There is something for everyone in “Sustainable Urbanism – Urban Design With Nature,” the new book by Doug Farr that tackles exactly what the title implies. Backed by an impressive range of research, tables, charts, it is a comprehensive look at how to make our development pattern more sustainable.
Farr is the founder of Farr Associates, a Chicago-based planning and architecture firm whose work is notable for its dedication to sustainability. The book is rooted in his firm’s decision to renovate their offices pilot project for the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadrship in Energy and Enviornmental Design (LEED) standards for commercial space. He was struck that the LEED rating system gave very little credit for location, despite the fact that his office was literally steps from the “el” and commuter rail. Certainly more credit should be given to an employer deciding to locate in a place where most, if not all employees could arrive by train or bus.
Farr’s effort to lead the committee to create the LEED for Neighborhood Development program is the outcome of that process. LEED-ND is currently being piloted and rewards development for green buildings but also green location. His book in many ways reflects the vast array of knowledge and research that went in to the LEED-ND process so far.
In Sustainable Urbanism, Farr manages to throw in everything but the kitchen sink, including a discussion of a sustainable way to process wastewater that drains out of that kitchen sink. That is the point – there is something for everyone here. Many of you will be familiar with the urban transect and the diagram for a complete neighborhood. But Farr manages to include a discussion about buying local, food production and neighborhood-scale wastewater treatment.
True to the title of Part Three, Emerging Thresholds of Sustainable Urbanism, practitioners from across the industry can use this book not only as a jumping off point for making their practice sustainable, but also identifying the relationship to other sectors of development. Part Four provides case study examples of developments, most of which are built, that prove how various aspects of sustainable urbanism indeed work. Farr is also not afraid to point out challenges, many of them in case studies, and freely admits that this is hopefully the first of many drafts of this comprehensive look at sustainable development. It may be up to the rest of us to write future editions!
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