From David Proffitt:
The headline of this article (“New Urbanism: The Case for Looking Beyond Style,” by Andrés Duany, April 2011, p. 74) points to an exciting premise. A New Urbanism divorced from any particular architectural style, particularly the retro architecture with which it has become so closely associated, would make the movement’s evidence-based approach to city planning all the more powerful. After all, few would argue Duany’s point that suburban sprawl is a primary cause of many of the environmental and human-health ills we face today. Unfortunately, when Duany writes, “A comfortable style is the camouflage that eases the acceptance of our radical reform agenda,” he subverts the “style agnostic” plank in the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) platform. If the New Urbanism really is about a city’s function rather than its component buildings’ form, isn’t it possible for a modernist (or any other -ist) aesthetic—assuming it is designed to accommodate interaction among its residents and with its surroundings—to fit under the NU umbrella? I wholeheartedly embrace the CNU’s urban-reform agenda, but as someone who personally is left uninspired by the aesthetics of Seaside, I fail to understand the insistence that New Urbanist principles and avant-garde architecture cannot coexist.
In Defense of Solar Energy
From Monique Hanis:
Paul Hawken’s recent commentary, “Ecology and Commerce, Revisited” (March 2011, p. 28), is factually inaccurate. A recent study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conclusively refutes Mr. Hawken’s unsupported claims that the production of photovoltaics is highly toxic and the energy return “abysmally low”. Energy payback for solar photovoltaic panels (that convert sunlight directly to electricity) is actually one to four years, depending on the panel type. Since all PV module lifetimes are longer than 30 years, they produce far more energy than consumed during their life cycle. The NREL study goes on to explain that a PV system meeting half of the electrical needs of a typical household eliminates half a ton of sulfur dioxide pollution from the air and 600 pounds of nitrogen oxides. Pollutants produced in the manufacturing process are minimal and largely recycled. PV solar energy systems are safe, economical, and ecologically sound.
The U.S. solar industry seeks to solve environmental problems, not create them. So the industry is already working proactively to establish industry-wide sustainable business practices for manufacturing and recycling, similar to the European PV Cycle Association. Solar panels produce safe, pollution-free energy from day one and companies are preparing to ensure they remain safe and pollution-free at the end of their (very long) life cycle.