13 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 other Friday. ish.

Livable Low-carbon City Michael Eliason

    • Arts
    • 5.0 • 18 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 other Friday. ish.

    13: the future of single family homes

    13: the future of single family homes

    Two years ago, a German newspaper ran a piece hinting that Green Party Bundestag member Anton Hofreiter was calling for a ban on new single family homes. Hofreiter had not been calling for a ban on single family homes, but rather an end to subsidies that cater to sprawling detached single family homes, as well as the lower energy efficiency standards they were required to meet, compared to attached homes. 

    After this, the Wuestenrot Stiftung - a foundation focusing on arts, culture, education, and questions around the future - published criteria for a design award on future-oriented single family homes. 
    In this week’s episode, we’ll be talking about some of these projects, and what we believe the future of single family homes in the U.S. will be.

    Further reading...

    Catch  Mike Eliason's piece on Seattle's single family zoning history on the Urbanist.

    Larch Lab's page on Baugruppen, with several links and examples.

    Bauen im Luecke, a single family home slotted into an 11'-6" wide parcel between two buildings in a perimeter block in Koeln, by Wolfgang Zeh.

    Alles Unter einem Dach - a 24 home family friendly, multigenerational, low energy mass timber baugruppe in rural Bayern, by Arc architekten.

    Oosterwold co-living, a 9-unit baugruppe outside Almere, by Bureau SLA and ZakerMaker.

    The  Wuestenrot Stiftung's publication on the winners and entrants for the future-oriented single family home (pdf, German).
    Lastly, to stay up to date with what Michael Eliason is doing at Larch Lab, be sure to sign up for newsletter updates.     

    • 21 min
    12: Strike Zone

    12: Strike Zone

    Strike. Verb. A disaster, or other unwelcome phenomenon that suddenly occurs and has harmful or damaging effects on something. 

    Zoning has afflicted our cities - some might say even damaged them - through their lack of flexibility and sterility. A hundred years on, the experiment of zoning is a massive failure. 

    However, it doesn't have to be this way. Other countries don't even have single use zoning like single family zoning in the US... Many others have zoning that is dictated at the federal level. 
    In this week’s episode, we’ll be talking about the absurdity of zoning in the USA, and why other countries are able to see better outcomes in their versions of zoning.

    Further reading...

    Catch  Mike Eliason's piece on Seattle's single family zoning history on the Urbanist.

    Larch Lab's page on Baugruppen, with several links and examples.

    ‘Cities across America Question Single Family Zoning,’ Emily Badger, New York Times. 
    ‘Japanese Zoning,’ Simon Vallee, Urban Kchoze. 

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

    • 17 min
    11: Better living through Baugruppen

    11: Better living through Baugruppen

    Housing prices in the US are completely out of balance. Affordable housing is difficult to attain in entire metropolitan areas. There are few options for middle class households, and even fewer for working class residents.
    We need a reset on the American dream.
    From one that is sprawling, unaffordable, lonely, carbon intensive, and exclusive – to one that is community-oriented, multigenerational, family-friendly and sustainable. One that is inclusive and accessible. Perhaps most importantly, one that is climate-adaptive and resilient to events exacerbated by climate change: energy spikes, heat domes, cold snaps, and extended wildfire smoke events. 
    In this week’s episode, we’ll be talking about one solution that could provide a path towards boosting middle class housing opportunities: Baugruppen.

    Further reading...

    Catch  Mike Eliason's 2014 series on Baugruppen over on the Urbanist.

    Larch Lab's page on Baugruppen, with several links and examples.

    ‘Baugruppen Communal Dwelling Sans Granola,’ Michael Eliason’s Ignite Seattle #33 video.
    ‘Don’t Call It A Commune: Inside Berlin’s Radical Cohousing Project,’ Metropolis.

    ‘Baugruppen: It’s a Cooperative Living Concept, and It’s Perfect for Boomers,’ Treehugger.
    Nightingale Housing, Austrialian non-profit developing socially, financially and environmentally sustainable housing similar to Baugruppen.
    ‘I Want to Live in a Baugruppe,’ Dave Roberts summary of Baugruppen, for Grist. 
     Lastly, to stay up to date with what Michael Eliason is doing at Larch Lab, be sure to sign up for newsletter updates.     

    • 20 min
    10: Re-compaction with Aufstockungen

    10: Re-compaction with Aufstockungen

    Aufstockungen is the German term for vertical additions. These are rooftop additions common throughout European cities - where many structures were built with concrete, block, or stone.

    Vertical additions offer a really interesting path towards re-compacting (densifying) existing neighborhoods in an incredibly sustainable manner.

    They preserve more affordable, existing housing.

    They reduce sprawl.

    They allow the incorporation of new housing without sealing new surfaces - thereby reducing the urban heat island effect, and allowing more area for mitigating storm inundations and flooding.

    It is also an approach that can be utilized to add to a number of different building types - not just housing, but schools, offices, institutions, etc.

    Further reading...

    Aufstockungen: Innovative Density,   Mike Eliason's 2014 piece on vertical additions, via the Urbanist.

    Viel ungenutztes Potenzial: Dachgeschoßwohnungen am Gemeindebau (Untapped potential: Attic apartments in municipal buildings), Der Standard article on the potential for vertical additions and attic housing in Vienna's municipal housing.

    Wohnraumpotenziale in urbanen Lagen: Aufstockung und Umnutzungvon
    Nichtwohngebäuden, (pdf) TU Darmstadt study on the potential for new housing via vertical additions and office conversions, in the cores of German cities

    Sauerbruch + Hutton's mass timber addition to an existing DDR Plattenbau, for the Berlin Metropolitan school, via Baunetz.

    AO Architekten's mass timber addition to the HTL in Graz, Austria, via Detail.

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

    • 16 min
    09: On Lost Opportunities

    09: On Lost Opportunities

    Our cities are full of ghost projects. Lost opportunities. Potentialities that could have prioritized safe streets or public health. Transit station with homes for cars, instead of a neighborhood for people. Streets that prioritize speeding cars, instead of safety and sustainable mobility. 
    But the reality of our cities, at least in the U.S. – is that we don’t realize those opportunities. 
    Often, these ghost projects were eliminated or watered down to preserve single family zoning or parking. 
    We waste these opportunities - opportunities to make our cities better, more equitable, healthier... And we do it largely to preserve a deeply unsustainable and inequitable status quo. 
    And so…

    I see ghost projects.

    I see dead districts.

    They haunt my dreams.

    They’re… everywhere.

    Further reading...

    Schumacher Quartier - the mass timber, social housing ecodistrict underway outside Berlin's Tegel Airport and the Urban Tech Republic.

    Fort Lawton Redevelopment Plan (pdf), via the City of Seattle.

    The Case for Guerilla Crosswalks, by David Zipper, via Bloomberg.

    Envisioning a Car-Free Aurora Avenue, Mike Eliason's piece on a visionary transformation of a local highway, via the Urbanist.

    Mercer Island and Bellevue Squander Housing Opportunities Near East Link, Stephven Fesler's piece on lost opportunities to address our regional housing shortage around transit stations in wealthy areas.

    Tactical Urbanism Guides.

    Ein Masterplan fuer Hamburgs Magistralen, the city of Hamburg's Bauforum on re-envisioning its arterials (Magistralen) as urban living rooms.


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

    • 16 min
    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

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
18 Ratings

18 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.

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