Welcome to the Sustainable City Podcast
The world is urbanizing at an unprecedented pace. Sixty to 70 million people will be moving to cities each year over the next few decades as the globe’s population approaches 10 billion. Experts estimate we’ll need to invest $90 trillion in global infrastructure in the next 15 years just to keep up. The numbers alone are staggering.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., we expect to add another 100 million residents by 2050. And like the rest of the planet, our cities are where the action is, driven by a demand for transit-oriented, mixed-use neighborhoods and a growing commitment to climate protection and community resilience.
We’ve been working in the human habitat, at the intersection of urban development and sustainability, for the past three decades and believe it is here, where these two forces meet, that nothing less than the fate of both people and the planet is at stake. Flourish or fail? Create or collapse? The choice is ours. The time is now.
We started this podcast to have conversations with others who feel like we do, who have seen the statistics and read the reports and decided to do something, to jump into the arena, to pursue a vision of a better, greener urban future, a more sustainable and just human habitat.
We invite you to join us as we discuss bold ideas and innovations for green, equitable, and climate-friendly cities with the people making them happen, here and abroad. The Sustainable City podcast will address critical questions like, How do we build a zero-carbon city? In an automobile-obsessed culture, and with electric vehicles on the march, are car-free communities even possible in the U.S.? And, do green cities inevitably mean gentrified cities, only for the rich?
Have questions or comments? You can reach us at email@example.com.
We examine California’s audacious state-wide effort to deconstruct single-family zoning to allow for more diverse housing options, promote affordability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from long commutes. Cutting-edge or calamity? Our guest is Conor Dougherty, economics reporter at The New York Times and the author of “Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America.”
We discuss the ways cities, developers, and property owners can swap out fossil fuels for renewable, zero-carbon energy sources to power their buildings and communities. Our guest is Josh Radoff, former Senior Vice President for Built Environment Sustainability at WSP and faculty lead in Renewable and Sustainable Energy in the Masters of the Environment program at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Cities around the world are trying to find ways to reclaim their streets for people, for walking, biking, and scootering from point to point. The goal is to make cities safer, cleaner, and more fun while reducing or eliminating altogether the number of cars and trucks that have dominated urban landscapes for almost a century. We talk to the Lord Mayor of Heidelberg, Germany, Dr. Eckart Wurzner, about his city’s efforts to create a car-free community, and Chris Shears, an urban designer and planner who has long advocated for transit-oriented, infill development to move Americans beyond auto-dependence.
Renowned urban designer and planner Peter Calthorpe joins us to discuss his big idea for making California, and the rest of the nation, more sustainable. He calls it “Reinventing the strip.” Calthorpe is a founding member of the Congress for the New Urbanism and author of several books, including “Sustainable Communities,” “The Next American Metropolis,” “The Regional City: Planning for the End of Sprawl,” and “Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.”
We look at sustainability, health, and wellness in buildings and real estate. Beyond a zero-carbon built environment, what other goals should we be aiming for in creating better, greener, more inclusive cities? And how do we get there? Our guests are Brad Jacobson, Principal at EHDD, a San Francisco-based architecture firm leading the way towards a carbon-neutral built environment, and Alaina Ladner, who heads the sustainability practice at JLL’s Project & Development Services in the West.
Rushad Nanavatty, Managing Director and lead of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Urban Transformation program, and Ben Holland, Senior Associate and Policy Liaison at RMI, join us to explore the connection between transportation and land use, and how each affects our ability to achieve our climate goals, from commuting to street design to electric vehicles.
Until just over a decade ago, there was no such thing as a Sustainability Director or Chief Resilience Officer for cities. Now, cities feel incomplete without them. What are these jobs and why are they so essential to achieving urban sustainability goals? We pose these questions to our guests, Melanie Nutter, former Director of San Francisco’s Department of Environment, and Susie Strife, Director of the Office of Sustainability, Climate Action and Resilience for Boulder County, Colorado.
Money makes the world go ‘round, and what it doesn’t ruin it can nurture. This month, we talk about the role of investment and finance in advancing nature-friendly, equitable communities. From zero-carbon buildings and green roofs to EV charging stations and bike sharing, sustainable cities require a host of new technologies, infrastructure and sophisticated designs. Who pays for this, and who profits? What kinds of opportunities afford the greatest returns, not only financial, but environmental and social? Joining us to discuss money and sustainable cities are Stuart Bernstein, founder of Sustainable Capital LLC and a 30-year veteran of Goldman Sachs, and Paul Rabinovitch, Principal of Real Estate at New Island Capital, a leading impact investment firm.
In her new book, “Gray to Green Communities,” Dana Bourland argues that we need to move away from a grayhousing model to a green one, which values the health and well-being of residents, their communities, and the planet. Dana shows that we don’t have to choose between protecting our environment and providing quality housing for all. How can we achieve both climate goals and housing equity when residential buildings alone account for 20 percent of our carbon emissions? What are the inevitable trade-offs and challenges we need to address? And where are the success stories we can turn to for inspiration and guidance? We talk to Dana about these questions and the promise of her Gray to Green approach.
Law and urban planning professor Sara Bronin founded Desegregate CT to transform Connecticut’s zoning laws from tools for racial exclusion to instruments of social change and sustainability. Widely viewed as the poster child of the “suburban state,” whose old, industrial cities and communities of color have suffered decades of neglect and disinvestment, Connecticut is wising up. Bronin thinks her state can teach the rest of us something useful, even visionary, about how to build sustainable, equitable communities through land use and zoning reform.
Sara Bronin is a Mexican-American architect and attorney whose interdisciplinary research focuses on how law and policy can foster more equitable, sustainable, well-designed, and connected places. She is a Professor of the Cornell College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, an Associated Faculty Member of the Cornell Law School, the Director of the Legal Constructs Lab, and a Faculty Fellow of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. As a leading voice on historic preservation law and related land use practices, Bronin was recently nominated by the Biden administration to chair the U.S. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Bronin has written over two dozen articles on renewable energy, climate change, housing, urban planning, transportation, real estate development, and federalism. Her forthcoming book, “Key to the City” (W.W. Norton), will explore how zoning rules rule our lives. Through the Legal Constructs Lab, she created the National Zoning Atlas to translate and standardize tens of thousands of zoning codes across the country. She has advised the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Sustainable Development Code, has served on the board of Latinos in Heritage Conservation, and founded Desegregate Connecticut.
About the hosts:
William Shutkin has been at the forefront of the sustainability field for almost three decades. David Brower, the father of the modern environmental movement, described him as “an environmental visionary creating solutions to today’s problems with a passion that would make John Muir and Martin Luther King equally proud.” He is principal of Shutkin Sustainable Living in Boulder, CO, a sustainable real estate developer focused on green, mixed-use, mixed-income infill projects in cities. Shutkin is also on the faculty of the Masters of the Environment program at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he leads the Urban Resilience and Sustainability specialization. He is co-founder of the Boston-based environmental justice law center, Alternatives for Community & Environment, and, in 1999, founded New Ecology, Inc., with a mission to green community development in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Shutkin is the former president and CEO of Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco and was on the faculty of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning from 1999 to 2009. He is the author of the award-winning book “The Land That Could Be: Environmentalism and Democracy in the Twenty-First Century” and “A Republic of Trees: Field Notes on People, Place and Planet.”
Andrew Bush is the Founder and Managing Partner of Morgan Creek Ventures, a real estate development and consulting group based in Boulder, Colorado. Over the past two decades Morgan Creek Ventures has developed a variety of sustainable real estate projects with a focus on creative office and residential infill opportunities. MCV projects have received LEED Silver, Gold, and Platinum level certifications and have included leading technologies in building management systems, green roofs, solar installations, and water treatment. Bush’s current focus is on developing replicable models for commercial developers in the “Net Zero” building arena. He was educated at the University of Wisconsin in Urban Planning and has served as a trustee and board member for a number of other real estate holding companies, redevelopment associations, and family foundations. He is a regular speaker on the topic of urban development and sustainability.