sustainable neighborhoods

What is Smart Growth?

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Smart buildings. Smart cities. Smart growth. What’s the meaning of all this “smart” talk? In the most basic sense, all three are associated with sustainability and social responsibility, with smart buildings and smart cities individually and collectively supporting smart growth.

So what is smart growth, and why is it important? With respect to sustainability and social responsibility, smart growth is of critical importance. In 2010, 82 percent of Americans lived in urban communities (towns and cities) and by 2050 it will be 90 percent. For the first time in history, more than half of the people on Earth live in cities, and urban populations are projected to double by mid-century. Towns and cities are responsible for approximately 65 percent of all energy used, 60 percent of all water consumed and 70 percent of all greenhouse gases produced worldwide. As compared to less densely populated rural areas, urban communities offer increased potential for resolution of environmental and social problems, generate jobs and income, relieve pressure on natural habitats and areas of biodiversity, and with proper governance they can deliver education, health care and other services more efficiently. In essence, smart growth is about urbanization.

Enter smart growth.

The challenges presented by sustainable urban development are immense. Smart growth, an urban planning and transportation theory, values long-range, regional considerations of sustainability over a short-term focus. Its goals are to achieve a unique sense of community and place; expand the range of transportation, employment, and housing choices; equitably distribute the costs and benefits of development; preserve and enhance natural and cultural resources; and promote public health. Utilizing growth management tools to encourage sustainable communities, combat sprawl, and strengthen urban centers through existing infrastructure, smart growth is supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and many other environmental organizations, such as Smart Growth America. USGBC promotes smart growth through their LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System and the EPA’s support is focused around their EPA Smart Growth Program.

The EPA has compiled a set of best-practice examples of adopted codes and guidelines from around the U.S. that support smart growth, grouped into six categories:  Continue Reading →




Mixed Use: Too Many Eggs in One Basket?

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Normally, this article would be rotated in and out of the Current News & Events section. However, given the growing focus on urbanism, urban redevelopment and form-based codes, events such as the tragic occurrence in Brattleboro, Vermont need to remain with us as reminders whenever we perform our duties as responsible professionals.

Can “pedestrian friendly” mixed-use communities, where people want to live where they can work and play with streetscapes that invite them to walk instead of drive, present logistical problems for fire and EMS response teams? Should fire engineering consultancy be considered on certain projects where large, open spaces often impose a serious threat in case of fire, due to the rapid spread of smoke and fire?

From BuildingGreen Sounds Off:

Making the right choices about where and how to build is a big responsibility, and every choice, it seems, involves tradeoffs. Sustainable design, by definition, plans for the long term. Most of the time, it works great–but some outcomes are out of our hands.

Brattleboro, Vermont is still in shock over the sudden and complete loss of one of its Main Street buildings early yesterday morning, apparently because of an electrical fire. Brooks House, a former hotel with a distinctive mansard roof, was built in 1871 on the ashes of an even older building also destroyed by fire. It was listed on the National Historic Register, but its historic status means nothing compared with its significance to our town. This is like a cigarette burn on the bodice of a silk gown.  Continue Reading →




BMW i Sustainable Neighbourhoods Project

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Wallpaper* and BMW i are giving six creative teams the opportunity to help write the future of their urban environment. The cities of the 20th century were shaped by transport, public and private; the challenge of the 21st is to keep Megacities moving. Over the course of six months, Sustainable Neighbourhoods will explore, chronicle and research six different city zones, with the aim of defining a new infrastructural, cultural or social project that will scale seamlessly into the future.  The cities include London, Paris, Beijing, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Berlin with populations of 13 M, 2.1 M, 22 M, 3.8 M, 13 M and 3.4 M respectively.  follow me »

If you are wondering why BMW is co-sponsoring this event, a clue may be found in their marketing tag for the new “i” sub-brand – This is BMW i. Born Electric.  As Forbes recently wrote – BMW’s Newest Model Isn’t a Car