Friday, March 26, 2010

How to Make Cities Green?

- by Richard Register

I occasionally get questions in my mail for various purposes. One fellow, Phillip McMaster who I met in China, is spreading through his e-mail publications ideas about sustainable development. He had the question, below.

Richard and his granddaughter, Stella Register

The second short response below was for the host at the conference I just spoke at in Changwon, Korea.

Phillip's question was simply: how to make cities green?

Answer: Get rid of cars. Absolutely seriously!

It can't be done over night but can be with resolute work steadily heading in that direction. It can be done and will solve climate, employment, food security, death on highways, oil addiction and many other problems all in one strategy. How? Support expanding city car-free areas, convert car-streets to streets for people, replace asphalt with transit and between-city rails, parking lots with parks and food gardens, parking buildings with car-free housing and commercial buildings. Remove suburban single-family sprawl development as it ages creating restored open space for nature and agriculture - "Roll back sprawl!" Shift from scattered development of mainly single separated uses to "balanced development" of higher density in centers of mixed-use vitality. Replace design for hurry-up-and-drive lifestyle for slow-down-and-relate-to-people-or-nature lifestyle.

Kelly Kim organizer of the Ghangwon Global Knowledge Conference asked me to be ready for a brief, not to exceed five minute comment on the first evening of the conference. He wanted a short abstract of that as well as a powerpoint in advance of my talk, neither of which I've ever been asked to provide before. Thorough conference planning! The objective for the very short comment would be to advise in advance of studying the city at the conference the local press and mayor on business and policy changes I'd suggest for the city. He said just a couple short sentence would do. This was my abstract for the short comment:

Beware of the craze sweeping the world, especially in China and India, for automobile ownership and production - and building for them.

Instead look to bicycle, transit and ecocity design including beautiful public open spaces like parks and plazas, restoration of nature and agriculture immediately next to city buildings and ecocity architectural features like bridges between buildings for great pedestrian access, rooftop and trace gardens and conspicuous passive energy design like tall multi-story attached solar greenhouses.

Richard Register is Founder and President of Ecocity Builders and the International Ecocity Conference Series. He can be reached at