Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SUSTAINABLE PLANNING AND DESIGN HAS A POSITIVE COST BENEFIT - Non-sustainable development assumes that it is too expensive to factor in the impacts of development on the natural environment and the livability of the overall community. Experience in the development of planned communities such as Reston, Virginia and the sustainable re-development of downtowns such as Portland, Oregon shows, however, that property values go up with sustainable development. People and businesses eventually flee unsustainable communities. Also, experience shows that ultimately unsustainable development costs more. Unsustainable buildings become out-dated as energy costs rise while residents in cities that have allowed unlimited sprawl pay more for traffic congestion and the costs of commuting. Ultimately, air pollution regulations might prevent all new development in cities that have air pollution levels that exceed standards, preventing the economic growth of such cities.

NON-SUSTAINABLE CITY/URBAN CENTER - Below is an example of a non-sustainable city or urban center. Note both that the built environment has totally overtaken the natural environment and that humans have to escape within the buildings as it takes an automobile to travel anywhere -- and the concrete jungle makes the heat of the city unbearable in the summer and freezing cold in the winter.

NON-SUSTAINABLE RESIDENTIAL SPRAWL - Below is an example of non-sustainable residential sprawl where the built environment has totally overwhelmed the natural environment. Note how the streets are designed so that children have no easy way to visit their friends living on neighboring streets. Notice also all one sees of the homes from the street is their driveways, cars and garages with no shade trees or porches. This encourages isolation of families from each other, even from their neighbors, as people no longer feel comfortable taking walks along the street -- and even if they do so, they no longer see their neighbors on their porches etc. as one once did in traditional neighbors. Instead, if one wants to interacts with one's neighbors or community members, one has to drive to the shopping mall etc.

EXAMPLE OF SUSTAINABLE DESIGN - Below is an example of sustainable design. It is a parking garage designed with plants built into it's exterior so as to: (1) filter air pollution from the automobiles, and thus mitigate the negative impacts of pollution: and (2) to create a pedestrian friendly environment. As such, this is a design that promotes the livability of people and the natural environment of which they are a part.

EXAMPLE OF NON-SUSTAINABLE DESIGN - Below is a typical parking garage. It is an example of non-sustainable design for several reasons: (1) it does not to mitigate environmental pollution; (2) it concentrates air pollutants in one area (i.e. who was to linger in a parking garage and breath the exhaust fumes); and (3) it is not pedestrian friendly (one only walks through a parking garage out of necessity).

FUNCTION - Function is obviously the most important aspect of planning and design. Unfortunately, given what seemed like a never-ending supply of natural resources, sustainability was not always considered to be an aspect of function. Sustainability relates to the question as how our built environment supports or detracts from the livability of ourselves and the natural environment that we are a part. This is the paradigm shift that is now occurring - i.e. the consideration of sustainability in the planning and design of our built environment.

FORM - Form is obviously another component of design. Form can enhance the experience of the built environment, but should follow as opposed to dictating function.

(Images courtesy of lonelyplanet.com)

COLOR - Another component of design is color. Color can be used in sunny climates such as Greece or overcast climates such as Iceland or Ireland to enhance the experience of the built environment. Whether bright or subdued, color is a design choice.

(photographs courtesy of loneplanet.com)

Monday, December 22, 2008

This blog was created to share my ideas of how to achieve sustainable planning and design in the building of our communities.