Reframing Urban Sustainability Through Community Owned Energy Assets

By Drew Pierson

I recently reflected on the fact that “urban sustainability” is a term that typically narrows discussions about planning and development on environmental issues, in spite of related factors that may contribute to the general welfare of cities, such as jobs, income, and social well-being. Given that environmental problems often stem from economic processes and the social needs that drive them, one could assume that “urban sustainability” should extend its definition to include relationships among the three spheres of environment, economy, and society. As such, why isn’t “urban sustainability” more readily discussed within this framework and in a way that integrates goals from these three underlying areas at the onset? What opportunities exist that would allow entrepreneurs and planning practitioners to promote a more holistic version of “urban sustainability?” Continue reading


District Energy: A Pathway to More Sustainable, Self-Reliant Cities?

By Drew Pierson

In several cases this semester, our class touched upon the importance of utility infrastructure in shaping the development of cities. From supporting industry and residential neighborhoods to generating value for owners in the form of utility rates, its clear that utility infrastructure serves a foundational role in advancing the sustainability and basic functionality of cities. Yet, while we’ve focused on the individual building, citywide, and regional scales, our class has paid less attention to one emerging niche of utility service provision: district energy systems. Continue reading