Networked Urbanism

design thinking initiatives for a better urban life

Design critics: Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo, principals of Ecosistema Urbano

Water is a growing concern amongst the cultures of the world. Here in the northwest there happens to be an abundance of water at the time. This will not be the case for long as global warming and pollution have created awareness that our actions are finite. As new construction techniques continue to advance, a major design function is the rainwater capture on site. By containing the water that falls upon the site or structure, that water is able to be used for irrigation and other activities depending on the infrastructure set up to handle the water. This saves the owner from having to purchase water that is being brought in from off-site (as the city has to import water from the mountain range having outgrown the natural reservoirs, and built impervious surface to keep from replenishing through the natural hydrologic cycle). One of the largest carbon footprints of impervious surfaces are parking lots and ramps that make up the majority of non commercial or residential use lots. These ramps contain the most potent pollutants as cars are one of the biggest threats to the environment. The dripping of toxins and exhausting of carbon dioxide (amongst many other pollutants) at idle, starting, and driving, all collects in the lots and ramps. The rain water then washes those pollutants into the storm water drains, which until recently fed directly into the river. The Big Pipe project in Portland helped to alleviate some of the tension on the system and began separating the waste from residential and commercial use from the storm water drains. This was crucial as overflow situations created a torrent of black water material rushing into the river untreated. Although this will work for now through the Big Pipe size increase, as time has taught us, we will again outgrow the old system and need to find a new way of dealing with water.
Parking ramps are a perfect place for intervention as they contain some of the most unhealthy environments, but are also a way of our daily lives (and not being replaced anytime in the foreseen future). Incorporating an adaptable structure that would capture the rainwater, treat and purify, then reuse it for vegetation on site will help to mediate the air quality in the area. To do this a phase-able system is needed. The size needs to be able to vary and fit all types of ramps across the city. A canopy like structure that sits above the cars can act as shade, (alleviating the excess heat ramps create) rainwater protection, (keeping people dry as they go to and from their cars) and rainwater capture devise (starting the purification process), as well as being aesthetically appealing to all as nature has proven to be a healthier environment then plain concrete buildings.
The project at this time consists of a collection of statistics that describe the rain fall in Portland, the taxes on not capturing rain water, incentives to capture rainwater, the size of the systems needed to cope with the amount of water on each particular site, as well as the codes that can help to push the cover to 50% of the top floor of each unit with vegetation within the next few years. (this is currently being enforced on new parking surface lots.)
The type of filtration system is being analyzed with the help of some agronomists and green wall experts. The goal is to find the correct vegetation that will be the most beneficial for the environment as well as be aesthetically appealing and economical. Also the plants ideally will grow on a hydroponic system that will be designed and incorporated with the canopy coverage as well as the vertical gardens to keep the overall mass of the installation to a minimal. Interviews are being conducted with a local planner, agronomists, as well as the parking lot owners and attendees to find out more information.

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