Civil engineers visit Pringle Creek

The Capital Branch local section of the American Society of Civil Engineers held a field trip and meeting at Pringle Creek Community on May 24.
A group of 30 engineers, led by President Ken Roley (who is with the City of Salem Public Works), celebrated their 10 year anniversary and presented a a lifetime achievement award to member Ken Archibald, who started his career in civil engineering in 1958. Congratulations, Mr. Archibald.

The meeting included an overview of Pringle Creek by Don Myers. That was followed by Chuck Gregory of W&H Pacific (which created the asphalt mix for Pringle Creek), who did a very interesting presentation on the entire porous street system from an engineer’s technical perspective--soil compaction, rock size, flow and absorption rates, and also the step by step process, innovations, and lessons learned.

So, why porous roadways? Pervious concrete and asphalt mimic the natural environment by capturing falling rain, filtering and absorbing it, and recharging the aquifer. This is important because not only does the City need ground water in the summer for human use, wildlife relies on a steady flow of groundwater that is slowly released into watersheds throughout the year, which keeps the streams cool, clean and at normal levels. Porous roadways (and rain gardens) act as giant, spread-out sand filters and phytoremediation (plants + pollution removal) centers for cleaning stormwater on the way to the aquifer. It slows things down and allows bacteria to break down or absorb pollutants.

Conventional impermeable road surfaces, on the other hand, collect non-point source pollution on the road surface--oil and coolant off our cars, heavy metals, like copper dust off brake pads, particulates that settle on the road surface, mercury, spilled gasoline from the mower, you name it--and, then after a storm event carries all that junk directly to our waterways in one big dose of poison. The rapidity of the drainage increases erosion and sediment turbidity. This is a bad deal for fish or wildlife, like crossing a toxic waste dump in a thick haze of smog. Or like swimming through a toilet. In 1999, Salem spilled 127 million gallons of sewage into the Willamette River, mostly after heavy rainfall overwhelmed the system. The Willamette is #3 on the 2006 Most Endangered American Rivers list, thanks mainly to toxic mixing zones, but not helped any by sewer overflows I’m sure.

Pringle Creek Community has the largest neighborhood porous street system in the country. Having engineers, developers, contractors and people who are involved with water quality come out to see our project will hopefully help start a sea change on how streets are made.



Envision Oregon town hall meeting in Salem

Here is a chance to be heard: Envision Oregon is a series of town hall meetings. The purpose is to stimulate public comment about how Oregonians should plan for the next 30 years. Pringle Creek Community is a local partner. The Salem event is June 7, to be held at Mission Mill Museum.

The Salem meeting will be "welcomed" by Rep. Vicki Berger; the hosts are Jefferson Smith of The Bus Project and Bob Stacey of 1000 Friends of Oregon. The topics for this meeting are:
Family farms and forests
Fairness in land use


Dr. Michael Mann at Loucks on Thursday

This is the final Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center lecture of the 2006-07 season. It is Global Climate Change: Past and Present by Dr. Michael Mann. The lecture is Thursday, May 31, 7 p.m., at Loucks Auditorium, Salem Public Library.

Dr. Michael Mann is a member of the faculty in the Departments of Meteorology and Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State. He was a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Scientific Assessment Report. Dr. Mann's many awards include selection as one of Scientific American's 50 leading visionaries in science and technology.

In this presentation, Dr. Mann will review the solid evidence of human influence on the climate in recent decades and explore the impacts of human-induced climate change on the United States. The presentation is free and open to the public with support from the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District, the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, Salem Electric, and the City of Salem.


More good Statesman Journal coverage

A wonderful large spread from the Salem Statesman Journal, focused on the energy- and resource-efficiency of the homes at Pringle Creek Community: Project reflects push for efficiency. This "idea house" is loaded with smart innovations and environmental features.

I think there is a little bit of a sea change now," said Mark Kogut of Opsis Architecture. "There are a lot of people looking for less in size and more in quality."

Over the home's lifetime, owners can expect to pay significantly less in energy bills than their counterparts in a conventional home.

The model cottage house is expected to perform more than 35 percent better than homes built to Oregon's building code and 50 percent better than federal building codes.

"Energy is the big footprint of a house over its lifetime," said Christopher Dymond of the Oregon Department of Energy. "The bulk (of homes) are built to bare minimum code. Ten percent are going to Energy Star and Earth Advantage levels. But this home, this is the top 1 percent of performance."


Bald eagles fly over Pringle Creek

Hard to believe, but a pair of bald eagles circled over Pringle Creek Community this afternoon. It was quite the sight. The camera was all the way in the office, so instead of running to go and fumble around with it we just watched them soar. A group of foresters from the OR Department of Forestry spotted them while admiring the giant Kitalpas by the greenhouses.

Thus far in the month of May we have seen onsite a Red Tail hawk regularly (one time with a snake in its talons heading back to the nest), a covey of Quail (eight of them scampering around), a number of fat Oregon Gray Squirrels, several Morning Doves, and about five Killdeers that have nested–-their offspring having already hatched and flown away.

Click here for some interesting information on Killdeers. They are a remarkable bird: their nests of perfectly camouflaged eggs blend into a hidden declivity they’ve made in gravel. They are precocial, which allows them to get up and go right upon hatching. They have this crazy trait of drawing predators away from the nests by flopping around like an injured bird.

We are also frequently visited by a Great Blue Heron that quietly arrives in the late afternoon, cruising through the canopy that shades Pringle Creek as if it were a dark green tunnel. The heron is elusive and shy, so no good pictures yet, but below is a photo of the part of the creek where he hangs out.



It's all relative

Very impressive, the blogging being done by Alan Durning, founder of Sightline Institute. He has a great post about the use of bicycles for transportation on Sightline’s blog, the Daily Score.

The good news: Portland, Eugene and Corvallis are relatively very bike-friendly. That's compared to the rest of the United States. Portland and Corvallis are in the top eight U.S. cities; Eugene is in the next 12. Oregon leads the other 49 states in the number of bike-commuters.

The bad news: the numbers are tiny. Portland (inside the city limits) is only 2.6 percent of commute trips by bicycle. Greater Portland is 0.8 percent--the suburbs are no better than Salem, and I can tell you from my five senses that Salem has about 500 cars on the road for every bicyclist. Corvallis is better at 8 percent of trips--I wonder how many of those are students going to class.

The Netherlands, 38 percent (Amsterdam almost 50 percent); Denmark, 20 percent (Copenhagen almost 50 percent). When the price of petroleum jumps to twice what it is today, those countries are going to continue functioning pretty well. The USA will be reeling. Of course, those who live at Pringle Creek will have advantages, like being close to the city center, being on a transit line, having a store. Pringle Creek will do okay relatively.

Somewhere outside the U.S.

Simply green chic

I’m not going to reveal who sent me the link to a post on styleist.com, "Going ‘Green’ with Style." Frankly, I had no idea Tony my friend read the fashion blogs. But this particular post is right on, with good tips on reducing, reusing, recycling, like this:

Don't over-wash clothes. The heat, water, soap, along with all the twisting and scrunching, stresses fabric. Wash when there's visible dirt; air clothes out and spot-clean to keep them fresh between washings. Go for cooler rather than hot water whenever possible. The new cold-water detergents work well, are gentler on fabrics, save energy and greenhouse gases -- and save on your bills.


The other library

Salem has a fine public library. The whole Civic Center - library - Pringle Parkade - Pringle Tower project, done in the early 1970s, seems like it was good planning. At that time, the cost of a big public library probably seemed excessive. I don't think the library was very busy during the early years. Have you been there lately? It’s a busy place.

The Project for Public Spaces website has a whole series of articles about Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever:

The creation of the "information superhighway" threatened to make libraries obsolete, but today they are as prominent as ever. Libraries are taking on a larger civic role, redefining themselves as community centers for the 21st Century. The old model of the library was the inward-focused "reading room," the new one is more like a community "front porch."


Meet the Wilsons

Introducing Alan and Sue Wilson, who will be among the earliest homeowners at Pringle Creek Community. Alan owns a local landscape maintenance company and Sue is an administrator for the State of Oregon.

Alan Wilson and grandson Avery: “It’s all about future generations,” says Alan.

Says Sue, "We’re excited to be part of the Pringle Community. We think it’s important to have a smaller “footprint” ourselves with an energy efficient home. It’s only in recent years that we’ve expanded our knowledge about green building and green communities and we think that this place is going to be a great example for others to follow. There is so much that is innovative here. We’ve chosen to to build a ‘tall-house.’ The floor plan has been very well thought out and it gives us everything we need. We can’t wait to start building. And more importantly, we know the community itself offers tremendous potential.”

Thank you, Alan and Sue. They promise to keep us posted on their experience with green building and being part of Pringle Creek.


The other Illahee

Illahee is a Portland non-profit environmental organization that provides "opportunities for science-based policy-relevant environmental inquiry." They bring some excellent lecturers to Portland. Coming up is Thomas Homer-Dixon. We have talked about him before. He is an author and Director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto.

September 11th won't be the last time we walk out of our cities, writes Thomas Homer-Dixon. In his new book, The Upside of Down, he argues that peak oil, climate change, terrorism, and the widening gap between rich and poor have made the world increasingly vulnerable to breakdown.

But it is also ripe for renewal. Although recent disasters have caused tremendous suffering, they have taught us how we can reinvigorate the economic, political and social systems that sustain us. Can capitalism provide for the world's well-being, equity and environment in the 21st century? Yes, says Homer-Dixon, if we think creatively, act boldly and develop resilient societies in advance.

"In advance" makes that a pretty big if. It will be interesting. Anyway, admission is $20, ouch, for non-members. It's Wednesday, May 23, 7:30 p.m. in the First Congregational Church, 1126 SW Park Ave., Portland.


Read about LEED

Following up on the May 1 post, Pringle Creek Community is one of 370 applicants for the LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) Pilot Program. There are 120 “slots” available, and those selections will be announced in the next 2-3 weeks.

LEED certification used to be only for environment-friendly buildings. Buildings can earn Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification, depending on the number of credits they attain. LEED building certifications are administered solely by the U.S. Green Building Council. For the LEED-ND program, USGBC is collaborating with the Congress for the New Urbanism and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

According to the USGBC website, the LEED-ND Rating System “integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism, and green building into the first national standard for neighborhood design.” This page on the NRDC website says (in more detail) that the LEED-ND applicants will be graded on 1) choosing an environmentally sound location, 2) reducing the need to drive, 3) using less land to create more benefits, and 4) conserving energy, water and other natural resources.

Will Pringle Creek be one of the 120 developments selected for the pilot program? Stay tuned, you'll find out as soon as we do, right here on the blog.


Paul Hawken

Paul Hawken, author, environmentalist and business entrepreneur, was an early visitor to Fairview. He was in Salem to speak at Willamette. At that time, 2001, “sustainable development” was not part of the national conversation like it is now. Hawken, though, had been talking about it for years. He wrote The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability in 1993 and co-wrote the seminal work, Natural Capitalism, which spelled out the benefits of considering the economic value of environmental perspectives, in 1999.

In his brand new book, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming, Hawken “reveals a worldwide grassroots movement of hope and humanity.” Here is an Orion Magazine essay by Hawken, adapted from his new book. This subject, the huge number of people and organizations working on changing the world, reminds me of something Hawken said at Willamette: "People tell me I'm preaching to the choir. I tell them, 'but the choir keeps getting bigger.'"

Here, from a Metropolis Magazine interview, is Hawken on the importance of urban design as technological innovation:

Q: In the book you write that green, safe, livable cities are at the fingertips of architects and designers. What do you mean by that?

PH:In the last fifteen years, architects and designers and planners have come up with an array of design technologies. They have started to put them together in ways that drastically reduce the footprint of the city, making it safer and much more livable. The reason you’re not seeing it sooner is simply the way that cities evolve. They’re not clean slates. You don’t just erase a city and put a new one where it was. The rate of change is not as fast as the rate of technical and design innovation. Design is a technology, but you can’t just fix things with technology. You need people who see the world in a different way and then put it together in new ways.

Hawken will be doing a Powell’s Books reading on Thursday, May 17, at 7 p.m., at the Bagdad Theater, 3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Tickets, $5, are available at the Bagdad Theater box office and all Ticketmaster outlets.


Porous, pervious, permeable

There are 2.6 million miles of roads in the United States. Pringle Creek Community has 7000 feet--and uses pavement that is better for the environment. Porous, pervious, permeable, all three words mean that the pavement has holes that allow water to go through it.

Pringle Creek’s system of porous streets and alleys is said to be “the nation’s first full-scale porous pavement project.” Our main website features a lot of information about the system. The Statesman Journal has a video you can watch [no longer available], in which Don Myers explains the benefits of the system.

And Ped Shed, a blog by Laurence Aurbach, a leading architect of the new urbanism and advocate for walkable design, has a post with all that and more, including quotes from a paper by Patrick Condon, Pringle Creek’s Sustainability Principles, Visioning and Design Guidelines guy.

If you're wondering about "ped shed," it's like watershed . . . “Ped shed is short for pedestrian shed, the basic building block of walkable neighborhoods. A ped shed is the area encompassed by the walking distance from a town or neighborhood center. Ped sheds are often defined as the area covered by a 5-minute walk (about 0.25 miles, 1,320 feet, or 400 meters).”


More Earth Day photos

From Santiago [and as with most photos on this blog, by clicking the photo you can see it enlarged]:


A healthy place for children

Have we commented enough about the Pringle Creek "Experience" that includes providing wonderful places to meet and gather, opportunities to share time with your neighbors at the community garden, village store, or local deli? How about the importance of children? Yes, we'll have a children's park with a play structure and nature area but we'll also have lots of chances for informal and organized learning. The Sustainable Living Center will provide opportunities for children and their parents to be students and instructors. To create their own lessons and classes. And yes, Pringle Creek is within easy walking distance of Leslie Middle School (see this Jeanine Stice column [no longer available] very complimentary of Leslie) and the proposed new elementary school at Fairview.

We believe children will thrive in a culture of connection at Pringle Creek Community. Our rainwater management plan will give children an intimate connection with the natural flow of water. Our blue-green bio-swales will be lush reminders of nature at every street corner. The beautiful reflecting swales at the Village Center will immediately intrigue visitors and residents with their beauty and the game of guessing how much rain fell and how long the reflecting pond will remain until all the water infiltrates through the crushed granite soil. Pringle Creek will be a place to play, our fir grove and sequoia grove parks with their 80 and 100 year old trees will be places to spark the imagination. Trails along Pringle Creek that wind through parks and community gardens will bring children full circle to a connection with all kinds of nature. Native plants, fruit trees and living gardens. Families and friends growing food for themselves and their neighbors. Healthy food, food security, trees, water, air, plants - the connections are growing. Above all else Pringle Creek is about the health of our children and their world.

Here is a remarkable book about the issue of children disconnected from nature, children who today spend far too much time plugged into televisions, Ipods, computers, cell phones, game cubes, x-boxes, and Wii. Wow.

Richard Louv, chairman of Children & Nature Network, is the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, about children and nature, how society encourages kids to avoid direct experience in nature. From the publisher:

As children's connections to nature diminish and the social, psychological, and spiritual implications become apparent, new research shows that nature can offer powerful therapy for such maladies as depression, obesity, and attentiondeficit disorder. Environment-based education dramatically improves standardized test scores and grade-point averages and develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that childhood experiences in nature stimulate creativity.


Sustainable Industries Journal article features Pringle Creek

Pringle Creek is one of the projects discussed in There goes the neighborhood, an article in the May issue of Sustainable Industries Journal. The article is about the new LEED-ND (neighborhood) certification. Pringle Creek has applied for LEED-ND. Below are the paragraphs relating to Pringle Creek.

A major ski resort and a former training site for disabled workers are among the projects aiming for certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Neighborhoods (ND) program, which will evaluate up to 120 pilot projects at various stages of planning and construction across the country. The program, which will notify selected applicants in mid-May, marks a departure for the green building council. LEED-ND is the first product to be developed in partnership with outside stakeholders — in this case, the Congress for the New Urbanism and the National Resources Defense Council. It is also the organization’s first rating system to move beyond individual buildings and focus on sustainable land use and transportation.

. . .

Another LEED-ND project applicant is the 32-acre Pringle Creek development in Salem, Ore., which is located on the site of the former
Fairview Training Center. The project won the first-ever National Association of Home Builders Land Development of the Year award in March. “There’s a shift in thinking toward issues of site and land use,” says project architect James Meyer.

Pringle Creek includes several net-zero-energy homes with geothermal heating, a community orchard and biodiesel co-op, and a 9,000-foot network of “green streets” to manage stormwater. Housing is planned within walking distance of the town center, and interconnected paths will link the project to the Salem street grid. “You can actually bike to the airport,” Meyer notes. As of March, Pringle Creek had reservations for 23 out of 139 lots — a number Meyer says he expects to increase once the project is added to the regional multiple listing service in May.

LEED professionals are still analyzing the program’s certification and development costs. However, since the neighborhood category focuses on sustainable site selection instead of energy efficiency and green materials, “it looks like less time, hours and dollars than LEED on a building,” says Scott Lewis, a principal at Brightworks, a Portland consulting firm.