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Can Emerging Nations Avoid the US Path?

17 Jul

Erin Chantry:

When I visit emerging or even European countries, I am saddened by seeing mistakes on the ground that America has made three decades before. Why can’t we learn from each other? Is it because people and cities are so giddy with new found wealth that they can’t resist the temptations of over-development, sprawl, or car use? I stumbled across this blog entry that attempts to answer this question and thought I’d share. Please enjoy!

Originally posted on Dom's Plan B Blog:

By Dom Nozzi

Since the emergence and rapid spread of car ownership and use in America since the early part of the 20th Century, the United States has taken a large number of ruinous, unsustainable actions to make life happy for cars rather than people.

While it is true that car travel initially resulted in many positive improvements in our society, those improvements are now increasingly overwhelmed by negatives, as the continued provision of infrastructure, programs and finances to promote car travel is now experiencing severely diminishing returns that started later on in the 20th Century.

We are now at a point that each “improvement” for car travel – an “improvement” that is increasingly unaffordable – provides fewer and fewer benefits. And the costs of such “improvements” provide increasingly enormous decimation. A classic case, in other words, of diminishing returns.

Tragically, the US is largely trapped in this downward spiral…

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8 Apr

Erin Chantry:

Love this candid reflection of a city dweller now living in the suburbs. It goes to show that our built environment dictates more than just our actions…it also affects how we think.

Originally posted on :

I admit it.  I used to judge people that lived in the suburbs.  Who wouldn’t?  I was a twenty something living in Chicago.  I had no kids, no car and no utilities coupled with cheap rent and a resilient liver.  My biggest worry was catching the next train or if my music was too loud.  I could walk out the front door of my apartment building to endless opportunities for entertainment, food and friends.  When I thought about the suburbs, I would shiver as the theme song from Weeds would start coursing through my veins.  It was all very vanilla.  And that was not the flavor I was seeking as a twenty something.  And yet, despite all of my judgment, I moved to the suburbs.  

 When I compare the city to the suburbs, there are pros and cons to both.  But what gets me the most (and makes me…

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17 Feb

Erin Chantry:

Check out the Ink and Compass blog for some interesting facts on how Americans’ housing desires have started to shift. However, in my opinion, not fast enough. Can someone tell me who those people are who would extend their daily commute by 40 minutes? But for those 75% who want walkability, 60% who want mixed-uses, and the 88% who crave a sense of community, the design of the physical environment must start meeting their needs.

Originally posted on Ink & Compass:

I’ve heard it said, and have often repeated, that one can get used to living in a smaller house (or condo or apartment), but you never get used to a long commute. After decades of continued car-dependent sprawl, maybe we’re all finally cluing in. Or maybe not.

According to the 2011 Community Preference Survey that outlines what Americans look for when deciding where to live:

Six in ten (59%) would choose a smallerhouse and lot if it meant a commute time of 20 minutes or less. Four in ten (39%) would stick with the larger houses even if their commute was 40 minutes or longer

OK, so we’re not exactly all on the same page here.

A couple other interesting factoids from the survey:

1) We want to walk.  More than three quarters of Americans consider having sidewalks and places to  walk one of their top priorities.

2) In fact…

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2 Feb

Erin Chantry:

I wanted to share a wonderful post about the emotional effects the built environment has on people’s everyday lives. Urban design, planning, and architecture is the world around us (for most people), and as professionals we have a great responsibility in shaping what that world is. We can make it happy, we can make it sad. This post on The Happy Spaces Project Blog caught my eye with the picture of Pruitt Igoe, an enormous public housing development that was demolished in St. Louis, after it gained the reputation of making the people who live there miserable. Studying architecture in St. Louis and visiting this cleared site that lays barren has always served as a reminder of the responsibility we carry. Enjoy this post – I think we should all look a little harder into the field of environmental psychology.

Originally posted on (the) happy spaces project (blog):

Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis

(the) happy spaces project is concerned with understanding “how the physical environment affects people’s happiness.” Essentially we are interested in how space affects human emotion and perception. The field of Environmental Psychology is, broadly, investigating human behavior and space. They are concerned with better understanding how the environment affects human behavior.

Three Definitions of Environmental Psychology

Stokols & Altman (1987): The study of human behavior and well-being in relation to the sociophysical environment.

Russell & Snodgrass (1987): The branch of Psychology concerned with providing a systematic account of the relationship between a person and the environment.

Bell, Fisher, Baum & Greene (1996): The study of the molar relationships between behavior experience and the built and natural environments.

Many spatial design projects take little responsibility for the fact that their designs have social impacts — some good, some bad, some neutral. Design projects associated with commercial ventures have embraced the…

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27 Jan

Erin Chantry:

I stumbled across this wonderful post on the physical and built environments. We can constantly get caught up in urban design and planning terms, but its important that we understand their true meaning. I certainly plan to take these definitions on board when writing. Check out the Happy Spaces Project blog HERE!

Originally posted on (the) happy spaces project (blog):

On (the) happy spaces project’s “About page” we described the purpose of the project as attempting “to create a synthesized understanding about how the physical environment affects people’s happiness.”

The physical environment includes all of your surroundings, those designed and those natural. The built environment is a part of the physical environment, but it is only that which is “designed.” It has been wonderful to see how posts deal with the physical, natural, and built environments — though both Gong and I deal with the world of design, acknowledging what about the physical and natural environments brings people happiness is crucial.

I was thrilled to stumbled across the Health Canada’s 1997 definition of the “Built Environment.” I have always loved the precision of definitions and thought I would share how the “Built Environment” is defined in the academic world.

The built environment is part of the overall ecosystem of our…

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