Thursday, 26 June 2008

Getting the Message: Sprawl Costs, LEED is Cool

Maybe it’s happening. The realization that the suburban lifestyle North Americans have been pursuing for 90 years presents terrific problems, that is. Yesterday’s New York Times had an interesting story about people in the far reaches of exurbia in Colorado musing that maybe it costs too much to live in huge houses requiring constant automobile commutes.

This follows a story last week about the hottest new trophy house, the small and ecologically friendly dwelling with a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum rating. The second story was talking houses for celebrities, who appear to be willing to pay millions to have a high LEED ratings for their houses wherever they might be built.

But unless housing in well integrated into a city it isn’t going to be very ecologically friendly, no matter how good its insulation, passive energy system and use of environmentally correct materials. That’s why the story behind Canada’s first LEED platinum house is so encouraging. Awarded last year, the distinction went to a refit of a duplex on busy Park Avenue, just a couple of blocks from where we live. Not only did Emmanuel Cosgrove and his wife recycle a lot to redo the place, it is smack dab on the middle of a big city with public transportation at the corner, a big park a block away, and shopping and recreation practically at the front door.

If there’s anything I learned while working on my next book The Walkable City: From Haussmann’s Boulevards to Jane Jacobs’ Street and Beyond it is that we are going to have to live closer together in North America and that—guess what!—it is pretty nice.

1 comment:

Jack Ruttan said...

Unfortunately, you'll also have to look at Benny Farms, where a "green" design went badly wrong.