Green Urban Planning and Renewal: My Ideal City

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Source: via Martina on Pinterest

I’ve been writing a lot about urban renewal, sprawl and revitalization, and through all that research, I’ve gotten a good education about modern city life. I live in a rural area, but have spent a fair amount of time in and near large cities (New York, Boston, Tucson). I think both rural and urban locales have much to offer, and living in one or the other is a personal choice.

If I moved back to a city or had the chance to help design one, there are a few features I’d like to see. This is ‘ideal’ and surely ‘idealistic’, but it’s fun to dream, right?

Cities made for people

Cities would be centered around people and their needs. Urban populations are on the rise, so if the bulk of the world is going to live in the city, why not make it comfortable and pleasing?

First and foremost, housing would be affordable. After affordability, it needs to be energy efficient. The passivhaus model is what every designer, builder, homeowner and government would strive for. A passivhaus with renewable energy, such as solar, wind or geothermal, can become net zero, creating all the energy it uses. These same principles can be applied to public buildings, schools, businesses and hospitals.

Putting the “conserve” back in “conservative neighborhoods”

Neighborhoods need to be true, old-fashioned neighborhoods. They would be safe and offer good schools for all cultural, social and economic classes. There would be green spaces like parks, nature preserves and community gardens to increase biodiversity. Community centers, libraries and varied entertainment venues would improve the quality of life for residents.

Jobs would be high paying, plentiful and close to home. Workers would be walking or biking to work. While they earn a decent living, they’d save money by not having a car and all its expenses. Jobs in the green sector (renewable energy, green building, urban farming, teaching sustainability, etc) would outnumber traditional jobs.

Public transit, electric vehicles, noise reduction, and urban farms

Buses, taxis and commercial fleets would be electric to cut down on emissions and noise. Imagine a city with little noise pollution! Sensibly located charging stations powered with renewable energy coupled with tax incentives would encourage residents to buy electric vehicles. Road would be reconstructed to allow for more walking and biking and less vehicular use.

Rooftop farms would cover large buildings and provide local, organic and fresh food to restaurants and markets. Farmers markets would be a common sight and handy to all residents. Cultural foods would be available. Residents would also be able to have food gardens and livestock in their yards.
Source: via Martina on Pinterest

Source: via BuildingGreen, on Pinterest


Green grid, green waste management, recycled economy

Solar panels for electricity and hot water would top every roof to reduce power loss through transmission. Each building would generate its own power. Government and utility incentives would cut costs for property owners.

Recycling and composting would be mandatory for all homes, businesses and municipal buildings. In turn, the city would purchase as much recycled material as possible to create demand.

The city as a part of nature, not paved over it

The city would be built or renovated to coincide with native ecosystems. Wind, sun and weather patterns would be taken into consideration to improve the comfort of residents and durability of structures and infrastructure. Natural swales for rainwater would be enhanced to eliminate flooding, run-off and erosion. Forests would be maintained and/or expanded to increase biodiversity. Wildlife would be protected.

Ideal cities – what are yours?

That sounds like a pretty cool city to me! It encompasses the best of both urban and rural worlds, bringing nature to the so-called concrete jungle without forgoing conveniences. What do you think? What would you like to see in an ideally sustainable city?

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.