One of the greatest resources at PennDesign is the opportunity to hear a diverse group of speakers present their equally diverse work. Recently, I attended a seminar by Larry Beasley and Jonathan Barnett who discussed their new book – ‘eco-design for cities and suburbs’. They raised the issue of sustainability and through the book, wanted to demonstrate that a sustainable built and natural environment can be achieved through eco-design. Eco-design is the practice of planning with an environmental focus, keeping in mind the necessity of attracting capital to a community.
They introduced three basic contradictions that exist in today’s world – environment versus cities, urban versus suburban and theory versus practice and emphasised the importance of amalgamating these varied points-of-view. Using innovative practices that are already underway or have been accomplished in cities/ suburbs, they formulated six principles of eco-design that can be used as a framework for progressive urban planning. As a sneak peak to the real-time examples in the book, they discussed a couple of methods used to address climate change, reshape cities for liveability and make suburban life sustainable, in the context of the USA and Canada.
Their central message was to foster agreement between nations about the importance of environment action and progressive urban design and use local governments to implement innovative eco-design schemes. Their ideal methodology to creating awareness about the eco-design agenda was one of collaboration and public engagement. They believe that with the growing stresses on our planet, governments need to reform their regulations to allow more flexibility in the built form and promote zoning for wealth creation. They emphasised the significance of generating consumer interest through place-making and re-purposing structures to create experiences for the present generation of urban planners.