Friday, June 12, 2009

Duany: No mas

DPZ principal and New Urbanism founding father Andres Duany, reflecting on his experiences building the Katrina cottage on the Gulf Coast and modular housing, told the Congress for the New Urbanism gathering in Denver today that he had reluctantly come to a surprising conclusion -- that the design professions should give up on everything else on economical home design and concentrate efforts into designing a better mobile home. Trades contractors and government-imposed permitting and inspection requirements obliterate the savings achieved in low-cost housing construction, he said. The comments came as the New Urbanists wrestled with issues of infrastructure, going green, and financing of projects in these dark economic times. I presented the Lincoln Institute report, Smart Growth Policies, in the session "Selling the Green Urban Advantage," as an example of what can happen when the impact of sustainable development policies are measured (results are not the home run most would hope for), alongside Carol Coletta from CEOs for Cities, Robin Rather from Collective Strengths, and the intrepid Steve Filmanowicz from CNU. Another fine session looked at New Urbanism's focus on transit-oriented development and President Obama's high-speed rail initiative holds much promise with the group.
-- LEED-ND in the works. Standards for the green good-housekeeping seal of approval for entire neighborhoods and not just individual buildings are coming together, and several Denver-area projects, such as Stapleton and Bel-Mar, were put to the test. Interestingly, the Highlands Village neighborhood scored low on some measures because a street was deemed too wide and there was only one floor of street-fronting retail in one section.
-- Dark age ahead. Author James Howard Kunstler was in fine form with his analysis that the US financial system is broken "at every level," making it impossible to return to the oil-based arrangements to which we've grown accustomed. He argues that a much more locally based economy is on the horizon, with small cities depending on proximate farmland.
Blog posts and tweets are abundantly available via the conference Web site,, plus dispatches at The Huffington Post.