Unpacking the Natural & Built Environment


In the 1st page: In your view, what are the most  two significant environmental factors influencing and shaping the built environment, and why do you consider them of more importance than the other? In your 2nd page: Discuss, in your views, how to integrate nature in cities on the continuum that we used in class. And if there is a way to balance the social and ecological benefits of the spatial arrangement of the exact same program


8 thoughts on “Unpacking the Natural & Built Environment

  1. Unpacking the Natural & Built Environment

    Urban planners across the United States have many challenges in regard to redesigning the modern American society. Unlike the Twentieth Century, where most Americans were interested in moving to the suburbs from the big cities; nowadays, residents across the United States are migrating back into the centers of town. The fast transition into urbanization, population growth, and the sharing economy require alterations in urban planning by developing new public transportation systems, and redevelop and construct more sustainable housing.

    Investing in new public transportation systems will positively influence people’s health, will increase happiness and reduce stress, create new jobs, and will drastically reduce Carbone dioxide emissions. The current transport across the United States create many frustrations among its residence, and people often complain about it. There is too much traffic everywhere, and people spends many hours on the road. According to a study by the Robert Half Executive Recruiting Firm that was done in October 2017, the average travel time to work in the United States is about one hour [1, 2]. Public transportation is also not available in most American communities, and it is also unreliable and it cost too much. Infrastructures of roads, railways tracks, and bridges are detreating, and there is often no budget to repair or rebuild it. Several studies that were conducted in European countries, such as the Netherlands and Sweden indicates that most of their residence are using public transportation, and they are not interested in owning a vehicle. Those studies also suggest that people who are using public transport tend to have lower weight, experience less stress, and are also more social. Their communities also has less noise and air pollutions, and it allows cities to decrease the road size and build more parks.

    Redeveloping and constructing more sustainable housing will reshape the American societies, and it will allow all people to enjoy a better quality of life. Due to the growing demand of people to move away from the suburbs into the city and because of the shortage in housing, American neighborhoods are being gentrified and people of color and poor families often lose their homes. Cities across the United States invest a lot of time and resources in researching and planning their urban communities, as they are trying to find better solutions for their residence. Surveys across the United States find that many younger Americans prefer to live in smaller homes, and remain closer to their work. Urban planners are designing more walkable communities which encourage people to remain more active, shop and live more locally, and therefore support their local businesses. The new developments tends to be smaller, and there are more condominiums and high-rises apartment building. Building more densely allow cities to have more public areas, where they can develop more parks and other recreational space.


    Integrating nature in cities, such as parks, community gardens, and planting trees can positively affect the environment, and it is important to plan it right. I believe that natural spaces around and within urban communities should have multiple designs, which can benefit people, fauna, and flora. From residence perspective, creating parks within walkable distance will encourage all people to use them more often, and it will encourage individuals to spend more time in nature. For wildlife, small natural spaces within neighborhoods and around the cities will allow animals, such as birds, rabbits, insects, and rodents to sustain more diverse eco-systems, and it will allow a greater environmental balance to urban areas. Plants such as trees, can provide more shade around the city, and it will reduce the overall heat. Parks and gardens also allow rain to penetrate the soil, and it fills the groundwater aquifer. I believe that parks around the cities should remain larger, and mostly untouched. It will allow ecological systems to remain healthier, and wildlife can strive. Within the cities, ideally there should be smaller and larger parks for various purposes, such as concerts, recreation, and outdoors activities, which will encourage people to spend more time outside.

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  2. How would you build a city, from the ground up? Yes, so to build a good city its important to focus on the ground, the soil, and what can destroy this or shape this ground, water. To build a sustainable city soil and hydrology need to be closely assessed. They are the two most important environmental factors that go into a built environment. The built environment consists of cites and housing units for humans.
    To build a good environment it’s important to look at what makes the environment thrive, what makes the environment grow and be stable; its soil. Soil is described as the top layer of the earth, which is a mixture of organic and inorganic material. It’s important to study soil before building, because the soil composition is important for laying out the foundation of buildings and parks, also it plays a big roll in agriculture. With healthy soil that’s full of nutrients good crops grow, large amounts of agriculture are important for human sustainability. Healthy soil that houses plants also protects from erosion, due to the healthy soil plants can grow and hold down the earth and protect areas from water erosion.
    Water erosion and hydrology is another very important aspect of the build environment. Water is very powerful and has the ability to erode things by carrying sediments and shaping the river as it goes. When building an environment its important to look at the types of water present around the area, being first, second, third or any other type stream, to assess the power of the water. It’s also very important to take in account the types of animals that rely on the water and too never built to close to the waterways, because that would be taking away from animal availability to reach the water. Another reason building to close to flowing water is detrimental is due to the fact that rivers have flood cycles and building in flood cycles is a sure way to make sure property stays cheap, because this property wont last long, it will get flooded or washed away.
    In conclusion the two most important environmental factors to observe when building an environment would be hydrology and soil. Both are important because if a good assessment is not done both will lead to unsustainable short lived cities

    To make a good city that is both balanced in the sociologically and ecologically, there has to be a mixed setting with the city and nature. First i think its important to separate nature and city in half and leave the nature side alone. I think it would benefit ecologically and the world as a whole to let that separated side be nature without interference from industrialization. Next with the city side there shouldn’t be all concrete, there should be parks per district. Parks that would be put into these district would need to be the same size and have the same relative amount of vegetation, and the same types of vegetation to make sure there is no discrimination. I think the addition of parks in the city side is very beneficial for human and environmental health. These city parks would have a good amount of trees to try to equal out the CO2 pollution that comes from cities. Mixed settings would be the best way to build a city.

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  3. There are many significant factors that can contribute to influencing and shaping a built environment. Such factors help build an environment that can sustain itself and provide much of the resources that are needed for life to bloom and flourish. The main factors that contribute the most in building a sustainable environment would be the soil and hydrology.
    With Hydrology, the water comes into play. As water is the elixir of life, without the consistency of the water cycle, the land would be barren, but with it, life flourishes and spreads out. The watershed example shows how the water flows downward, toward the rivers that connect to create a stream order. This is more important than geology or vegetation because the water is the key to those very environmental factors to occur. The watershed shapes the mountainside and creates streams and rivers that carve out the earth. An example of the power of water to carve out the earth would be the Grand Canyon, as the river slowly eroded the rocks and shaped into the earth the waters curve and winds. The watershed creates the grooves and even the placement of the plant life as the water flows into the ground and the overflow goes into the streams and rivers. The placement of the plant life and the trees sprout out in the land that has the fruitful soils that give birth to the plants and trees. The waters sculpts the land to give the floodways more room for the water to fill during rainy seasons, and this extra water in times of rain would birth plants that specially register to rhythm of the rainfall. The natural floodway would benefit all life, but most times people seem to build upon the floodway fringes. At the floodway fringes, the buildings are susceptible to damages that would tamper with the foundations, making the buildings a hazardous place to live or work. Geology must study parts of hydrology to understand the problems and troubles that come from floods or overflow of rainfall, and vegetation depends on the water. There are many things that come from hydrology, which makes it more important that most environmental factors.
    Soil is also one of the most important factors of the environment. With the soil, plant life and even more living beings are able to flourish and create an ecosystem that is self-sustaining. The soil makes it possible the miracles of life and all the fantastic events that come from life flourishing. The plants come from the soil, the animals eat the plants and the animals cull each other. The circle of life, the food chain all start from the humble soil that becomes vibrant and full of minerals for more life to prosper. Geology is only a stepping stone for which the soil is the foundation. The soil is all that make up the levels in which life can start. Geology may contain within it the realms of soil, air and liquids and all the things in between the Earth’s bio-dome. With good soil and plant life, the possibility of stopping floods becomes quite possible and having vast forests that are teeming with plant life and animal life.

    After much thinking and consideration, I have chosen to select the Mixed selection with alterations to the design on the picture. I would place the greens as having split to have the middle halves to contain greens on the top and on the lower corners of the other halves. This way the city is still connected with one another and the green spaces have the benefits of having the advantages as the Dense selection. The city parts are connected to each other diagonally and across from one another which makes the travel between each city section possible. The green parts also have the advantage of having a bigger green space than the traditional Mixed selection. The plant life and the animal life would have the more space to live and flourish in rather than the small patches that is in the Fragmented selection.

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  4. In my point of view, slope and flooding potential are the most two significant environmental factors influencing and shaping the built environment. These two factors are also the most considerable factors for all kinds of land uses on the table shown in lecture notes page 22.
    For slope, almost all kinds of land uses cannot be built on a really steep slope. It is really dangerous to disrupt the natural area on a steep slope as it may lead to a landslide. Vegetations such as trees on a steep slope can help hold the soil back but once we remove them to develop another land uses, it will lead to landslide and the effect brought by it will be greater. For example, if we change an area to a residential area on a steep slope, the base of the houses will loosen the soil and make the soil being washed away easier. Also, when a landslide occurs, tragedies will be more serious as it becomes a residential area rather than just a green area. More casualties will be caused. Even golf land and campgrounds should also not to be built on a steep slope because the campground requires clearing the trees and the root of the grass of a golf land is not deep enough to be able to hold the soil. Therefore, I think the slope is a significant factor influencing and shaping the built environment.
    For flooding potential, it cannot be prevented or controlled and it can bring serious effect to the surrounding so I think it is one of two most significant factors in influencing and shaping the built environment. I think it is better not to disrupt the natural environment of the flooding area not only because it will cause huge tragedies but also the natural environment can help minimize the effect. For example, soil and trees can help absorb the excess water but concrete cannot do the same job.
    For other factors, they are not required to consider when building a land use. For example, permeability, concrete does not require permeability to be built. The only land uses that include vegetations need to consider permeability like golf land. Therefore, I think slope and flooding potential are the most two significant environmental factors influencing and shaping the built environment.
    From my point of view, social and ecological benefits would be more balanced if the city area and green area are split to two whole halves in a city, which is the picture A indicated from lecture notes.
    First, fragmentation will cause ecosystem decay. Habitat will be lost due to the destruction from fragmentation. Some flora and fauna may not be able to adapt to a new environment then they may die and extinct. Also, some flora or fauna cannot live in a small fragmented area such as grizzly bear. This will also lead to decrease in biodiversity.
    Second, fragmentation will decrease the viability. Genes can flow easily in a non-fragmented area which can let flora and fauna take the advantages of each other nearby easily. For example, Animal A rely on Plant A to survive, if there is a sudden growth of plant A in an area, the population of Animal A will also increase. However, it doesn’t work in a fragmented area as plant A may not be able to grow across the street and Animal A may not be able to cross the street. Therefore, it may decrease viability.
    For me, the ecosystem can be protected better with less disruption caused so I chose the program A in the picture. With a more centralized city area and green area, we can control the effect brought to the green area easier. For example, it is hard to control the effect of pipe leakage in a fragmented area. Pipes must be around the green area as the city area is just beside of it so pipe leakage must bring an effect to the green area once it happens.
    Also, one of my classmates indicated that if people can easily go to the green area, then we should go for the program A, otherwise we should go for program E. However, if we centralize the city area, transportation will be more likely to be more convenient. Take an example of south bay and the city of San Francisco. In my opinion, San Francisco is more in a program A while the south bay is more in a program E. We can see a lot of parks or green area nearby in the south bay while we are always bounded by the city in San Francisco except in Golden Gate Park or other big parks. However, we can still get to the Golden Gate Park easily because the public transportation network is developed. In south bay, we can just barely live if we don’t have a car. I was living there before, the buses come once in half an hour even on weekdays at a busy period. In the city of San Francisco, buses come once in 10 to 15 mins. People can get to the green area easily even though they don’t drive. It also encourages people to take the public transit more so in terms of preserving the environment, program A can do better with it.
    In conclusion, I think the picture A can do better with balancing social and ecological benefits.

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  5. To build a city in the 21st century is to build a place where humanity and the environment co-exist. Our environment issues brought about by the Industrial Revolution in essence have simple solutions. Holding everyone accountable to change their pollution habits whether its a single person or a large entity. Whether it is to recycle more or drive less these are ideas that can foster positive change in or environment. While these request may seem small some have pushed back. Initially many energy companies boasted how the changes to comply with environmental regulations would come at the expense of the workers. From the outside looking in these claims seem preposterous but when it is your job on the line those words carry weight. Most people want to live in a healthy environment but at what cost? As seen in recent history the shuttering of the coal industry. Leaders of these organizations many times lay blame for the industry failures on global initiatives that support environment protection and not their own greed.
    Taking to account the mindsets that want to limit how we chose to protect our environment the use of land and energy are very important for a built city. Whether gas or green energy, cities need to think about transportation. Getting people around efficiently can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by fossil fuels. Transmodal transportation systems such as extensive bus routes and trains the utilize green energy will greatly reduce the city’s carbon footprint. There is still an issue to address especially in the U.S.: how do we convince people within these cities to take advantage of the municipal transit systems when they are resentful towards the change it has brought? Give incentives to those who decided to switch to green transportation. For example, in California, the state offers a tax break to those who use public transit as a means to commute to work daily. Getting corporations to become socially responsive to the need of providing and utilizing transmodal transportation will further help the built city in maintaining sustainability. Corporations usually have a very strong influence on society which can lead to change in consumption either it be positive or negative.
    Mixed use development can be beneficial to the land and to people. Using techniques within the built city that can encourage economic growth while protecting the environment can lead people to see the good in environmental sustainability. This is another factor where corporations could tilt public opinion. This factor is a golden opportunity for corporations to actually prove that we care about the environment over profits. Building factories to a standard that families would not mind it being in their backyard. To me these two factors of transportation and land use are important to a built city.
    Dense – Mixed – Fragmented
    Within a built city a mixed environment is the most sustainable. There is enough land for ecosystems to develop but not at the expense of human enjoyment. In a mixed public space it leaves room for human intervention in order to sustain the ecosystem. In other words, if the space needs to be moved to make room for development that this space would make that feasible. Having a mixed public space gives people the opportunity to enjoy nature within a urban environment. Although we speak of the need of public spaces within urban areas many suburban areas are becoming more concrete than nature as well.

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  6. When it comes to shaping and influencing the environment many factors come into play. The first key factor that comes to mind when considering how to develop the built environment would be to look at the situation topographically. According to the last lecture, topography can be defined as the study of the shapes and features on the Earth’s surface. The ability to see the variations in slope all at once on a map while planning on where to develop new built environments is a crucial tool for environmental planners. These planners can better foresee obstacles that might occur if they plan to develop different areas, whether these are current obstacles or ones that may arise in the future due to dramatic slopes in or around the area ( such as using the angle of repose if here is a possibility of rock fall ).

    The second important factor to consider when developing an area of land would be the vegetation that currents inhabits the plot of land. Vegetation is considered to be the natural plant life of the region, as well as the ground cover that is provided by these plants. Having the right type of vegetation and abundance of it mixed into the newly formed built environment is necessary in order to maintain a good energy balance. The benefits vegetation include those of biochemical processes that involve water, nitrogen, and carbon. Another big point of importance that not everyone might consider in their day to day lives would be the species that inhabit this natural vegetation. Building in any environment always has an effect on the natural ecosystem that was in place at the time, there is no avoiding that, however environmental planners can carefully integrate the plants necessary to do as little impact on the natural environment as possible.
    Vegetation is not only important for the wildlife that call the area home but for the newly welcomed individuals that are going to be living in this built environment. In order to create these built societies, precious resources have to be used in order to make the space liveable. For instance wooden and raw materials to build housing, fossil fuels that can be used as a source of energy and certain types of vegetation/plants that thrive in this very specific environment.

    When it comes to integrating nature into cities, in my personal opinion the mixed part of the spectrum would be the most effective solution in creating a harmonious environment. The social benefits of using this mixed program would be that it would be easy to develop medium sized communities in the urban space in order to create a sense of togetherness and have the potential for lots of housing and more urban development within the specified area. There would also be an equally large plot of the natural environment that would benefit the urban inhabitants as well as any wildlife that was already called the area home before the development. Having these larger plots of land would be better for wildlife due to the fact that there is still plenty of space for these animals to developing and continue to live a life that isn’t quite as impacted by the human touch. None of these approaches may be perfect, but i believe that the mixed approach is the best option that we have.

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  7. Unpacking the Natural and Built Environment

    The placement of trees and park benches all seem arbitrary to the naked eye. In urban development, there are patterns that are integrated into the cities so that everything has a strategic spot. From buildings and city parks to the trash cans next to the bus stops. Research is done to fully understand the land and how developments and city projects will impact the environment. Through research, you are able to make population projections, and this promotes the use of articulate planning. Ultimately the understanding of the relationships between humans and the environment and how water use, air quality, land resources, etc. are a huge part of urban planning and drive the decisions that significantly impact cities.
    With better medicine and technologies, there are increased life spans and better conditions for the birth of offsprings. As the population density increases the way cities are being built is shifting and they are being built to be more sustainable and efficient. The higher the population in a city, like in San Francisco, the higher the use of public transportation is. Compact development patterns for cities have a focus on transit orientation in the development of these high density, sustainable cities. The population density of an area contributes to the amount of people who drive and the amount who commute. If more cities were made to hold a high population density, there would be an increase land use for public transportation and encourage a more green community. There would be lower levels of people’s carbon footprint and improve air quality in the area. According to the EPA website, “more than 38 percent of national carbon monoxide emissions and 38 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions come from highway vehicles.” By promoting a public transportation rich community, there would be a significant change in the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emissions being released into the environment. Also the social cohesion of increased mobility among the city would lead to healthier individuals, and improve the relationship and impact that humans have on the environment.
    As populations rise so do the demands for more homes and more stores. The world of construction and landscaping impact the soil quality found in the urban environment. There are benefits to managing and protecting the soil in this environment, but seems trivial to the developers. When you manage the soil you are able to ensure that the soil will be able to sustain vegetation and have a bigger contribution to the community such as preventing the flooding and erosion of an area, or as small as being a green space for a community garden. The soil, being a fundamental for plant growth and decomposing, plays a huge role in urban planning and development. The soil quality also administers drainage, and if not carefully treated, can lead to higher cost of construction projects and the loss of this quality in that area. Soil contributes to the natural systems that prevent floods in areas and if the soil isn’t in great condition can mean future damages or gradual erosion. This makes it unsafe for the people, and doesn’t improve the quality of the environment. Also the ability for urban trees to thrive, is sole reliant on the quality of the soil and volume of it. The way that poor soil affects urban plants is that often the soil is toxic for the plants and since the soil prevents drainage it also prevents the plants from getting the nutrients it needs. This results in weak trees and unhealthy roots. This leads to another problem. Although trees do help the environment, both in nature and in urban developments, by removing pollutants and cooling the environment, in order for the tree to do this it has to be big and it has to be healthy. With the poor attention given to the soil, there is no benefit of the tree, because it isn’t allowing it to thrive.
    The integration of nature in cities is important for the health of the population and for the environment. In my opinion, the best and most effective model for nature integration would be fragmented. By having smaller and more condensed areas of human activity, mixed with smaller areas of nature within a city, this would substantially change the quality of the environment. Although it is known that trees and plants help with the air quality in the area, also by having more condensed areas there would be the opportunity to have a transportation focused community, and this in itself limits and decreases the emissions that come from cars, and lowers the carbon footprint of the community. Having a fragmented city would allow there to also be an increase in activity and mobility and encourage a stronger relationship with nature, which could be good for the productivity of the society. The animals in the environment would play a role in how the city is structured and developed. There would be little areas of seclusion or the result of bigger animals migrating to an area less riddled with human activity.

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  8. Frank Delgado
    ENVS 300
    Professor Amir Gohar
    4 May 2018
    Unpacking the Natural and Built Environment
    As it stands today, our cities are packed to the brim with people, and many would argue that we are at our capacity in many places. This is the result of rampant overpopulation primarily, but also a restructuring of the lives of many Americans. As cities began to evolve into the massive urban jungles they are today, there was an influx of people who began to move into the suburbs and away from the urban center. Today, traffic, proximity to jobs, and a revitalization of city culture have all lead to the opposite effect. People are now finding the suburban life undesirable and are beginning to move back into cities in droves. Unfortunately, this philosophy has its own problems.
    I would argue that environmental factors do little to shape our cities compared to economic and social factors, but that is not to say that they do not play a part. Transportation is quickly becoming a huge environmental factor when considering the state of our urban areas. In the late 60s and throughout the 70s, citizens of the United States began to realize their impacts on the environment. As they saw rivers catch on fire, toxic waste sites cause health issues, and oil spills pollute our water, they began to take action. We began to realize that manmade activity has been the cause of these disasters. We have taken a step back in recent years, but we need to again realize that driving and other human factors will further degrade the environment. This unfortunately includes driving. It is one of the primary sources of pollution in the air, and the United States is one of few countries which doesn’t have an answer for it. In many European cities, single passenger vehicles are nearly a thing of the past due to cutting edge transportation systems. In Paris for example, it was recently found that 100% of people who live in the city have easy access to public transportation. This compares to a paltry 35% in New York City. From these figures alone it is clear that we need to rethink our cities in the United States to make public transportation a more viable option.
    Another factor that affects our urban environment is air quality. Air quality is usually lacking in densely populated urban areas, but it is difficult to notice when it is not visible. This is changing in cities around the world as dense smog now envelopes some metropolitan areas. Now that the problem of air quality is so visible, we have been taking very slow if any measures to improve it. In Beijing, the “airpocalypse,” is already in effect as citizens of the capital of China must now alter how they go about their lives in order to avoid the harsh air that hangs over the city. This poor air quality is due primarily to the coal burning factories in the area, as China has not gone fully through its industrial revolution and struggles to implement clean air technology despite global diplomatic pressure.
    I would argue that there is actually no way to perfectly balance the social and environmental aspects of the changes that need to take place in cities, but we as a people must decide where our priorities lie. The most prudent city design for me seems to be the mixed approach, as it can be a neutral approach to the extremes. Either way, we as a people need to focus on the two related aforementioned items, installing better means of public transit, and looking to solve the problem of our world’s dirty air.


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