San Francisco mayor proposes strict green-building standards

San Francisco would have the most stringent green-building standards in the U.S. if the city Board of Supervisors adopts a new measure proposed yesterday by Mayor Gavin Newsom. By 2012, Newsom wants all new residential buildings over 75 feet tall, commercial buildings of more than 5,000 square feet, and renovations on buildings of more than 25,000 square feet to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. City government buildings are already required to meet the council’s internationally recognized LEED standards. Newsom proposed a carbon tax last week, and he’s not done yet; he promises, “We’re going to be making …

A desire named streetcar

Transportation planning with people in mind

Say what you will about streetcars, they have an unmatched appeal. I mean, there must be a reason why it's hard to imagine a smoldering love affair between Marlon Brando and Vivian Leigh with a bus theme. Or, as the inimitable Dan Savage says: Why is this so hard to understand? ... People like trains. People hate buses. To wit, the Seattle P-I recently interviewed folks about the new Seattle streetcar and elicited what I imagine are fairly typical sentiments: Bryan Lenning ... could take the bus downtown ... But for some reason, he'd rather take the streetcar. "But I'd never take the bus." He'd rather walk or drive downtown. Mari Stobbe ... "I'd never take a bus. I've never been on a bus. I've never had any desire to be on a bus," she said. "(But) the streetcar seems like it would have a different feel."

NYC taxicabs will have to boost fuel economy

New York City taxicabs purchased after Oct. 1, 2008, will be required to get at least 25 miles per gallon, and those purchased after fall 2009 will have to get 30 mpg — so, basically, will have to be hybrids, according to a rule adopted by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. The city’s iconic Crown Victoria cabs currently get around a measly 10 mpg.

Greening public housing

The Clinton Global Initiative is arranging to have banks finance green retrofits of NYC public housing. CGI is, for my money, one of the most interesting groups figuring out practical, post-ideological solutions to climate change.

Environmentalists upset over Dublin’s planned U2 Tower

Bono and his fellow U2-ers are stuck in a melee (and they can’t get out of it) over a plan to construct a skyscraper in band members’ native Dublin. The tower, monikered U2 Tower in the name of self-love, would be the highest building in Ireland. Ian Lumley of heritage group An Taisce says the building is not the sweetest thing — it would “be an incongruous blot on the skyline.” Lumley still hasn’t found what he’s looking for: he charges that no environmental impact study was carried out and that “no provision has been made as to the effect …

What will we look like in 2050?

America’s climate and energy future

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. A few weeks ago, one of the presidential candidates' advisors challenged a group of climate leaders to describe America's future. His challenge triggered a flurry of e-mails as we attempted to articulate a vision. We talked about carbon caps and price signals and new investments in R&D. That's fine, the advisor responded, but what it the vision? What is America's perfect future? I'm not sure we ever satisfactorily answered this very good question, but I found myself trying to describe what America might look like 10, 20, and 40 years from now.

Brad Pitt wants you — to help with his NOLA green-building project

Brad Pitt — OMG he’s so dreamy! Sorry, reflex. Where were we? Brad Pitt today unveiled designs submitted by architecture firms for his Make It Right campaign to build 150 affordable, sustainable, storm-safe houses in New Orleans. Architects were asked to design a 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom house for about $150,000. Pitt also unveiled a display of pink fabric “houses” in NOLA, in hopes that the eye-catching public art will inspire donations to expand the Make It Right project beyond its original goal. “To build those 150 homes, we need the help of the American people,” says Pitt. “We need to all …

Housing slump is slowing sprawl in metro Atlanta

The current housing slump in the U.S. may be helping to slow sprawl — at least if the experience of metro Atlanta is a reliable microcosm.

Brit's Eye View: Greening our cities

How do U.K. cities stack up in terms of sustainability?

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. Every year more and more people live in cities. Globally, we became a majority urban world for the first time last year, while here in the U.K., nine out of 10 of us live in towns and cities. Cities are clearly important for sustainability. Although the romantic green notion of us all living on small holdings with a goat, a vineyard, and a vegetable patch is seductive, the future is much more likely to be dominated by megacities such as Mumbai, Shanghai, and Sao Paulo. We will have to learn to make such cities liveable and sustainable. Concentrating people in urban centers does make it easier to provide some social and environmental services. But the big cities also have a huge environmental footprint. London, for example, has an ecological footprint 293 times its geographical area. Cities are also important as centres of dynamism. They are where social, cultural, and economic innovation and change happens. Yet despite the undoubted importance of cities, most of the environment movement in the U.K. is still predominantly rural- and wildlife-oriented. They defend and protect stuff most ordinary people will never see. The greens haven't been very good at doing green cities. Our big cities, on the other hand, haven't done a very good job of being sustainable either. Lots of our leading cities are making green claims. Manchester is determined to become "the Greenest City in Britain by 2010," Leicester calls itself "the environment city," Bristol wants to become a "Green Capital," and London is aiming for nothing less than the status of "most sustainable city in the world." But behind such claims there is very little objective measurement of what it means to be sustainable. We certainly don't have anywhere that really stands out as an example of overall good practice. So, we at Forum for the Future decided to get stuck into the debate on sustainable urbanism. We researched and published a table ranking our 20 biggest cities.