Designing Light for a Circular Economy

In May 2013, CED Architecture graduate student Antony Kim and his faculty mentor, Galen Cranz, were among 11 teams chosen from top higher-education institutions around the world for the first-ever Schmidt-MacArthur Fellowship. The award focuses on the cradle-to-cradle design of products and processes, for the coming “circular economy.”

The new fellowship — a partnership between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in Great Britain and the U.S.-based Schmidt Family Foundation — officially began in June with a series of seminars in London attended by the fellows, along with international experts from design, engineering, business and other fields. The final projects will be completed this summer. Antony Kim describes his experience thus far.

I started this journey almost a year ago and the last thing I expected was to still be on it — “the ride isn’t over yet.” From the beginning, I felt a huge sense of humility being awarded the first ever Schmidt MacArthur Fellowship (SMF) for UC Berkeley, enabling me to build on the historical leadership of the College of Environmental Design and the Department of Architecture in the area of sustainability. Though I could never compare myself to CED’s past design radicals, I’m glad to be in a position to contribute.

As a fellowship, the SMF is very different in that it looks for generalists and systems thinkers — students and faculty that are anti-archetypes; disruptors willing to challenge and define the real issue. These are the qualities I think the Department of Architecture is especially good at cultivating. Whether it is a class in social and cultural factors, building science, or history, all have collectively contributed to my specialty of being a generalist. That is to say, I see myself as a kind of specialist in not being a specialist. This interdisciplinary approach has prepared me well in taking on the challenges and opportunities the fellowship has to offer.

Schmidt-MacArthur fellows and mentors holding an ideation “lightning round.”
Schmidt-MacArthur fellows and mentors holding an ideation “lightning round.” Enlarge [+]

The experience itself began with a week-long intensive summer school held in London, where we covered topics ranging from circular economics (CE) and industrial ecology to biomimicry and cradle to cradle analysis. With direct access to the “trailblazers” themselves — like Walter Stahel, Janine Benyus, and William McDonough — I was able to engage and get immediate feedback on my thoughts and ideas. Additionally, the knowledge-sharing that occurred between the fellows, mentors, and foundation staff not only created an environment for intellectual exchange, but more importantly, it forged life-long friendships.

As I flew back from London, I felt a slight withdrawal from the past week’s excitement but also an enthusiasm for moving forward on a CE project of my own. With support pledged by CE100 partners, I mapped out a new project complimentary to my original video proposal of aligning policy to incentivize designing with daylight. This new project would integrate Philips Lighting into my present work and would apply the following design theory: that designing for sustainability is less about producing static artifacts and more to do with developing a system of continuous improvement — designing a process not a product.

To that end, my recent focus has been to assess the impacts of LED lighting within the following context: LED trends show efficacy increasing based on Haitz’s Law (similar to Moore’s Law) — some suggest doubling every 3–5 years. The useful life of an LED varies, but 15–20 years is a common advertised range. LED life-cycle assessments (LCAs) indicate that operational energy use is by far the major environmental impact category. These three areas are usually evaluated individually with occasional overlap. But if contextualized together, LEDs are being designed without consideration to innovation cycles. In other words, if environmental performance is a priority, “short-cycling” every 3–5 years is better than waiting to replace LEDs after their full 20+ years of useful life. As I move forward with this research, I am working with Philips Lighting to design with these innovation cycles in mind, which would also complement performance-driven building energy policies.

LED trends show efficacy increasing based on Haitz’s Law.
LED trends show efficacy increasing based on Haitz’s Law. Enlarge [+]

The Economic Benefits of Transit Service

How do we determine why and under what conditions investments in transit contribute to the economic growth of cities? Many planners and theorists argue that better public transit solutions have a clear correlation to improved urban economies and better opportunities for people living and working in these regions. And indeed, some evidence suggests that transport improvements do enable the growth and densification of cities, downtowns, or industrial clusters, providing better accessibility to ideas and labor and thereby returning a net benefit.

But, the relationship is not simple. There is also evidence to the contrary — that transit may just redistribute benefits. By reducing transport costs, public transit improvements could even lead to cheaper land, sprawl and de-densification, and reduced proximity of firms, workers, and consumers to each other.

So how do cities make the right decisions about funding public transportation improvements that are intended to bolster the local economy? To get to the answer, several fundamental questions need to be addressed. What effect does public transit have on physical agglomeration measures like employment density? What effect do any such changes have on economic productivity? Are local development changes near transit stops just a shifting-around of residents and workers, or do they signal genuinely new economic activity?

New River Line diesel train. The goal as with many rail transit projects is to attract so-called choice riders. Some evidence that this happened; for example, a substantially higher share of riders on the River Line access it via park and ride than bus users.
New River Line diesel train. The goal as with many rail transit projects is to attract so-called choice riders. Some evidence that this happened; for example, a substantially higher share of riders on the River Line access it via park and ride than bus users. Enlarge [+]

In his current research on the impacts of transport improvements on agglomeration economies, Assistant Professor of City & Regional Planning, Dan Chatman, points out that the scarcity of both readily available data and good theories about transit and economic growth make answering such questions a challenge.

Building on a body of previous research that showed the connection between employment density and higher wages, Chatman and his colleagues sought to trace the links between transit, agglomeration, and productivity, and constructed models based on data from approximately 90% of the 364 metropolitan areas in the U.S.

Supporting advocates for the benefits of transportation improvements, the study found significant indirect productivity effects. For example, in the case of central city employment density, estimated annual wage increases across metropolitan areas averaged $45 million for a 10 per cent increase in seats or rail service miles per capita. However, since the costs of providing new transit service or improving existing transit service can be quite high, the productivity benefits associated with transit-induced agglomeration may not in many instances swing the balance to a positive benefit-cost calculation. But the study results do suggest that there are unanticipated benefits from densification and growth due to transit improvements. Particularly in large cities where roads are congested, space is at a premium, and rents are high, the additional benefits may provide a justification for transit service improvements.

In a separate study that took an in-depth look at the economic impacts of New Jersey’s River Line, a less positive picture emerged. Originally proposed in the 1990s, the River Line broke ground in 2000 and began operation in 2004. From its conception, there were arguments both for and against the proposed project. Public officials hoped that it would help to revive the adjacent towns’ economies, bringing visitors to local tourist attractions and capturing commuters to prime destinations or transfer hubs, while the inevitable not-in-my-backyard protests came from residents who feared that the rail line would drive down property values.

Map showing household income in the 4 county area along the River Line.
Map showing household income in the 4 county area along the River Line. Enlarge [+]

Specifically focusing on single family homes near the 34-mile stretch of rail service between Camden and Trenton along the Delaware River, Chatman analyzed home sales values before and after the line opened, comparing properties of different types near the River Line to a large set of properties sold in the four-county region, between 1989 and 2007. For low-income area properties near stations, property values appreciated significantly. But for properties farther than one-quarter mile away, the net estimate was neutral and, in the two to three mile radius, the estimate was negative, suggesting a redistribution of property appreciation gains. For the small number of houses in higher-income areas, having a River Line rail station within a quarter-mile was also associated with slight reductions in value.

It is important to recognize that these findings only reflect relatively short-term impacts. With the River Line now operating at near to full capacity, there is evidence that new higher-density development could increase, eventually leading to a more positive outcome.

For urban planners and cities debating the economic value of public transportation investments, these results suggest that large cities with significant road congestion should expect large economic benefits from public transit expansions that enable central city densification. At the same time, while improvements to transit service in other locations may benefit lower-income households and other groups with higher reliance on transit, they may not confer the same levels of generalized economic benefit. Nevertheless, as cities and metropolitan areas become more congested, it is critical that we continue to strive to understand the complex relationships between transit, urban growth, and productivity so that we make the wisest decisions with the greatest overall benefit.

2014 Distinguished Alumni Awards

Each year CED honors a select few outstanding alumni who have made significant contributions in their professional careers. Since 1998, 68 alumni of the departments of Architecture, City & Regional Planning, Decorative Art/Design, and Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning have been recognized for their achievements.

This year the college celebrated the remarkable accomplishments of Meric Gertler, Gwendolyn Wright, and Mark Francis, FASLA, with the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award during the fourth annual Berkeley Circus Soirée. On March 14, Dean Jennifer Wolch presented the honors at a ceremony held in the skybox of California Memorial Stadium.

Meric Gertler (MCP, 1979)
President, University of Toronto

Professor Meric Gertler
Professor Meric Gertler Enlarge [+]

Professor Meric Gertler is internationally renowned for his research on the geographical underpinnings of innovative activity and the economic dynamics of city-regions. In 2013, Professor Gertler began his term as the 16th President of the University of Toronto after having previously served for five years as Dean of the University’s Faculty of Arts & Science division where his research has been responsible for $8.4 million in external funding to the University.

Gertler’s numerous accolades include the 2007 Award for Scholarly Distinction from the Canadian Association of Geographers, the 2014 Distinguished Scholarship Honors from the Association of American Geographers, and an honorary doctor of philosophy from Lund University, Sweden.

Manufacturing Culture — The Institutional Geography of Industrial Practice by Meric Gertler

As author of seven books and more than 80 journal articles and book chapters, and co-editor of the widely used Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography, Gertler is one of the world’s most highly cited scholars in economic geography and planning. Professor Gertler has served as an advisor to local, regional and national governments in Canada, the United States, and Europe, as well as to international agencies such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (Paris) and the European Union.

According to Paul Waddell, Professor and Chair of City & Regional Planning, “Meric Gertler’s accomplishments are the epitome of what we strive for our field, and have had enormous impact on theory as well as on urban policy and planning practice.” Jennifer Wolch, William W. Wurster Dean and also a Professor of City & Regional Planning, adds. “We’re so pleased to able to honor Meric Gertler with the highest award bestowed to an alumnus by the college, and incredibly proud to see such a remarkable graduate of the Department of City & Regional Planning leading one of the world’s most renowned research universities.”

Gwendolyn Wright (M.Arch., 1974; PhD.Arch, 1978)
Professor of Architecture, Columbia University

Professor Gwendolyn Wright
Professor Gwendolyn Wright Enlarge [+]

Gwendolyn Wright is Professor of Architecture in Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where in 1986 she became the first tenured woman in the school. Wright is perhaps more widely known as a recent co-host since 2001 of the popular PBS television series, “History Detectives.”

Wright has received numerous accolades for her work focusing on the interconnections between architecture, urbanism, and political culture from the late-19th century to the present. She has been honored with fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and other notable institutions. In 1985 she was elected a Fellow of the Society of American Historians, and was also made a Fellow of the Society of Architectural Historians, the highest honor in that field.

USA—Modern Architectures in History by Gwendolyn Wright

Wright is the author or editor of six major books including Modern Architectures in History (2008). Her many articles have appeared in scholarly books and journals as well as newspapers around the world.

Chair of Architecture and Eva Li Chair of Design Ethics at CED, Professor Tom Buresh said of Wright’s contributions, “Gwendolyn Wright is an author and scholar of the highest order. Her work spans architecture and urbanism from the late-nineteenth century to the present day and is appreciated by a diverse audience. She represents in body and deed the very best of Berkeley’s architecture department.”

Mark Francis (B.A. Landscape Architecture, 1972)
Professor Emeritus, Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design, UC Davis

Professor Emeritus Mark Francis
Professor Emeritus Mark Francis Enlarge [+]

Mark Francis’s work centers on participatory landscapes at the intersections of landscape architecture, environmental psychology, geography, art, and urban design. He is Professor Emeritus and past Chair of Landscape Architecture at UC Davis where he founded and directed the Center for Design Research for twenty years, and is also founding partner of the firm CoDesign/MIG.

Francis has been honored with over a dozen awards for his research, writing, planning, and design. In 1999 the American Society of Landscape Architects awarded him the Centennial Medallion for the Davis Central Park and Farmer’s Market, cited as one of the most significant designed landscapes of the past 100 years. He is the only person to receive ASLA professional awards in all four categories of design, urban design and planning, communication, and research.

In addition to receiving the Ralph Hudson Environmental Fellowship, Francis was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Fellow of the Institute for Urban Design in New York City, and Fellow of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture. He is the author of six books including The Meaning of Gardens (MIT Press 1990) and over 70 articles.

“We are delighted to celebrate Mark Francis’s remarkable, multi-faceted, career as an advocate, educator, practitioner and researcher,” said Professor Louise Mozingo, Chair of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning and Urban Design at CED. “His work has inspired his colleagues and students, illuminated the profession, and made communities better places to live.”

Central Park Gardens/“Garden in a Park” in Davis, CA
Central Park Gardens/“Garden in a Park” in Davis, CA Enlarge [+]

Gregg Perloff: Enlivening the Urban Experience

While, today, urban planning journals are filled with evidence substantiating the impact of arts and culture on cities, it was certainly not the case when Gregg Perloff (MCP, ’76) was a graduate student in the 70’s at the College of Environmental Design’s Department of City & Regional Planning.

Driven to understand this inter-relationship, in spite of some pushback for wanting to color outside the lines of what were then considered legitimate fields of urban planning study, Perloff persevered with the help of faculty like Melvin Webber, then director of Berkeley’s Institute of Urban and Regional Development.

Gregg Perloff at the Greek Theater
Gregg Perloff at the Greek Theater Enlarge [+]

It is not a stretch to see the path that led him to where he is today — head of one of the most influential entertainment companies on the West Coast and one of the key people responsible for the revitalization of downtown Oakland through the rebirth of the historic Fox Theater. By coloring outside the lines, Perloff expanded the palette that enlivens the Bay Area’s urban fabric.

As the son of Harvey S. Perloff, founding Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning at UCLA, an appreciation for environmental design was perhaps inevitable.

“On vacations we’d be travelling to see a geodesic dome or to see a greenbelt around London. Other people are going to Hawaii and we were going to see the first solar home in Colorado,” he recounts.

Gregg Perloff swears that “it never occurred to me that I would make my living putting on concerts” but as an undergraduate at UCLA, and as a graduate student at Berkeley producing music events for SUPERB, he had something of a knack. After graduation, he convinced Betty Connors at the Committee for Arts and Lectures (now Cal Performances) to let him book concerts. Bringing in jazz greats such as Oscar Peterson, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, and Boz Scaggs caught the attention of legendary promoter Bill Graham and in 1977, just one year after completing his degree, Perloff was hired by Graham. He eventually took over as CEO of Bill Graham Presents in 1991.

In 2003, Perloff launched Another Plant Entertainment in Berkeley. The company books hundreds concerts a year, from world-renowned groups like Radiohead to local independent bands, and is responsible for producing the wildly successful Outlands Music & Arts Festival in Golden Gate Park, which in its first four years contributed over $4.3 million to San Francisco’s Recreation & Parks Department.

But it is the success of the Fox Theater and its significance as a hallmark of urban revitalization that makes Perloff light up.

Fox Theater
Fox Theater (Photo courtesy of Tom Tomkinson) Enlarge [+]

Closed for over 40 years, the Fox managed to survive the devastating blight that overtook downtown Oakland. Primarily responsible for the design of the theater and the vision for what was needed to attract significant audiences, Perloff and Another Planet worked with developer Phil Tagami, as well as dozens of other public and private development, planning, and financing entities to help realize then-Mayor Jerry Brown’s dream to revitalize downtown. The Fox and its adjoining Oakland School for the Arts are now the centerpiece of the thriving Uptown District.

“We opened the Fox and it’s the most successful theater in the Bay Area,” explains Perloff. “But how do you judge success? Well, we sell a lot of tickets. You also have success when the Oakland School of the Arts, in the first graduating class, places 100% of the students in a 4-year college or university. This is an Oakland public school – that’s pretty spectacular.”

Since 2004, Perloff’s company has also been the exclusive promoter for Berkeley’s 8,500-capacity Greek Theater. As a venue known throughout the world, he considers it a privilege to work with the legendary outdoor amphitheater. Hoping to “set up the Greek for its next 100 years” Perloff is currently involved with master planning to improve the theater’s public areas.

Gregg and Laura Perloff
Gregg and Laura Perloff Enlarge [+]

Berkeley holds special meaning for Gregg Perloff and he is grateful to CED for allowing him to follow his heart. In 1999, Gregg and his wife Laura established the Harvey S. Perloff Memorial Endowment Fund in memory of Perloff’s father, to support graduate students in the Department of City and Regional Planning.

In December of 2013, another generous gift from the Perloffs established the Gregg and Laura Perloff Graduate Student Excellence Award so that graduate students like Gregg, doing “off-center” work, have the resources to follow their passion in one of the world’s premier graduate programs in urban planning.

The Diverse Faces of CED

One of the core missions of the College of Environmental Design is to provide access to an extraordinarily fine university education and college experience, regardless of the financial circumstances of the students we recruit, teach and mentor. Part of this mission is to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to come to CED. At the undergraduate level, for example, we have particularly sought to increase access for students of color, as well as those who come from low income households, are immigrants, or are the first in their families to go to college.

These efforts have been led by Susan Hagstrom, Director of Undergraduate Programs, and Renee Chow, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs. Several strategies have been important. They include aggressive recruiting via the CED website, social networking, and visits to high schools and community colleges. Adviser Omar Ramirez serves as Undergraduate Diversity Officer, working with campus on larger student recruitment strategies. And, since peer-to-peer relationships are always persuasive, Susan and her advising team created the CED Admissions Ambassadors Internship Program, that mobilized current CED undergraduates to speak to high school and community college groups, talk to prospective students, and chat with them on the web.

CED students
Enlarge [+]

The results have been striking: CED is now home to UC Berkeley’s highest percentage of students coming from households of modest means, indicated by their eligibility for Pell Grants, as well as the highest percentage of historically underrepresented minority students and many immigrant and first generation college students. In 2012-13, 48% of CED undergraduates received Pell Grants, 16% above the campus average. Our unique student body creates a rich and vibrant community within the College of Environmental Design. Also enlivening our community are growing numbers of out-of-state and international students.

UC Berkeley’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Program insures that students coming from families with modest household incomes ($80,000 or less), do not pay tuition or fees. But the financial constraints of many CED students present distinct challenges for them: according to UC Berkeley’s Financial Aid Office, in 2014, the average family income of CED Pell Grant recipients was under $25,000. And, because CED offers design-based majors, our students face additional costs. They need an up-to-date computer that can run design and animation software, and are also required to purchase modeling, building and art supplies and to print and plot (in 2 and 3 dimensions) to complete their projects and their degree programs. Architecture majors, for example, spend on average more than $3600 per year (excluding books or computer). This amount constitutes 15% of the average family income of CED students who receive Pell Grants.

New CED Digital Fabrication Lab
New CED Digital Fabrication Lab Enlarge [+]

Thus almost half of our 570 undergraduate students struggle to cover both their living expenses, and the added costs of a CED education. This situation directly impacts their performance in school. As one student wrote to us, “Coupled with costs for model-making materials, each project becomes an extremely expensive endeavor. It not only takes hard work and dedication to thrive in the major, but also the ability to afford printing and material costs.” Sometimes students are forced to make untenable choices; as another student explained: “Due to limited amounts of personal funds, I have had to choose between paying for materials or lab fees, or paying for living expenses. In the past, I have chosen to pay for groceries and rent instead.”

As dean, I am committed to doing my utmost to deploy existing resources, and generate new resources, to insure that no student is compelled to go hungry in order to succeed at CED. So, we have created an Access Fee Waiver Program for Pell Grant recipients. This program offsets a portion of facility access, use and printing fees. While this existing financial waiver program is helpful, we know it is not enough. In an effort led by Assistant Dean for Infrastructure and Information Technology Patty Mead, and our Fabrication Shop Manager Semar Prom, with an Innovation Award from the UC Berkeley Office of Equity & Inclusion, we are also opening a Materials Store. At the Materials Store, students will be able to conveniently purchase a range of course-related materials and supplies, at reasonable prices; some of the proceeds will go to enlarging our Access Fee Waiver Program.

If you would like to contribute to either of these efforts — by providing Access Fee Waivers ($500 each) or supporting the Materials Store — please contact me at Wolch@berkeley.edu.