In his introduction to the line-up of speakers for the opening session of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Program, “Building a Sustainable Future”, National Director Doug Loescher repeated a question that my colleague Tracy Davis asked, semi-rhetorically, some time ago.
“What is Sustainability?”
Doug said that in spite of all the media attention, from Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth to Vanity Fair’s Green Issue, it’s really not immediately clear what this rapidly emerging concept includes.
He explored the brief history of the movement and identified its most substantial, or at least most tangible, accomplishment to date, LEED’s green building standards. These include green roofs, Energy Star appliances, healthy indoor air quality, and the use of recycled building materials. However, it’s clear that the implementation of the concept has gone well beyond LEED’s standards.
He cited a variety of community initiatives around the country. These included the Port Townsend City Hall, where the community backed away from demolishing their old city hall and instead created an addition that met green building standards, the “Greening of Illinois” program, which has promoted such things as bicycle commuting and rain garden creating, and, of great interest to me, solar-powered wi-fi in Boulder, Colorado.
Although the initial efforts seemed to focus on constructing sustainable buildings, these were quickly followed by those that reach for Mayor Nickel’s goal of creating sustainable cities (Seattle’s new City Hall, which meets LEED’s Silver Standards and sports a green roof, is pictured). I guess that once people agree on worthwhile goals, our creativity can take us well beyond the parameters of the original vision.