Kaid Benfield Archive


A recovering engineer posts a photo of "sustainability"

Kaid Benfield

Posted December 9, 2010 at 1:23PM

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Regular readers will know that I'm a fan of Chuck Marohn's Strong Towns Blog.  Recently he has been taking some polite (he's a midwesterner to the core, or so it seems in his writing) shots at the engineering profession, of which he is a member.  Chuck believes that many engineers do not take a sufficiently long-range and holistic view of their projects, which in a way just makes them a lot like many other professions; but, to underscore his point, Chuck posted a photo yesterday to which this professional wordsmith's stunningly articulate reaction could only be "wow . . . just wow":

  (courtesy of Charles Marohn, strongtowns.org)

My wonderment (did I just coin a word?) is due not only to the Alex MacLean-like striking image of sprawl perfectly manifested, but also to the amazing fact that the photo is being used in marketing for an engineering firm touting its contribution to sustainability.  Chuck quotes the firm's caption:

"After more than a century of industrial use, [this site] had been underused for many years. Reclaiming the 145 acre site entailed managing contamination, designing infrastructure to encourage development, restoring wetlands, and establishing green space and trails. What was once a nearly unusable site is now poised to be a vibrant example of environmental stewardship and economic development."

Any restoration of wetlands and creation of green space as part of the project are laudable (as one of the commenters on Chuck's blog points out).  But, well, you know.

Chuck posts the photo in the context of an essay on how Steve Mouzon's "original green" thinking about lovability as a prerequisite for durability is relevant to the design of not just buildings but also infrastructure, reminding us that mere "functional value" is not enough.  Read Chuck's provocative post here.

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