An Argument for Retrofitting Existing Cities vs. Building Greenfield Cities

By Anonymous

As we look at best practices for investing in sustainable, competitive cities, most of the examples we have reviewed in class have either been driven by government or at least had significant government involvement. As I reviewed the prescriptive steps in planning that were proposed, it struck me that in order for these steps to result in the successful development of a sustainable, competitive city, it would require a high degree of intellectual honesty on the part of the protagonist, particularly as it relates to learning from history and past practice, measuring outcomes and learning and adapting. The question this brought me to is, if the protagonist is the government, is this a reasonable expectation? And if not, where does that leave us? Continue reading


How Can we Improve the Urban Sustainability Index: Look to Maps and Demographics

By Megan Brown

After our discussion in class about measuring sustainability, I found myself quite torn about the McKinsey Urban Sustainability Index. I agree with many of my classmates that the overabundance of data seemed almost arbitrary and artificial. The data allow us to rank cities based on five sets of criteria, but the use of averages can hide extremes. I think it is important to dig deeper into what sustainability means and to find better ways for measuring it and predicting how to improve it. Without them, how will we be able to assess how well cities achieve their objectives or determine what best practices are? I believe the Urban Sustainability Index could be dramatically improved by incorporating mapping to visualize the data and by adding a 6th category: demographics and happiness. Continue reading

Seeing is believing: is data visualization the low hanging fruit of energy reduction, or too good to be true?

By Julia DeIuliis

What if energy consumption could be reduced by ~2% without developing new technology, adding regulations, installing new equipment, or disrupting communities- and with minimal investment? If 2% sounds insignificant, remember that it would save households over $3 billion on electricity.

This is the promise of data visualization. Energy reports can display the absolute level of energy usage, as well as comparisons with historical usage and peers. For example:

Exhibit 1: OPower report

Continue reading