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Miami’s ARC+ Addresses Sustainability Challenges


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In 1896, several hundred people living in a clapboard village on Florida’s Atlantic coast voted to become an incorporated city. They called their new town Miami, after nearby Lake Mayaimi and the native tribe that lived on the lake’s shores.

Today’s City of Miami is a skyscraping metropolis of steel and granite with an official population of 400,000. Miami is also (by the way) the pulsating nerve center of what’s called the Miami Metropolitan Area––a 110 mile-long sprawl of 6 million people that spans three counties and ten cities. This unbroken urban landscape is wedged vertically between the Atlantic to the east and Florida’s Everglades to the west; another object lesson on how man’s most amazing constructed achievements still take their orders from Mother Nature. From low Earth orbit the Miami Metropolitan Area looks like an enormous, if narrow, mechanized spill down Florida’s eastern seaboard. In some places the sprawl is only 5 miles wide.

Rising Seas and ARC+

As architects, builders, and developers discuss (sometimes heatedly) the future of construction in the area, predicted rising sea levels are the icing on an already over-complicated cake. The rising water, and larger questions of architectural sustainability, beg the question: how to get future architects and planners to board Peter Licavoli’s ARC+ and create a new sustainability conversation that can ride out both rising seas and unenlightened thinking?  

Licavoli and his Architectural Research Collaborative (ARC+) are not only open to that conversation, they’re leading it, in classrooms and on jobsites. “ARC+ is a social impact organization focused on higher education and sustainability. We harness the creative powers of architecture and the Arts to drive innovative solutions in support of sustainable urban planning and resilient city initiatives,” Licavoli says.

ARC+ and MBUS

The “higher education” he’s referring to is Florida International University’s College of Architecture and the Arts (FIU’s CARTA). ARC+ has formed an alliance (and, by the way, shares a building with) CARTA’s innovation lab, the Miami Beach Urban Studios (MBUS). The MBUS mandate is itself a conversation starter; to use the power of architecture and the arts to engage local and global communities to create, innovate, and inspire solutions to social, economic, and environmental problems. Licavoli’s ARC+ and MBUS are working together to facilitate discussions between builders, designers, and real estate interests––all the players whose collaborative input can positively direct the future of construction and development in the Miami area.

In the process, FIU’s CARTA students have their formal architectural studies infused with creative, actionable strategies for sustainable building and design––innovation as a keynote of sustainable progress in urban development. “ARC+ is actually housed at CARTA's Miami Beach Urban Studio, and we’ll be working with FIU faculty to incubate a unique public and private collaboration that benefits not only students, but also the community as a whole,” Licavoli says. “We’re forever grateful to the Miami Beach Urban Studios! We believe that working closely with Florida International University as an anchor institution is the first step towards building a more collaborative and synergistic approach to sustainability and resilience as a city. Our hope is that more institutions, both public and private, will join us in this effort.”

ARC+ Buildgreen = The Future of Development

ARC+ Buildgreen is the flagship initiative, a program that brings construction companies, architectural firms, and real estate developers to the table to discuss green building and sustainable architecture. Through ARC+ Buildgreen, FIU’s future architects are leaving the classroom to see for themselves how sustainable building is “done”. Why tear a building down when it can be repurposed, adaptively reused; a green architectural perspective that sees an abandoned motel as the seed of a new office building. “That is environmentally friendly in and of itself,” explains Licavoli.

ARC+ Buildgreen is introducing FIU’s future architects to innate green thinking and the needs of the communities over which they’ll one day have architectural stewardship. The students are acquainting themselves with the possibilities by visiting jobsites and seeing with their own eyes how drawings become buildings, and how buildings become sustainable members of their developed communities.

Procore in the Classroom

Procore’s collaborative project management platform is the ARC+ tool of choice for FIU’s forward-thinking architecture students. With Procore University, students gain access to the software at no cost. “Procore's project management software allows students to access the current set of architectural plans in preparation for their visit to the construction site.  Procore is also used to track the student’s email communication and provides access to schedules and site photographs. And Procore’s Daily Log feature can be used to document the site visit and complete the assignment,” says Licavoli. “We really appreciate the help Procore has given us. It's been great.” The Procore U program works closely with institutions of higher learning who see in Procore’s cloud-based software the perfect collaborative tool for university-level construction education. Peter Licavoli’s ARC+ has leveraged Procore in FIU’s College of Architecture and Art classrooms, to excite the imaginations of a whole cohort of architects and artists. Licavoli is hopeful.

"Collaboration is what we're looking for; bringing private companies together with public universities to look at sustainable issues as a whole.  Because what happens in Miami affects Miami Beach, and what happens in Fort Lauderdale affects Miami, and so on. We have to look at things synergistically."

For more information on ARC+, visit www.arcplus.org/

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