Mapos was involved on a pro bono project with Living City Block, an organization with a mission of creating resource efficient developments, one block at a time. Located in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, the objective was to create a conceptual design that integrates new and existing buildings on a city block where power, heating and cooling could be shared via a centralized co-generation plant.
The World Health Organization predicts that by the year 2050, 80% of the world’s population will live in cities, while 75% of our existing building stock will still be in use. As a result, there will be an increased need for space, energy, and other resources. Living City Block advocates developing a new paradigm for retrofitting existing city neighborhoods.
With consolidated electrical, heating, and cooling systems for every single block, urban centers could more efficiently accommodate the growing population. In addition, peak load times could be mitigated, since commercial and residential resources—which are typically at opposite times—would be shared via one smaller system sized for the larger of the two uses. In this particular instance, the cooling tower could get cold water from the adjacent Gowanus Canal.
The initiative goes beyond creating co-generation plants to include other solutions for a healthier, more sustainable urban environment. Mapos worked with a variety of volunteer consultants to design features, including bioswales to trap pollutants in runoff water before it enters the watershed (i.e. the nearby canal). Bike lanes can be integrated into the municipal system. And green roofs reduce the heat island effect while acting as a means to grow local produce.
Mapos proposed using an existing warehouse building (currently covering over 50% of the block) for a renovated local hotel with integrated event space for use by the community. It could also house a sub-power plant on the roof, have retail space on the corner, and offer outdoor seating areas.
Another notable initiative is the new landscaped park on the banks of the Gowanus Canal. The park features not only green space, but also an outdoor amphitheater (which has a stage made from an existing barge) and pedestrian links to the Living City Block and sidewalks of the neighborhood.