Highlights: VSI at CNU 30 - Back In-Person!

By Mark Nowotarski, CNU Advocate Member

After two years of virtual conference sessions, CNU 30 was back in-person with over 1,000 enthusiastic members of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) attending in Oklahoma City last month. CNU members represent a coalition of 2,700+ architects, urban designers, planners, developers, engineers and advocates united with the same goals – steering cities and towns away from sprawling development, building more beautiful and sustainable places, preserving historic assets and traditions, and providing a range of housing and transportation choices.

This year’s event included four packed days with over 80 sessions covering various topics around the Climate Challenge for New Urbanism, Affordability and Equity, Housing Types for New Realism and Rethinking Infrastructure for Better Outcomes.

Once Again, VSI Represents!

As with past CNU events, the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI) attended last month to represent our vinyl siding and polymeric products manufacturers.

VSI’s tabletop exhibit featured materials from the popular Architectural Design Program (ADP) material array box that includes vinyl siding samples in various designs and colors along with samples of polymeric trim.

In addition, copies of our publications Architectural Design for Traditional Neighborhoods along with the new Architectural Polymers: Best Practices for Architectural Specifications were popular with attendees. At this year’s event, exhibitors set up displays in the lobby area just outside the main conference rooms where most sessions were held. The result of this location was a consistent, packed area of CNU members over the four-day event, fostering great dialogue and interest related to VSI manufacturers’ products, as well as a focus on product performance features, certification, sustainability and affordability.

Of special note, topics that generated a lot of interest from CNU participants included how vinyl siding utilizes recycled materials along with its new pilot recycling program. In addition, attendees also wanted to discuss how New Urbanists are more focused today on designing for a changing climate and are more receptive now when considering vinyl and polymeric siding options for their projects.

Politics of Place: A Multidisciplinary Discussion – VSI Session One

Fernando Pagés Ruiz, New Urbanist and VSI Consultant, presented at CNU in two separate sessions. His first session explored elements of geography, history, ritual and iconography in constructing meaningful places. Fernando was one of four presenters that included James Rojas, Korkut Onaran  and Steve Mouzon, all well-known and respected New Urbanists.

During his presentation Fernando shared his experience in developing culturally appropriate homes for the Vietnamese community in Lincoln, Nebraska by using ethnographic criteria. While these homes included interior design features important to the Vietnamese culture like enclosed kitchens, the exteriors featured vinyl and polymeric siding that offered individuality in the design of these affordable homes.

Mouzon kicked off the session focusing on examples of what makes up “community.” Rojas discussed and shared examples of Latino Urbanism. And Onaran concluded the session discussing the importance of sense of place and place attachments. The key takeaway was how important it is to understand varying cultural needs to design appropriate homes that work, look good and can be affordable.

Snack Bites: Building – VSI Session Two

The second session used an interesting format in short format presentations that featured a diverse group of New Urbanists discussing numerous topics focused on different aspects of building and based on similar concepts. Presentations included A Practical Guide for Building Design that Makes Memorable Places; Designing a Fourplex for Efficiency and Affordability; Gotta Be Active If You Want To Go Passive; Mass Wall Masonry; and finally, the BIRDS and BEES: Software to Determine True Green From Green Washing, presented by Ruiz on behalf of VSI. In this presentation, Fernando shared how the BEES software works and why it is an important, free tool for New Urbanists to use when selecting sustainable products for their projects. He showed a couple comparison examples including the graphic above on how vinyl siding performs better as a sustainable and green material option over fiber cement siding. He concluded by encouraging New Urbanists to utilize this tool.

Final Thoughts: The Importance of the CNU/VSI Relationship

VSI members have a lot to gain from the relationship with CNU and its members. Understanding and working together will continue to strengthen options that allow VSI members to develop products for the ever-changing market.

As VSI has consistently supported CNU over the years, more and more New Urbanists are discovering the products are more favorable in meeting their criteria for projects. And with more urban developments being planned – and as walkable communities grow in popularity with both Millennials and retired active Baby Boomers – vinyl and polymeric siding products offer smart choices.

CNU’s overall mantra is: "We Build Places People Love" – with a mission to champion walkable urbanism leveraging a unique integration of design and social principals to advance diversified neighborhoods, design for climate change and legalize walkable places. CNU members again are united with the same goals – steering cities and towns away from sprawl, building more beautiful and sustainable places, preserving historic assets and traditions and providing a range of housing and transportation choices – all great goals that can align and connect with VSI’s members to embrace all the learnings from New Urbanists and help build a better tomorrow.