You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people.
—Jason VanLue at Creative Mornings Orlando
—Jason VanLue at Creative Mornings Orlando
Showcasing a diversity of community. City vibrancy through thousands of visitors. An experience of South Bend through it’s past, present, and future.
I miss the Ethnic Festival. Not the Midway rides that you can get at any carnival, which brought turf violence. I miss the food and the music and the experience of culture. I loved the way it tucked into different spaces throughout the streets that brought a greater understanding of the city itself (the places and the people). In planning, it brought together a great many people to pull together the event; from across municipal, commercial, and residential boundaries. I heart South Bend and the experiences that I had during that festival are a great reason why.
When we bring it back, let’s make it better. Help people find value in it again. From the vendors to the businesses to the residents and yes, even to the people who brought the violence. Let’s connect it to everyone and give them all a reason to be advocates for the community.
Municipalities, like South Bend, should expect more out of their public spaces, their buildings, and their systems. It’s not enough to design environmentally conscious spaces. Designing for people seems like an obvious statement. But as William H. Whyte states, “It is difficult to design a space that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished.”
In evaluating what qualifies for good design standards, cities should consider these aspects of placemaking:
Human Scale: So often, cities are designed to manage cars, but in order to accomplish more vibrancy, it is essential to focus on human scale elements. These aspects include features that are engaging, that improve clarity, and develop complexity
Heath: Health isn’t just if you are sick or not. It includes several facets (physical, social, mental, environmental) that are both dynamic and systemic. Common elements to encourage each facet include:
In 2011, shortly after getting elected as the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel stated that, “a decade of deferred maintenance had left the city’s financial house structurally teetering… [and he] returned again and again to the point that “somebody” could have acted earlier but didn’t.”
Many municipalities, including South Bend, employ a reactive crisis management model for building maintenance. More specifically, maintenance is important, but it’s generally done only when a crisis happens (something breaks). This model can have a dramatic domino effect. For instance, if the roof develops a leak in a city facility, if the money is there, the leak is fixed. If there is no budget money for the repair, systemic damages can occur, like interior cosmetic damage, saturated insulation (and thus ineffective) and potentially structural damage. As the problem evolves it spirals out of control and into ever increasing economic woes.
In order to improve resiliency and responsiveness, as well as improve financial flexibility, the crisis management model for building maintenance has to improve. Standard crisis management stages go from pathologic (who cares, as long as we aren’t caught), to reactive (important, but only when a problem arises), to calculative (systems in place to manage crisis), to proactive (continuously work on problems), and finally to generative (crisis anticipation and preventive culture).
Culture change is certainly something to strive for and continuously seeking to predict problems is an important stage to reach. Ultimately, moving up just one stage will see both cultural and financial benefit.
South Bend Community Schools has a major budget shortfall. Already spending less money on instruction than other school districts, it has been often said that the corporation wants to make cuts as “far away from students as possible.” One way that schools can do that is to focus on energy. While the SBCSC does a great job of high level energy management, meaning they’ve closely examined equipment and envelop upgrades, pursuing occupant optimization and renewable energy possibilities have not been fully explored.
Energy is an expense that is often cited as a “cost of doing business,” but many of those costs can be eliminated through better management. Becoming more energy efficient is the cheapest and fastest way to reduce energy costs. Occupant optimization is a two pronged approach in energy efficiency: 1) Training staff to be more aware of how they use energy and tactics to be more energy efficient 2) Empowering staff to bring their energy efficiency observations forward and apply those.
Another energy opportunity is to pursue renewable energy. With a total of 33 schools with a roof area in the hundreds of thousands of square feet per school, there is ample opportunity for the SBCSC to take advantage of their underutilized roof area. A couple of things make this solution feasible: 1) schools use more of their energy during the day, when the panels are making energy 2) Looking at individual schools, it might be difficult to pursue solar energy, but system-wide there’s a lot more potential.
Funding has always been a stumbling block for these types of projects. However, aside from rebates and grants, a few options are surfacing. Property Assessed Clean Energy Programs (PACE) can finance 100% of their project and pay it back over time as a voluntary property tax assessment through their existing property tax bill. In this way, projects are net positive cash flowed from day one. Indiana is currently working on setting up a PACE program. Another type of funding is external investors, known as Energy Service Companies (ESCO) who would pay to develop the solar system, and get paid by through a portion of energy savings in a process known as Energy Performance Contracting.
In addition, from the Natural Resources Defense Council:
The National Solar Schools Consortium launched yesterday at the opening of the widely-attended National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference. Still in its infancy, the goal of the Consortium is to act as a unified voice for the growing solar schools movement, promoting the use of solar energy on K-12 and post-secondary schools, consolidating and coordinating current and future solar curriculum and resource development, and providing tools designed to help schools explore solar energy options both on campus and in the surrounding community.
Solar Schools 2020 is a program designed to give learning opportunities to students with renewable energy. First generation of this program is set to launch in May aimed to demonstrate enthusiasm and accelerate the process of introducing schools to solar energy. With a massive goal of 20,000 schools on board by 2020, let’s get on board with this project.
While primary waste reduction strategies in South Bend focus on more effectively managing waste streams (how we define and process them) and how we collect them (AVAC), several other opportunities exist to encourage waste reduction.
Opportunities like implementing a City-wide Fee on Plastic Bags or pairing services with recycling programs (like Transpo passes for recycling) certainly could be explored. A new policy for paying trash fees depending on weight disposed has potential to save money on hauling and on landfill fees.
From AS+GG’s “Toward Zero Carbon” Plan:
As highlighted in earlier ideas, South Bend has a plethora of parking. While multipurpose parking and more efficient distribution of parking solves many problems, it’s absolutely essential to increase density in South Bend.
Historically, urban success has been rooted in high densities: the concentration of many people in small areas. Bringing people and their economic activities into close proximity with each other can be economically and even socially liberating.
It’s a delicate balance identifying the appropriate amount of urban density. Excessive density can lead to infrastructure demands that are unable to be met, while insufficient density makes it difficult to support city amenities. Defining this balance is the purpose of zoning ordinances, but over the last several decades, South Bend has let slip the importance of density on the overall success of the city.