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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

Interested in sustainable buildings and places? There's an app for that

Kaid Benfield

Posted May 16, 2011 in Green Enterprise, Living Sustainably

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My friend Steve Mouzon has built an iPhone application that aggregates hand-picked news and discussion about sustainable cities, towns, neighborhoods, and buildings.  Check out the Original G app at the iTunes store, here.

Some places attempt to be green using advanced technology to compensate for what would otherwise be unsustainable design or circumstances.  To imagine an extreme hypothetical example, what if the indoor ski slope in desert-hot Dubai (yes, there really is one) were kept cool with electricity obtained from renewable sources, transmitted via efficient lines, and precisely calibrated to match peak-hour use.  There aren't many places to ski in the desert, so enthusiasts travel long distances to get there.  Now imagine that they use electric cars to get there, perhaps also powered with electricity obtained somehow from renewable sources.

screenshot from Orginal G (courtesy of Steve Mouzon)

Other places, however, are intrinsically green because their location and design follow traditional practices that evolved from, and remain well suited to, their particular climate and geography.  Imagine a house built of locally sourced materials and crafted to take maximum advantage of shade in the summer and sun in the winter, with thick walls to provide natural insulation.  Now imagine a cluster of such houses in a walkable community where many daily needs can be met on foot.  The community doesn't need or use as much electricity, or technology, because it takes advantage of the wisdom of the ages, which evolved before there was very much of either.

Steve coined the wonderful phrase “original green” to describe “the sustainability that existed before the Thermostat Age,” or what we can learn from traditional practices that created environmentally sound communities and structures because, well, they had to.  People intuitively love “original green” places, because they are so fundamentally in tune with their environment and function.  He uses the phrase "gizmo green" to describe places that are heavily dependent on technology to meet environmental objectives.

From the app's page on the iTunes store:

“[Original Green] is far broader than today's Gizmo Green discussions, and begins by building sustainable places, then sustainable buildings. Sustainable places are nourishable, accessible, serviceable, and securable. Sustainable buildings are lovable, durable, flexible, and frugal.”

I refer frequently to Steve’s writing and architectural practice, because it makes so much sense and because his writing is so accessible.  You can learn much more about it in his excellent book and blog.  But for additional street cred with your enviro-hipster friends, Original G will also enable you to keep up to date on sustainable placemaking (with commentary by a number of writers, including yours truly) right there on your phone.

Move your cursor over the images for credit information.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page. 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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