Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Our Future?

Hmmm…don’t know about the stream part…or “replicable to the masses” perspective, but worth a look, I guess…

Eco-Cities Take Root
Source: Lara Abrams Melman
The home -- and the neighborhood -- of the future is on its way.

Coming soon to a market near you is a zero-carbon property, surrounded by a meandering stream that treats your wastewater and recycles it to you. The heat from the sun generates enough electricity to power the entire house. The green roof and smart walls of the house provide natural, radiant heating and cooling. You and your neighbors will bike or walk to work; you'll also have the option to car-share any of the electric vehicles at their charging stations.

This home of the future is coming, but you'll find it in China before it springs up in the U.S.

Ask Harrison Fraker, Dean of U.C. Berkeley's College of Environmental Design, and he'll tell you that China is the place you can make the fastest and most aggressive change. In a country where an estimated 60 percent of sewage is discharged untreated, a population that's soaring, and the rate of environmental destruction at an all time high, global warming pollution the cause for almost half a million deaths, with environmental damage costing China to the tune of $200 billion a year, they have reason to stop and make some serious changes.

Fraker's involvement began when Berkeley was invited to work with the planning and design institute of Tianjin to work on transit concepts for a light rail system. The city leaders wanted advice and prototypes for how neighborhoods could best take advantage of green transit options such as pedestrian bike shortcuts in developing green transit oriented neighborhoods.

This request alone marked a significant detour from the current model used for urban residential development in China: the SuperBlock, a model that relies on a centralized infrastructure of power plants and electric power lines, sewage treatment plants and sewers, and a sanitary water supply provided by the city or provincial utilities. These are typically gated communities with few entry points, and very little attention is placed on creating resource-efficient homes in the SuperBlock model. With 11 million SuperBlock units under construction per year, and it becomes clear how significant a toll these communities are taking on China's environment.