Cities

Top green-building system is in desperate need of repair

This piece is excerpted from the essay “LEED Is Broken; Let’s Fix It.” The full essay can be found here. Pan of green gables. Once the narrow province of hippies in beads and Birkenstocks, the green-building world has in the last five years blossomed and taken on a professional sheen. That’s thanks in large part to the U.S. Green Building Council and its flagship program for rating commercial buildings’ environmental performance — LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. “Green building” was once all in the eye of the claimant, but LEED changed that, creating a national standard for …

LEED green-building program confronts critics and growing pains

“I didn’t like the ‘LEED is broken’ part, but I did like the ‘Let’s fix it’ part,” said U.S. Green Building Council President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi, referring to a critique of his organization’s building-certification program that has been much discussed in green-building circles. Green building is growing up. Published this spring by somewhat sympathetic sustainable-business advocates Auden Schendler of the Aspen Skiing Company and Randy Udall of the Community Office for Resource Efficiency in Aspen, Colo., the not-quite-broadside comes as the five-year-old LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program is becoming the default green-building standard in the U.S. …

Fallen Idles

Electrified truck stops let tired drivers turn off their diesel engines Long-haul trucking, however much our economy depends on it, is an environmental nightmare. For one thing, there’s all the gasoline burned. For another, as a recent episode of The Daily Show revealed, there are the sealed bottles of pee truckers throw out their windows on the fly. As much as we’d like to write about that, in fact it’s a third eco-sin — long periods that diesel trucks spend idling, spewing particulate pollution into the air — that’s increasingly being addressed. In the Northeast, a growing network of electrified …

Let My People Slow

Katrina revealed longstanding “automobile apartheid” One of Hurricane Katrina’s many lessons is that those who walk, cycle, or ride public transit instead of owning a car get treated like second-class citizens. Getting stranded during a natural disaster is an extreme example, but it’s of a piece with public-policy decisions across the country that prioritize the safety and convenience of car owners over that of nondrivers. Joel S. Hirschhorn calls for an end to the discrimination.

Brian Hayes’ Infrastructure offers a tour of the “unnatural” side of America

Transmission accomplished. The unprecedented hurricane season that flooded New Orleans and flattened much of the Gulf Coast this summer brought both catastrophe and an historic opportunity: building more-sustainable cities and infrastructure has suddenly become a hot topic. New Orleans doesn’t need only restored wetlands and stronger levees to offer protection from future hurricanes and rising sea levels. Homes and streets, highway overpasses and water pipes and power lines — all must be rebuilt. The city is fast becoming a radical experiment in redesigning infrastructure on a landscape-wide scale. In other words, the timing for Infrastructure couldn’t be better. Brian Hayes, …

In which we ask a mess of smart people what should happen in New Orleans

Unless you’ve been living under a rock — and these days, we can’t say we’d blame you — you’ve probably put at least a smidgen of thought toward the fate of New Orleans. It’s a rare thing to reconstruct an American city from scratch (though we can think of a few more cities we’d put on the list). There are some who advocate letting bygones be bygones, allowing the name and character of The Big Easy to fade into days of yore, but most people support the eventual rebuilding of the city. The question is, how should it be done, …

Exhaust in Translation

Green cars all the rage at Tokyo Motor Show The most buzzworthy attractions this week at the 39th Tokyo Motor Show weren’t the biggest or the most powerful but the most eco-friendly. Hoping to dazzle drivers battered by high gas prices, automakers debuted a dizzying array of low-pollution, high fuel-efficiency vehicles — some electric, some powered by hydrogen fuel cells, some with hybrid gas-electric motors, and a few with combinations thereof. The big story behind the scenes, of course, is the hefty can of whoop-ass opened by Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda on their American counterparts over the last few …

Ford’s green guru discusses cars, climate, and time-warp activism

Last month, Ford Motor Co. CEO Bill Ford laid out a new vision to turn his company into a leader in technological innovation and, just perhaps, an environmental performance champion as well. His announcement, including the promise to produce 250,000 hybrids annually by 2010, comes during a time of trouble for the industry, and we watched it with keen interest. You say more hybrids, I say more hijinks. Photo: Wieck Media. First, our own “full disclosure”: We work for SustainAbility, a think tank and consulting agency headquartered in London, and Ford Motor has been a client since the late 1990s. …

No Word on the Mansions

Governors abandon gas-guzzling SUVs as they ask others to use less fuel As post-hurricane gas prices in the U.S. hover around $3 a gallon, several governors have dumped their state-funded, gas-hogging SUVs for more energy-conscious vehicles. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) will be sidelining his Lincoln Navigator for a Ford Escape hybrid, and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has been Escape-ing on official business since Katrina hit. Maine Gov. John Baldacci (D) has ditched his Chevy Suburban for unmarked sedans. Midwest Govs. Tim Pawlenty (R) of Minnesota and Tom Vilsack (D) of Iowa are switching to SUVs that burn …