I have the pleasure of leading a delegation of University of Virginia students around Europe to observe and take note of innovative practices in the areas of housing, energy, food systems, transportation, and water. The following is a description of the program as it was designed. Following are daily entries by the students on what they saw, who they met, how they felt, and what practices caught their interest.
An International Summer Program
Sponsored by the University of Virginia, School of Architecture, Department of Urban + Environmental Planning
Faculty: Dr. Suzanne Morse Moomaw, Associate Professor, Urban + Environmental Planning,
Director, Community Design Research Center
Ms. Harriett Jameson, MLA/MUEP, Instructor and Program Director, Community Design
This course contrasts trends, planning, and policies in sustainability, sustainable urban design, and sustainable urban transport in Europe and the USA. The class is designed around a sequence of three interrelated themes—urban design and form, sustainable built systems, and sustainable natural systems.
The first theme sustainable urban form begins in Berlin where we will view the city through the lens of its past and future. Dr. Michael LaFond of the Institute for Creative Sustainability will introduce the myriad of ways that the concept of sustainability is being applied through land use, housing, andshared workspace. Dr. Paola Alfaro d’Alencon of the Technical University of Berlin will illustrate how cooperative planning is helping shape post-industrial landscapes and Dr. Michael Lee of the University of Virginia will show students new and old landscape sites that use water and reclaimed land in innovative ways ending with a contextual tour of the Tiegarten.
The second theme will take full shape in Freiburg where we will see some of the world’s leading examples of sustainable housing, transportation, and energy. We will begin with a discussion of the housing, land use, and the concept of sustainable transport with Wulf Daseking, former principle planner in Freiburg. We will focus on active transport (walking and cycling) and public transport. Throughout this theme students will work in groups to evaluate the transferability of innovative European transport policies to the USA. Tentative innovative policies and policy areas include: high-speed rail, bike sharing, car sharing, traffic calming, and innovative land-use planning systems. For each policy, planning approach, and case study in Europe we attempt to determine how and if European policies could work in America. Our final session in Freiburg will be at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Research to see the new H-car, solar panels, and learn more about the tools for reversing our impact on the climate.
The final theme sustainable natural systems will be explored in Basel, Zurich, and the village of Riva San Vitale. The primary focus is on energy, water supply, risk, and use and sustainable food systems. Why this theme in these places? On energy, Switzerland has institute the 2000-Watt Society to reduce the energy footprint. It is one of the European countries that has taken the lead in maintaining and preserving its water supply. Called the “water tower” of Europe, Switzerland has around six percent of the continent’s freshwater resources. For our study on water, we will examine the following topics related to freshwater using research and case studies from around the world: global availability; significant threats; negative human impact; allocation and regulation; distribution; and water equity. We will begin in Basel where we will see the Rhine River and begin to understand the positive impact that cross-jurisdictional cooperation can have. We will meet with researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAVAG) about international and country research on such topics as potable water, research on waste to fertilizer, and sustainable building practices. We will also have the opportunity to have a learning laboratory literally in our neighborhood—Lake Lugano. Finally, we will look at the sustainable and “slow” food movement as it is played out in the Ticino Canton.