8 episodes

Michael Eliason is a Seattle-based architect who has lived and worked in Germany. The Livable Low-carbon City explores the stories, places, and people working to make our buildings and cities more sustainable, enjoyable, and humane – in the face of a changing world. New episodes every Friday. ish.

Livable Low-carbon City Michael Eliason

    • Arts
    • 5.0 • 13 Ratings

Michael Eliason is a Seattle-based architect who has lived and worked in Germany. The Livable Low-carbon City explores the stories, places, and people working to make our buildings and cities more sustainable, enjoyable, and humane – in the face of a changing world. New episodes every Friday. ish.

    08: housing and single parents

    08: housing and single parents

    Several of our friends and colleagues are currently going through divorces and other changes in their family household structure. Many of them were homeowners. However, Seattle - as many other cities in the US, has a pretty severe housing shortage. There are very limited options for housing that is affordable for single parents or those co-parenting... Let alone housing specifically designed for single parents. Over the last year, I have had numerous discussions like this – by and large parents with younger children – who, until their divorce, had been homeowners and housing secure. In the process of getting divorced, they found themselves on the other side of housing precarity. Some even being technically homeless.

    Today, on the Livable Low-Carbon City podcast – we’ll be talking about some housing solutions for single parents that I think cities should be prioritizing, so that they have a good economic and social mix of residents.

    Further reading...

    Gender in Mainstreaming Urban Development, via the City of Berlin.

    Apfelbaum, an innovative housing project centered on radical inclusivity and accessibility in Vienna. via IBA Wien.

    Affordable Housing for Single Parents (German), via MeinBezirk.at.

    Baugruppen, via Larch Lab.

    Bring on the Clusterwohnungen, Mike Eliason's piece on cluster apartments, via the Urbanist.

    Mehr Als Wohnen, Zuerich from cooperative to community. via Architektur Aktuell.

    Mit den Augen der Anderen (Through the eyes of others), a (stunning) short film highlighting life in Mehr Als Wohnen.

    These single-mom friends joked about buying a house together. On a whim, they did it, via the Washington Post.

    Lastly, to stay up to date with what Michael Eliason is doing at Larch Lab, be sure to sign up for newsletter updates.   

    • 27 min
    07: Freiburg, a Model Green City

    07: Freiburg, a Model Green City

    Nestled at the southwest edge of the Black Forest, close to where France, Germany and Switzerland all come together - is the Green City of Freiburg. I spent a year living and working in Freiburg in 2003-2004, with a really amazing architecture firm ( Pfeifer.Roser.Kuhn Architekten) doing incredible things around low energy buildings and dowel laminated timber. The city, despite its smaller size - with a population of roughly 220,000 - is one of the most livable cities I have ever experienced.

    Literally all of the things that I am interested in as an architect - Mass Timber, Passivhaus, ecodistricts, pedestrian zones, baugruppen - all have extensive roots in this region. Many of you many know about the car-light ecodistrict of Vauban - a family-friendly quartier. What you may not know, is that a number of the projects here are baugruppen - self-developed urban housing. There are also several Passivhaus projects here - and in fact, the first Mass Timber Passivhaus project - which also happens to be a Baugruppe. Mind Blowing? Indeed.

    In today's episode, I reminisce a little about some of the things that made this such an amazing city - and how nearly 20 years later, those same subjects are central to who I am as an architect, a husband, a father.  And those ideals, those concepts are foundational to Larch Lab.

    Further reading...

    The Freiburg Charter - Requirements on Urban Development and Planning for the Future, Wulf Daseking, et al.

    In German Suburbs, Life goes on without cars, via NYT.

    Stadtteil Vauban, project website.

    Ecoquartier of Dietenbach, via the City of Freiburg.

    Baugruppen, via Larch Lab.

    Lastly, to stay up to date with what Michael Eliason is doing at Larch Lab, be sure to sign up for newsletter updates.  

    • 24 min
    06: Smoke Signals: Passivhaus mandates now.

    06: Smoke Signals: Passivhaus mandates now.

    Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have had fairly significant wildfire smoke for the last six weeks. For the most part, wind patterns have kept much of the Seattle Metro from experiencing the worst of it. That changed this week, as weather patterns shifted and the dense wildfire smoke cloaked our region for several days, thrusting both Seattle and Portland into the cities with the worst air quality globally.

    Unfortunately, this pattern is likely to worsen as the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains continue to dry out. Due to their rugged, steep terrain and abundant fuel - fighting wildfires is going to be significantly different than on the dryer, and eastern slopes of the cascades. Containment and mitigation will be the main strategies in dealing with this smoke.

    However, cities have not prepared for this new normal to the extent they should have, with studies predicting this very issue for decades. We already utilize public buildings for weather that is extremely warm or cold - the next logical step is to utilize public buildings as fresh air centers for smoke and air pollution events. The region has also added over a hundred thousand homes in just the last decade. Unfortunately, weak energy codes that failed to mandate Passivhaus only ensured that there was significant carbon lock-in with these, and an inability to adapt and mitigate climate change to the effect they could have.

    Had we mandated Passivhaus levels of construction, with airtight buildings and fresh, filtered ventilation - many more of these buildings could adapt to these types of events, and ruggedized against an increasingly dangerous normal. We need climate leaders who will take these issues seriously, and act swiftly.

    Further reading...

    Passive House: Climate-Proofing Against Disease and Smoke, Hayley Cloona in Passive Buildings Canada.

    Will blankets of wildfire smoke be our new seasonal normal?, via KUOW.

    Inside the Bolt Creek Fire and the Newly Burning Forests of the Western Cascades, via Seattle Times.

    US Northwest towns ‘woefully unprepared’ as fire risk grows, via the AP.

    Managing Western Washington Wildfire Risk in a Changing Climate, report  (pdf) via UW's Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center

    King County Wildfire Risk Reduction Strategy, report (pdf) via King County. 

    Passive House on the Frontlines: Wildfire Smoke & Indoor Air Quality, roundtable hosted by Passive House Accelerator.

    Another Good Reason to Go Passivhaus: It Keeps the Smoke Out, Lloyd Alter over on Treehugger.

    Lastly, to stay up to date with what Michael Eliason is doing at Larch Lab, be sure to sign up for newsletter updates. 

    • 18 min
    05: An ARPA for Climate Adaptive Urbanism

    05: An ARPA for Climate Adaptive Urbanism

    A few months ago, Larch Lab was contacted to start discussions of an ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) focused on climate adaptive urbanism, influenced by the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

    With the effects of climate change becoming more frequent and intense than anticipated – we can no longer wait ten to twenty years to adapt to this new normal. Larch Lab believes we need an ARPA-esque project to facilitate the research and development necessary to rapidly roll out high performance, decarbonized buildings, ecodistricts, and cities.

    This episode of the Livable Low-Carbon City is a download of themes and topics that we will be discussing in detail over the coming months...

    Further reading...

    Car-light Ecodistricts:
    The 5 coolest trends in urbanism ... in Europe, Michael Eliason's guest op ed in Dave Roberts Volts Substack.

    Let’s Build a Dense, Climate-Resilient EcoDistrict in Seattle’s Interbay, Michael Eliason's op-ed in the Urbanist.

    Passivhaus:
    What is a Passivhaus, the Passivhaus Trust's intro to the standard that should be the baseline of all buildings.

    Seattle Must Require Public Buildings Meet Passivhaus Standards to Lead on Climate, Michael Eliason's op ed in the Urbanist.

    Zoning reform:
    The Impact of Upzoning on Housing Construction in Auckland, Ryan Freenaway-McGrevy and Peter C.B. Phillips paper on upzoning effects.

    Upzone the Side Streets!, Henry Grabar's Slate piece on effects of focusing housing on arterials.

    Building Code reform:
    Unlocking livable, resilient, decarbonized housing
    with Point Access Blocks, Larch Lab's report on Point Access Blocks for the City of Vancouver.

    Beyond Zoning: Building Circulation Reform and Infill Housing, UCLA Lewis Center's roundtable on unit access and code reform.

    Active Solar Protection/Climate Adaptive Buildings:
    Throwing Shade at How Buildings Must Adapt to the Climate Crisis, Michael Eliason's in Treehugger on climate adaptive buildings.

    Prefabrication & Robotics:
    Energiesprong, the Dutch retrofit masters utilizing prefabricated exterior panels.


    New forms of Collective Urban Housing:
    Larch Lab's page on Baugruppen, self-developed urban multifamily housing.

    Bring On the Clusterwohnungen, Michael Eliason's op-ed on cluster apartments.

    Productive Cities:
    Radical mix of uses incorporating production and industry in cities (Europan).

    Sponge City/Blue Green Infrastructure:
     ACEEE's report: Cool Policies for Cool Cities: Best Practices for Mitigating Urban Heat Islands in North

    • 39 min
    04: Let's unf*ck TOD!

    04: Let's unf*ck TOD!

    Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in the United States lacks the vitality, affordability, access to nature and open space, and high quality urban spaces found in new European ecodistrics/TOD.  They are also much more auto-centric than would be found in EU cities - leading in part to a lower quality of life than should be possible. This is in part due to poor building and land use practices.

    In today's episode, we discuss some of the problems with TOD (yep, the double loaded corridor plays a role!). As well as trends in European TOD - and some examples that US cities interested in creating walkable, family-friendly, mixed use TOD with a good economic and social mix of residents should be studying. All of these districts are filled with buildings that would not be legal to build anywhere in the U.S.!

    Subjects discussed in this episode include:

    Transit Oriented Development

    The wonderful Sonnwendviertel Ecodistrict in Vienna - including a great video by Open House Wien (German, hit that translate button for English subtitles)

    Munich's Freiham district, presently underway in western section of the city. (German)

    Heilbronn's new Stadtquartier - Neckarbogen - surrounded by incredible landscapes.

    Lastly, to stay up to date with what Michael Eliason is doing at Larch Lab, be sure to sign up for newsletter updates.   

    • 35 min
    03: The Heat is On

    03: The Heat is On

    In a warming world, heat will increasingly be deadly.

    The IPCC has stated that extreme heat events are due to global warming – and as we are failing to curb emissions – there is a high confidence they will only get worse. Even if your building doesn’t overheat today – it may well in the future.

     In this episode of the Livable Low-Carbon City, we'll explore the problems with overheating, and some of the ways we can mitigate this to make our buildings and cities more climate adaptive, more livable.

    Subjects discussed in this episode include:

    The British Columbia chief coroner's report on heat-related deaths due to the 2021 heat dome.

    National Research Council Canada's report: Climate resilience buildings: guideline for management of overheating risk in residential buildings.

    Business Wire report on the $10 million settlement for overheating in a new San Francisco highrise.

    Passivhaus Plus article, 'Overheating - a growing threat that mustn't be ignored.'

    ACEEE's research report: Cool Policies for Cool Cities: Best Practices for Mitigating Urban Heat Islands in North American Cities.

    Recent research on mitigation of overheating in multifamily buildings in the Pacific Northwest: Improving the passive survivability of residential buildings during extreme heat events in the Pacific Northwest.

    Stadt Wien's (Vienna) page on their solar protection subsidy program (German).

     Lastly, to stay up to date with what Michael Eliason is doing at Larch Lab, be sure to sign up for newsletter updates.  

    • 31 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
13 Ratings

13 Ratings

NickAYaz ,

Accessible and smart — architecture for the present and future

Michael Eliason, as you may have experienced him on Twitter or in other architectural and environmentalist venues, is a leading voice for building and livability for the present and the future. This podcast is a jam-packed analysis of architectural approaches to multi-unit housing (especially types overlooked in the US) and the positive impact to be made by builders, architects, and those that control zoning and building codes. If you’re interested in the intersection between building, environmentalism, and equality, these podcasts give you the raw material to understand and advocate for better housing.

Top Podcasts In Arts

Blind Nil Audio and Pod People
Avery Trufelman
NPR
The Moth
Roman Mars
Rusty Quill

You Might Also Like

The War on Cars, LLC
Strong Towns
Manuela Tobias and Liam Dillon
Strong Towns
David Roberts
New York Times Opinion