Sunday, June 15, 2014

Philly's Got Class

Philadelphia University graduate, Christopher Class, noted our city's deplorable reputation as a a filthy energy hog, stated in so many words in a report by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. Essentially, our air sucks and we don't recycle. Does anyone else miss the 90s? When everyone recycled and toothpicks weren't individually wrapped in plastic? Boy did we lose that battle.

But Class doesn't seem ready to give in, and his experimental school, the Reading Viaduct Sustainability Center doesn't just help the environment and teach about doing so, it solves several other urban obstacles in the process.

Although the project is heavily experimental, it's more exciting than most plans released by seasoned architects and a prime example of any city's need for fresh talent.

The sprawling center runs from Reading Viaduct's Vine Street stump to 12th and Race. Pedestrian causeways branch out in multiple directions across the Vine Street Expressway, sidewalks elevated above what appear to be energy generating fans. 

Without demolishing a single building, the center transforms the undesirable real estate facing the Convention Center's loading dock into purposeful galleries and classrooms congruously to a wild building hovering over a park that anchors 12th and Race.

Reading Viaduct Sustainability Center - Christopher Class

But despite Philadelphia's poor score in one environmental survey, our city has a unique interest in sustainability. Much of our woes are the directly result of our aging and existing infrastructure. The same problems exist in London and New York. Our lack of investment in sustainable buildings is incidental. We simple have far more old buildings than new ones, or ones that can efficiently "go green."

That hasn't stopped new development from making strides in this area. When Comcast Center was built, it was the tallest "green" building in the country and Lincoln Financial Field generates so much of its own solar and wind power that it sells its reserves to the city.

There is always room for improvement and the ideas are limitless. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia so why not put a solar roof on every building in Center City? Our narrow streets cause wind tunnels on our most towering avenues. Put them to work with giant fans. Turn Philadelphia into a self sustaining power plant. Experimental theories of course, but Philadelphia is more innovative than most think. 

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