NPR’s Morning Edition completed its series on global climate change with a look at Masdar, a soon-to-be-built an Abu Dhabi city that aims to be the first city with no carbon emissions. Claiming to be carbon-neutral is certainly bold, so Reporter Joe Palca went a step deeper examining how, exactly, designers plan to do that.
Toward the end of the story came an interesting quote from Liz Darley at Bioregional, the firm that will calculate the city’s carbon emissions.
"What they're currently doing is deciding where that boundary is drawn," Darley says. "That is, in itself, quite a complex thing to decide on as a project team ... because it could include all the carbon expenditure of flying between Europe and the Middle East the design team is incurring. It could go to the extent of you guys coming here to interview us. Once you start peeling back the layers of the onion, it just goes on and on and on forever."
This struck me as quite interesting since our offices here on Prospect Hill in Waltham have a new neighbor, a building that purports to be the first LEED-certified office building the area. This is certainly a good thing, but I wondered about all this environmental stuff as the large parking lot went up next to it. Not to mention, the building’s design is your standard suburban office variety with no retail on the first floor, so those of us in the complex who may want to have a bit of lunch still have to jump in our cars and head somewhere else. Yes, we have a cafe with outdoor seating, but that can get old VERY fast.
In fact, the marketing copy on the sites proclaims that the building has 716 total parking spaces, certainly fewer than the 893 in our building, but the transportation to both buildings is the same.
There are those who say that free parking is a major part of the problem. That because it’s so easy to drive and park, we choose to do that rather than find alternative transportation. They have a point. Except that building put up in an office park don’t give people that alternative. The Westin Hotel, also up here on Prospect Hill, recently started charging $9 to park a car overnight. That wouldn’t be so bad, except there is no way to get here EXCEPT to drive. The people who have tried to take the bus often abandoned the concept because it’s so onerous to do so. I try to bike here a few times a week, but the trip up Totten Pond Road brings me just inches from speeding trucks. It’s enough to make even the most ardent cyclist pretty nervous.
So how green is green? Is it better to build a LEED certified building on a hill in Waltham or is it better to encourage businesses to move toward more urban settings with better public transit? Is it better to build an entirely new carbon-neutral city or to take the same technologies and apply them to existing communities?
Posted by Chuck Tanowitz on May 12, 2008 at 5:12 PM
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