Introducing Tropical Green

This introduction was delivered by Metropolis editor in chief, Susan S. Szenasy, to kick off the Tropical Green Conference, on February 9-10, 2006 in Miami, Florida. We present the full introduction here, in response to many requests for it after the conference.

Look for—listen for—podcast interviews here with Tropical Green speakers and Metropolis contributing editor Andrew Blum. More podcasts to follow…stay tuned!


Welcome to Tropical Green. The following two days are a dream come true for Bernard Zyscovich and me. We started talking about a conference like this years ago when I came to Miami from the frozen North just to shiver all night inside my sealed, 70 degree hotel room—with no possibility to shut down the AC or open the window.

It really does take a village to make a conference like this happen. When the Metropolis and Zyscovich team got together we did it long distance, via emails and conference calls. Along with Miami Dade College and its Earth Institute, I wish to recognize the team from Zyscovich: Kricket Snow, architect, who brought along the Miami Architecture Club (she will be our MC for the next two days); Carolyn Mitchell, landscape architect and chair of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Green Building Council of South Florida; Melissa Hege, planner, on the board of the Gold Coast Chapter of the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association; and Cheryl Jacobs who brought in the Urban Land Institute, South Florida District Regional Council. In addition, Miami Dade College—our home for the next two days—and its Earth Institute Director and the irrepressible Coleen Ahern-Hettich; as well as our other planning partner, the American Society of Interior Designers.

I wish to thank our Metropolis team, starting with Eve Dilworth, my assistant, who runs the world; our art department headed by Criswell Lappin who just became a new father and sent his assistant, Erich Nagler; Peter Lenehan whose energy pushed things along; Allison Carroll of our marketing department and last, but never least, Horace Havemeyer, Metropolis publisher who allowed us to proceed with this venture. By the way, Horace has been putting up with my shenanigans as editor in chief for 20 years, and we’re celebrating Metropolis’s 25th anniversary in April 2006. The first cover of the magazine featured a solar high-rise.

I wish to thank our sponsors whose financial support is key to a venture like this conference. Thank you Shaw Contract Group, Haworth, Ultron, and Carnegie; there are Steelcase chairs up front for those who arrive first.

Reminder: Your programs include short bios, eliminating the need for long-winded introductions; they also reveal the logic of the next two days; printed on minimum paper. The program pouches were donated by the American Institute of Graphic Arts which, with Aveda, found a recycleable vinyl.

As you can see this conference was infused by the spirit of collaboration—many uniquely skilled individuals working together to solve a complex problem. The spirit of collaboration is also a cornerstone of sustainable design.

Now for why we are here: the Miami building boom or what is being talked about as “Miami beefs up its skyline.”
Boutique architecture firms are building 26-story towers that feature the following:
—24-hour staffed guard house
—heated swimming pool and spa
—barbeque and bar in a garden setting
—sunrise terrace with shaded pavilion
—controlled-access parking garage
—social activity room with full kitchen facilities and a fitness center
—luxury marina and boat storage and
—two of the world’s largest marine forklifts

Privatized luxury that takes you from your Lexus to your high-rise residence to your boat and deep into the American Dream which may actually turn into the American Nightmare of resource shortages and market crashes.

Imagine this. When all those thousands of toilets flush, what happens to the area’s water supply? Today, already, even as Miami waits and watches those 100 new buildings rise, the city uses 170 gallons of water per capita, per day—more than any other city in the U.S.

Some Florida numbers for us to think about:
—By 2030 there will be 12 million more people living here.
—Today Florida is the fourth most populous state in the Union. It is expected to be the third most populous by 2011, outranking New York.

Does Miami have a sustainability expert—who is also an environmental advocate—in city government? Cleveland has one. So do Seattle, Chicago, Portland, and other American cities.

Have Florida and the South Eastern region made a commitment to freeze and reduce power plant emissions? In the West California, Washington, and Oregon have. Also, nine North East states have agreed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases—and are working together to do this.

In our current culture of unsustainable consumption it seems that we need economic incentives to save energy. There are now tax credits for converting to new, energy-saving washers, dryers, fidges; free-parking and HOV lane access for hybrid cars.

Where is the talk of responsible and ethical behavior? Where is the discussion about plans to recycle the old appliances that will hit the junk pile with a huge thud as they’re exchanged for more energy-efficient ones?

The very fact that these questions are being asked give us hope and make our times interesting. It is certainly a great time to be an architect and a designer, because those who are acquiring knowledge and skills in designing sustainably are more and more in demand.

This shift to add new meaning to design through sustainable practices was, and continues to be, lead by our speakers, each of whom took their own initiatives and made a decision to educate themselves in responsible design.

We bring you the wisdom of sustainable practitioners from around the globe, plus the energy and enthusiasm of local groups who see the need for tropical green. Let’s get the Big Picture today [Tools and Techniques on day two].

It is not by accident that we start these two days with two former mayors. Political will and courage is one of the cornerstones of sustainability. Our invited guests—Mayor Diaz of Miami and Mayor Alvarez of Miami Dade County are no shows.

A green vision: Jaime Lerner, is a Metropolis Visionary, as our editors called him in our January 2006 issue. Today’s visionaries fix their own back yards. Jaime Lerner worked to make his home town, Curitiba, Brazil, a city that has become an emblem of sustainable planning. And Jeremy Harris, as mayor of Honolulu, conducted community visioning sessions to make their city sustainable. Gentlemen, your grand visions…

Categories: Cities