Go ahead, define sustainability. Everyone knows countless, tangled and unconvincing definitions for this word which is quickly losing steam. The problem is that we’re not sure about how sustainability relates to us except in planetary ways. We’re bombarded with many concepts that if we reduce this by 20% then we’ll get that in 30 years which helps the earth survive. All’s well, except we’re almost numb because we won’t feel the aggregate effects for quite some time. Obviously, we’re an impatient lot.
Much of the inefficiency surrounding our use and misuse of water derive from entrenched habits formed during previous eras of presumed inexhaustibility of water supplies. Our wastewater treatment approach has traditionally relied on an infrastructure of centralized municipal water plants where tertiary effluent is recycled. These plants consume considerable energy and cost to restore all of the water they process.
A few years back, I was involved with helping a land owner master plan a 30-acre parcel in Las Vegas just off the Strip, near the MGM Grand Hotel. The parcel was zoned for casino uses and also had potential for hotel, residential towers and other retail uses. The land owner paid about $9 million for the underutilized and nearly vacant property and received minor residual income for lower intensity uses that were currently operating on the site. Initially, the land owner tried to flip the land using a prestigious national real estate brokerage that marketed the property with a glossy aerial photograph, a large red b
Every real estate developer and urban planner knows that Portland, Oregon rocks.
It is probably our best civic example in the United States of defining a comprehensive growth strategy for its citizens and staying true to the vision. The result is an authentic, creative, smart, home grown, artsy, sustainable, eco-friendly, colorful, self sufficient, vibrant, athletic, outdoorsy, walking, biking, multi-generational and experimental lifestyle downtown community where buildings, transit, waterfront festivals, park blocks, fountains, theaters, bookstores, galleries, music, crafts, food, wine, beer, coffee and people all blend together perfectly. It really works here. But one thing was never done properly and needs to be changed to capture this spirit – the name of the city.
One important planning approach for sustainable living is how to locate and integrate the natural and man-made attributes of the land to configure a low-carbon site for large scale development.
On a recent business trip to Australia, I had the opportunity to visit with an interesting group of social planners called The Hornery Institute. Specifically, their charter is “to assist communities in becoming better places to live, learn, work and play.” The Hornery Institute was established in November 2000, in recognition of Lend Lease’s Chairman, Stuart Hornery and his commitment to community and people. To mark his retirement, the shareholders and employees of this great company formed a not-for-profit organization that allowed Hornery and his dedicated, hand-picked staff to continue working on independent projects to make communities more fulfilling.
Architecture is certainly headed for its own version of the Big Bang. A density of firms are simmering with scarce backlog, delinquent collections, looming layoffs, high overhead, low morale as weakened management relies on a foggy stimulus package to forestall an explosion of great magnitude. After the inevitable, our profession will reconstitute based on a new chemistry.
Usually planners get involved in the allocation and details of creating both public and private spaces for groups of people engaged in a wide range of variety of activities.
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