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Scorching Phoenix Plans For An Even Hotter Future by PETER O’DOWD

A Metro Light Rail train rolls by the Devine Legacy apartment building along Central Avenue in Phoenix. The energy-efficient complex includes 65 "urban style" apartments.

Courtesy of Mica Thomas MulloyA Metro Light Rail train rolls by the Devine Legacy apartment building along Central Avenue in Phoenix. The energy-efficient complex includes 65 “urban style” apartments.

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August 14, 2012

It’s been a record hot summer in many cities across the nation. Phoenix is no exception. This Sonoran Desert metropolis already records more days over 100 degrees than any other major U.S. city. Now, climate models predict Phoenix will soon get even hotter.

A hotter future may mean a more volatile environment — and along with it, natural disasters, greater pressure on infrastructure, and an increased physical toll on city residents.

While some city planners around the country discuss ways to mitigate climate change, planners in Phoenix assume that change is already under way. Now, they are working to prepare the Phoenix metro area, and its approximately 4 million residents, for a new reality.

‘How Are We Gonna Live Here?’

The view is bleak from John Larsala’s front drive in West Phoenix. The tree in front of the house is dead, and the grass is dead, too. In fact, there’s no grass at all anymore.

On a household income of $18,000 a year, Larsala can’t afford the water charges required to keep his yard green. “All these trees are dying, because I can’t put water on it,” he says.

So Larsala’s children and their friends play basketball in the barren yard. That is, until June comes around and the blazing Phoenix summer finally forces everyone inside.

John Larsala struggles to keep his family cool during the Phoenix summer. The shade trees in his front yard have died because he cannot afford to water them.

EnlargePeter O’Dowd/KJZZJohn Larsala struggles to keep his family cool during the Phoenix summer. The shade trees in his front yard have died because he cannot afford to water them.

For three months, Larsala will shut the doors and windows tight. To save money, he soaks his kids in a cool bath and delays using the air conditioning until just before bedtime.

“Whether you are inside or whether you are outside, the heat costs you money,” Larsala says.

When told that climate scientists predict the state will get even hotter in the future, Larsala is taken aback.

“It’s going to be hotter than what it is right now? Who gonna live here? How are we gonna live here?”

Sustained Heat Waves Ahead

Phoenix actually suffers from two heat problems. One is a product of growth. Desert nights don’t cool down they way they used to, because energy from the sun is trapped in roads and buildings, a phenomenon researchers call the “urban heat island effect.”

As Phoenix grows, so does the problem, says Nancy Selover, the state climatologist.

“We keep thinking we’ll probably see a night when we only get down to 100 as a minimum temperature, which is kind of shocking,” Selover says.

Standing outside in a low-income neighborhood near Phoenix, Selover points out that many households here are using “swamp coolers,” or evaporative coolers. These cooling units are cheaper than air-conditioning — but they’re also less effective.

If Phoenix’s temperatures rise, “it’s going to be pretty unbearable,” Selover says — and without adequate cooling, potentially deadly.

Phoenix’s second problem comes from global climate change. Researchers predict it will make droughts longer and temperatures higher in the region.

Data from the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program predict sustained heat waves above 114 degrees will be a yearly crisis in Phoenix by 2040. And each one, researchers project, will last a sweltering three weeks.

A Laboratory For What Works

Selover says these coming changes present Phoenix with an opportunity.

“As a desert city, Phoenix is kind of a laboratory for us to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, to try to mitigate those things.”

In the future, Selover says, “we may well have to live differently.”

Now, city officials are starting to think about what that new lifestyle might entail. One idea is to cover 25 percent of Phoenix with shade trees.

But some, like architect John Meunier, argue for much greater lifestyle adaptations.

Meunier studies pre-industrial desert cities around the world, looking for lessons to apply in modern desert cities like Phoenix.

Sitting at a light-rail stop downtown, he says creating sustainable futures in cities like this one has”everything to do with managing without having to use a lot of extra energy and power.”

To do that, Meunier says planners could encourage 10 times as many people to live around Phoenix’s light-rail stations. Getting more use out of the system would take cars — and heat — off the street.

These people would also live in taller buildings. Meunier says desert cities in Yemen, for example, take advantage of tall buildings to shade narrow streets.

“It’s crucially important. I mean, not being exposed to the direct sun’s rays makes a great big difference,” he says.

Instead of exposed front yards and backyards, older desert cities employ well-ventilated courtyards, Meunier says. Mediterranean cities paint roads and rooftops white to reflect sunlight.

It’s the way Phoenix has been built, Meunier says, that will make its residents vulnerable to rising temperatures.

“I’m not arguing that we should all live at a higher density,” Meunier says. “What I am arguing is that there’s a lot to be gained by having more of us live at higher density.”

Learning To Build Better

For Meunier’s ideas to become reality, developers will have to make the choice to build differently.

Some of them already have. Take the city’s light rail north about three miles, and you can get a close-up view of how buildings like Meunier envisions might actually work.

Felicia McMullen has lived in the energy-efficient Devine Legacy apartment building in central Phoenix since December.

EnlargeCourtesy of Mica Thomas MulloyFelicia McMullen has lived in the energy-efficient Devine Legacy apartment building in central Phoenix since December.

The Devine Legacy is a housing complex designed for people with lower incomes. Right next to the rail line, every window is dual-paned, and the building is also superinsulated. Together, those features make a typical Devine Legacy unit 40 percent more energy efficient.

Walking through the front gate leads you to a courtyard. Four-story buildings rise up on either side of you. There’s shade everywhere, and a breeze moves through the space. Even on a 113-degree day in Phoenix, it feels much cooler.

“Having a cool place to live is more important to me than food,” says resident Felicia McMullen.

Before she moved here, McMullen says she was sick and stressed. She sometimes spent $300 a month to cool her suburban home.

Now, McMullen says, “I don’t have that problem.” Her last electric bill was $60 — and the stress is gone.

Ernesto Fonseca, a planner who specializes in sustainable communities, helped test Devine Legacy’s energy use before it opened late last year.

He considers the complex a small victory in what may someday be a more complicated effort to stay cool.

“People in extreme climates learn to live with it,” Fonseca says. “And that’s part of a resilient society.”

Fonseca thinks a lot about this idea of resilience. He says it means that people who live in Phoenix must do more than try to solve the causes of escalating temperatures — they must also learn to withstand the changes as they happen.

Because, as Fonseca says, “We don’t have a choice.”

Peter O’Dowd works with the public radio collaborative FronterasRead more from their series “Heat Wave.”

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Cambridge Properties is one of the Top Paradise Valley agencies

Looking to sell your home in Paradise Valley? Or are you interested in moving to Paradise valley? Cambridge Properties has been working in the exclusive 85253 zip code for years. Weather you are looking to move into a beautiful all inclusive community like Montelucia, or build your own dream home on Camelback mountain Cambridge Properties knows Paradise Valley.

For years Cambridge Properties has been selling luxury high rises and custom homes to the valley’s most discreet real estate buyers. Clients who want only the best agents that really know Paradise Valley should look no further than the team at Cambridge Properties.

Give us a call today! 602-787-6346 or feel free to search all Paradise Valley MLS listings on our website CambridgeProperties.com


Housing prices are coming back, here’s a chart to prove it!

We can listen to reports telling us the housing market is coming back until we are blue in the face. At Cambridge Properties we are the leaders in Luxury Urban living but we’re also visual learners, so we made a graph.

 

 

What we find most interesting is that although most people are widely reporting that the uptick in housing is only due to investors picking up lower end properties, you can see that the trend in higher priced homes is going up as well.

This is good news for our clients, Cambridge Properties is the leader in Luxury urban living and it’s good to see our market is starting to come back as well!


Housing starts bright spot for cooling economy

  A ''for sale'' sign is seen outside a home in New York June 19, 2012. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON | Wed Jul 18, 2012 12:07pm EDT

(Reuters) – Groundbreaking on new U.S. homes rose in June to its fastest pace in over three years, lending a helping hand to an economy that has shown worrisome signs of cooling.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday that housing starts rose 6.9 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 760,000 units. That was the highest rate since October 2008.

“Housing is clearly in recovery mode, although the sector is much less important than it used to be,” said Jim O’Sullivan, an economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York.

The housing market, which began to collapse six years ago, has been a relative bright spot in the economy this year, although it remains hobbled by a glut of unsold homes.

But since it makes up a smaller share of the economy than before the 2007-2009 recession, it can provide only a limited lift to the broader recovery.

In a cautionary sign for the housing sector, new permits for building homes dropped 3.7 percent to a 755,000 unit pace.

The Commerce Department said groundbreaking for single-family homes — the largest portion of the market — rose 4.7 percent, while starts for the more volatile multi-family homes segment rose 12.8 percent.

ECONOMY COOLING

On Wednesday, the Mortgage Bankers Association said applications for U.S. home mortgages jumped last week on a surge in demand for refinancing as the interest rate on 30-year mortgages fell to a record low.

Other data in recent weeks has shown signed contracts for home purchases rose sharply in May and rising home prices.

“Housing continues to be the one sector of the U.S. economy that is outperforming expectations,” said Michael Gapen an economist at Barclays in New York.

Housing starts in June were above the median forecast in a Reuters poll of a 745,000-unit rate, and readings for April and May were revised higher.

Still, the broader U.S. economy has looked much more wobbly of late, and if the recovery fails and the country tips back into recession, housing also would suffer.

U.S. stocks rose, lifted by a rebound in tech shares following Intel’s results. Shares in homebuilders were mixed. U.S. 30-year bond yields fell as safe-haven demand for bonds persisted despite the housing data.

In testimony to a Senate panel on Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the U.S. economic recovery was being held back by anxiety over Europe’s debt crisis and the path of U.S. fiscal policy. He repeated the message before a committee in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Bernanke has warned that planned belt tightening by the U.S. government in 2013 would likely send the country back into recession, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner echoed those concerns on Wednesday, calling for reforms to boost growth and provide fiscal sustainability.

“What the economy needs right now is a very substantial, well designed program of support for economic growth,” Geithner said at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha conference in New York.

In his two days of testimony, Bernanke offered few concrete clues about whether the U.S. central bank was moving closer to a fresh round of monetary stimulus. He told lawmakers on Tuesday that policymakers meeting later this month would be looking for signs of any stall in the recovery of the labor market.

The pace of hiring in the United States slowed sharply in the second quarter, as did growth in factory output. Retail sales have also flagged in recent months.


Did you know you can search the MLS without giving up your information?

Everyone says you can use their tool to search MLS just like a realtor. What nobody tells you is that in order to search MLS you’re first going to have to give them your personal information. At Cambridge Properties we believe that you should be able to search the MLS all you want without having to give us your information.

Don’t get us wrong, we want to be your agent when your buying or selling, but that’s not always why you’re searching. Real estate is something you are going to be involved with for your entire life and at Cambridge properties we believe there is no rush. Take you time, use our search tool to look all over the valley just like a realtor and if you ever have any questions we’d love to hear from you.

 


What is your favorite neighborhood?

The Valley has started to come into it’s own. The different areas of town have really started to Identify their own cultures and leaders. As the Phoenix area grows and expands we would love to hear your favorite things about either the neighborhood you live in or want to live in.

 

What’s your favorite resturant? Store owner? Is there a little business complex you’d like to see revitalized? Cambridge Properties is excited about being your partner in the development and urbanization of Phoenix, we hope you feel the same.

 

 


Looking to find where the style focused Phoenicians mingle? Look no further!

We’ve told you before about the Phoenix Style Collective, no is your chance to meet them yourself! Join us in attending their Tastemakers event at Hanny’s downtown on July 26th!

Here is the announcement from the PSC website:

NETWORKING EVENT // TASTEMAKERS NIGHT

Mark your calendars for an upcoming networking event: Tastemakers Night at Hanny’s! When: Thursday, July 26 from 7-9 pm (but feel free to stay later and enjoy the restaurant/bar!)
Where: Hanny’s, 40 North 1st Street Phoenix, AZ 85004
Hey, Tastemakers, you need to come see this awesome historic place and mingle with likeminded stylish people. Come and go as you please – stop in for a drink or sit and have dinner – and participate in a laid back networking event designed to give you access to the coolest local business owners, artists and bloggers. The converted department store boasts tons and tons of photo opportunities! Bring business cards and an outgoing attitude! You’ll need them for a fun activity 🙂

(Hanny’s is located very close to the light rail and there is also metered parking and several paid parking lots downtown.)

A unique spot unlike any other restaurant you’ve been to? A gaggle of fabulous creatives to mingle with? There’s no way you can miss this!

Learn more about Hanny’s history here. See a map of Hanny’s here.