Monday, April 30, 2007

An Urban Planner's Wish List for Green Development

As an urban planner, I have worked on residential and commercial developments throughout the Dallas Fort-Worth area and before that on the East Coast.

I have developed my own "wish list" of practices I would like to see for all development in the U.S. Here is a short list to start.

1. Require green building standards for all new construction. Right now, certain communities require this, and most don't. These standards can be developed at the local level, modelled after programs and examples around the country.

2. Promote infill development (new development between existing buildings and projects) and adaptive reuse (reuse of existing buildings) whenever possible--and make every effort at the local level to prevent leap-frog development, particularly in the suburbs. Standards could include experiments with transfer development rights or incentives for developers.

3. I wish that all communities would identify environmentally-sensitive areas on a comprehensive plan and develop standards to protect these areas.

4. I would like more education to be available for realtors and development entities on green building and environmental planning practices. This concept should be part of the concept and design process.

5. The promotion of land trusts for prime agricultural and environmentally-sensitive areas.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What are Green Buildings?

There are many definitions. Some define green buildings as indigenous architecture that utilizes local materials and design options as well as utilizes passive solar. Adobe Homesin New Mexico are often a good example of this concept.

Others define green buildings in more modern terms. Over the past 20 years, the term "green buildings" has evolved from many experiments and programs developed around the country, such as Austin's green building program.

The U.S Green Building Council has developed LEED standards for commercial buildings and has a pilot program to develop LEED standards for residential buildings. Buildings become LEED certified by including a specified green building standards for construction.

In general, many of the green building programs often include some of these general principles:

•Site Selection, Design and Preparation: Design sites to have the minimum impact upon wildlife, trees, and other natural features.
•Educate contractors on minimizing environmental impact on construction sites. Recycle remainder building materials and minimize waste as well.
•Design buildings to efficiently use natural light, building orientation to sun, and other site features.
•Select low-impact building materials whenever possible—renewable materials (ex. Bamboo) or recycled materials.
•Select building materials with low volatile organic compounds and off-gassing for healthy indoor air quality.
•Energy-efficient appliances and HVAC systems.
•Solar energy whenever possible.
Xeriscaping or other native plants for landscaping to eliminate the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Minimize the use of water for landscaping. Use organic gardening practices.
•Select low-maintenance building materials whenever possible to minimize the future use of building materials and lower long-term costs.
•Promote less-toxic house cleaning practices to minimize indoor air pollutants and contaminants in water runoff.

For Books on Green Building