First, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won’t just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.Yes it will put people to work and is needed, but long term we need to think bigger. My point is one made by Beyond DC very eloquently when talking about the LEED architecture program which designates green buildings:
LEED architecture without good urban design is like cutting down the rainforest using hybrid-powered bulldozers - it just sort of misses the point.But there is a whole other level to what we talk about. I think the more holistic approach to sustainability pushed by firms like Mithun is a way to go and when coupled the themes of urbanism and sustainable transport. This would lead to wholesale change in terms of energy efficiency which is a major part of sustainability. Here's a bit from Mithun's sustainable urban design plan for the Lloyd District in Portland.
The Sustainable Design Plan, in contrast, rests on a functional concept of “Pre-development Metrics” developed by the team. These measures embody a theoretical baseline representing the ecological profile of the site before there was a human presence on it. This framework was then used to create a plan that would be even more ambitious than the “beyond-platinum” goals specified in the RFP.Now I know this is a bit too heady for basic stimulus issues and needs to be developed further, but this is the type of thing that will lead to true sustainability. If we put our brightest minds to work to figure out how to implement strategies like those mentioned by Mithun above, we'll be a whole lot better off. We need to stop looking at things in silos and start looking more at systems in transportation, land use, habitat, and water systems.
In effect, the remarkable notion at the heart of the plan is that intense urban redevelopment can be used to reverse existing environmental impacts, and return many of the ecological qualities of the site to those of a 54-acre, mature, mixed-conifer forest. Wildlife habitat, water and usage quality, and energy consumption are three areas where the plan establishes specific performance goals.
In terms of habitat, the pre-development metric was 90 percent tree cover, supporting a diverse range of species. In comparison, the plan attempts to reestablish 25-30 percent tree cover—an “abstraction” of a mixed-conifer forest, involving native “forest patches,” green streets, rooftop gardens, and habitat corridors. Meanwhile, provisions are also proposed for off-site habitat restoration.
Update 10:00 pm PT: continued quote left out earlier...
In terms of water, the plan estimates the study area receives 64 million gallons of rainwater a year, and it proposes treating much of this runoff on-site. It also proposes reducing potable water consumption by 62 percent, and providing on-site sources for 100 percent of nonpotable water demand through rainwater harvesting and wastewater reuse. Energy metrics involve a number of concerns. According to the plan, the neighborhood receives 161 million kilowatt hours per year of solar energy. The plan aims to exceed the level of utilization of this energy that would be typical of a mature forest.
Among the plan’s other goals are to reduce on-site carbon dioxide emissions to predevelopment levels and create an overall carbon-neutral strategy. Since the construction industry consumes 40 percent of the global economy’s raw materials, the latter would involve giving preference to materials that employ renewable resources, that are from within 300 to 500 miles of the site, have low embodied energy, and that receive a positive Life Cycle Assessment.