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Kaid Benfield's Posts

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Is this the world’s greenest neighborhood?

Dockside Green.Photo: jayscratchCross-posted from Natural Resources Defense Council/The Atlantic. I recently took a vacation to Victoria, B.C., a wonderful city that -- among other good things -- is home to Dockside Green, which some people are calling the greenest development in the world. At least with respect to new, highly urban developments-in-progress, they may have a case to make: For starters, when NRDC, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Congress for the New Urbanism first announced the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program to honor smart growth, the developers of Dockside Green made a point of the neighborhood being the program's very first …

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Let's make urban revitalization greener, greater, and more inclusive

Green, affordable homes in Savannah, Ga.Photo: Seven Waves MarketingCross-posted from Natural Resources Defense Council. When revitalization of our distressed neighborhoods is done well, it is almost unrivaled in its ability to advance simultaneously each aspect of the "triple bottom line" of sustainability: improving the environment, the economy, and social equity.  Revitalization is good for the environment for the reasons I discussed in a recent post; it strengthens cities and allows them to absorb population and economic growth in a nonsprawling fashion that is inherently more efficient, less consumptive, and less polluting than when development spreads out. It is good economically …

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Seeing cities as the environmental solution, not the problem

New York City.Photo: Werner KunzCross-posted from Natural Resources Defense Council. For a long time, America's environmental community celebrated wilderness and the rural landscape while disdaining cities and towns. Thoreau's Walden Pond and John Muir's Yosemite Valley were seen as the ideal, while cities were seen as sources of dirt and pollution, something to get away from. If environmentalists were involved with cities at all, it was likely to be in efforts to oppose development, with the effect of making our built environment more spread out, and less urban. We've come a long way since then, if still not far enough. We …

Read more: Cities, Urbanism

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New survey shows Americans think they are great drivers. But …

Photo: woodleywonderworksCross-posted from Natural Resources Defense Council. The majority of Americans consider themselves to be good drivers, according to a new survey from Allstate. But the rest of the survey reveals a different story. American drivers believe their own driving knowledge, ability, and safe driving habits are substantially superior to those of, well, just about all other American drivers. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of American drivers rate themselves as "excellent" or "very good" drivers. American drivers' positive self-rating is more than twice as high as the rating they give to their own close friends (29 percent "excellent" or "very good") and also …

Read more: Cities, Transportation

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Net zero living in a walkable neighborhood

Historic photo of Matt and Kelly Grocoff's house.Photo: Kelly & Matt's Net Zero House Cross-posted from Natural Resources Defense Council. Matt and Kelly Grocoff have renovated their 110-year-old home in Ann Arbor, Mich. to state-of-the-art energy standards. Their energy bills demonstrate the results: They actually generate more energy from on-site renewable sources than they consume. The Grocoffs believe they now have the oldest "net zero" home in America. There's a lot to like about this, but what I like best is that the home is green not only with respect to building energy but also with respect to transportation energy, because it …

Read more: Green Home, Living

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The Atlanta BeltLine: The country’s most ambitious smart growth project

Beginning trail construction on the BeltLine.Photo: Angel Luis PoventudCross-posted from Natural Resources Defense Council. I once called the Atlanta BeltLine "the country's best smart growth project." I still haven't seen one that is better in concept. But now, with a few years of history, how is the implementation coming along? Is the reality matching the vision? The challenge with writing about the BeltLine is that the massive public/private undertaking is so enormous, so multifaceted, so ambitious and potentially transformative, and so complicated that it is difficult to know where to start, how much to say, and what comments are fair. …

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How smart growth in cities saves wilderness [VIDEO]

Photo: Kai HagenCross-posted from Natural Resources Defense Council. It's certainly well-known among my colleagues that I am passionate about cities. I'm proud to think of myself as an urbanist who believes we can no longer accept sprawl as the dominant form of land use in America. Instead, we must direct growth and development in ways that strengthen our existing cities and communities. There are many environmental, economic, and ethical reasons why this is so, but for me personally none is more compelling than the need to reduce development pressure on our remaining natural and rural landscapes. There is a bargain …

Read more: Cities, Sprawl

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Jane Jacobs on neighborhoods, placemaking, and active living [VIDEO]

Jane Jacobs.Photo: Sam Beebe Cross-posted from Natural Resources Defense Council. Amazingly, the video below is the first time I have seen and heard the late Jane Jacobs speak. Everyone in my world knows her work and her wisdom, of course: She was voted No. 1 in Planetizen's 2009 poll of urban thinkers. Her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was immensely influential to the field of urban planning. From that book's Wikipedia entry: Jacobs argued that modernist urban planning rejects the city, because it rejects human beings living in a community characterized by layered complexity and seeming chaos. …

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'Katrina cottages' become permanent housing

Photo: Affordable Housing Institute Cross-posted from Natural Resources Defense Council. One of the more creative ideas to emerge in those hectic (and, for some, tragic) days following Hurricane Katrina was the invention of "Katrina Cottages," sturdier and, to my eyes, much more attractive alternatives to the FEMA trailers typically used to house displaced residents. They are prefabricated and modular, and they can be constructed on site or placed on wheels and transported like conventional mobile homes. They are also designed so that they can be anchored in place to become fixed, permanent housing. There are now many variations, but these …

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Cities safer than ever, and the more diverse the better

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. I wrote in May about a report by Richard Florida that city crime had dropped to its lowest rate in 40 years. Now there's more: Last week, Florida wrote another intriguing analysis of recent crime data for The Atlantic. Looking inside the numbers and at recent research, he shatters a number of popular myths: that crime is higher when economic times are hardest; that big cities and minority populations are incubators of crime; that immigration breeds crime. None of these myths are supported by recent facts, according to Florida. Here's some of his …

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