Five Action Steps for Sustainable Cities

2017: Five Action Steps for Supercharging Sustainable Cities

With the results of the 2016 presidential election now in the books and the prospect of a new administration and Republican Congress in Washington with little expressed interest in green building, energy efficiency or sustainability, where should we turn our attention in the next four years?

Last month, I gave a presentation to a graduate seminar on sustainability hosted by Professor Alison Kwok at the Department of Architecture at the University of Oregon, in which I presented five action steps we all can take right now to promote sustainable cities. Here they are. You can also find the complete presentation here

       Start with Bright Green Buildings

      Keep Score with Simple Metrics – I prefer carbon-focused Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for sustainability, as outlined in my recent book Reinventing Green Building.

      Use the 2030 Challenge as the best measure for assessing sustainability in building operations.

       Invest in Green Infrastructure – Put Nature To Work

      Rethink water management in cities to let natural systems do more of the work.

      Restoring historic urban waterways, even on a small scale, is one way to put nature to work back in cities.

       Keep Score with Cloud-based Solutions

      Keeping score is essential to any system of continuous improvement. Communicating the score to relevant stakeholders is also essential.

      We should automate sustainability reporting with cloud-based platforms such as those from Switch Automation, Lucid and others.

      The focus needs to be on Absolute Performance instead of relative improvement – it’s time to focus on zero net carbon solutions, both in new and existing buildings.

       Throw Away the 20th Century Rule Book

      Most of our urban design plans still focus on the automobile and moving traffic. What we need instead is to focus on mobility for all and put the autos back into a secondary role.

      Putting solar power on rooftops is difficult in many cities, especially if you want to have them project out over the sidewalk area, to maximize energy production.

      Climate Action Plans in cities should focus on resiliency, as it’s obvious that we’re not going to avoid many of the predicted consequences of global warming during the next 35 to 50 years.

       Communicate Successes (and Failures)!

      It’s important to share Global Best Practices since they spread so fast now via social media. We’re all in this together, so what gets shared will get implemented immediately in hundreds of similar locations.

What do you think are the best action steps, things we can do right now, for implementing a vision of sustainable cities?