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The Carbon Efficient City

The Carbon Efficient City

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The Carbon Efficient City

312 pagine
3 ore
Sep 1, 2012


The Carbon Efficient City shows how regional economies can be aligned with practices that drive carbon efficiency. It details ten strategies for reducing carbon emissions in our cities: standardized measurement, frameworks that support innovation, regulatory alignment, reducing consumption, reuse and restoration, focus on neighborhoods, providing spaces for nature, use of on-site life cycles for water and energy, coordination of regional transportation, and emphasis on solutions that delight people.

Although climate change is recognized as an urgent concern, local and national governments, nonprofits, and private interests often work at cross purposes in attempting to address it. The Carbon Efficient City's focus on concrete, achievable measures that can be implemented in a market economy gives it broad appeal to professionals and engaged citizens across the political spectrum.

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Sep 1, 2012

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The Carbon Efficient City - A-P Hurd



Foreword by Denis Hayes


Seattle & London


16 15 14 13 12     5 4 3 2 1

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

University of Washington Press

PO Box 50096, Seattle, WA 98145, USA


Hurd, A-P.

The carbon efficient city/A-P Hurd and Al Hurd ; foreword by Denis Hayes.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-295-99171-9 (pbk : alk. paper)

1. Sustainable urban development. 2. Carbon dioxide mitigation. 3. Urban ecology (Sociology) 4. City planning—Environmental aspects. I. Hurd, Al. II. Title.

HT241.H87 2012

363.738'746—dc23     2012003862

Printed and bound in the United States of America

Designed by Ashley Saleeba

Composed in Fanwood by Barry Schwartz, courtesy The League of Movable Type

Display type set in Univers by Adrian Frutiger, courtesy Adobe Systems

The paper used in this publication is acid-free and meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48–1984.∞

ISBN 978-0-295-80418-7 (electronic)

To Marie-Andrée, who instilled in me a fundamental impatience to fix things that are wrong, and to Josh and Em, who remind me to laugh at these same things—and at myself—when I come home.


To Sue, whose patience and unconditional support make it possible for me to dive into missions that excite me, like this book.



Foreword by Denis Hayes




1 Measure for Measure

2 The Invisible Hand

3 Regulatory Roadblocks

4 Reduce

5 Built to Last

6 Great Neighborhoods

7 Spaces for Nature

8 On-Site Life Cycles

9 Regional Transportation

10 Delight

11 Making a Dent





Cities and city living are a modern development. For the first 200,000 years of human history, people were hunter-gatherers, living in small groups and moving frequently. The development of agriculture some 10,000 years ago allowed people to establish the first permanent settlements in the form of small villages with tiny populations.

The first true city to emerge was Uruk, the capital of Sumeria, in the southern part of what is now Iraq. By 5,000 years ago Uruk had at least 50,000 inhabitants, but the city and the entire Sumerian civilization eventually disappeared as a result of environmentally damaging agricultural practices. Without effective management, the very thing that made large settlements possible—an agricultural system that produced sufficient surpluses to support urban life—destroyed long-term sustainability.

After Uruk, cities came and went—Rome, Byzantium, Xi'an, Rajasthan, Alexandria—but widespread urbanization of the population is a relatively new phenomenon. As recently as two hundred years ago, only 3 percent of the world's people lived in cities. By one hundred years ago, the number of urbanites had grown to just 12 percent.

When I was born, about 500 million of the world's 2.3 billion people lived in cities. Today, in 2012, urban dwellers number about 3.5 billion. If I outlive my actuarial life expectancy (I'd like to shoot for ninety years), when I die these numbers will have grown to 5.5 billion people living in cities, out of a total world population of more than 8 billion. During my lifetime alone, then, the world's cities will have acquired approximately 5 billion people. Is it any wonder most cities are dysfunctional?

Cities keep getting bigger and bigger. Today, the world has about four hundred cities with more than one million inhabitants each. Forty have more than 5 million; nineteen have more than 10 million. Many of these are essentially congested chaos—but not because we don't know how to design livable cities. Many urban settings are healthy, convenient, prosperous, stimulating, safe, sustainable places to live and work. I'm thinking of cities like Reykjavik, Vancouver, B.C., Malmo, Copenhagen, Curitiba, and Portland, Oregon.

We have deep knowledge about how to build cities that are carbon efficient. We know that cities can find solutions to global problems such as climate change, rather than creating greater energy and livability problems because of their sheer size. The problem, as I see it, is that we cannot organize sufficient political will, amid the explosive growth, to implement the policies that produce coherent and sustainable urban design.

We know what to do; we just don't know how to persuade or cajole or require ourselves to do it. That is the problem that A-P Hurd and Al Hurd set out to address.

The Carbon Efficient City recognizes that our species is making an unprecedented evolutionary leap—within a single lifespan—from a predominantly rural population to one that is overwhelmingly urban. We are feeling our way forward and will inevitably make mistakes in planning and managing the population shift. The Hurds are refreshingly candid about the magnitude of the effort needed and the constraints imposed by the current political landscape. Yet they remain hopeful.

Whether or not one accepts all of the book's assumptions or agrees with all of its recommendations, most readers will find the suggestions here thoughtful and provocative—and this makes me hopeful. Only by tackling the tough questions and thinking systemically can we get where we need to go.

This is pressing work. Read on.


The idea for this book came out of the Quality Growth Alliance, a Puget Sound organization that brought together a diverse group of business, urban, and environmental interests who agreed on how growth should be accommodated in the region. In 2009, I was part of the alliance's initial working group on carbon emissions and was looking for a comprehensive resource that addressed the built environment's impact on carbon emissions. At the time there were many new (and not-so-new) strategies being embraced in building design and an emerging interest in the role of land use and transportation as part of the solution to climate change. Existing works tended to focus on specific technologies (green roofs, solar energy, walkable streets), but none provided a good survey across all the necessary strategies to consider in concert with each other. Even those works that grouped certain strategies together in one book tended to focus either on the building or on the urban environment.

With some encouragement from the working group, I began to pursue the idea of a compendium and to look for an expert who might have the time and wherewithal to put such a document together. Several conversations and grant applications later, it occurred to me that it might be more productive to just take a crack at this project myself. Over the summer of 2009, I worked on an outline for the handbook, trying to distill built environment energy strategies into eight to ten manageable buckets. From my experience in building design and real estate development, I knew that many of these strategies were technically sound but challenging to implement in practice. As I worked on the handbook, it evolved from a list into a matrix, where the strategies were cross-referenced with the institutions that impact building and urban development: municipal governments, investors, and state governments. It was hard to think about what needed to be done in technical terms alone; I quickly realized that this project needed to address the legal and economic frameworks we operate in, just as much as the technical strategies.

The project had grown from a handbook into something more like a real book. By the fall of 2009, I knew I couldn't research, write, and edit the whole project myself. My dad, Al Hurd, had just retired from a career as an executive in the information technology industry, and I asked him if he would work on the project with me if I went ahead with turning the six-thousand-word outline into a full draft. Neither of us knew at the time that this would become a two-year intellectual collaboration that has been incredibly rewarding for both us. Relatively few people have the opportunity to engage in this type of partnership with their parent. To be able to work with someone who understands you so well, with whom you have such a high degree of trust, who may have a different style but who shares a similar sensibility is a gift. My father and I found that we appreciated each other's judgment, edits, and ideas. Our debates were productive and satisfyingly resolved. It has been a pleasure to work together in this way.

The resulting book is fundamentally a pragmatic one. We are passionate about slowing climate change but recognize at a deep level that our development patterns, cities, and buildings are shaped by economics. Those who see regulation as a stand-alone solution must recognize that regulation has its limits in a capitalist democracy. If our economic and political institutions are a given, how much change can we accomplish within these very real constraints? After a couple of years of pushing on these ideas, I'm happy to say that the answer may be quite a lot and possibly even enough.

Some readers of the original manuscript recommended that the book also address the politics of suggested practices. While there is no doubt that political strategy is required to implement any idea, and this book has economic, legal and policy ideas, a political book in an age of partisan politics can be the death knell of good ideas. The concepts presented here are worth embracing because they are economically sound and supported by a strong, transparent, and efficient economic system. Furthermore, politics is local. One person may embrace public transit because it's green, the next may see its value in fostering greater energy independence as a key component of national security, while still another may see it as a way to move more people on existing infrastructure and keep taxes low. Politicians, nonprofits, industry associations, and citizen advocates need to find the political levers that resonate most with their representatives and constituents and with their own truth.

There is still so much work to be done, and in such a short time. I hope that others engaged in similar efforts find this book to be a useful resource, one that they can build on with other ideas, insights, and strategies.




This book has been supported by a broad community of ideas in Seattle and across the country. In every way it defies the narrative of the lone hero engaged in a magnum opus in some faraway garret.

First, in its genesis, we thank the Quality Growth Alliance and Forterra (the organization formerly known as Cascade Land Conservancy) for their groundbreaking work in bringing business and environmental interests into such a mutually productive conversation. This book would not have been written without the discourse and sense of possibility created by these two organizations.

Second, in practical matters, we owe great thanks to the Runstad Center for Real Estate and the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington. A-P has been an affiliate fellow of the college since 2009 and has benefited from innumerable conversations and exchanges with students and faculty alike. The college and Dean Daniel Friedman generously provided a quiet space to write the first draft, support for the ideas, and encouragement to publish the work. Perhaps most important, by renaming the College of Built Environments, Dean Friedman has brought about a profound recognition in the academic community that we are engaged in a fundamentally interdisciplinary field with broad impacts and great responsibilities. George Rolfe, the co-director of the Runstad Center, has been a tireless supporter of this project and of A-P's other wild ideas. Thank you, George, for your confidence, your perspective, and your vision.

Among other gifts, the college introduced us to Julia Levitt and generously funded a research assistant position that brought resources to our work. That sentence makes it sound a little like all resources are created equal, and Julia is most certainly not. Julia Levitt brought ideas, patience, good humor, rigorous execution, and a helpful perspective. We would have been hard pressed to navigate the publication process without her advice. She is a gem. Someday she will be famous and we will tell people we knew her back when.

Douglas Howe at Touchstone generously provided a few much-needed vacation days to write a first draft back when this was a glimmer in A-P's eye. Glenn Amster also believed in this project from that first lunch at the Daily Grill and provided a great deal of early input on the outline and drafts. Rich Hill—good judgment is only a phone call away—made several helpful suggestions on the outline, including an admonishment against wishful thinking that became a bit of a mantra for our team. Susan Drummond was perhaps the earliest enthusiast for this project and has been steadfast in her support and collaboration on other related work. In San Francisco, Rachel Sheinbein, doing her own clean tech work, has been an ongoing sounding board, cheerleader, reviewer, and true believer.

The professional and built environment community has supported this book in so many ways: Gene Duvernoy, Bill Ruckelshaus, Denis Hayes, Denis Wilde, Bill Reed, Carol Sanford, and Ed Mazria have all provided perspective and encouragement. With godfathers like this believing in the project, it was easy for us to keep going. Rachel Cardone provided early insights and encouragement, and made an invaluable introduction to Cristina Rumbaitis Del Rio at the Rockefeller Foundation, whom we never met in person but who was so generous with telephone conversations, contacts, and resources, that we came to think of her as a fairy godmother. Jason McLennan provided early insight into the world of publishing, and we referenced the notes from that conversation again and again. Tamar Haspel continued to fill in that roadmap as we went along. Jason Twill tapped his remarkable network to help us find primary sources for many of our stories. Kelly Mann at ULI Seattle, Suzanne Cartwright, Kate Knight, Rae Anne Rushing, Patrick Mazza of Climate Solutions, Tom Bisacquino at NAIOP National, and A-P's NAIOP Forum members all provided encouragement and advice that kept us on the right track. Finally, Tim Mennel, Uwe Brandes, and Jeevan Sivasubramaniam all went far beyond the call of duty to provide thoughtful strategic advice about how to get the book into print.

Lorri Hagman at University of Washington Press understood the book from the first time we spoke and was willing to take a chance on us. We are immensely grateful for her faith in us and for all the editorial and technical help from the team at the University of Washington Press. Liz Dunn, whom we later found out had peer-reviewed the book, took a huge part of her Christmas vacation to provide excellent and detailed insight on the content, including steering us to the ideas of Donella Meadows and Gerald Frug, whose work in turn strengthened our analysis.

Finally, this book would not have been possible without our friends and extended family. Rob Spooner made the clean communicative graphics. Soren Eberhardt helped navigate the German bureaucracy on a moment's notice. Richard Austin provided no small measure of legal perspective, common sense, and a non-built-environment lens. Doug Barkley, an avid reader of business books, gave us his seasoned and typically frank advice on how to get the introduction right. Josh Binder has fed A-P's brain with dinnertime economics and generally kept the systems thinking alive on the home front. Keir Dahlke helped with photos, with the Web site, and even dug up an old cell phone on eBay so we could get a picture of it. Skene Howie pinch-hit on a missing photo. And, last but not least, Sue Wilson contributed countless hours to this project reviewing manuscripts, building the Web site, vetting ideas, and generally embracing the work that has consumed so much of Al's retirement. Sue, we could not be where we are without you.


The most striking thing about climate change is that despite the best efforts of so many people, our planet's inhabitants seem incapable of doing anything about it. Although some uncertainty remains about the significance of humans' role in climate change, there is no longer any doubt that CO2 molecules in the atmosphere increase the earth's retention of the sun's heat. There is no question either that over the past two hundred years of industrialization, human output of CO2 into the atmosphere has relentlessly increased.¹

No one can tell how our climate will change in the next fifty to two hundred years. All the incredibly complex models produced by climatologists are just that—models. When all is said and done, they give us a distribution of possible climate outcomes—some of which could simply be a challenge to live with and deprive of us of polar bears, and others which could entail staggering economic and social costs and ultimately change patterns of human life on earth. Predicting long-range climate trends is a probabilistic science, and some outcomes are more likely than others, but there is a good chance that we will face significant impacts to our quality of life in the next fifty to one hundred years—indeed, many who have lived through the increasingly frequent climate events of the past few decades, such as unusually intense hurricanes in the United States or prolonged severe droughts followed by unprecedented flooding in Australia, would argue that we already have.²

Since the early 2000s, as awareness of climate change has increased, our society has mobilized in important but fragmented ways to lower our CO2 output. Automobile companies are focusing considerable effort on fuel efficiency and on developing alternative fuel vehicles at the same time as they continue to satisfy market demand for large numbers of SUVs. Former presidents and vice presidents have provided considerable leadership on climate issues while those in office have been more cautious. Universities around the world have made it their focus, but industrial standards have lagged. Think tanks have sprung up or reoriented around the challenge of climate change. And what have we to show for this? Not a 50 percent drop in emissions in exchange for our 50 percent focus, but only a slight flattening in an upward trajectory that may be caused as much by the global economic slowdown of 2008 to 2011 as by any of these efforts.³ We have a lot of people pushing in the right direction, but the output of the system as a whole is not changing very much at all. To understand why, it will help if we make a brief detour into the science of how systems work.

A Systems Problem

Both climate change and the solution to it are systems challenges. Our planet is a system that is regulated and stabilized by a series of physical and biological feedback loops that exist at large and small scales and that are influenced by all the participants in the system. The solution to climate change is dependent on the planet's physical system and on the political and regulatory forces that themselves constitute a related social system. Now for some of the basics of systems theory:

» Because there are so many interrelated forces in a system, changing a few ingredients often doesn't have a big impact on the outcome. This is actually a positive feature of systems in many instances and is known as resilience. Resilience is what allows people around the world to eat all sorts of different foods and still express their DNA in essentially the same way.

» This inherent tendency of a system to maintain a balanced equilibrium (referred to as its steady state) also means that if it headed toward an undesirable outcome, it could be pretty hard to get things going in a better direction. If we think about how fossil fuels have become so integral to our society, we begin to realize that emitting carbon has become

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