Kaid Benfield Archive


Roger Lewis’s Rx for greening a city

Kaid Benfield

Posted September 29, 2008 at 2:37PM

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Memphis residents celebrate a new wetland conservation area (by: Larry Smith, creative commons license)a green-roofed building in Vancouver (by: No. New England Chapter, APA, creative commons license) 

I've long been a fan of University of Maryland architecture professor Roger Lewis, especially for his "Shaping the City" columns in The Washington Post.  Roger was articulating the principles of smart growth and livable urbanism long before the rest of us, and his column has in many ways been a model for this blog.

In his newest entry, "Thinking of Bolder Shades of Green," Roger poses the question whether we can go beyond green building techniques and greener personal choices such as using CFL light bulbs and "make an entire city green."  He lays out seven sensible principles for doing so:

  • Employ smart growth so that future land development and density are linked to transit and other transportation infrastructure
  • Create and maintain a fine-grain street pattern for walkability and managed congestionFremont, CA (by: Michael Patrick, creative commons license)
  • Invest in state-of-the-art bus and rail transit
  • Use street trees and plantings to provide shade, reduce heat, and filter runoff
  • Expand and preserve a city-wide network of connected parks and other open space
  • Use open drainage swales and ground absorption to absorb Stormwater rather than relying exclusively on underground piping
  • Employ renewable energy technology to generate electricity on a metropolitan scale

Well done, Roger:  what a great framework that would make for guiding future investments in city infrastructure.

These ideas and more were discussed at a forum on "greening the world's capital cities" (although their Yen So Park, Hanoi (by: E8Club, creative commons license)applicability certainly isn't limited to capitals) held last week in Washington.  Roger served as a panel moderator, and conference participants included NRDC's Frances Beinecke as well as numerous NRDC collaborators and friends such as Harriet Tregoning (now head of planning for DC), Dick Moe (National Trust for Historic Preservation), Tom Hicks (US Green Building Council), and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), among others.

Read Roger's column here, and see a list of his others, all well worth reading, here.