Today’s video was definitely something to make you think about. Alex Steffen estimated that there will be 8 billion or more people living in or near cities by mid-century. Steffen’s idea about how our energy is “predestined” rather than “behavioral” provided some very good evidence for the rest of his speech. I would have to agree with this idea, because it’s what’s around and the available resources that makes us use energy the way we do. We have to use certain energies to certain extents to get from one place to another or to use certain machines. Then Steffen goes on to talk about the density of communities and the climate emissions. With increasing the density of neighborhoods we could potentially walk somewhere instead of having to get in the car and drive somewhere. The “eco-districts” Steffen talks about are new sustainable neighborhoods that include things such as infill, urban retrofitting, and tentpole density, which will all have an effect on creating denser populations and using what we already have for the better. These ideas are definitely very feasible for a place like Norfolk. We already have a pretty dense population with a lot of buildings and the potential to use these places to make the whole community more sustainable. For instance, with lowering the amount of cars in the community, people will start to follow this trend and when they start to see the positive effects it has on the community and the people, it will only get better. Steffen then went on to say that the denser places with the right conditions will have a threshold effect. More and more people will stop driving and begin walking and using public transportation, which will have a huge effect on our environment. People-focused places will make individuals feel at home, and they just might give up their cars all together. This could even have the potential of cutting transportation emissions by 90%. Steffen wanted to move the idea of a dream home to the idea of a dream neighborhood. I definitely agree with the threshold effect, because it would kind of be like a domino effect and I think everyone would benefit from the idea. The whole idea around, “even space itself is turning into a service”, shows that people are beginning to share spaces or even do stuff with vacant spaces, and new building are being structured differently. For example; more windows to use daylight to light the building or the use the sun to heat the building. Using mechanisms like these have had tremendous effects on the amount of energy used by these buildings. A good example of this that I found is the new engineering and computational sciences building at ODU. This building meets each of the five categories associated with the LEED certification:
Rainwater collected on the roof will filter through on-site rock and plant gardens.
Native, drought-resistant plants and efficient drip irrigation will reduce the amount of water needed for landscaping. Efficient plumbing systems are expected to cut water use inside the building by 20 percent.
Energy and atmosphere
Increased insulation, external sun-shading, windows that increase day-lighting and other innovations that increase the efficiency of mechanical systems should cut the building’s energy demands by 20 percent.
Materials and resources
The building was constructed with increased amounts of salvaged, certified, recycled and rapidly renewable materials. Also, the university recycled 50 percent of construction debris.
In-door environmental quality
Air quality management controls keep contaminants out of the heating and air conditioning systems. The building is smoke-free.
Steffen’s argument about, “…it’s not about the leaves above, but the systems below…”, made a very interesting point. We often don’t look at how a city, for instance is capturing rain water to reuse it, or if a city uses green infrastructure to capture rain water and grow urban trees. This whole idea is based off of the way we take these natural resources and use them in a way that is healthier for the planet and in a way that we can provide communities with more energy in a cost-effective and “green” way. Overall I think Steffen has some really great ideas, and I believe that it would be possible to make them work here in Norfolk. Norfolk is continuously growing, and with more people comes more automobiles and tons of traffic. Just by eliminating all of these vehicles, we could make Norfolk such a cleaner place. It would definitely take a lot of work, but it could be possible. I believe that , like Steffen said in his speech, if people feel at home and think that everything they need is right around them, then they will soon see they don’t have any use for vehicles. Norfolk would also benefit enormously from capturing rain water and making it usable, and also being able to “retrofit” all of its old and vacant buildings. By using these vacant places to our advantage, there are endless possibilities to what we can make out this very old city. Using the ideas of Steffen would also make Norfolk a more appealable place and cleaning it up a bit would provide the surrounding communities with a since of pride for the new beginning of a sustainable Norfolk neighborhood.