Encourage and rework development in suburban and rural areas.

Advocates

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American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

ARRA-funded sidewalk installation Middletown, Rhode Island. source: UpstateNYer

With $27.5 billion going to highway and bridge construction projects, the "most sweeping investment in our infrastructure since President Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s" (President Barack Obama on High Speed Rail) is building on Eisenhower's extensive suburban and rural highway network.  (see also NETWORK: Distributed Infrastructures)

Amory Lovins

"Centralized energy sources encourage industrial clustering and urbanization. While soft technologies give everyone the costs and benefits of the energy system he chooses, centralized systems allocate benefits to surburbanites and social costs to politically weaker rural agrarians.” The Road Not Taken

In his 1976 Foreign Poilcy article on 'hard' and 'soft' energy paths (See UNPLUG: Off-the-Grid Enclaves), Lovins lauds flexible and resilient energy sources such as wind and solar that can reflect a 'diverse' and 'pluralistic' suburban fabric.   But “This is not to say that all energy systems need be at domestic scale. For example, the medium scale of urban neighborhoods and rural villages offers fine prospects for solar collectors—especially for adding collectors to existing buildings of which some (perhaps with large flat roofs) can take excess collector area while others cannot take any. They could be joined via communal heat storage systems, saving on labor cost and on heat losses. The costly craftwork of remodeling existing systems—"backfitting" idiosyncratic houses with individual collectors—could thereby be greatly reduced.” The Road Not Taken

 

 

 

 

Energy Hog

The Energy Hog program advocates energy-efficiency improvements made to existing private homes.  The program does not address other planning or development strategies, instead opting to offer energy guidance and reinforcing support to the models of settlement common in America today.  Many of the efficiency suggestions are specifically targeted to the owners of single-family detached homes located on private lots.  For instance, such suggestions include landscaping the area surrounding one’s home to reduce cooling costs by planting trees.

Commentary

Vishaan Chakrabarti

“You can build all the zero-carbon houses you want, but if everyone has to drive everywhere, I think that just kills the program. That's just people feeling good about themselves, people living in green, 4,000-square-foot, single-family homes.” Underdome Interview

Chakrabarti describes suburbs developments as inherently wasteful because they are dependence on the automobile, and economically vulnerable.   McMansion developments, he warns, “could... look like the equivalent of blighted urban neighborhoods that we saw in the ‘70s.” Underdome Interview

“When you're in government, especially municipal government, you understand that it's all about tax base. Everything is about tax base. When a tax base deteriorates, there's just nothing you can do. There's no amount of affordable housing you can build. There's no amount of jobs programs you can enact. 

The problem that you have in exurban locations is that the tax base is incredibly homogenous. If you look at exurban Phoenix or exurban Las Vegas, what was the economy? The economy was the development. People are moving there, so you had home builders. And people moved in, so you needed a Home Depot because people were going do their own DIY projects. And then you need a Chili’s next to the Home Depot, and someone has to hire a waitress and a bus boy. That is the economy. And so when the real estate market collapsed in those places, it took the entire economy with it. Which is why you got a foreclosure rate in exurban Phoenix or exurban Las Vegas that's way beyond the foreclosure rate of most of the country. … 
 
I think New Yorkers who don't travel the rest of the country have no idea how desperate a situation it is in the rest of the country. These places are decimated. There's nothing. So that, to me, is again a byproduct of lifestyle. It's a byproduct of the lack of density.” Underdome Interview
 

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