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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 08:14 pm

Green Urbanism fights sprawl with walkable cities

At the May 29 Springfield Business Alliance noon luncheon the noted architect and planner Douglas Farr will present “Sustainable Urbanism,” a program that illustrates the practices that have become more and more in vogue since Al Gore’s release of An Inconvenient Truth three years ago. Up until then, although some had embraced the “green movement” and had begun to employ sustainable practices, all too many were not aware or concerned about the impending peril of climate change and what could be done to mitigate its effects. Now sustainability and “going green” has become a hot-button topic and it seems as if more and more business and product providers are jumping on board the green bandwagon.

His Chicago-based Farr Associates has been a pioneer in the green building movement since the late 1990s and has designed three LEED platinum buildings. LEED stands for “Leadership Energy Environment Design” and is a U.S. Green Building Council rating system for designating substantially built structures. The platinum designation is the highest achievable.

Among the various planning projects his firm has completed is the Town of Normal’s downtown plan, which is being implemented on a project-by-project basis. He was also instrumental in introducing the green concepts to the Town Council, which adopted LEED standards for all major downtown building construction as well as a pioneering document, the Town of Normal’s Environmental Stewardship Policy.

Farr was one of the original signers of the charter for the Congress for the New Urbanism in 1996. It states in part that the organization “views disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and wilderness and the erosion of society’s built heritage as one interrelated community-building challenge.” He has also authored the book, Sustainable Urbanism, Urban Design with Nature, in which he advocates not only the construction of green buildings, but also walkable and transit-oriented communities.

His talk will feature the role of businesses in the context of “green urbanism” and the beginnings of a new sector of employment known as “green-collar jobs.” The talk will be part of the day’s events at the Prairie Capital Convention Center which is centered on the topic of a Sustainable Springfield Business Alliance, but this presentation should be of interest to anyone concerned about the urban context in terms of energy and the natural environment.

Jim Johnston is president of Sustainable Springfield, Inc., www.sustainablespringfield.org.

There is no fee for Friday’s presentations. For those who desire a box lunch served free of charge please e-mail wynne.coplea@cwlp.com at the city Office of Recycling, which is hosting the event.

Also from James A. Johnston

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