The Design Jury has now selected a finalist list of Competition Blog Entries from which one final winner will be selected. To see the finalist competitiion blogs go to the COMPETITION page to review the finalists.
The final 20 blogs are all VERY good, with some truly inspired and inspiring ideas. I think you will be very impressed by both the quality of thought and imagination that went into these proposals. It will indeed be very difficult to select a "best" blog from so many excellent blogs.
The jury is now in the process of finding a date when we can all get together to do the final selection process. Once we have met and made the selection, we will announce the winner.
Thanks again for your patience in our selection process. (because we are a strictly volunteer organization, we have to work in with everyone's very busy real-world schedules).
We have good news and bad news: The good news is that the our competition jurors are very impressed by both the ideas and the quality of many of the competition submissions. The bad news is that given the large number of submissions, it has taken much longer than we had anticipated to properly review all of these great submissions!
Our jurors have now reviewed all of the submissions and narrowed the selection down to a short-list of 10 finalists. After the holiday season is over, we will be gathering the jury together by web conference to discuss and select which entry is the most effective in meeting the terms of the competition.
We then hope to be able to announce the juried winner early in the New Year. At that time we also announce the Peoples’ Choice award - which has been very popular.
Thanks again for your patience, and all the best in the holiday season!
Following on from my last blog post of October 24, and my initial thoughts on the APPI 2010 Conference, one of the very productive breakout groups that I took part in was energized by a very insightful observation made by Hani Quan, one of the APPI Conference facilitators who had joined our group. The group had formed up to tackle the question of how the key conference insights could best be recorded, digested, and then made useful to Alberta Planners. Hani observed that it had been his experience in previous sessions, that as participants worked through the various “burning questions”, they would inevitably have to deal with the three overlapping concerns of “process”, “content”, and “relationships”, and that the most productive and useful ideas would emerge where all three of these three concerns overlapped.
So using this Process / Content / Relationships triad as a lens, I have outlined below, in a very distilled fashion, the processes, content and relationships that had the greatest resonance for me at the conference, and had, to my mind, the greatest potential to help the planning community work through the important questions that now face us as we look for opportunities and strategies for planning and designing more resilient cities.
The central theme of he conference focused on “building resilient people and resilient communities … in a world that is constantly changing.” To explore this theme the APPI conference leaders took the bold step of departing from the usual conference format, and instead of organizing the conference around the typical “talking head” style lectures, they threw the conference wide-open to their membership by holding an “un-conference” - a conference using a combination of Open Space Technology and World Cafe to explore all of the “burning questions” that conference participants really cared about.
For those unfamiliar with it, Open Space Technology is a process originally conceived of by Harrison Owen and designed to allow organizations, groups and communities to explore important questions, issues or problems through a self-organizing set of discussions. Its method allows leadership and structure to emerge from the group, and has the intent of stimulating meaningful planning, and initiating inspired performance. (source: The Art of Hosting, http://www.artofhosting.org/thepractice/coremethods/openspace/ ).
This was definitely a risky approach by the APPI conference organizers, but as it turned out, one that produced a great many thoughtful explorations, and a great many insights into both the question of resilience, but also of what the APPI members really cared about.
What sort of ideas emerged from this conference? The conference was rich in ideas, strategies, and possible avenues for further exploration. Of the close to 60 “burning questions” that emerged over the two and a half days of Open Space breakout groups, to my mind the questions that shed the most light on the issues of urban and community resilience included:
How do we plan and design our cities to make them more RESILIENT to the future shocks and stresses associated with climate change and peak oil?
Is Transit Oriented Development the future of urban planning? If not, are electric cars the solution to auto-centric cities?
How can we see the city as a whole living system?
Affordable housing. How? Why? What? Who? Where?
How do we take the global understanding that humankind is in peril to planning at the local community level for a sustainable future?
Roadblocks to sustainable communities. Why is the shift so hard?
How can we promote better urban design in "extreme" suburban context? Is it really worth it?
"Complete communities" How do we put the theory into practice?
How best can we plan for non-renewable resources?
Is there a place for nature in the built environment?
How can we be more innovative as planners or how can we be more effective diversity bees?
What is the future of/for agricultural land in Alberta?
How do we more actively engage the public in the planning process?
The content of these breakout groups is now being posted on the APPI Conference Wiki so if any of these questions interest you, you should further explore them at http://conf2010spokenherd.wikispaces.com/
The Conference Leadership Team* did a great job of organizing the APPI 2010 Conference, and I think that one of the reasons they were so successful in pulling off their Open Space “un-conference” was that they really understood and honoured the importance of how chemistry and relationships between attendees would have the potential to make the conference succeed, or potentially sewer it. As it turned out the shear goodwill and positive energy of the conference leaders might have allowed any conference structure to succeed, but it was particularly effective in making this Open Space conference work. I was also very impressed by the openness and goodwill of most all of the attendees who not only generated a compelling set of burning questions, but also developed equally thoughtful responses.
My net take-away from this conference was that it was a complete success in both its method, and its results. It is to be hoped that the APPI will take this success and look for future opportunities to leverage the questions and ideas that emerged out this conference as they continue to explore “building resilient people and resilient communities … in a world that is constantly changing.” Congratulations to the organizers and all who attended for making it such a great event.
* The leadership team who organized and led this year’s APPI Conference included:
• Beth Sanders (POPULUS Community Planning Inc.)
• Dnyanesh Deshpande (City of Edmonton)
• Hani Quan (City of Edmonton)
• Jeremy Schiff (Municipal Affairs)
• Marilyn Hamilton (Integral City)
• Michelle Hartlaub (City of Edmonton)
• Njeri Mbajiorgu (Municipal Affairs)
• Peter Lehner (Plasser West)
• Rick Stuckenberg (Stuckenberg and Associates)
This past week I had the pleasure of attending the Alberta Professional Planners Institute (APPI) Annual Conference, held in Lake Louise. I had been generously invited to attend and to contribute ideas related to my research into urban resilience in the face of global warming and economic decline. The conference had been convened by the APPI to explore the current planners’ reality that, “…in our complex web of economic, social, cultural and environmental challenges in our communities, we feel unsettled and overwhelmed, and yet we are also energized by a sense of possibility.” (APPI Conference Agenda) The possibility that we might actually be able to make our communities more resilient to the stresses and future problems our communities and cities face was the very timely theme of the conference, and the conference organizers were bold enough to hold a “un-conference” conference using Open Space Technology to more fully explore the linked questions: What if we aren't planning to survive??... and who is planning our future anyway?
At the opening reception of the conference, we were all asked to answer the question: “Who is planning our future anyway?”, and to then post our answers on the large cartoon “elephant in the room” hanging on the wall. Most of the answers posted by participants were quite insightful, but of course with a few ironic and humorous posts like “certainly not our politicians!”
As a scanned all of the posted comments, it occurred to me that perhaps the question of “who” might not be as important as the question of “what”.
When you think about society’s current lack of progress on so many important fronts, it seems to me not so much a problem of poor or corrupt planning by any particular individual, (or even group of elites) but rather, the result of the more banal, but nevertheless extremely powerful inertia of past decisions, reinforced by ever more obsolete paradigms.
The interesting question for me at this conference would therefore be: could this conference overcome this very same inertia, and in doing so expose, and hopefully explore, some of the important planning and design issues that planners will necessarily face in the coming decades?
In my next blog post I will outline what I found at the APPI 2010 Conference, and some of the key insights I gained.
A few of you have sent email asking about the Design Ideas Competition, and what is happening with the judging of this years entries.
Well, we are now finally underway with the judging and we hope to be done by the end of October. You may be wondering why it seems to be taking so long. The simple answer is that the competition and judging is staffed by volunteers, who have to work the reading and judging into their already packed schedules. The good news is that we have another great team of judges this year and in my next blog entry I will tell you all about them.
This year we are also holding a People's Choice Award everyone can vote on. If you haven't already, I encourage you to go to the Survey Monkey link and evaluate your favourite entries.
Thanks for your continuing interest in the competition and in the idea of resilience.
The 2010 ResilientCity.org Design Ideas Competition Is Now Closed!
Thank you to all of you who submitted competition entries!
From the competition entries I have scanned, I am very impressed by the quality of the blogs. Entrants have been both very passionate and very thoughtful in their explorations.
So let me ask all of the entrants a question: Once we have completed the competition and awarded the prizes, where do you think we should go next? There are a number of contributors who are still very interested in continuing to build out the content of the reference sections of the website, as well as to continue to hold design idea competitions. But what about the possibility of the website serving as a hub for people who are interested in resilience and resilient design? What about using ResilientCity.org to connect us to each other?
If so, what form could it take? A wiki of resources? A place to post your local resilience activities? A Ning gathering spot?
What kinds of opportunities strike you as relevant and worthwhile?
I would love to hear where you think we could/ should go! To respond you can either use the blog comment feature or send me an email through our contact page.
Again, to all of those of you who participated in the 2010 ResilientCity.org Design Ideas Competiton, thanks for your interest and efforts. The world needs more people like you!
SUBMISSION DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JUNE 11th 2010 at 8:00pm EST.
I would first like to thank everyone for their participation in this year’s Design Ideas Competition. But I would also like to appologize for the problems we have been having with our web servers in the past few days. Our web host has assured us that the problems will be fixed shortly, and they will be sending out an email to all registrants to confirm that the problems have been fixed.
We have also extended the submission deadline until June 11th to provide you with enough additional time to get your entries posted. However, if problems continue, please be assured that we will extend the deadline again to make sure that you are able to get your submissions posted.
Thanks again for your patience, and don't worry, we will do everything we can to make sure you can get your blogs posted before we close the submissions.
Good luck! The future is counting on your creativity!
Registration for the ResilientCity.org Design Ideas Competition closed last night at12:00pm EST!
Thanks to all those who have registered! We have received over 180 registrations with some really interesting and thoughtful proposed projects, se we are very much looking forward to seeing your submission blogs!
Given the large number of registrations that were made in the last couple of days, it is going to take us a couple of days to process them and get you out your confirmation email along with your user name and password so that you can access your competition blog page. However, we are going to do our very best to get back to you by Tuesday so that you will have plenty of time to test out your blog page and become comfortable using it before the final submission date/time of May 30th at 12:00 am EST.
As mentioned in my previous blog, I would urge you to try to get your competition entry blog posted before the deadline date so that you do not run into an internet traffic jam when trying to upload your blog at the very last moment. We suggest you aim to load your blog at least one day before the final closing time to give yourself plenty of time to make sure your blog is up and working.
We look forward to receiving and reading/watching your entry!
Registration for the ResilientCity.org Design Ideas Competition Closes tomorrow May 14th at the end of the day 12:00pm EST.
We have received over 150 registrations with some wonderfully interesting and thoughtful proposed projects. We are very much looking forward to seeing your submission blogs!
However, we have also had a number of people emailing us to say that they have not recieved the registration confirmation email. It usually takes us between one and two weeks to get this email out to registrants, but after registration closes tomorrow, we will do our very best to get this email to you with a few days - to give you the time you will need to explore how the blog interface works before you load up your blog by May 30th. If you don't hear from us please use the Contact Us email to let us know that you have not received your confirmation email.
We would also urge you to try to get your competition entry blog posted before the deadline date so that you do not run into an internet traffic jam when trying to upload your blog at the very last moment. We suggest you aim to load your blog at least one day before the final closing time to give yourself plenty of time to make sure your blog is up and working.
We look forward to receiving and reading/watching your entry!
“Resilience is the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change, so as to still remain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks.”
Source: B. Walker et al, ‘Resilience, Adaptability and
Transformability in Social-ecological Systems’,
Ecology and Society 9 (2) p. 5
Last week I got a call from Gregory Green – the director of the documentary The End of Suburbia, as well as a judge on this year’s Design Ideas Competition - to discuss his upcoming documentary about resilient cities. Gregory has a great sense of curiosity about the world, so it is always a pleasure to chat with him about our mutual interest in resilient cities. In the course of our conversation, he asked me a very interesting question: “If you had to choose just three strategies to significantly increase the capacity for resilience of our cities to the future impacts of Peak Oil and Climate Change, what would they be?” A very prescient question - given that every city’s resources are always limited, and real trade-offs always have to be made if a city’s capacity for resilience is to be increased.
This blog is therefore an attempt to think through and answer Gregory’s question.
When thinking about how best to answer this question, it was clear from the outset that defining clear criteria for selecting these strategies would be the heart of the exercise. The following chosen criteria are based on my past experience as an architect and urban designer in dealing with complex problems that have no one right answer or solution:
1. The strategies should have an impact that is in reasonable proportion to the resources that must be invested to achieve the intended result.
2. The strategies must be achievable with currently existing and easily accessible science and technology.
3. The strategies must be scalable and be able to be used at a small community scale, but also have the ability to be used at a larger regional scale.
4. The strategies must be able to be implemented without significant political upheaval.
5. The strategies must serve to contribute positively to the economic and cultural health of the community and city where they are implemented.
6. The selection of the best strategies should be consistent with the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule – that is, that the chosen strategies should, if compared to all the other strategies, be the 20% of strategies that produce 80% of the positive benefits.
Based on the above six criteria, I would propose that the following three strategies will be the most effective for building substantial additional resilience capacity into our communities and cities:
Reduction of a city’s overall energy requirements
Increasing a city’s key infrastructure capacity
Re-localization of key functions into a city
1. Reduce our city’s energy requirements: Our cities’ growing demand for energy, and especially fossil fuel energy, both in absolute and per capita terms, not only contributes to the problem of global warming, but, in the not too distant future, will become increasingly unsupportable as the emerging reality of peak oil economics begins to drive up oil prices to levels that will significantly impair the economic health of our now highly energy dependent urban and regional economies. Our ability to develop viable and economically sound strategies for reducing our cities’ demand for energy will be crucial for building the capacity for resilience to the future impacts of peak oil, while at the same time reducing the present negative impact of our cities on our global environment. I believe that in order to accomplish this, we will need to develop realistic strategies for both increasing the proportion of renewable energy our cities produce and use, and more importantly, develop strategies for reducing the current level of demand for energy through such key measures as:
Reducing the energy demand of our existing urban fabric: through the implementation of much more comprehensive and aggressive programs for energy conservation such as the re-skinning our cities’ building fabric on a citywide scale. It is important to remember that close to 50% of all energy consumed in our cities is consumed in the heating and cooling buildings! Two very good examples putting this strategy into action are the Zero Footprint Building Re-Skinning Competition and the City of Toronto’s Mayor’s Tower Renewal Project .
Reducing our consumption of fossil fuels for transportation: by reducing our use and dependence on automobiles as our cities’ primary means of circulation by increasing urban density; by increasing our cities’ mass transportation capacity; and by increasing the proportion of mixed-use redevelopment in order to reduce logistics costs for movement of goods and services. A very inspiring and instructive example of a city significantly reducing the use and dependence of automobiles is the City of Chattanooga’s implementation of a free electric bus transit system to provide access to all of its downtown core from strategically located parking garages at the periphery of the city. (See a case study of the Chattanooga Electric Bus System )
2. Increase the capacity and effectiveness of our key infrastructure systems: In the developed world, our key infrastructure systems are reaching or have reached the end of their serviceable life. Electrical power generation and transmission grids; potable water and waste water systems; and public transportation systems are all now at capacity or beyond capacity and service life. There is therefore currently not a lot of resilience left in these systems – they are all frail and failing.
Moreover, our cities’ current economies seem barely able to afford the costs of operating and maintaining these existing systems in their present state, let alone redeveloping them in any comprehensive way. But there is a bigger problem looming. When we are forced to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, as the economic realities of peak oil begin to kick in, there will be even less economic capacity to allow for the redevelop of these systems. We must therefore begin to look for strategies for re-developing these important infrastructure systems before our economies begin to feel the bite of peak oil. Some of the important re-development opportunities that now present themselves include:
Electric Power Infrastructure Re-development: The development of “smart” power transmission grids to not only add the necessary new capacity to current aging and insufficient infrastructure, but to also facilitate the new world of electrical power supply and use where any user may also be a supplier. Also, given that renewable power sources, such as wind, solar thermal, and geothermal, are very often geographically separated from their end users, the development of high efficiency (low transmission power loss) direct current (DC) transmission corridors will also have to be developed at a continental scale.
Potable Water Supply Re-development: In many North American and European cities, existing water supply systems have reached the end of their functional life. As the impacts of future climate change causes droughts and reductions in water supplies in many locations around the world, cities will have to develop strategies for both water conservation, but also wastewater and grey water purification and reuse. These strategies should also be interlinked with new strategies for dealing with wastewater. A good example of how this might be accomplished can be found at John Todd’s website at http://toddecological.com/ .
3. Develop strategies for re-localizing key functions that are currently predicated on cheap oil: As the economic pressures of Peak Oil reduce the economic logic of shipping food and manufactured goods great distances, the pressure to re-localize the key functions of food production and manufacturing will have huge implications for how our cities are planned and operated:
Re-localizing Food: We have to develop effective strategies for feeding our cities through local agricultural production to successfully respond to the impacts of rising transportation costs and agricultural production costs that will result from the rising cost of oil resulting from the economic logic of peak oil. A very innovative and future looking example of re-localizing food supply can be seen in Gordon Graff’s High Rise “Sky Farm” proposal, where the production of food is brought right into the city in the form of a highrise building designed as a completely integrated organic farm able to support 40,000 people. (see an article about Gordon's Sky Farm at Treehugger). More conventional strategies for conserving and re-developing farmland that used to surround most cities will become important for developing an overall food re-localization strategy for our cities.
Sky Farm Proposal by Gordon Graff 2009 (by permission of Author)
Re-localizing Manufacturing: Over the next decade, as the economic logic of peak oil begins to be felt around the world, cities will begin see the off-shored jobs returning from Asia and other parts of the developing world as rising shipping costs due to increased fuel costs kill the bottom-line advantage of off-shoring manufacturing to the lower cost labour markets. We will therefore need to develop city planning and design strategies to re-industrialize our cities in economically effective, and environmentally responsible ways. For an excellent treatment of this complexities of this issue see Jeff Rubin's new book, Why Your World is About to Get a Lot Smaller.
Now Is The Time To Re-develop Our Infrastructure! The above three key strategies of reducing our cities’ overall energy requirements; increasing and re-developing infrastructure capacity; and re-localizing key functions, form what I believe to be the core components of what will be the most effective means of increasing the critically capacity necessary for the development of resilience to the future impacts of peak oil and global warming. Most importantly, because all three of these strategies will require significant public and private investment, our cities will have a much better chance of building addition capacity now while our economy is relatively unimpaired by the soon-to-come negative economic impacts of peak oil, rather than if we wait until these harsh economic impacts begin to be felt in the future. The question is: will we?
I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this blog. The ideas expressed are core to my thinking about resiliency, and I hope will be helpful to those of you who are currently developing your ideas for the 2010 ResilientCity.org Design Ideas Competition.