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Greening cities, one neighborhood at a time
Author: Laura Gleim, Institute for Sustainable Solutions
Posted: October 15, 2012

With solar arrays, green roofs, and reclaimed materials becoming the standard for sustainable urban buildings, the Portland Sustainability Institute (PoSI) has called on urbanites to take the next step—from developing green buildings to greening entire neighborhoods.

Five pilot neighborhoods in Portland—called EcoDistricts—have taken on this challenge, committing to pursue comprehensive sustainability goals at the district scale. And the concept is already expanding beyond the Rose City.

On October 23–26, PoSI’s 2012 International EcoDistricts Summit will convene at Portland State University. Sponsored by the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions and the city of Portland, the Summit will bring together urban innovators to explore neighborhood-scale sustainability methods that can be applied to cities around the globe.

“The Summit provides attendees with the fundamentals of how to create sustainable neighborhoods in their own cities, from neighborhood governance to projects like district energy and water management. We aim to honestly share what’s worked as well as what hasn’t to help our peers achieve sustainability outcomes as efficiently as possible,” said Naomi Cole, EcoDistricts program director for PoSI.

Portland State lies in the heart of the South of Market (SoMa) EcoDistrict, one of the city’s five pilot districts. In addition to the usual stakeholders—residents, business owners, and city planners—the SoMa EcoDistrict also has the opportunity to engage the campus community in achieving its goals.

“The district has direct access to Portland State students and professors who offer a tremendous amount of energy and expertise for planning and carrying out sustainability initiatives,” said Fletcher Beaudoin, partnerships director for the Institute for Sustainable Solutions.

In an effort to streamline student involvement in the EcoDistrict, Beaudoin has co-taught four Senior Capstone courses on the topic with Barry Messer, professor of Urban Studies and Planning. Each Capstone has taken on projects that encourage resource efficiency within the local community, including a public waste sort on the park blocks and a proposal for a website to promote green travel within the EcoDistrict.

“Over the past couple years, there has been increasing awareness about the EcoDistrict concept and the value that it could bring to the SoMa inhabitants. This is among students, faculty and, administration at PSU, but also the surrounding property owners and residents,” said Beaudoin.

To learn more about EcoDistricts or to register for the Summit, visit http://ecodistrictssummit.com/