Friday, January 30, 2009
Stucco Is Not Cement
HAVING JUST BEEN IN MIAMI, I couldn't help notice how unpleasant many of the "stucco" buildings there are. That's because the stucco is actually cement.
Stucco is a mixture of lime, sand and water. During the 20th century, cement companies successfully promoted the substitution of a mixture of Portland Cement, sand and water. The result is a dead and lifeless material that has little of the visual and sensual appeal of real stucco.
Portland Cement has a small amount of lime, but it is primarily cement, sometimes with gypsum plaster. Just as Portland Cement has less visual and sensual appeal than stucco, gypsum is a lifeless material with less visual and sensual appeal than real plaster. Like real stucco, real plaster is a mixture of lime, sand and water, sometimes with added materials like horsehair or acrylic fibers to act as binders.
In terms of human appeal, EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems) is (are?) worse. EIFS coatings are made of plastics and other artificial materials made from petrochemicals. EIFS should only be used in situations where humans can't get close to them. But even in that situation, plaster will still be more pleasing than EIFS.
There are a few ways to make Portland Cement stucco more pleasing. One is to break up large surfaces with curves, openings or moldings that cast shadows. Another is to add more lime to the mixture, or to add powdered stone to the mix, making the building more like a masonry building than a stucco building.
In the early 20th century, architects and builders frequently used cement / stone mixes to make beautiful buildings. The stone made the concrete seem more like a natural material, but part of the appeal of these buildings was that their ornament — rustication, quoins, pilasters, crown moldings, etc. — visually broke up the walls with smaller surfaces and light and shadow. At the same time, Modernists like Le Corbusier broke down the massing of their buildings and used curved walls and even paint for similar reasons.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Change we can believe in
This week, the House of Representatives will likely vote on its version of an economic recovery package that falls far short of where we need to be. It slashes the recommended funding for public transportation, threatening especially the low-income Americans who rely on mass transit. These transit systems are already facing reduced service, fare increases, and overcrowded buses at a time when ridership is soaring.
After sending billions to Wall Street for blank check bailouts, it's time to invest in transportation solutions with real accountability. Make sure the Senate passes a smarter bill - take action with us today.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
PRESIDENT OBAMA tells us America is changing. We believe him because he has articulated a message we've already felt but haven't expressed as well as he does.
We want change. We are the change he tells us about.
Monday, January 19, 2009
It's Not Rocket Science
IN 1712 the Industrial Revolution started with the invention of the steam engine, made to pump water out of a coal mine. Since that time we've made a world based on burning fossil fuels. That's contributed to the population of the world growing from 790,000,000 in 1750 to over 6,800,000,000 today — in other words in a little over 2 1/2 centuries the population of the world has grown more than 8 times larger than it ever was before. And when 6.8 billion people live in a world based on fossil fuels and petrochemicals you have an ecological disaster. We the people have altered the world in measurable ways, and unless we change our way of living it's only going to get worse.
At their present rate of growth, in just 20 years the Chinese by themselves will want 20% more oil every day than the entire world uses today — and we know that much oil won't be available. They'll also burn more coal than the world produces today, and eat two-thirds of the world's grain. Except that India will be even bigger than China, and they both have large armies and nuclear arms.
The earth's climate can not support 6.8 billion people living the way we do. This has gone far beyond scientific speculation. Read any report on the state of the oceans and world fishing, for example. Those in the world who depend on fish and fishing are already in big trouble.
We live in very important times.
$timulus We Can Believe In - Call Your Senators and Congressmen (in my case Congresswoman)
BETWEEN 1 minute 59 seconds and 2 minutes 27 seconds in the YouTube video below, the President Elect's new Communications Director answers the question, "Will transit and intercity rail projects be a major component of the infrastructure stimulus package, rather than focusing on highway projects?"
He gives the answer the nation wants to hear* — "Yes" — and goes on to briefly explain why the answer should be yes. But he doesn't mention why 66% of the first $45 billion of stimulus spending discussed is going to the construction of new highways.
* A new survey by the National Association of Realtors and T4America shows that most Americans want stimulus spending to go to road and bridge repair and transit, not new road construction. A majority of the people surveyed think funded projects should advance national goals, such as energy independence, in addition to creating jobs.
And as I've said before, after the trillion-dollar war in Iraq, we can't just print money like the Weimar Republic. We have to act wisely, and we have to do that now. It's not rocket science.
Poll: Most Americans Want Stimulus to Emphasize Road and Bridge Repair and Transit, Not New Road Construction, Poll Finds
Majority says funded projects should advance national goals, such as energy independence, in addition to creating jobs.
Download this Release (.pdf)
David Goldberg, 202/412-7930
WASHINGTON – As Congress takes up debate over an economic stimulus package, a new poll shows that most Americans would rather use federal dollars to repair highways and bridges and improve public transportation than expand highways through new construction.
In addition, fully 80 percent of respondents said stimulus investments should not only create jobs, but also help the goals of reducing oil dependency, improving the environment and increasing transportation options, even if the job creation took longer. Only 20 percent agreed that stimulus funds should include only “road and bridge projects that can be started right away and create an immediate boost to the economy”.
The stimulus questions were included in the 2009 Growth and Transportation Survey sponsored by the National Association of Realtors® and Transportation For America, and conducted Jan 5-7.
An overwhelming 80 percent believe it is more important that a stimulus plan include efforts to repair existing highways and public transit rather than build new highways. Forty-five percent of those polled said construction of highways should “definitely” or “probably” not be included in the plan.
“Realtors® build communities and believe smarter transportation and infrastructure development will help create more livable and vibrant neighborhoods,” said NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth.
The survey shows that Americans want Congress and the incoming administration to factor plans for reducing dependence on foreign oil, improving the environment, and increasing transportation choices into the stimulus package currently in development, even if it temporarily delays job creation.
Americans are also very interested in energy conservation. Eighty-nine percent agreed that transportation investments should support the goals of reducing energy use, with 58 percent agreeing strongly. Three in four of those polled also want the stimulus plan to support the reduction of carbon emissions that lead to global warming and climate change.
The telephone survey of 1,005 adults living in the U.S. was conducted by Hart Research Associates Jan. 5-7. The study has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Transportation for America (T4America.org) is a big-tent coalition of housing, real estate, environmental, public health, urban planning, transportation and other organizations.
“We believe it is possible to invest the stimulus money both wisely and quickly,” said Geoff Anderson, co-chair of Transportation for America. “Because this is a down-payment on long term economic stability, it is critical that we don’t just throw money at our problems. Voters are clearly asking that Congress and the Administration line up our investments with important national goals.”
The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
I'VE WRITTEN SEVERAL POSTS ABOUT MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY the last few years. This year, I expect President-Elect Obama will say something more eloquent. He understands this quote from King:
If you want to move people it has to be toward a vision that’s positive for them. One that taps important values, that gets them something they desire. And it has to be presented in a compelling way that people feel inspired to follow.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Name of the Day
IF-JESUS-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Wouldst-Be-Damned Barbon was a son of PraiseGod Barbon, a leathermonger and Baptist preacher in 17th century London.
While studying in Amsterdam, Barbon changed his name to "Nicholas" and later became a London developer, builder and MP.
From London Rising, The Men Who Made London Modern (New York, Walker & Co., 2008): 67.