Building Boston 2006
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New Land in Boston
A major "new" landscape has opened up in Boston with the relocation underground of the Central Artery, which had previously bisected downtown. In the tradition of Frederick Law Olmstead's "Emerald Necklace" string of parks through Boston's Fenway area, the newly created open space extends the necklace of greenery. Three major urban parks are now in construction.
The new North End park, designed by Crosby Schlessinger Smallridge, unites three major walking route entries into Boston's famous Italian district. Landscape architect Deneen Crosby said that in creating a new urban plaza edged by a steel-framed pergola, the firm hopes to capture the same flavor of existing North End walking and gathering areas.
Further south, pedestrians will encounter the new Wharf District Park, by the Copley Wolff Design Group. The design recognizes the five historic wharfs that once cut through this area. Landscape architect Lynn Wolff said the firm wanted to create a space that is usable and fun.
The Wharf District Park incorporates an "iconic" fountain that "disappears" to create more usable plaza space. "Light blades" provide signage, graphics, and lighting and can become standards for a giant outdoor movie screen.
The third park, Chinatown Park, by Carol R. Johnson Associates, sits at the entry to Boston's Chinatown, marked by an existing traditional Chinese gateway. Landscape architect Kathleen Lynch said the park's design is a "balance of memory and prophecy and is inspired by the linked concepts of passage and progression, metaphorically representing the Asian immigration to Boston."
Chinatown Park will feature traditional elements of a Chinese checkerboard plaza and bamboo screens to allow both public gathering space and private, reflective walking paths.
Reinventing the Mall
According to one presentation, "Old Malls, New Communities," indoor shopping malls are in decline and being reinvented to resemble traditional, mixed-use town squares. Steve Cecil of the Cecil Group said that the new prototype of central parking with landscaped amenities, combined with walkable distances between store outlets (combining "big box" and "small box" stores) is less expensive than indoor malsl. In addition, multiunit housing built over parking structures is gaining popularity.
Doug Foy of DIF Enterprises described how the new Assembly Square Mall in Somerville, just outside of Boston, will take this model to a higher urban level by incorporating a new subway stop. This mass transportation component will attract residents from greater Boston.
Foy believes zoning ordinances are "broken, because they are intended to separate uses." Now that industry has been cleaned up, he said, and commercial uses made more interesting, we need make more mixed-use developments possible.
Evolving Construction Practices
LEED requirements are gaining acceptance as a major driver for institutional and even private clients. But at Build Boston it became clear that LEED is also radically changing construction practices. In the seminar, "Minimizing Waste," construction project managers from Harvard University showed how they have changed their demolition and renovation methods.
With the help of consultant John Gundling of the Institution Recycling Network (IRN), twelve construction projects from 4,000 to 136,000 square feet (370 to 12,600 square meters) in size over the past two years were placed under a new regimen to "reduce, reuse, and recycle" waste material. They were able to document salvaging and recycling rates of 91 to 99 percent.
These savings result in tangible savings of 42 billion BTUs (45 billion kilojoules) of energy saved, and construction crews are learning that sorting debris takes no more time than not sorting. Gundling points to styrofoam cups as the biggest obstacle to efficient construction recycling. When unthinking workers toss them into sorted trash, the cups can cause a load of wood or gypsum to be rejected by the recycler.
Harvard project manager Kate Loosian recalled that she was at first skeptical about the added bother. But now she is a big proponent of construction recycling. Much of the "waste" from a renovation, such as furniture and fixtures, can either be reused within the building or given away to charitable organizations.
Gundlings's company systematically donates such material to local trade schools, for instance, or to countries in need of building supplies, like Guatemala. Over the last two years, the IRN has donated about 8 million pounds of fixtures and materials. Gundling's firm provides the documentation needed to track recycling rates. He said a waste management plan not only helps a project achieve LEED status, but it also saves money by reducing waste removal costs.
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