Urban Fold

Is America's Oil Capital Going Green?

The Economist takes notice of Houston's efforts to create a more sustainable and attractive city, a not uncomplicated task in the capital of America's energy industry.

Overhauled energy codes for buildings, an expanding light rail system, a new bike-sharing program, and LED bulbs in most traffic lights: does this sound like the description of America's infamously sprawling and regulation-averse fourth-largest city?

Adopting more sustainable practices makes sense for an increasing number of businesses and residents of Houston. "Laura Spanjian, the city's director of sustainability, says that businesses are increasingly likely to get on board if they can see the long-term savings or the competitive advantages that flow from creating a more attractive city."

And the opinions of residents are changing as well. The annual Houston Area Survey from Rice's Kinder Institute, "found that 56% think a much better public transport system is 'very important' for the city's future. A similarly solid majority said the Metro system should use all its revenue for improvements to public transport, rather than diverting funds to mend potholes. In the 1990s, most respondents were more concerned about the roads."

"People's views about houses have changed, too. In 2008 59% said they would prefer a big house with a big garden, even if that meant they had to use their car to go everywhere. Just 36% preferred a smaller house within walking distance of shops and workplaces. By 2012, preferences were running the other way: 51% liked the idea of a smaller house in a more interesting district, and only 47% said they wanted the lavish McMansion."

 

Full Story: Changing the plans

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