place for teens to hang out, but the town green has become a center of social engagement and one of my favorite places in town. I am reminded of the “role of environment on the development of cognition and self awareness” whenever going to an event at the town green (Hill). Even though it sits on the main road, it is amazingly peaceful and an inspiration for future landscape projects around town that merge ideas of minimal waste, health, and social interactions.