RECENT THOUGHTS ON COMPACT DEVELOPMENT FOR SUSTAINABILITY
by Karen Zhang, VerticalCity.org
Are the words “compact”, “walkable” and “transit-oriented” becoming the key principles for future urban/community development? The answer recently seems to be positive, for both civil life and military bases.
In New York and Chicago, a city bike-sharing program has lately launched on May 28th and June 28th respectively. Supported by the Department of Transportation in both cities, the program is to provide an alternative quality and environmental friendly transportation option to their residents, businesses and guests. Similar programs can also be found in Washington D.C., Boston, L.A., Oklahoma City, etc. Such a car-free life style is obviously becoming popular in US.
Meanwhile, a report showed that the Pentagon is now re-designing the vast amounts of land it controls at its bases to more compact, sustainable and livable communities. The aim is to make the most effective use of limited resources, reduce fossil fuel use and increase the use of alternative fuels, by incorporating principles of compact, transit-oriented, mixed-use infill development into their master plans and area development plans.
It’s exciting to see the awareness of sustainability has been taken in many aspects of our life. Efforts are made nationally on lowering the carbon dioxide emission from vehicles, supporting alternative transportation and encouraging bicycling. Such would bring a great improvement to our living environment.
Data has shown that transportation sector is the second largest contributor of US greenhouse gas emissions after the Electricity sector. According to the U.S. Environmental protection Agency (EPA), transportation accounted for 28% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2011.
Similarly, the compact communities typically consume far less energy for transportation than those located in suburban developments. The per capita energy use of dense cities like New York is significantly lower than elsewhere in the country.
Therefore, lessons have been learned. Compact development incorporating pedestrian-friendly and transit-oriented features is indeed one of the planning strategies for sustainability. However, there are still questions remain. How compact should the ‘Compact development’ be to achieve the best balance between energy efficiency and life quality? How would it affect urban life style and what would people’s reaction be?
This article was archived on December 18, 2015.