Recents concern about the impact of global warming upon the world's climates and increased pollutiion and despoilation of natural habitats have introduced the concept of environmental and ecological sustainability as a criterion against which to judge all human activity. Sustainable design and urban and regional planning is the philosophy of designing and planning the human-built environment to comply with principles of economic, social and ecological sustainability. Originally first articulated as a criterion for urban design and planning back in the 1970's by Richard Hopper (then Hawaii's State Environmental Planning Coordinator) both in an article published in the magazine of the American Planning Association and as part of an effort he led to develop a "Quality Growth Policy for the State of Hawaii," sustainability is no longer a concept limited to the field of biology. Instead, as Hopper articulated back in the 1970's all natural and man-made systems have an inherent carrying-capacity that can either be: (1) used as a limit for growth; (2) ignored and exceeded with the consequence of thus degrading the system; or (3) expanded through new technologies and method of design and planning. As such, applying the concepts of sustainability and carrying-capacity to the design of our man-made built environment helps to protect the quality of both our man-made and natural environment.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
One of the first individuals to arouse concern about the impact that modern society was having on the environment was Rachel Carson in her book "Silent Spring." In her book, she described how chemicals such as DDT could have a cumulative negative impact that was not immediately recognized, and how we could use various animal species such as birds to predict the impact that chemicals would eventually have on humans. Meanwhile, in the 1970's, a group called the Club of Rome published a book titled "The Limits on Growth" that predicted some of the long-range negative impacts of increasing human population growth. The creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of various pollution control laws in the 1970's reflected the public's increasing awareness of the quality of the environment at that time. It is only recently, however, that the problems of global warming and climate change have caused the general public to be aware that the design and planning of our built-environment can either lock us into a pattern of energy wastefulness and pollution -- or can be part of the solution to increased energy conservation and pollution control. As a consequence, urban design and planning has come to the forefront of public policy in helping to find a way to a more sustainable future.
One of the first principles of sustainable design and urban planning is to recognize that we are all connected, and what one of us does affects us all. As such, sustainable design and urban planning is about creating sustainable "communities." This means that we need to be concerned not only with the direct and obvious negative environmental impacts that can be traced to our individual actions, but that we also need to address the collective and cumulative impacts of our societal activities. That is where urban and regional design and planning comes in. Urban and regional design and planning is how we as a community or society can work cooperatively to build sustainable communities. Urban and regional design and planning consists of three components: (1) research to identify problems; (2) brain-storming through design charettes and other means to develop alternatives; and (3) public participation to reach consensus on proposed means of implementation. Urban and regional design and planning, however, does not replace the political process in making the ultimate decision on implementation actions such as revised zoning, public infrastructure funding, etc. What urban and regional design and planning does is to help promote informed decision-making and a long-range vision to guide development. In this context, what sustainable design and urban planning does is to include sustainability is a criterion to help guide development decisions.
Sustainable design and urban planning is guided by several principles borrowed from biology or the natural environment. These include the concepts of: (1) connectedness; (2) renewability; (3) efficiency; (4) minimization of externalities or negative impacts; and (5) carrying-capacity. Urban planners and designers that are interested in achieving sustainable development and communities use a variety of new urban design and planning principles and techniques to help achieve these concepts or goals of sustainability. These include smart growth strategies, new urbanism designs, sustainable urban infrastructure, new green building codes and designs, and new strategies to bring the natural environment back into our urban man-made environment. Following is a discussion of some of these techniques, beginning with new technological and building-design techniques and ending with sustainable land-use management techniques.
WASTE REDUCTION -- Waste is the ultimate externality or pollution produced by humans and all other living organisms. In the past, humans have dealt with waste primarily by simply discarding it upon the land. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, however, waste that is simply thrown away upon the land becomes a primary cause of disease and water pollution. Also, landfills generate methane, a gas that contributes more to global warming than carbon dioxide. Also, we have to use carbon fuels to transport garbage to more and more distant landfill locations from our urban cities. Finally, the more technologically advanced we become as a society, the greater percentage of our wastes that come from chemicals and thus are hazardous wastes. All of this requires a new concept where we need to learn to design our built environment in ways that eliminate waste (or that starts to look at what were traditionally wastes as renewable resources). Because of tough pollution control laws in developed nations, many companies are already doing this with their wastes. But we need to do a better job of waste reduction where we incorporate this as a "sustainability" criterion in everything we do.
RECYCLING AND RESOURCE RECOVERY - Recycling and resource recovery is the other sustainable method of dealing with waste. In the 1970's, the U.S. EPA took the lead in helping to promote recycling and resource recovery. This included funding demonstrations of curb-side recycling and the construction of resource recovery plants that separated waste and burned what remained as a form of waste-to-energy. The U.S. EPA even funded the construction of a pyrolysis system which converted municipal garbage to oil. This was after the first Earth Day and the Arab oil embargo under the Carter presidency. Unfortunately, despite what other positive accomplishments that President Reagan might have achieved in helping bring about the end of the Cold War, Reagan eliminated the federal government's involvement in municipal garbage, including recycling and resource recovery programs, and furthermore eliminated all alternative renewable energy programs. Reagan even removed the solar panels on the roof of the White House that had been installed by President Carter. The consequence is that all the advancements in recycling and resource recovery since then have been undertaken by the individual states and municipalities. In this regard, while most cities in Europe and Japan have since then built waste-to-energy resource recovery plants as an alternative source of energy, the United States with its up-to-now cheap sources of energy has not built any new municipal waste-to-energy plants since the early 1980's (though industry has built many such plants). Instead, the focus in the United States has been our source separation and recycling. This still leaves, however, the greater bulk of municipal waste that has to be landfilled. As such, to make our cities and urban areas more sustainable and to decrease our dependence upon foreign oil, perhaps it is now time to renew our research and other efforts to find clean ways to convert waste to energy. One promising technique would eliminate all carbon emissions is plasmas gasification. Pyrolysis has also been used not to simply burn garbage, but to convert it to charcoal. The charcoal is then used in agriculture to enrich the soil. This has an added benefit of serving as a carbon sink to capture carbon and put it back into the soil.
Above is a schematic diagram of a successful municipal solid waste resource recovery/waste-to-energy plant being operated to process the waste of Fairfax County, Virginia and the surrounding jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. Ironically, Richard Hopper who had previously developed a "Quality Growth Policy" for Hawaii and applied the concept of carrying-capacity to urban planning, went on to serve as the Technical Assistance Coordinator for the Resource Recovery Division of the Office of Solid Waste of the U.S. EPA. In this role, he helped to encourage communities such as Fairfax County to implement recycling and resource recovery programs (i.e. before the federal government's recycling and resource recovery program was eliminated during the Reagan administration). This included his authoring numerous magazine articles and publications about resource recovery.
Green Roofs - A new approach to building sustainable urban environments are buildings built with green roofs. Actually, this is an approach that might have been utilized to help cool one of the first cities in ancient times -- i.e. the hanging gardens of Babylon. Unfortunately, most modern cities with all of their concrete consist of 85 percent nonpermeable surfaces. Such nonpermeable surfaces both reflect heat and result in stormwater runoff that catches pollutants before it runs into our streams, rivers, and estuaries. Green buildings help to catch rainwater and reduce stormwater runoff. Green buildings also help to absorb heat and thus reduce the "heat island effect" created by all the concrete of our urban areas that cause cities to be hotter than the surrounding area. This, in return, reduces the need for air-conditioning and energy usage. Green roofs also can help to absorb carbon dioxide from the air. Both can help reduce global warming. In recognition of this, on Earth Day 2009, the City of New York announced incentives and regulations to require the conversion of all buildings in New York City to green roofs where there can be shown to be an economic benefit. Chicago is another city that is aggressively promoting the conversion of buildings to green roofs. The Chicago City Hall was one of the first public buildings in the U.S. to install a green roof. Chicago also has turned an old industrial building into the Chicago Center for Green Technology to demonstrate green technologies and to provide green advice to individuals, including help on how to build a green roof. What makes green roofs attractive today are new plastic membranes that are laid on the roof to collect the rain water run-off. A special soil is then put on top of the membrane in which plants are grown. The plants in turn absorb much of the rain water, thus reducing the stormwater runoff produced from the building. Also, the temperatures on a green roof are typically only one tenth that of a regular roof. Above is an example of a green building built recently in Fukuoda, Japan. Another exciting example of the use of a green roof is a gas station in Eugene, Oregon that sells biodiesel, uses solar panels on the roofs of the pump islands to produce electricity, and has a green roof on the station's convenience store.
Vertical Farming -- Another variation on a green building is known as "vertical farming." This is a new concept to build high-rise farms (i.e. food grown in specially designed high-rise buildings) so as to reduce the transportation costs of bring food from the countryside to cities. In the proposed building shown above, wind turbines are installed on top of the building to provide energy for the building. Instead of growing the plants in soil, the proposal is to grow the plants using aeroponics. This is an approach where plants are hung in the air and a fine spray containing water and nutrients is sprayed on the roots of the hanging plants. The proposal is to collect rainwater and to store it in water tanks to supply the water. After spraying the roots of the plants, the excess water is then collected and re-used.
Solar Buildings - Another approach to the design of sustainable buildings is to install on buildings either passive solar systems to reduce the energy needs of a building or active solar systems such as solar hot water systems or solar photovoltaic panels to produce electricity. Solar tubes that reflect and channel sunlight to where it is needed in a building is a new method of passive solar design. Meanwhile, a single solar photovoltaic panel can typically produce about 180 watts of electricity. Hence, a typical array of 24 solar panels will produce about 4,000 watts (i.e. 4 KW) of electricity on a bright sunny day. Inverters take the electricity from the solar panels and convert them from DC current to AC current. This current is then used to provide the electricity needs of a building. Under federal law, any excess electricity has to be bought by the local electrical utility. Alternatively, an excess electricity generated can be stored in batteries and used later. Since the average home in the U.S. uses enough electricity to generate approximately 10,500 lbs. of carbon dioxide emissions, reducing the electricity bought from the local utility produced by conventional fossil fuels can result in significant reductions in a home or building's carbon usage (i.e. footprint). While the cost of solar panels on a home can cost anywhere from $10,000-$50,000, the cost can be recovered over time through reduced utility bills. Also, many states offer tax credits or deductions for the installation of renewable energy sources such as solar panels on a building. Finally, there are a variety of methods being developed to concentrate and thus increase the amount of solar energy capture from solar energy systems. A simple way to do so is to use mylar to reflect additional sunlight onto the panels. Using this method, one can often produce ten times the electricity of normal solar panels. Above is a photograph of the K2 sustainable apartments in Windsor, Victoria, Australia that are built with not only both passive solar and solar photovoltaic systems, but also are made of recycled materials and include rainwater collection on the roofs.
New Energy Efficient Building Materials -- Most individuals do not realize that the heating and air-conditioning of our buildings accounts for over 50 percent of all our energy usage. One way to reduce such energy usage and to make our urban environments more sustainable is to construct our buildings with more energy-efficent materials. This includes better insulation for our homes and using new types of glass to regulate the amount of light allowed into buildings based upon the season of the year. For the construction of the swimming stadium for the Beijing Olympics, this same concept of regulating the amount of sunlight allowed into the building was used - but instead of glass, the exterior of the building was constructed of a special plastic "bubble-wrap" that could be electronically controlled so as to allow or restrict light into the building.
Installation of Wind Turbines on Buildings -- Another approach to making buildings more energy efficient is to install wind turbines on them to generate electricity. The most radical example of such wind turbines installed on buildings is for a building recently built in Bahrain as shown above. Meanwhile, a new innovative type of wind turbine for buildings has been invented by Bil Becker of Chicago who has designed a special type of DNA shaped wind turbines to deal with the variable direction of the wind on top of buildings. His wind turbines are being tested on several buildings in downtown Chicago.
Mass Transit -- Next to the energy used to heat and cool buildings, the greatest amount of energy we used is in transportation. As such, any sustainable design and planning of our urban communities needs to incorporate the use of mass transit and other innovative forms of energy efficient transportation as they are invented. In this regard, we need to be careful that our zoning and building codes do not lock us into outdated technology. As an example, today buildings and mass transit are designed separately. As a consequence, it is often a long walk outdoors to access mass transit, thus discouraging the use of mass transit. What is even worse is that too often mass transit stations are only accessed by driving to them by automobile and parking. A better design would be to allow residential and commercial use all within walking distance of transit stations, and to construct major civic and other buildings where mass transit is immediately adjacent or connected to the buildings. Also, if we want to encourage mass transit, we need to find better ways to accommodate the needs of the disabled so that mass transit is available to all. Finally, in today's "information age" we need to find a better way to use information and smart technologies to better manage traffic flow so as to help the wasted energy of individuals sitting in congestion.
"New Urbanism" and "Smart Growth" Land Development -- In the 1920's, landscape architect John Nolen designed a new suburb on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio. This new suburb was named Mariemont and was meant to be a "National Examplar" of how suburbs should be designed. It was connected to Cincinnati by streetcar and by Route 50 which ran through its center. As such, it was the first transit-oriented suburb. It also was designed with all the schools and town center to be within a five or ten minute walk from all parts of the community. As such, it was designed to be promote walking and bicycling. To make the community even more pedestrian-friendly, numerous small to medium sized parks were scattered evenly throughout the community, park benches were built on street corners, streets were designed to be narrower than the typical modern suburban street to slow traffic, and large shade trees were planted between the sidewalks and streets to provide shade for pedestrians. Also, the garages of homes were set even with or behind the homes acccessed by alleyways. Through his planning of Mariemont and other subsequent communities and cities, John Nolen is credited with being the "father of modern urban planning." Ironically, the demand for housing after World War II caused the nation to abandon the planning model of John Nolen and instead to develop sprawling residential only suburbs in the model of Levittown, New York. These newer suburbs were designed for the automobile as opposed to pedestrians or mass-transit. They also abandoned the concept of integrated mixed-use as John Nolen had designed for his Mariemont community. Today, however, the 1950's style of suburban sprawl after the model of Levittown is understood to be energy efficent, wasteful of land, a contributor to air pollution and global warming, destructive of the natural environment, and destructive of of the sense of community. For this reason, urban planners and designers are increasingly turning back to the model of Mariemont as designed by John Nolen. When employed in for a suburban development, this model is typically referred to as "New Urbanism." When employed in the design of a closer-in and more dense semi-urban development, this model is typically referred to as "Smart Growth." In fact, both emphasis the same principles emphasized by John Nolen -- i.e. pedestrian oriented, transit-based, mixed-use development, with the purpose of both being to make urban and suburban development more sustainable and compatible with both the human and natural environment (as opposed to emphasizing the automobile). These two models for land development and zoning have become the primary methods of urban planners to make urban land use more sustainable. One of the first examples of "New Urbanism" is the community of Kentlands in Gaithersburg, Maryland -- while two of the more recent and best examples are Celebration in Orlando, Florida and the King Farm in Rockville, Maryland (with the latter being initially designed by Richard Hopper, who is referred to above as having initiated the concept of sustainable design in urban planning and development back in the 1970's and who then went on to also become one of the pioneers in promoting recycling and resource recovery). With respect to the concept of Smart Growth, perhaps the best known example of efforts at "Smart Growth" is Montgomery County, Maryland (with the King Farm referred to above being part of Montgomery County, Maryland's efforts to promote "Smart Growth").
Above is a site plan for the "New Urbanism" community of the King Farm in Rockville, Maryland (click on picture to see a larger version). The gray colored line running through its middle from left to right is a road where the center right-of-way is reserved for light rail, to connect the subway to the right where the road runs also runs into Rockville Pike. Until the light-rail is built, the center right of way is being used for a special bus to take residents to the subway, which then goes to downtown Washington, D.C. The King Farm is a mixed-use development with a town center and schools that consists of 3,200 residential units and 3.2 million square feet of office space. It has received numerous national awards for its "New Urbanism" design.
Above is a site plan for the "National Examplar" community of town of Mariemont on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio and designed by John Nolen in the 1920's. It is credited with being the first "new urbanism" or "smart growth" community in the U.S. New urbanism is also sometimes referred to as neo-traditional design.
Above is a photograph of the Mariemont town square. It is interesting to note how similar the Mariemont town square, which was designed in the 1920's, is to the more recently town square for the new urbanism community of Celebration built by Disney in Orlando, Florida.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Above is a photograph of the non-denominational community church in Mariemont. It was the first building completed in Mariemont, with its slate stone roof come from a 1200's English abbey barn. As such, one could say that Mariemont Community Church is the oldest church in the U.S. Across from the park in front of the church (which also contains a fountain, but larger than the one in the main town square) is the original town square that was only two blocks away from the street-car line. Just to the left of the church is the Dale Park Elementary School and one block further up is the Mariemont Community Center and the High School. The back of the Mariemont Community Church slopes down to Route 50, which is a gently curving divided highway through Mariemont. On the other side of Route 50 from the Mariemont Community Church is a boat house and small lagoon where one could originally take out a rowboat or go ice skating in the winter. Just beyond the boat house is Dogwood Park which contains the large bell carillon in southern Ohio.
Above is a photograph of some of the affordable English-style garden apartments built in Mariemont to provide a wide range of housing types and cost. Each has a lawn in front and a backyard that fronts on an alley. Across the alley is a garage designed like an English-style carriage house for each apartment. In the center of the square of garages is a playground.
Above is a photograph of a typical residential street in Mariemont - designed to encourage walking and bicycling and to slow automobile traffic. Note the large shade streets planted between the sidewalks and the street. Also, unlike most modern suburbs where hedges and picketed fences in the front yard are typically prohibited, the homes in Mariemont all have uniquely landscaped front yards. Finally, unlike most modern suburban homes where the garage juts out in front and is the dominating feature of the home facing the street, in Mariemont the homes were designed with their garages either parallel or set back further than the home so as to not stand out.
Preservation of Urban Natural Environments and Ecosystems -- Until recently, the approach to urban planning and development was to pave over natural environments and to replace streams with concrete pipes. This increased stormwater runoff and pollutants and sedimentation that ran into our rivers, bays and estuaries. With sustainable urban design and planning, however, the new approach is to preserve and protect as much of the natural environment as possible in our urban areas to filter stormwater runoff, preserve wildlife habitat, and to reduce the "heat island effect" of our urban areas. In summary, the new sustainable approach to urban planning and design is to preserve the "green" in our urban man-made environments.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 11:47 PM
Purchase of Development Rights -- Another method of sustainable urban and regional land use and transportation planning is the purchase of development rights on tracts of undeveloped land so as to preserve open space. An example of such a program is the Purchase of Development Rights Program (PDR Program) created by Loudoun County, Virginia. Loudoun County is one of the most beautiful areas in the country with horse farms, vineyards, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and bordered by the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. Unfortunately, it is a suburb of Washington, D.C. and thus is steadily being consumed by urban sprawl. To help protect the open space of the western part of Loudoun County, the Piedmont Environmental County and other citizen organizations and individuals banned together to convince the county to enact its Purchase of Development Rights Program. This was a program to purchase the development rights on agriculture and other undeveloped pieces of land so as to preserve the open space in western Loudoun. This was cheaper than actually purchasing the land, and allowed landowners to become the stewards to protect the land. The program was funded with allocations from the county's tourist occupancy tax imposed on hotel rooms (with the hotels in Loudoun County being primarily located near Washington's Dulles airport). At the same time, the program helped to promote tourism as the beautiful horse farms, vineyards and civil war sites in Loudoun county make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Washington, D.C. region. One of the individuals that helped to push for the creation of the PDR program and who then served on the PDR Board was Richard Hopper, who previously in his role as Hawaii's State Environmental Planning Coordinator had developed a Quality Growth Policy for Hawaii and who developed the initial plan for the "New Urbanism" community of King Farm across the Potomac River from Loudoun County, Virginia in neighboring Montgomery County, Maryland.
As going "green" and the building of sustainable communities becomes more and more popular, there are increasing number of "model" sustainable eco-communities. Above is a picture of such a proposed new sustainable city for 77,000 people in Korea. Meanwhie, below are descriptions of actual sustainable model eco-communities already built or now in the process or being built. These include the city of Greensburg in Kansas, the university campus for Denison University in Ohio, the island of Samso in Denmark, and Masdar City as part of Abu Dhabi (the capital of the United Arab Emirates).
After being devasted by a tornado, the town of Greensburg, Kansas decided to rebuild itself with all of its public buildings being LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum rated. It's first public building designed to this center, i.e. the Greensburg Arts Center, is the first platinum rated green building in Kansas. Designed by the non-profit Studio 804 of the University of Kansas, it is built with special tempered glass that blocks UV rays, 4 inch concrete floors that help retain the heat in the winter, skylights to allow in natural daylight, a green roof planted with the succulent plant sedum to absorb UV rays and reduce the need for air-conditioning in the summer (while the soil medium helps insulate and reduce the need for heating in the winter), cellulose insulation made by recycled newspapers, and both 3 Kestrel wind turbines that produce 600 watts of electricity and photovoltaic solar panels on the roof that all are used to provide electricity to the building. A converter in the basement converts the DC electricity to AC electricity, and what electricity that is not used is either stored in 12 batteries or is sold as excess to the city. The building also has 3 geothermal heating and cooling wells that draw 55 degree temperature air from 200 feet deep that makes the heat pumps of the building more efficient in both the winter and summer. Finally, rainwater from the building is collected in a 1500 gallon cistern and is used to water the natural buffalo grass lawn. The City of Greensburg has been featured in a series shown on the television station Planet Green to demonstrate what has been accomplished by one community's commitment to a more sustainable future.
Denison University in the town of Granville near Columbus, Ohio - famous for being one of the best small liberal arts colleges in the U.S. - has committed itself to be a sustainable university community. Above is a picture of the green renovations being made to Cleveland Hall. Once completed, Cleveland Hall will be an LEED rated building. Denison has also installed solar panels on its library, instituted a university recycling program, instituted a university composting program, established a program of environmental studies, and has research grants available to undergraduate students who want to pursue research projects in sustainability.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 11:26 PM
The island community of Samso in Denmark has become the first carbon-neutral community in the world. To make itself a zero-energy model community, the citizens of Samso built 11 onshore and 10 offshore wind turbines. Also, 70 percent of the homes have been converted so that heating is provide by biofuels or solar. As a result, not only has Samso been able to make it self a carbon-neutral, zero-energy community, but it produces surplus electricity that it sells to the mainland of Denmarks. All of this was done by the community itself with all investment paid for by the local citizens without any help from outside sources.
Dongtan is an undeveloped island just offshore of Shanghai at the mouth of the Yangtze River that is about the size of Manhattan in New York City. The government of Shanghai proposes to develop it as a model sustainable community. It will be developed along a public transit corridor once a subway and bridge and tunnel are constructed to link it with the main part of the city of Shanghai. More than half of the island, however, will be maintained as farms and parkland. Hollowed out hills will be constructed to provide for underground organic farming while a power plant will be built to burn waste rice hulls to provide heating to the buildings and homes on the island. Delivery trucks will be banned on the island, and be required to transfer their goods to non-emission vehicles to transport goods on the island. Finally, a wind farm will be constructed on the island to provide electricity.
Babcock Ranch on the Gulf coast of Florida is proposed to be a sustainable, solar-powerd community/city. Consisting of 17,000 acres, it will eventually accommodate 19,500 homes and 6 million square feet of commercial space that will employee 20,000 individuals. The exciting aspect of the proposed development, however, is a proposed 75 MW solar photovoltaic power plant to be built by Florida Power & Light.
How would you like to work in a restaurant where you can collect the grease and take it home. At home, you can then use the grease as fuel to run your automobile. This is exactly what numerous individuals are doing in such cities as Boston and New York, where individuals have converted their cars to run on grease biofuel. The City of San Francisco has taken this one step further and given all homeowners a chance to be a "green" homeowner by collecting their cooking grease and turning it over to the city at a monthly collection. The City of San Francisco then uses the grease as a biofuel to run its buses. Around the world, there are many efforts to develop new sustainable biofuels. One of the most interesting is a project in Hawaii to grow algae in vertical shelves to be made into biofuel, with algae being one of the most efficient sources for biofuel. Other communities are experimenting with algae/marine plant wastewater treatment plants to replace chemical based wastewater treatment plants. An added advantage of this new style wastewater treatment plants is that many algae and marine plants take up the heavy metals in the wastewater, thus reducing the amount of heavy metals and other chemicals (that normal wastewater treatment plants do not remove) from flowing into our rivers.
Loudoun County, Virginia - A Sustainable Community Committed to the Promotion of Suburban Fringe Farming
At one time, fresh vegetables and milk were brought daily from nearby farms to our cities. It is only as our urban areas have grown larger and the farmland has been pushed farther and farther away from our cities that we have had to resort to such methods as picking vegetables before they are ripe in distant locations such as Mexico - and then shipping them over long distances and using chemicals to ripen them after they are shipped to the city. Just when it seemed that one could no longer find truly fresh vegetables in the chain grocery stores anymore, however, whole food stores have spring up in our cities and suburbs that have again turned to locally grown fresh produce. One of the ways that has been developed to grow such locally grown fresh produce at affordable prices and throughout the year has been hydroponic farms. Hydroponic farms grow produce in green houses without the use of soil. Since the temperature can be controlled in the green houses and pests more easily controlled, hydroponic farms are able to grown the highest quality produce in small close-in suburban/urban fringe locations at affordable prices. Also, since hydroponic farms recycle the water that they use, they reduce or eliminate the runoff of fertilizer into our streams, rivers and estuaries. Other examples of suburban fringe farms include: (1) farms dedicated to raising flowers to be sold to florists, hotels and other buildings so that they do not have to purchase flowers purchased from distant farms; (2) farms dedicating to growing potted plants to be sold to home garderners at local Wal-Mart and other stores; and (3) eco-tourism farms where individuals and families can go to pick their own strawberries and other fruits and vegetables. Loudoun County, Virginia is am example of a suburban county that has made a commitment to the promotion of suburban fringe farming to help keep our urban/suburban landscapes "green."
Arizona State University is another example of a unversity that has committed itself to being a model of sustainability. One of it's major sustainable initiatives was the recycling of its former nursing building. After totally renovating the building, the university installed six wind turbines on its roof. In the following year, it plans to add solar photovoltaic panels to the building's roof. It also used recycled materials for the buildings insulation, counter tops and furniture. Finally, it implemented an automated landscape watering control system that has reduced the water consumption of the building by 50 percent. Today, the building is the location of the Global Institute of Sustainability created to coordinate all of Arizona State University's initiatives to promote sustainability. The recycling and renovation of this building is part of a larger campus-wide sustainable initiative that includes the installation of solar panels at other locations on the campus to produce a total of 12 MW of electricity, the establishment of a solar photovoltaic testing laboratory to test solar equipment, the establishment of a laboratory for algae and biotechnology research, the establishment of the Phoenix Urban Research laboratory to research the urban problems facing our cities, the establishment of the Decision Center for an Urban City to explore water management solutions for a desert city, and the establishment of the Okala Sustainability Initiative to teach students how to look at design in terms of sustainability and life-cycle recycling, and the establisment of a Sustainability House (dorm) for honor students at Barrett honors college who are interested and committed to the concept of sustainability.