Bubil: Urban planner Duany has eye on 'original green'


Urban planner and architect Andres Duany, who was in Sarasota last week, is outspoken on just about every subject that has anything to do with the built environment.

As the godfather of the Congress for the New Urbanism, he admits, "There are 27 principles, and I have never met anyone, even our bitterest opponents, who don't agree with it. They say, 'Of course, we agree with the charter,' but ... mostly they say, 'We don't like Duany.'"

He is controversial. He will criticize anything. Including himself.

He is also a quote machine. I will attempt to get out of the way:

nOn green building: "What can New Urbanism contribute to environmental movement? The environmental movement has an extraordinary bias toward high-tech solutions. It sounds neutral: Double-glazing. Yes, yes! Solar-this, wind-that — whatever, but high-tech! High-tech! High-tech! High-tech! And then they say it is only 8 percent more (to build green). It is not 8 percent more. I have done it. It is 30 and 40 percent more because of the implementation of high-tech solutions.

"The old way of doing things — the original green — is about thick curtains; it is about pot-bellied stoves; it is opening houses; it is about dealing with floods by actually not having insulation. The old way: When the water went out, you brought in new carpet and everything dried out. Once you do insulation, you can't deal with hurricanes anymore, so you have to raise the houses enormously. When you raise the houses, they cost more. Well, we can't afford it.

"At the last Congress, we brought up a new agenda: Instead of LEED, lean. Instead of LEED-Gold, maybe lean-brown. The old way, let's go back, let's study the mud and see what we can do with it. Get rid of that bias."

nOn the real estate bubble: "Yes, it is going away. But do you know what it revealed? The underlying revelation, which is permanent, is that we're broke. The real estate collapse revealed how much we owe — for pensions, for infrastructure repairs, for retirement, the medical. Wherever I go, the first question I ask is, 'How broke are you?' The least-broke city I have ever worked with is Salt Lake City. They have no money at all, but they are not in debt.

"So we cannot come up with solutions that cost money. And that is where the New Urbanism can contribute. We can go back to the original green. That is the next agenda. Light, low-tech environmentalism."

A second agenda: "'Pink Codes' that reduce red tape by bypassing the 'ballers.' The bureaucrats are the ballers. The ballers are in the way. How do we bypass them, specifically to let the young people operate?

"Just sheer efficiency."

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: June 22, 2013
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