Monday, June 8, 2015

Sun/Shade & Urban Development – May 2015

The following relate to urban development and urban design in general, and to specific projects with sun/shade issues in particular. They were derived from our twitter feed @SunPosition

Check out our weekly news summary “Sun, Shadow & Urban Development” at

“@YCcondos: So excited to be named High Rise Project of the Year at the @bildgta Awards!"
> Congrats!  Honoured to be part of the team.

Zoning Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Ladies' Mile Residential Tower – CityLand

On April 23, 2015 the City Council Subcommitee on Zoning and Franchises held a public hearing on 39 West 23rd Street, LLC’s proposal for a residential tower at 39-41 West 23rd Street in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District of Manhattan.  The proposal would build the tower, made of two building segments reaching a maximum height of 278 feet, on a through-lot between West 23rd and West 24th Streets… 
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Interesting article >
In the shadows of booming cities, a tension between sunlight and prosperity

NEW YORK—“Billionaires' Row” is rising over midtown, a collection of glassy new pinnacles that promise the kind of condo views you can only get in Manhattan by building taller than everything else around.
With its $95 million penthouse, 432 Park Avenue tops out just shy of 1,400 feet. It will remain the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere until the Nordstrom Tower — high-end shopping below, lavish apartments above — goes up four blocks away. Between them are a few more audacious developments, all part of a race for ever-taller towers to distinguish luxury living in an increasingly crowded city.
These new buildings — a product of developer ingenuity, architectural advance and international wealth — are changing more than the city’s famous skyline, though. They will also transform New York far below, further darkening city streets and casting long shadows that will sweep across Central Park.
Together, these towers, and new additions in neighborhoods undergoing a building boom from San Francisco to Toronto to even low-rise D.C., have revived a long-simmering urban tension: between light and growth, between the benefits of city living and its cost in shadows.
For cities, shadows present both a technical challenge — one that can be modeled in 3-D and measured in “theoretical annual sunlight hours” lost — and an ethereal one. They change the feel of space and the value of property in ways that are hard to define. They’re a stark reminder that the new growth needed in healthy cities can come at the expense of people already living there. And in some ways, shadows even turn light into another medium of inequality — a resource that can be bought by the wealthy, eclipsed from the poor…
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Urban tensions ignite between sky-high buildings and need for sunlight below | via @constructdive

  • At 1,400 feet, the Western Hemisphere’s tallest residential building in New York is about to be overshadowed by another, taller, more lavish apartment tower a few blocks away. That climb toward the clouds has spurred the city to consider whether the long shadows those skyscrapers cast over Central Park are harmful enough to stop the upward growth.
  • New York is the latest city to study the impact the shadows of megatowers have on the public’s ability to enjoy public parks. The Washington Post reported that San Francisco, Boston, Washington, DC, and Toronto also have struggled to find a balance between building skyward in an effort to fit more housing into already-crowded urban hubs and the need for light on the ground below.
  • The New York City Council is considering creating a task force to study the impact of those shadows. Boston’s council has more than once proposed banning buildings that cast shadows on public parks. San Francisco has a “sunlight ordinance” enforced by the parks commission, which reviews the shadow impact of any proposed building taller than 40 feet. Washington doesn’t allow new buildings to block the sun from shining on the solar panels atop their neighbors' roofs…
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Rush Limbaugh: "The middle class is getting shafted yet again this time by skyscraper shadows."

A Washington Post story today is very, very worried about all of the new skyscrapers going up in Manhattan.  The reason they are very concerned about all these new skyscrapers going up in Manhattan is that they are for billionaires.
They are residential towers.
One of them, the Nordstrom Tower, is gonna be the tallest in the city, residential tower, maybe in the country -- residential, not business -- and it's gonna have Nordstrom's and others in the bottom floors. The rest of it is gonna be condos, living space, and it's gonna open in four months, and it will exceed by a few feet the current record holder, highest skyscraper, residential skyscraper in the city. It stands to reason that these condos cost way more than your average, ordinary middle-class American would ever even earn in a lifetime.
They're being snapped up left and right.  The buildings are gonna be fully occupied before they open.  A penthouse apartment at one of these buildings is $75 million, and it's not particularly big.  It's the view.  But that's only half of the problem.  You know what the real problem is?  Shadows! All of these skyscrapers are creating shadows, and they are blocking out precious light.  The middle class is getting shafted yet again this time by skyscraper shadows…
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Impact on solar panels >
Yet Another Dubious Argument For Not Building More Skyscrapers

The US is in the midst of a building boom that will dramatically change the skyline of most major American cities. Among the many concerns about sprinkling our cities with supertalls, there’s one issue that’s starting to crop up in legal battles: shadowy urban landscapes could stifle the potential for gathering solar energy.
A great Washington Post article by Emily Badger explores the challenges that many US cities are facing as developers’ quest to build up conflicts with the livelihood of people down below. Although right-to-lighters and people paranoid about earthquakes certainly have their reasons for stopping growth, Badger points out that the real challenges to tall buildings are actually coming from the renewable energy side.
In DC, for example, the city’s zoning commission recently voted on new rules that would prevent buildings from going higher (called pop-ups) if they block already established solar panels:
This last area has become increasingly testy in Washington, where costly rooftop solar panels have spread alongside pop-ups in many residential neighborhoods. This spring, the city’s zoning commission voted to approve new rules on additions, including one that would prohibit them from shading nearby solar panels. If the rules are adopted, D.C. will join several cities that now have zoning laws protecting if not sunshine then at least “solar access.”

DC is definitely a special case as its archaic height restrictions will prevent anything tall from being built, ever. But it’s something to think about if this spreads to more cities. Will we see a kind of eminent domain-esque ruling where someone’s solar cells could prevent a skyscraper from being built? Even if it might only shadow it for an hour or two a day during a month or two a year?
The other big concern, like any claim against density, is that in the wrong hands, this becomes yet another NIMBY-fueled way to stop every new building. “Well, we might build solar in the future, so...”…
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Shadow Impact: The New Carbon Footprint

A recent article in The Washington Post bemoaned the supposed tension between sunlight and skyscrapers, whereby ever-more-prevalent mega-buildings are blocking sun for the little people...
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We used to prepare shadow studies using sun angle charts, scale rulers and protractors.

Planners, developers review new wind turbine rules | via @michigansthumb

BAD AXE - County planners on Wednesday voiced initial reactions to a “complete rewrite” of wind energy regulations while reviewing a draft sent to private wind developers before it was available to the public.
Several proposed changes, updates and additions mark stricter regulation for wind turbines. They include restricting turbines from being put within three miles of the shoreline; limiting turbine height; and increasing distances from property, public roads and power lines.
More than 10 of the 22 pages add regulation for wind turbine noise. Limits are placed on shadow flicker, too — a phenomenon caused by turbine blades slicing sun rays to create shadows at a specific time of day…
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Towers find friends on Toronto District School Board | via @torontostar

Community advocates and their councillors say million-dollar deals quietly struck between the Toronto District School Board and developers — looking to build beyond city guidelines — are compromising neighbourhoods…
The development — known as the Stanley condominium, now set to cover 32,420 square metres at the northeast corner of Carlton and Church streets across from Maple Leaf Gardens — was being fought by the city at the Ontario Municipal Board, which handles development appeals. One of the most cited concerns was a large shadow to be cast on neighbouring Church Street Junior Public School.
On Thursday, city council approved a settlement with the developer, after much negotiation, that knocked the height down to 37 floors and secured a $3.25-million payment to the city for community facilities — or, if council chooses, just over 5,700 square feet for a dedicated cultural hub inside the building…
Though neighbourhood advocates and at least one concerned parent joined the fight against the proposed development there was one key party not at the table: The TDSB.
According to internal documents, communications from the local school trustee and interviews with those involved opposing the application, the TDSB agreed to a $1.5-million deal with developer, Tribute Communities...
Tribute’s vice-president of land development Steve Deveaux says whenever they make an application they meet with neighbours and stakeholders to address their concerns, including the TDSB.
“They’re a private land owner and they have, I suppose, the right and the ability to address their own needs, their own affairs,” Deveaux said of the deal. In response to a question from the Star, he said it is unfair to suggest the “contribution” was some kind of hush money.
He said this is the first time his company has “interfaced with the school board directly in this sort of way before,” but that they’ve compromised on design or provided other community benefits in the past…
Those who fought to keep the sun shining on Church Street Junior Public School said the impact is real.
The city’s planning department cited a number of issues with the original proposal, Wong-Tam earlier said, including that the site may not be suited for a tall tower and that it would exceed the height and massing for that area.
Even at the negotiated 37 storeys, the approved design remains just outside the city’s recommended guidelines for tall buildings in that area, between 20 and 35 storeys.
Studies submitted by the developer showed a 45- and 41-storey proposal, built just south of the schoolyard in the neighbourhood dominated by smaller mid-rises, would cast a long shadow over the barely-there, fenced-in grass play space between noon and 3 p.m. in both the spring and fall and less so in the winter, when other shadows also fall on the lot.
The developer, in its planning rationale provided to the city, argued the shadow impacts were “adequately limited” and pointed out that the city has no specific guidelines for sunlight requirements on schoolyards, as they do for other open spaces…
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> "The Stanley" at Church & Carlton looks great! Congrats to Tribute Communities. 
> Great to be part of this team.

Boom in luxury apartments sparks battle over loss of light in Manhattan

“Billionaires’ Row” is rising over midtown Manhattan, a collection of glassy new pinnacles that promise the kind of condo views you can get in New York only by building taller than everything else around.
With its $95m penthouse, 432 Park Avenue tops out just shy of 427m. It will remain the tallest residential building in the hemisphere until the Nordstrom Tower – high-end shopping below, luxury living above – goes up four blocks away. Between them are a few more audacious developments, all part of a race for ever-taller towers to distinguish luxury living in an increasingly crowded city. 

‘Supertall’ buildings are sprouting like beanstalks in central New York, costing its citizens precious sunshine and air, and turning the city’s skyline into a jumble.

These new buildings – a product of developer ingenuity, architectural advance and international wealth – are changing more than the city’s famous skyline, though. They will also transform New York far below, further darkening city streets and casting long shadows that will sweep across Central Park…
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TDSB accepts cash for shadows again >
OMB settlement a good deal for Spadina and College neighbourhood

A settlement reached between the Wynn Group of Properties and the City of Toronto is expected to serve as a big win for students at Lord Lansdowne Public School and the historic Silver Dollar music venue.
Wynn applied two years ago to build a 22-storey building on the site of the Silver Dollar at 484 Spadina Avenue, adjacent to the school. That raised a variety of concerns, including the shadowing impact of the building on the school’s playground, the possibility it would set a precedent for other developments in the area and the loss of a historic Toronto site.
After City Council rejected the application, the developer brought the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board, leading to fears it could be rubber-stamped.
The settlement at least lessens the concerns raised by the original application.
“We got a lot of the height down, from 69 to 52 metres, and there are stepdowns and stepbacks that will lessen the shadow impact on the school even more,” said Trinity-Spadina councillor Joe Cressy. “We would have loved to have seen eight or nine storeys on that site, but this is more than a compromise.”
As a result of the compromise, the building will now be 15 storeys in height, a reduction of nearly one-third over what was originally proposed…
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Comfort Zone Survival in Limbo With Development of 15 Storey Building - Toronto Rave Community

The battle of whether or not to start construction on the corner of 484 Spadina Avenue has finally come to a close. Albeit a confusing one. After applying for a 22 storey building to be developed on the Silver Dollar Room location over two years ago, a settlement has been granted to erect a slightly shorter establishment…
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Midtown community board defends 'access to sunshine' | Capital New York

Seeking to protect “access to sunshine,” Midtown’s Community Board 5 on Monday called on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to better regulate skyscraper construction south of Central Park.
“When the shadow of a building hits a park, temperatures can drop by as much [as] 20 degrees Fahrenheit in winter,” reads the Community Board’s report. “It is the difference between using or not using a park, especially in cooler months.”
By the community board’s count, seven supertowers are “underway” and five more are “in the planning stage” in the vicinity, including, most famously, Extell Development’s One57. Critics have come to refer to the outcropping as “Billionaires’ Row,” thanks to the stratospheric prices of the condos contained within.
Not only do the prices of the condos, and the murkiness of the people buying them, offend some sensibilities, but the towers have also come to cast shadows over the southern regions of Central Park.
These shadows “disturb community access to sunshine in the park,” according to the community board.
In a report, the community board offered several recommendations for how the city can tackle the problem, including instituting a temporary moratorium on buildings taller than 600 feet that aren’t already subject to public review and rezoning the area.
"We’ll review the report," emailed de Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell…
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Spooked by Tall Tower Boom, Midtown Residents Propose Revised Approval Process

Community Board 5 is calling for reforms to the as-of-right building practices that are allowing so many megatowers to rise along Central Park's southern border. First spotted by Crain's, the community board in cooperation with the Central Park Sunshine Task Force—yes, that's a thing—have issued their long-anticipated recommendations for protecting Central Park's light and air exposure…
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In rare move, Ottawa takes fight over building heights to court

The City of Ottawa is headed to court to fight for its right to limit the height of buildings throughout the capital.
Saying its ability to bring predictable growth to Ottawa neighbourhoods is at stake, the city said Tuesday it will be challenging a recent decree from the Ontario Municipal Board, seeking leave to appeal it to the divisional court.
The board is an appointed body with the power to overrule planning decisions made by elected municipal councils.
In late April, the OMB ruled the city could not alter its official plan — the municipality’s master planning document — to limit the height of certain buildings in Centretown…
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Windows are typically responsible for up to 40% of the total heating, cooling, and lighting consumption
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Shadows on golf greens >
Project on former Lorne Hotel site gets green light

The vacant lot that used to be the site of the former Lorne Hotel will feature a five-storey mixed-use building. The controversial project got the green light Wednesday night after Comox council approved zoning bylaw amendment No. 1791 and phased development agreement authorization bylaw No. 1792. The voting, however, was not unanimous. It was a 4-2 decision. Before they voted, councillor Hugh MacKinnon proposed a motion that could have been a game-changer for this development had it passed. Based on the response he heard from residents at the public hearing that spoke against the five-storey height and overall feel of the design, MacKinnon asked council to request the developer reconsider its design and make the project a four storey building instead…
Councillor Barbara Price supported MacKinnon's proposal. She also considered the opposition residents expressed at the public hearing as well as the letters against some of the features of the project. Among the correspondence she received was one from Comox golf course that was concerned about the shadow effect the building would have on its seventh and eighth tees as it might affect the growth of the grass. Councillor Russ Arnott criticized the use of the golf course angle as one of the issues the community has raised. "I am not a scientist. I know light moves," said Arnott. "So what time are we talking about? That it's shady there from 12 to 1 o'clock? I don't want to dismiss any concerns. They're all valid concerns. But when we're looking at using that as an example, why we shouldn't move forward because it's going to cast shadow on the golf course. I think we should come up something better than that."
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Joy as Lendalfoot windfarm is rejected - Carrick Gazette

In a highly-charged meeting on Wednesday morning, councillors unanimously agreed that the location at Straid Farm near Lendalfoot was not an appropriate site for developers Ecotricity to situate turbines which would have stood almost 100m tall.
The application had been lodged in 2012 and had received over 700 objections from locals and people across Scotland with links and memories to Lendalfoot and the area.
Alan Pollock, RPS planning director representing the developers, said: “The overall effect of these turbines would be highly localised.
“We have taken steps to reduce the impact by reducing the number of turbines from 16 to 14 to try and allay the concerns of people like Scottish Natural Heritage. There would be minimal impact with noise and shadow flicker and that’s reflected in the responses.”…

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"@blogTO: A view that's not long for this world in our photo of the day.”

> Nice background, Pier 27

Shadow concerns >
Robie Street development meeting attracts dozens

The shadows a proposed 25-storey building on Robie Street would cast on the Halifax Common concerned some people who came out to a public meeting on the development Thursday night…
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Community board in the shadow of Central Park calls for tall-building moratorium | via @crainsnewyork

A midtown community-board task force argued on the steps of City Hall Tuesday that tall residential buildings south of Central Park are increasingly plunging the greenspace into shadow, and renewed its call for a moratorium on new ones until height limits can be established…
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Cheers, Ralph 

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