Brave new cities like Dongtan and Masdar are striving to show the way to a greener urban future. But is the money put into these glitzy new projects well spent? Or could it be put to better use revamping our existing cities? Post Carbon Cities manager Daniel Lerch is quoted in this article.
[This is an EXCERPT: read the whole article here. -Ed.]
Several ambitious plans around the world envision green cities, but such projects raise as many questions as they promise to answer
by Matt Vella
"The Foster & Partners-designed Masdar project (BusinessWeek.com, 12/13/07) is no doubt a bid to diversify the UAE's petroleum-rich economy as well as green the country's image. But more important, it is the latest in a growing list of high-profile, high-promise, environmentally friendly city design projects around the world. With mounting concerns over global warming and exploding urban populations, the race to design and build the model 'green city of the future' is on. The sites proposed are of such scale and complexity that they represent a major new front in green innovation."
"And as a reminder that innovation does not have to be expensive or high-tech, energy-savvy buildings that use things as simple as better insulation form one of the core components of many of the major city projects now planned, says Gary Lawrence, who heads up Arup's urban strategies. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, energy inefficiencies in buildings account for some 33% of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. 'Much of the glass used in buildings is so inefficient at containing heat,' asserts Lawrence, 'most people might as well have their windows wide open year-round.'
"But even the glitziest, most intelligently designed projects have raised significant questions from environmentalists about how much of an impact new developments can have on the global environmental crisis. 'You have to wonder what that money could have done to make existing cities more sustainable,' says Daniel Lerch, program manager of the Portland (Ore.) Post Carbon Cities, which helps local governments plan green development projects."
"Some of the best existing green urban planning may not have been billed as such until recently. Since at least the 1970s, Canada's third-largest city, Vancouver, has earned accolades from urban planners around the world for a development strategy that has managed the city's population growth while minimizing its impact on the environment, partly by maximizing the efficiency of public transportation. The program was effectively developed before today's green building movement took root. 'In some ways, it isn't rocket science,' says Worldchanging.com's Steffen, pointing to Vancouver's achievements. 'A lot of the time, we simply don't choose to plan smartly,' he adds."
Photo credit: Brad Herman