Cities

little green houses for you and me

The case for a national building energy code

Recently, there has been a good deal of media attention given to building energy codes, generally and specifically, the codes provision of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), both good and bad. A couple of these articles piqued my interest by asking if building energy codes should be a matter of federal importance or if it should be left to states and localities. I am fascinated by this issue, as before coming to NRDC I worked in the commercial building industry where beating code was how you were evaluated as an engineer. The sum of those energy decisions …

Smarter cities

The 15 most sustainable U.S. cities

Seattle is the most sustainable big city in the nation, according to a list compiled by Smarter Cities, an NRDC project that looks at the progress American cities are making toward going green. Not surprisingly, San Francisco and Portland are the runners-up. Using data from the EPA and the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as some voluntary survey responses from city governments, the project identified the top 15 large, medium, and small cities according to 10 different environmental criteria, from air quality to recycling to transportation. Here’s a look the top 15 large cities (population of 250,000 or more): It’s …

Ambition and trouble collide

Vancouver’s Olympic village aims for green, runs into problems

Vancouver’s vision for its Olympic village looks dazzling from afar, like the city itself. Up close the details get hairier.Photo: ecstaticistThe city of Vancouver, British Columbia, has a lot to brag about. It’s got an enviable location, wedged between the Strait of Georgia and the snow-capped Coast Mountains. It’s a perennial winner of “most livable cities” rankings, thanks in part to its parks, arts, and the Canadian social safety net. Its youthful mayor, Gregor Robertson, talks up the city as the greenest in North America and has laid out a plan to make it the most sustainable city in the …

Hippies Cast a Long Shadow

Treasure hunting during building demo

Hippies on the Boston CommonPhoto: Nick DeWolfeOne of the joys of demolition (in addition to anger management) is the hunt for treasure. When pulling apart old walls and closets you just can’t help dreaming about unearthing a cache of old coins or silverware (I’ve found both). Mostly pickings have been slim at the JP Green House — a few fragments of broken china, some old bottles, and a rusty pair of pliers — but under floorboards in the basement we uncovered a trove of newspapers from 1968, the Summer of Love. My favorite is the May 26, 1968, Boston Globe …

Green Acres

How smart is your city?

Last week, Time magazine asked, “Why Are Southerners So Fat?“ There’s no simple answer, of course. Poverty, culture and climate all play a role in the South’s high obesity rates. But one factor that’s increasingly blamed by everyone from medical journals to the CDC is how Southern cities are built. “The South doesn’t have many bus stops,” Time writes. “Public transportation is paltry, and for most people, the best way to get around is by car. … States like Mississippi and Tennessee also have a surprising lack of sidewalks, discouraging even the most eager pedestrians. Many roads are narrower than …

Trip the light rail fantastic

Seattle light rail finally opens doors to passengers

Photo: wings777 via FlickrIt’s been a long time coming, but starting this Saturday, it’ll be “all aboard!” when Seattle’s light rail trains pull into the station. The Sound Transit trains will travel 14 miles from Westlake Center, in the center of downtown, south to Tukwila, two miles short of the Sea-Tac airport. By the end of the year, the trains will reach the airport. Thanks to generous Seattle voters, this $2.3 billion “starter line” will eventually reach north to the University of Washington campus (2016) and out to other suburbs like Federal Way, Overlake, and Lynnwood on a 53-mile track …

Buy It

The Informal Economy: Michael Jackson Edition

  This article is part of a collaboration with Planetizen, the web’s leading resource for the urban planning, design, and development community. I couldn’t resist. I knew it was going to be a madhouse in downtown L.A. for Michael Jackson’s memorial service, but I had to go see what it was like — not because I’m a super fan, but purely for the urban novelty of a huge swath of downtown closed off for thousands of fans and mourners. But what really struck me as I was wandering around amongst the masses was the huge percentage of them that were …

The Hillside Strangler

You and me and a billion tiny spores

The older man with the Coke-bottle lenses at the Boston GreenFest had a simple table — just a poster with a few pictures taped to it, and a sprig of something green. He looked grim and earnest, and although all the other booths were more alluring, full of enticing pamphlets about new green nonprofits, I went over to talk to him. “Hey, I know that plant!” I said, picking up the sprig. Lush looks can be deceiving.It’s a dark green vine, with pods that look like small reddish peppers. A variety of Swallow-wort (Vincetoxicum), brought in as an ornamental plant …

Razing Arizona

GOP: Solar powered jobs can go to hell (or at least limbo)

The clock was ticking … till it stopped.Courtesy Osha DavidsonJust ten days ago, Arizona state Senator Barbara Leff (R-Paradise Valley) stood before a House committee, making the case for a bill she had written. “The Quality Jobs Through Renewable Energy Bill,” was needed, she said, to make Arizona the leader in solar [power].” Not just in the nation, but potentially throughout the world. Leff reminded Representatives that we are in a period of transition. Fossil fuels are the past (why do you think they’re called fossil fuels?). Solar is the future. Senate Bill 1403 can help the state move forward, …

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