Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Green Transect: benchmarking sustainability

(click on image for larger view)
Implementing sustainable development in urban and suburban areas will require developing new benchmarks for areas and regions as opposed to "scoring" specific amenities in a building or a site. It is a more systemic, or comprehensive view, of a local cluster of structures and landscape. This goes well beyond current LEED guideline developments.

A method used in "smart zoning" is called an urban transect, and the sustainable version of this approach is called a green transect. How does this transect (mapping areas and systems relative to the distance from an established point) reflect a scale of sustainable, or "green" building strategies?

There needs to be a ranking based upon the development scale. This ranking could say that the best method to build small homes is to use simple stratgies such a solar orientation, building form, conservation in landscape drainage, and so forth.

Larger projects and major structures should be required to produce their own energy and recycle all water and waste, or become part of a system of local recycling with 100% recapture. In other words, it is a set of benchmarks that are imposed depending upon the scale of the impact of the development, or its "footprint". This would be evaluated in much the same way that an Environmental Impact Report is done now, except that there would be very specific requirements for the system's energy and water performance. Very large projects would need to provide a net surplus of power and water, with no carbon production outside the system; in other words, Regenerative.