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The Carbon Efficient City

Building Blocks to Cool Our Planet

A-P Hurd

Publication Year: 2012

The Carbon Efficient City shows how regional economies can be aligned with practices that drive carbon efficiency. It details ten strategies for reducing carbon emissions in our cities: standardized measurement, frameworks that support innovation, regulatory alignment, reducing consumption, reuse and restoration, focus on neighborhoods, providing spaces for nature, use of on-site life cycles for water and energy, coordination of regional transportation, and emphasis on solutions that delight people.

Published by: University of Washington Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-x

Cities and city living are a modern development. For the first 200,000 years of human history, people were hunter-gatherers, living in small groups and moving frequently. The development of agriculture some 10,000 years ago allowed people to establish the first permanent settlements in the form of...

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pp. xi-xii

The idea for this book came out of the Quality Growth Alliance, a Puget Sound organization that brought together a diverse group of business, urban, and environmental interests who agreed on how growth should be accommodated in the region. In 2009, I was part of the alliance’s initial working...

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pp. xv-xvii

First, in its genesis, we thank the Quality Growth Alliance and Forterra (the organization formerly known as Cascade Land Conservancy) for their groundbreaking work in bringing business and environmental interests into such a mutually productive conversation. This book would not have been...

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pp. 3-12

The most striking thing about climate change is that despite the best efforts of so many people, our planet’s inhabitants seem incapable of doing anything about it. Although some uncertainty remains about the significance of humans’ role in climate change, there is no longer...

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1. Measure for Measure

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pp. 13-24

Measurement systems are symbolic representations of the real world. Effective measurement systems are standardized, verifiable, and widely adopted. This last qualifier is important: The value of a measurement system (or symbolic representation) as a communication tool increases...

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2. The Invisible Hand

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pp. 25-40

Measurement systems are a fundamental building block for managing change. However, even visionary goals articulated in terms of concrete measurement systems do not create change on their own. Transforming our high-carbon economy to a successful low-carbon economy will require not only...

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3. Regulatory Roadblocks

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pp. 41-52

Chapter 1 dealt with creating measurement and accounting standards for carbon emissions so that we could effectively measure carbon outputs. Chapter 2 talked about how getting technical and economic frameworks right can lead to efficient markets that ascribe real value to energy, water, and climate...

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4. Reduce

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pp. 53-63

Reduce is all about making things smaller and using less. Applying the principle of “reduce” to the built environment can create benefits at multiple levels. Smaller spaces have less embodied carbon because they use fewer materials; they also have lower operational costs. Compact neighborhoods create access with...

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5. Built to Last

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pp. 64-78

In the world of consumer products, “reduce, reuse, recycle” is the catchphrase for strategies that reduce waste. When talking about the built environment, it is more relevant to think of these in two separate categories— the first being “reduce,” which is discussed in chapter 4, and the second, “reuse, restore, retrofit,” which...

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6. Great Neighborhoods

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pp. 79-93

We know that there are patterns of development that make people feel good. We also know that certain patterns of development lead to lowered vehicle miles traveled. If we emphasize the second but ignore the first, we will never get compact patterns of land use that are...

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7. Spaces for Nature

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pp. 94-104

Bill Reed, a prominent systems ecologist who works with developers on built environment projects, gets his clients to adopt strategies that radically change their original plans for development. More specifically, he decides what attributes a project should have in order to fit in with its natural environment...

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8. On-Site Life Cycles

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pp. 105-116

In some ways buildings and neighborhoods operate like living organisms. They require inputs like water and energy, which travel through their massive circulatory systems of plumbing and wiring, and at the end of that process, they output wastes. Most of us are used to thinking of these input and output systems in a linear way...

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9. Regional Transportation

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pp. 117-135

Transportation is a response to the need people have for access to places and things that they can’t get to on foot. Because transportation creates value by providing access, by definition transportation networks are useful to the extent that they effectively connect people with the things they need. Assuming people...

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10. Delight

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pp. 136-150

Successful product developers know that they create value by meeting customer requirements. People who develop consumer products use all sorts of tools, from focus groups to surveys to behavioral observation, to understand customer needs. But in many cases, customers’ expectations are...

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11. Making a Dent

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pp. 151-153

Throughout this book we have described the strategies that can consequentially impact carbon emissions from the built environment. Even more important, we’ve set out to articulate some specific tools and levers that each of our institutions has at its disposal, and which tools are most appropriate...


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pp. 155-168


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pp. 169-173


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pp. 175-186

E-ISBN-13: 9780295804187
E-ISBN-10: 0295804181
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295991719
Print-ISBN-10: 0295991712

Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sustainable urban development.
  • Carbon dioxide mitigation.
  • Urban ecology (Sociology).
  • City planning -- Environmental aspects.
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