Follow posts tagged #green cities in seconds.Sign up
Studenten über zukünftige grüne Städte
Eine neue Studie vergleicht, inwiefern Studenten in acht europäischen Großstädten in die Zukunft ihrer selbst und ihrer Wohnorte blicken. “Green Capital of Tomorrow - The Next Generation’s Perspective” wurde von der Firma Siemens initiiert. 71 % der Studierende befanden dabei das Thema Nachhaltigkeit und Umweltschutz als “die bedeutenste gesellschaftspolitische Herausforderung”, was ein höherer Prozentsatz als bei der Finanzkrise (65 %) bedeutet. Beim Umweltschutz finden sich drängende Aufgaben im sorgsamen Umgang mit Ressourcen wie Trinkwasser, dem Ausbau von erneuerbaren Energien, die Verbesserung der Müllentsorgung und Recycling sowie in einem umweltschonenden ÖPNV. Bei der nachhaltigen Stadtentwicklung wird vor allem eine bessere Kommunikation von den öffentlichen Stellen aus angemahnt.
Weitere Informationen sind zusammengefasst aus der Pressemitteilung und den dort befindlichen Links zu entnehmen.
Living Simply: Architecture and urban planning
I am a member of TheNest, a website and collection of message boards devoted to the daily cares and concerns of America’s newlyweds. Today, I came across a user’s innocent post about her home size. “We feel our home is TOO LARGE for us,” she posted. A mix of responses ensued, with most users expressing the opposite concern. One user replied, “Our previous home was 4,300 sq. ft. with four bedrooms (three floors of furnished space). Pre-child we a lot of unused space. It is funny how quickly these rooms become used after one child,” she continued, “Now we are in a temporary house until the home we are building is finished. The house is about 2,800 sq. ft. and I feel SO CRAMPED.”
This graph from http://www.wncgreenbuilding.com illustrates the dramatic spike in home size throughout the last few decades. Ironically, as Americans have begun having less children (and as the world population has become
a known cause for alarm), Americans have decided they need more space.
Any American will laughingly admit that we are used to doing things big in our country. It seems an incredible burden to picture ourselves cooking in a non-gourmet kitchen. We have so many appliances, there wouldn’t be anywhere to put them in a smaller space! And we have an average of 1.2 children - where would they sleep if we lived in 1,000 sq. ft. of space? How would they survive?
Ok, so we Americans are capable of realizing the idiocy of it all, if only to poke fun at ourselves. Don’t we realize that our ridiculous housing is exactly why we depend so heavily on the Middle East for oil?
Big houses guarantee the following things:
1. Increased heating, electric, water, and overall utility use (no matter how many Energy Star appliances you use, you are still negatively impacting the environment if you live in a 3,000 sq. ft. house, I don’t care how many solar panels you have)
2. Increased lawn space, which when compiled over acres of neighborhoods results in longer commutes to work (more gas guzzled)
3. Lower population density, which results in the suburban sprawl we all love to hate
Big houses and suburban living result in ridiculously high oil (and Middle Eastern) dependency. If Americans can’t stop the glutenous and entitled attitude that led us to suburban housing, we will eventually use up all of our oil reserves, deplete our country’s natural beauty, and drain the world of its resources.
The economy (and human culture) has a way of forcing us to live within our means. Just as we were paving over acres of usable farmland for modern-looking strip malls, building “green” subdivisions, and widening interstates, the economic collapse of 2008 hit. For the first time in fifty years, the newly constructed American home is decreasing in size. There is finally a lapse in road construction. Oil prices have had a slight effect on citizens’ use of public transit.
No one became enlightened or noble-minded in 2008. People lost their jobs. Construction companies couldn’t afford to build. People didn’t have the money to fuel their SUVs. Only a few crazies (like me) were slightly happy to see the country go into a recession. This recession reminded us that no, not everyone can afford to purchase a single-family home, and no, not everyone can afford to commute an average of 45 minutes to work.
On the brink of a presidential election, there seem to be a few buzzwords about how to fix the problems in this country. On the subject of Jobs (yes, with a capitol J) politicians are promising the creation of new jobs. The question no one is asking is, “how does one create jobs?” Don’t jobs evolve naturally out of a societal need? “Job Creation,” in other words building new roads and pouring concrete over more of our precious resources, is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
Rather than add to our current sprawl (an expensive nightmare to everyone involved), the only way we should be allocating our limited financial resources is to re-imagine the way towns and homes should look, and reconstruct the failed urban planning that was the American suburb.
In David Owen’s “Green Metropolis,” Owen explains that Manhattan, which at first glance appears to be a melting pot of construction, pollution, and over-population, is actually one of the few truly sustainable communities in America. Old cities built prior to cars tend to be walkable, and because of high population densities, their residents tend to heat less space. They purchase less (because of their small living spaces), they rarely own cars (a nightmare in the city), they use public transit, they can walk to the supermarket, work, restaurants, and nightlife, and their shared walls and ceilings heat one another’s dwellings. The result, according to Owen, is that New Yorker’s carbon footprints are literally half that of suburban Americans.
Los Angeles, by contrast, is a city of highways and suburban neighborhoods. An environmental nightmare, Los Angeles (a city whose growth was only made possible by the introduction of cars into the economy) is a new city, and therefore it’s urban planning was constructed around automobiles. The carbon footprint of many Los Angeles residents (as well as Phoenix and Atlanta residents) is significantly higher than residents of old cities like New York and many European cities.
We need to focus on making cities great places to live, and if jobs should be created anywhere, they should be focused on making cities beautiful places to live, bike, walk to work, and socialize. But what about the suburbs? What should we do with the run-down (dated) subdivisions, the abandoned strip malls, and the cracked concrete parking lots?
This is where New Urbanism comes in. New Urbanism, a modern urban planning movement which advocates pedestrian-friendly planning and mixed-use developments, is the method by which we can give new live to current suburbs.
We need to be careful, though, because the goal isn’t to build new subdivisions on farmland and call them “New Urbanist” communities. Rather, we should incorporate urban principles into our already-developed communities.
Here’s a quick run-down on New Urbanism (see this for a detailed description of the concept): New Urbanism advocates for smaller streets (more conducive to walking and bicycling, a deterrent for automobile drivers) and pedestrian-friendly downtowns. Picture your nearest suburb’s shopping district: would it be easy to walk from a store on one side of the street to a store on the other side? Unless you have a non-traditional shopping center, the answer is probably no. Most suburbs have shopping centers with large parking lots, and a busy highway in between stores. This, by nature, causes the user to drive even from store-to-store, not to mention makes it impossible to walk from home.
In addition to pedestrian-friendliness, New Urbanism advocates for mixed-use living spaces. This means that there are usable apartments atop every business, and grocery stores on the corner within walking distance from houses. There are also schools, churches, doctors, bars, and restaurants within walking distance of both the single-family homes and the apartments/condos. “Mixed-use” means that there are no separate sections for shopping, resulting in increased neighborhood safety.
If this sounds a lot like a traditional historic town, that’s because traditional city planning is exactly what New Urbanism tries to emulate. What makes New Urbanism progressive is that it allows for more apartments and condos, which need to be the living spaces of the future.
This brings me to my last point - the single family suburban home. It’s not that we can’t have family-friendly streets with yards and picket fences. Single family homes will still exist for those who can truly afford them (which, I believe, would mean having at least 30% to put down on a home). In an ever-growing world, the only way to sustain our American way of live and allow the family-friendly neighborhood to thrive will mean coming to terms with duplexes, condominiums, apartments, and smaller single-family homes. These dwellings should never be made a source of shame. Buying a home you can’t afford should be a source of shame. Mixed-use living will increase community connectedness, green infrastructure, higher population density, people living closer (near public transit, if not within walking distance) to work, and decreased dependency on oil (and therefore the Middle East, who no one wants to be indebted to).
If we “create jobs” by putting citizens to work turning around overly-expensive and unsustainable neighborhoods, and creating livable, inexpensive, convenient, walkable neighborhoods, not only will we be investing in our future, we will be improving our citizens’ quality of life and property values.
Now, someone tell me what’s wring with that. You need somewhere to park your truck?