What We’re Reading – August 2011

by | August 19, 2011 0 Urban Design + Planning

In the midst of the daily madness here at SERA, a number of interesting reads have been passed around the Urban Design + Planning Studio. Here are a few we thought you might like to dig into as well.

+ Denmark’s Road Map for Fossil Fuel Independence | Solutions Journal
Responding to massively complex issues is at the core of our focus in urban planning, and any large scale strategies aimed at carbon neutrality certainly capture our attention.  Last year, Denmark produced a fascinating plan to position the entire country to be “fossil fuel independent” by 2050 without resorting to nuclear energy.  Solutions Journal recently did a helpful consolidation of the report, which frames the key pillars of Denmark’s approach.

+ Seattle Shows Cities the Way to Carbon Neutrality | GOOD Magazine
In the same vein, Seattle’s Office of Sustainability & Environment recently commissioned a study of how the city can reach carbon neutral status by 2050.  It’s refreshing to see the nature of these strategies becoming less reliant on carbon offsets and more focused on innovations like district energy, district heating/cooling, and built environment efficiency – all of which deeply resonate with us.

+ Per Square Mile | Tim De Chant
Optimal urban density is a common topic of discussion in our studio, which makes Tim De Chant’s blog, Per Square Mile, an enjoyable find for us.  Tim’s research-based approach to understanding issues of density and its impacts is compelling [see this post on density as it relates to vehicle miles traveled for a solid example], and we look forward to reading along going forward.

The High Toll of Commuting to Work | Washington Times
Playing off of the density & distance to work relationship, we found Mario Salazar’s poignant column reflecting on his career of car-commuting to be a great window into the real-life implications of planning decisions.

“By making the choice to commute long distance to work, I estimate that I used up 404 days of my life commuting.  While I didn’t drive all these days but carpooled, most, if not all, of that time was wasted.”

+ Alex Steffen: We Can’t Avert Climate Change Without Dense Cities | StreetsBlog
Combining the density conversation with the carbon-neutral conversation, Alex Steffen’s recent TED talk offers another concise case for an integrated approach to sustainable urbanism.

+ Seeing Cities As the Environmental Solution, Not the Problem | Kaid Benfield of NRDC
Following up on Michelle Marx’s recent thoughts on Glaeser’s Triumph of the City,, Kaid Benfield’s recent series of posts introducing the National Resource Defense Council’s agenda for sustainable communities seemed particularly relevant.

“This, I believe, leads to some imperatives: where cities have been disinvested, we must rebuild them; where populations have been neglected, we must provide them with opportunity; where suburbs have been allowed to sprawl nonsensically, we must retrofit them and make them better. These are not just economic and social matters: these are environmental issues, every bit as deserving of the environmental community’s attention as the preservation of nature.”

Let us know what’s captured your attention lately, and, as always, you can keep up with our musings in realtime via our Twitter handle @SERAarchitects

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