Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pattern Cities Spotlight: Chicago, the Sustainable City

Written by: Aurash Khawarzad

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Chicago has come full-circle from being a leader in mass production and mass consumption, to a leader in sustainability and urban ecology. As we say on the Pattern Cities website:
From defining the City Beautiful movement and birthing the skyscraper, to the rise and fall of its public housing projects, Chicago helped define the 20th century city. Today, the ‘2nd city’ continues to be first class in developing urban parks, architecture, sustainability initiatives, and the privatization of public infrastructure.’
With the same intensity that Chicago demonstrated in being the first to reach the sky, they are now looking at how to improve the land their skyscrapers rest on by using green technology and smart planning. One remarkable sustainability measure the city has recently undertaken is the sustainable management of stormwater. The city is now looking at the surface of the city, meaning roofs and streets, as mechanism that operates within the natural environment, not dominating it.
City hall is famous for its green roof, but now looking at the ground as closely as roofs, the city (Department of Transportation) has released The Green Alley Handbook, a first of its kind document sanctioned policy document that articulately and clearly states the method and purpose of transforming rank city alleys into environmental resources.
On top of their green alleys program, the city is adding to its bikeshare system, and continues to promote green development and green jobs through its progressive green building code and Center for Green Technology.
As the city prepares for its chances of being a hot and wet city, as climate scientistspredict, they are beginning to make serious changes in their DNA to ensure they can sustain the pending damage. Let’s hope other cities mimic this approach, just like they mimicked the city’s skyscrapers.