Change Starts With You!

A local Philadelphia woman, Mary Seton Corboy set out 15 years ago on a sustainable mission, even she couldn't predict its impact and success.  Featured on the cover of Grid Magazine's September Issue, Mary was praised for her innovative business practices and creative applications and integration of urban farming within her surrounding community.  Corboy is the founder of Greensgrow Farm, which she started in the late '90s with her partner Tom Sereduk.  Greensgrow began with a simple question: How do we grow produce and get it to restaurants as quickly as possible, so it's as fresh as possible?

The pair began in 1998 on a traditional farm in New Jersey, but they both lived in Philadelphia.  So in order to cut down on waisted time and energy, it only made sense to move the farm to the city.  At that time Philadelphia had plenty of vacant brownfield lands and Corboy saw this as an opportunity.  On her search for land she settled on a small plot of land at the corner of Gaul and East Cumberland in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.  It was a brownfield site that had been cleaned up by the EPA.  In its early stages Greensgrow focused on hydroponic lettuce, sold wholesale to local restaurants.  After a few years of barely breaking even, they changed their business model, and built a greenhouse.  diversifying their operations they grew very little hydroponic lettuce and focused 95 percent of sales to retail and only 5 percent to restaurants.

They eventually got into the nursery business.  This was a great turning point leading to a great relationship with the neighborhood because people were more familiar with  growing flowers than vegatables in the city.  Around that time they developed a CSA geared towards the small urban couple.  Fixed with bread, cheese, chicken and other such things, the CSA became an integral part of Greensgrow starting with 25 members and growing to now 375.  Because of high demand Greensgrow compiles their CSA using resources from various local farms within a 75 mile radius that utilize sustainable growing practices.

From the CSA came the farmers market, for those who couldn't afford the CSA.  To reach out to low-income neighborhood residents the CSA was expanded with an additional program called LIFE- Local Initiative for Food Education.  Corboy noticed that a lot of her neighbors didn't cook food, nor did they shop at her market.  So she developed a program that fit into their lives, getting them food and making it affordable.  To answer some of these problems, members are able to use food stamps to purchase the CSA.  At 21 dollars a week, the cost is 12 percent of an average family's food stamp budget.  A cooking class is also another innovative element to LIFE.

With exponential growth over the years Greensgrow will continue to grow making a positive impact on urban health and inspiring new urban gardens and farms that rebuild parts of the city that are underutilized and uninhibited, creating a more livable city.


Hydros: Smart Water for A Healthy Planet

Two Penn grads Aakash Makur and Jay Parekh set out to help solve the global water crisis with honest American dollars.  in Philadelphia or any other city in the developed world, access to drinkable water has never been an issue for most people in their lifetime.  Filling a glass of water, enjoying a hot shower, washing laundry, or flushing a toilet is very much an unimaginable luxury for millions of people in other parts of the world.  In studies shown at water.org, it is shown that an American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than a typical person in a developing country slum uses in a whole day.  This is very disturbing, when you consider the countless bottles of water we consume or the amount of time we leave a faucet running when brushing teeth or preparing food.

Realizing how much Americans take water access for granted, University of Pennsylvania alums Aakash Makur and Jay Parekh began discussing a plan to raise awareness.  They wanted to both raise awareness and help under-served areas address the problem.  This combined initiative produced the Hydros Bottle, a reusable water bottle equipped with a filtering device.  Makur developed the idea as part of a class project on alternatives to wasteful, single-use bottled water.  The full concept was realized when he paired with Parekh, who had been working on water issues as president of the Penn Chapter of Engineers Without Borders USA.  The Hydros bottle was designed in response to consumer needs revealing a sleek, light-weight, quick-filtering bottle perfect for on-the-go, everyday use.  The commercial element is what the team uses to fund their water access arm, Operation Hydros, using proceeds from the purchase of every Hydros Bottle.  The contribution from each unit sold accounts for about 2,000 gallons of clean drinking water in the developing world.

The initiative recently began its first spring water distribution project in Gundom, Cameroon, which is miles from a water source.  In recent years worldwide organizations have tackled clean water needs, but Parekh explains that these endeavors often end up underutilized because they aren't executed with the community's specific needs in mind.  Operation Hydros relies on "sustainable development" to assure the long-term success of their projects.  At the start of a new project they form a local "water committee" composed of community leaders that manages all aspects of the project, as well as the long-term maintenance.  The Hydros team hope to eventually establish a portfolio of ongoing efforts, allowing the consumer to personally allocate donations to specific projects.

In addition to their goals they are set on making every business decision within an ecologically and socially sustainable framework.  All manufacturing is done in the tri-state area, reducing their carbon footprint, supporting the local economy and ensuring quality control.

Visit Grid Magazine for the full story and more article like this!

Water Facts from Water.org

1. Poor people living in the slums often pay five to ten times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city
2. 3.575 million people die each year from water-related diseases
3. 884 million people lack access to safe water; that's approximately one eighth of the world population


G8 Future Additions!!

G8 is on the move and we are moving fast!  With countless renovation projects under our belt, we are finally inching closer to breaking ground on our new construction projects at 2200 and 2300 Amber street.  Hopefully by this time in 2011 both of these projects will be well on their way.

2200 Amber is a private residence located in the New Kensington section of Philadelphia.  The homes contemporary design is meant to transform and usher in a new age of town home design in Philadelphia, making sustainability standard in new home construction.  The home is energy star rated with a 3kw photovoltaic solar system, solar thermal water heating system, spray foam insulation, highly efficient HVAC system, low E-glazed windows, and cement board finishing on the exterior.

2300 Amber will be the first shipping container home built in Philadelphia.  This innovative reuse of industrial materials is a symbol of pure innovation in a city of first.  The residence, also located in New Kensington, is a 3 level structure with a garage and backyard at the rear of the first level.  The home is insulated with spray foam insulation, powered by a 3kw photovoltaic solar system, solar thermal water heating system, low E-glazed windows and bamboo flooring.

Waterfront Development Is A GO!

Planphilly reported earlier this week that temporary zoning measures were approved tuesday by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, serving as plan of development guidelines for projects proposed along the seven-mile stretch of the Central Delaware Waterfront from Oregon to Allegheny Avenues.  This is a big leap forward considering development has been nearly non-existent on Delaware Avenue for years except for Waterfront Square and Sugar House Casino.  The waterfront is crying for development, but responsible and sustainable development.

These temporary zoning measures are designed to protect the waterfront from development that goes against the city's long-range goals until a master plan and associated zoning are in place.  The Central Delaware Master Plan is expected to be finished in January.  Zoning that reflects the development goals outlined in the plan will be created, thus taking the place of the temporary guidelines approved on tuesday.


Booming Condo Sales in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that condo sales in Philadelphia have nearly doubled from the first quarter of the year to the second.  This is very exciting news for the city considering the numbers were far better than at any time since the housing downturn began in August 2007.

Data analyzed by Econsult Corp from the Recorder of Deeds Office shows that 604 condo sales closed citywide between April 1 and June 30.  Of those, 477 units sold for less than $500,000.  More than 200 separate condo locations were recorded, with the majority in Center City and adjacent neighborhoods.
Center City District president Paul Levy commented that Downtown Philadelphia has been pretty resilient through the recession compared to most U.S. cities with housing values holding up even if the volume of sales has slowed down.


Bilbao Jardin

Transforming a bleak but conceptually interesting urban space, the Bilbao garden project is a beautiful piece of installation garden art.

Moving in time and with the seasons, the garden climbs the stairs, running in undulating lines of different textures and colors.  Like the famous Spanish steps in Rome, the Garden is not only designed for visitors to ascend and descend, but for them to linger and ornament themselves into the space.  The garden, designed by Diana Balmori sits between two Arata Isozaki towers leading to Santiago Calatrava's footbridge over the Nervion River.

Hybrid Solar Collector

This is exciting news for consumers wanting to cut energy bills even further!  The Turkish solar panel manufacture, Solimpeks Corp., has launched its Volther hybrid photovoltaic- solar thermal collector, which produces electricity and hot water simultaneously.  The combination of the two functions improves the efficiency of the electrical generation of the photovoltaics.

These hybrid panels address a problem most solar panels have.  Many conventional Photovoltaic (PV) systems produce a limited amount of electrical output compared to the solar input.  this new system allows excess heat to be recaptured and boosts the system's return on investment. PV cells are negatively affected by heat with output dropping by 0.5% with every 10 degree rise in temperature.  the hybrid system allows the PV cells to be cooled using water circulating around them.  The heated water is used to provide the additional benefit of hot water for the building.  Testing has shown the efficiency of electrical generation to be as high as 28%, while at the same time producing 140-160 degree F water.


Simply Creative Infill Solution

Here is another great design post to start off your weekend!
Located in Istanbul, Turkey is a creative and very simple solution for urban infill. The Besiktas Fish Market is a beautiful and efficient use for an unusual triangular shaped lot. the new market replaces an older fish market that went into disrepair. To preserve this history a new structure was designed for the same site.

The market is at the terminus of a pedestrian corridor defining a strong connectivity and a growing diverse economy within the village-like atmosphere it contributes to. Besiktas is an eclectic area that is in the process of urban renewal. The market has turned into an iconic venue where many locals and visitors buy fresh fish daily.

 The buildings efficiency lies in its construction. GAD designed the triangular shaped concrete shell covering the entire site with large openings at street level. The concrete shell provides a column free interior space, optimizing programatic needs.


Solar Energy Could Soon Compete With Oil As An Energy Source

A new process discovered by Stanford University Engineers called "photon enhanced thermionic emission", or PETE, could reduce the cost of solar energy production enough for it to compete with oil as an energy source, making solar power production more than twice as efficient as existing methods.  Unlike photovoltaic technology currently used in solar panels, which becomes less efficient as the temperature rises, the new process excels at higher temperatures.  The new process combines the light and heat of solar radiation to generate electricity.  The materials needed to build a device are cheap and easily available.  The team would like to design the devices so they could be easily bolted on to existing systems, thereby making conversion relatively inexpensive.