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Thread: 2030 Challenge for Planners?

  1. #1

    2030 Challenge for Planners?

    I attended a speech last night by Edward Mazria, who's generated a whole lot of buzz within the architecture community with his 2030 Challenge:

    (this includes many of the same slides from his speech)

    Ed is an architect who comes from a solar-design background -- in fact, he wrote the very first architecture book I remember reading, "The Passive Solar Energy Book" (1979). He brings some architect biases with him, for instance when he proclaims that "buildings cause half [48%] of all carbon dioxide emissions in the USA." His speech and his strategies are aimed at architects and the building trades, since that's the game he plays, although in more recent talks (like last night), he's talked a bit about the role that planners can play in reducing the building industry's contribution to climate change.

    The speech got me thinking about what a 2030 Challenge for Planners would look like. The marvelous simplicity of the 2030 Challenge is that it sets some very easy to remember performance standards: today, all new buildings should use 50% less energy than their peers, with increasing targets so that new buildings are carbon neutral by 2030. (This will make a big impact since 3/4 of buildings extant in 2035 will have been built or remodeled since 2005. Buildings have a shorter lifespan than we think.)

    However, planning's literally less concrete than architecture; it's harder to quantify the ways in which planning can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Planners can take steps to reduce energy-intensive solo driving: Cambridge, Mass. has a policy that new developments not generate any new auto trips, and do whatever TDM is necessary to achieve that; and we know of countless ways to make walking, cycling, and transit useful. Planners can also work with new developments to include highly efficient community-scale energy generation, like "district heat & power" systems powered by geothermal, solar, wind, or biomass. To the extent that planners influence the energy grid (siting new transmission lines and power plants, large or small, clean or dirty), that's another chance.

    But what would you include in a 2030 Challenge? As a former colleague of mine would say whenever I turned in a memo, "keep it simple stupid" -- so stupid that even the dimmest bulb on the planning commission will understand it. These are the people who will need convincing.

  2. #2
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Mar 1996
    Upstate New York
    Blog entries
    Moderator note:
    This was a Post of the Day, and I think this thread needs more love, so let's bump it up.

  3. #3
    Apr 2007
    St. Paul, MN
    Before starting a list of standards and goals, I'm sure the 2030 Challenge people first sat down and asked what architecture decisions affect the environment, and how they affect it.

    I bet this would be an even more important step in creating a 2030 Planning Challenge.

    So all you professionals; how about throwing together in this thread a master list of planning/zoning/whatever choices that affect the environment? (and describe how the environment is affected)

    Throw down!

  4. #4
    This is an interesting thread that seems to have died.

    Some factors that could be included in a 2030 Planning Challenge:

    -Impervious surface coverage
    -Trips per unit/sq. ft.
    -Agricultural zoning and Ag. econ development for local foods production and distribution
    -Road widths
    -Landscaping (rain gardens, green roofs, street trees, etc)
    -Mixed use districts

    Yes, planning is less concrete than architecture, but the overall impact planning has on the environment is much greater. There's tremendous opportunity in planning to encourage environmental sustainability. In 10 years, planning regs that don't include sustainability as their overarching theme will seem painfully anachronistic.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plus
    Jun 2003
    Related article from USATODAY:
    Technology to help cities manage booming USA

    The USA is growing more rapidly than any other developed nation and is projected to gain another 100 million people by 2040.

    The challenge is daunting: At today's consumption rates, the nation will need another 280,000 miles of highway, and 78 million more cars and trucks will jam roads by 2040, according to the Federal Highway Administration and the Center for Environment and Population, a non-profit research and policy group in New Canaan, Conn.

    Based on current energy use, the country will need to build more than 500 medium-sized power plants to generate the extra electricity the USA will use by 2030, according to the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Department of Energy.
    The article offers just few examples of "less visible innovations" on
    parks and utilities; and

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
    Dec 2001
    West Valley, AZ
    Energy will the big driver in all planning and development efforts in the future.

    Transitioning from a fossil fuel based energy system to something different will be an herculean task.

    There will be basic questions regarding efficency. How will governments deliver the best possible product by the most efficent means? How will government ensure responsible use of the regions resources (land, food, water, air).

  7. #7
    Aug 2006
    Perth, Australia
    I agree with Boiker about the task of switching to non-fossil fuels. It will be no small feat.

    We need to start small - getting people to change their individual houses when they build. In Western Australia, we grant people a 50% density bonus when they are building aged or dependent person's dwellings, or single-bedroom dwellings.

    I guarantee that if you started offering a 50% density bonus when people designed houses that met very stringent eco-guidelines, you'd start seeing some massive changes in the way housing was developed.

    I can only speak for Western Australia, but we've been in the most incredible housing boom for the past 5 years. People will do anything for a density bonus, even if it means saving the environment...


  8. #8
    Jul 2003
    SW-Coastal WA

    2 cents

    Work on housing standards so that people stop being a prisoner of governmental requirements and encouragements to consume as much space per person as they can afford (assuming they can afford a place at all -- the correllary of this trend is the rise in homelessness).

    Some principles I would keep in mind generally:
    Better education is a good thing. "Better" can mean improving K-12. It can mean supporting advanced degrees. It can mean technical training for jobs. It can mean supporting homeschooling (by, say, deregulating it, among other things). Also, "neighborhood schools" are generally superior to schools with high percentages of bussed students. They have a higher level of parental involvement and I imagine there are many other factors which make them superior to other schools. I have seen this first hand -- and it was in one of the poorer neighborhods in that town but was, hands-down, the best elementary school in town. It won some presidential award 3 years in a row. It seems to me that the creation of "neighborhood schools" is partly a land-use planning issue. (I'm not a planner. Just a wannabe. Correct me if I'm wrong.)

    Women's rights. There are 4 factors that naturally reduce birth rates (without having to resort to the draconian measures China has taken). All of them revolve around the rights and empowerment of women. Let's see if I can remember what they are: 1) Control over their own reproductive rights. (Cultures where men control the reproductive rights of women have the highest birth rates.) 2) Education of women. 3) Income of women. 4).....er, someone want to help me out here? But you get the idea anyway. If you want to bring down birthrates in order to reduce consumption and all that, then support women's rights -- in a practical way, not in a "I feel your pain" kind of way. (And, yes, I believe an awareness of this would impact how regulations are written. There are so many unstated assumptions which bias policies and many of those are rooted in assumptions about gender roles.)

    Promote vernacular housing. Historically, regional housing styles developed out of using local materials and designs which were appropriate for the local climate. Those houses were probably actually more comfortable than the artifically heated and cooled cardboard boxes which pass for "housing" in most parts of America today.

    And I have written a good deal about "Peak Oil" in the forums, so I won't rehash that here. The other thing I would say about energy is that I would encourage distributed energy production as an antidote to some of the evils of central energy production. Distributed production often involves wind and solar on a small scale.

    Funny, just yesterday I was watching videos on YouTube about some things that seem related to the ideas on the link given in the first post. I can probably post links to some of that if anyone is interested. Apparently, many years ago, Buckminster Fuller suggested linking all energy grids globally ....with lots of ideals attached as to why that should be done. Fascinating stuff.
    Last edited by Michele Zone; 24 Sep 2007 at 12:58 PM.

  9. #9
    Dec 2007
    Sebastopol, CA

    policies re auto trips

    How does one legislate something like this?

  10. #10
    Nov 2005
    In the Peach State
    LEED standards to be implemented city/county wide

    Encourage eco-industrial parks rather than standard industrial developments

    Require cisterns and other forms of water saving (reusing) technologies to reduce consumption and encourage conservation


    Manage growth in a way to place people closest to existing infrastructure (road and water) and encourage mixed-use developments.

    Invest in alternative energies the same way the government invested in space exploration to make this a matter of national pride and open up new market segments for economic expansion.

    This would be a good start!

  11. #11
    Jul 2007
    Tullinge Sweden

    On the impact of improving women's rights....PLUS

    I am not at all negative to what you wrote, in principle, but it isn't quite as straightforward as you suggest. There must be other aspects that haven't been studied well enough.
    If you look at Europe today, the countries that have the highest birth rate are in fact those that have the highest degree of female participation in the work force and the (perceived) greatest level of gender equality, certainly women's reproductive rights. Sweden is right up there. Some demographers will say that the link is that women feel much more economically secure now than ever before, and with the social support systems in place can provide a good and healthy upbriging for their children (without necessarily depending on men). So they are not so hesitant to have children (even if later in life).
    Meanwhile, Italy, with the most opposite set of conditions has the lowest birthrate, as do other similar countries.
    This is a surprise to many. But (for now) it's a statistical fact. Personally, I think the "for now" is important, because it is only ten years ago when Sweden had a very low birthrate. There seems to be a cycle over several years.
    Any demographers out there?

    The other point to make is that stopping population growth NOW, however positive, will not stop the basic problem.. because the fundamental issue is that we all want MORE, and "development" or "growth" is most commonly defined as "MORE." Just listen daily to the news that focuses so incessantly on share prices, GDP/GNP numbers etc. We define success in more, more more, or alternatively bigger, bigger bigger (as in house sizes, SUVs, plot sizes, etc etc). So even if we are fewer totally, our combined consumption will continue to increase.

    We need to change our lifestyles and economic system in much more fundamental ways. And I believe planners (who should be thinking holistically) do have a MAJOR role to play.

  12. #12
    Oct 2004
    New Orleans, LA
    Hey Michele, can we get some deconstruction of rigid gender roles for men in there too? I know at least one friend who would appreciate not getting suspicious stares when he goes out in public with his children while his wife is at work. There's plenty of men who would be happy to stay home and take care of their children, reducing the load on the childcare system, if it were made socially and legally acceptable for them to do so. Instead, they are made to feel guilty if they don't have a higher income than their wife, and leave to care for children is labelled in female-exclusive ways.

    We need to put some thought into how the transportation system will work in case of inevitable fuel shortages and rationing. Make sure everything is bicycle-friendly and transit-accessible, even if there's no transit route there right now.

  13. #13
    Jul 2003
    SW-Coastal WA
    JusticeZero: Of course we should deconstruct rigid gender roles. But most people don't see the price men are paying for this situation. So there is usually no point in me saying anything like that.

    Monamogolo: I am leery of plans to stop population growth. But I feel ill equipped at the moment to say why.

    And I don't want MORE, MORE, MORE. I am currently wondering if my two sons and I could live in a Tumbleweed House. I have very little furniture. I also have lots more time for those things I want to be doing than the average single mom. I don't spend the kind of time on housework most women spend, and not just because my oldest son does so much of the housework. We simply have eliminated a lot of chores. After my kids got more involved in doing the housework, they began to better understand why I like throwing things out. Many Americans are slaves to their possessions.

    In America, there is a movement called "voluntary simplicity". So, some folks do see the benefits of paring down and simplifying life. It seems to me that Americans tend to have thinner relationships than my foreign friends. The time we spend on material things is time taken away from the people in our lives and taken away from other activities of value. It's hard to convey that to many people.

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