Category Archives: Sustainable Green Roofs

The Skycourt and Skygarden by Jason Pomeroy – book review by Tom Turner

We are seeing the approach of a new architectural style. Let's call it GHA.

Are we seeing the approach of a new architectural style? If so, let’s call it GHA.

Jason Pomeroy The Skycourt and Skygarden: Greening the urban habitat Routledge 2013 ISBN-13: 978-0415636995
Jason Pomeroy studied architecture in England and now leads a design studio in Singapore. He has a special interst in above-ground greenspace and Singapore is a world-leading city in this respect: it is rich; it is very well run; it sees itself as a Garden City.
Over half the book is a really useful set of case studies, wisely categorized as Completed, Under Construction and On the Drawing Board. I am as full of admiration for the architects and clients who launched these projects as for the author who assembled and analyzed the details. Some, like the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore, look as good as the design drawings promised. Others show lush vegetation on the drawings and less vegetation on the photographs. The plants may grow – or they may be removed, because much of it is on balconies and residents like glazing such spaces to create extra indoor accommodation. This is common practice in China, South Korea and elsewhere.
The author’s definitions on page 41 are:

  • Rooftop garden: ‘a landscaped environment built on the roof’
  • Skygarden: ‘an open or enclosed landscaped open space that can be dispersed through the higher levels of the urban habitat or tall building’
  • Skycourt: an enclosure ‘created by the void space being bordered by other buildings within the immediate urban context, or formed by its own internal facades’.

One can hardly expect satisfactory names and definitions for a new spatial typology – and I am unhappy with the above definitions. They use the verb ‘landscaped’ to mean ‘planted’, which is incorrect, while the author makes no reference to the involvement of landscape architects with the design of above-ground space. It is not enough for a space to be planted: each space should be well-planned and well-designed to fit its intended social use. Some of the spaces described as skycourts are what I would call balconies. Others are fashionably weird bites taken out of buildings which have many floors below and many above. In London, spaces like this are cold, windswept and unpleasant. In Madrid’s hot summers the Mirador ‘skycourt’ may be pleasant; in its cold winters the bites must be grim. In Singapore’s hot sticky climate the bites may be shady, breezy and delightful. But they will also require artificial irrigation. One needs to be skeptical about ‘green’ buildings: they can be ‘green’ in the sense of ‘vegetated’ without being ‘green’ in the sense of ‘sustainable’ – like Patrick Blanc’s green living walls. The design of every building should respond to the genius of every place.
In the absence of good evidence we should have no more trust in architects’ claims for buildings being sustainable than we have in politicians who describe their policies as ‘sustainable’. The technical term for both is ‘greenwash‘. For some of the Future Vision projects in Chapter 2 (see examples above) the technical term is ‘hogwash’. This is Greenwash-Hogwash Architecture (GHA)and I wish Pomeroy had been more critical of it. We are not going to get good green buildings (‘landscape architecture’, as we might call it) without thoughtful analysis of what is good and what is bad and what is awful.

The analytical aspects of Pomeroy's book on Skycourts and Skygardens are commendable

The analytical aspects of Pomeroy’s book on Skycourts and Skygardens are commendable

Two real strength of Pomeroy’s book are his analytical diagrams and his systematic charting of the characteristics of above ground greenspace. City planners and urban designers should certainly be analytical and everyone who wants greener cities must read page 69. I won’t spill the details but it explains the legislative and financial principle which has encouraged Singapore’s architects to go green. It’s wonderful.

London can become a Roof Garden City – but it needs imaginative design as well as town planning

Ebenezer Howard proposed garden cities outside London. That’s fine but Central London should adopt the landscape policy of becoming a Roof Garden City. Property developers should be rewarded for providing green roof gardens and punished on those few occasions when they find reasons for not providing roof gardens and sustainable green roofs on new buildings. Visually, this is the single most important policy for making London a Green Roof City. As everyone knows, London is already the world’s Garden Capital. Now it should become the world’s Roof Garden Capital.
But I doubt if it will. British town planners are far too unimaginative – and Singapore’s planners are way out in front. As I ride my bike around London I often think ‘Why does the RTPI exist? What, in heaven’s name, do town planners DO? Why not dissolve the Royal Town Planning Institute?’ The answer, I think, is that most of their effort goes into a sometimes-useful attempt to stop landowners doing what they want to do. UK planners seem to have no positive achievements – except, perhaps, in helping developers evade planning restrictions dreamed up by their professional colleagues.
Thomas Mawson published an attractive book on Civic Art in 1911 and became a founder member of what is now the Royal Town Planning Institute in 1914. Then, in 1929, he became first president of what is now the Landscape Institute. Perhaps we need an agreed division of labour between the two professional institutes: the RTPI can stop developers from doing bad things and the Landscape Institute can encourage them to do good things.

Roof SkyPark garden-landscape on Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore

Roof garden swimming pool in Marina Bay Sands Skypark

Having proposed a Sky Park for the City of London, I was delighted to see a real Skypark on the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. ‘London talks and Singapore acts’. The Marina Bay Sands Hotel has 2,561 rooms and 55 floors. The SkyPark, 200m above ground level, is larger than three football pitches and has an observation deck, 250 trees and a 150m infinity swimming pool. It is a brilliant project by Las Vegas Sands and, I hope, a signpost to the future of urban form. See the Marina Bay Sands website for more details. I’d like to spend a few nights there, congratulating the hotel management for commissioning the project and then the city of Singpore for its policy of moving from ‘Garden City to Model Green City‘. But a design critic must also provide criticism:

  • the garden/landscape design looks ‘OK but dull’. The designers have not risen to the challenge of such a fabulous opportunity, perhaps to re-create some of the rain forest of pre-colonial Singapore with stylised beaches running to the perimeter pool. I wouldn’t even object to a glowing Tarzan by Jeff Koons in the heart of the jungle – and nor would the kids of the guests.
  • As built, SkyPark floats somewhere between the deck of a luxury cruise ship and the garden of a luxury hotel – and both are design categories which landscape designers neglect. What the SkyPark needed was a serious dreamland design to lift the imagination of guests, as well as the contents of their wallets. Moshe Safdie was the architect. He worked with five artists but, having written a book For everyone a garden probably sees himself as an expert on garden design. I do not doubt that, like Frank Lloyd Wright, Safdie has the ability to design gardens but as with all the arts, it takes time to develop expertise and one needs to love garden life and garden visiting to succeed. My belief is that Edwin Lutyens’ best gardens were designed in co-operation with Gertrude Jekyll and that Lutyens tended towards vacant formalism when working, like Safdie, on his own. Eero Saarinen had the great good sense to work with Dan Kiley.
  • the Tropical Island shape of the SkyPark sits unhappily on its three towers. There is a dash of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds about it. Or an out-or-water oil rig. Looking up, one wonders if a Tsunami left a cruiseliner or a surfboard perched on the roofs of its three towers. The resort hotel may appear more sensitive to its context when more of Singapore’s buildings have SkyParks
  • Safdie’s urban design, which I commend but which is not apparent from the photographs, was as follows: ‘A series of layered gardens provide ample green space throughout Marina Bay Sands, extending the tropical garden landscape from Marina City Park towards the Bayfront. The landscape network reinforces urban connections with the resort’s surroundings and every level of the district has green space that is accessible to the public. Generous pedestrian streets open to tropical plantings and water views. Half of the roofs of the hotel, convention center, shopping mall, and casino complex are planted with trees and gardens.

Top photographs courtesy Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Bottom photo courtesy Peter Morgan.



Roof garden structure for Marina Sands Hotel Skypark




Kongjian Yu – landscape architecture as an art of survival

I have praised Kongjian Yu’s work before and much enjoyed his lecture to the HGSD (above). I particularly like his advice to ‘make friends with the flood’ and to design for the ‘integration of contemporary art and ecology’. But I am having doubts about my call for him to be appointed Chief Technical Officer to the The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development 住房和城乡建设部. For sure, he would be very good at the job – but the landscape architecture profession has greater need of him.
It is bad mannered of me to criticise Kongjian after he quotes me in his lecture, but there are two historical points I would like to correct. First, the history of landscape architecture in east and west can be traced back for thousands of years – though its name is but 185 years old. Second, the planning of western gardens and parks ‘for ornament’ dates from c1700 and is now in decline. Older parks and gardens were always planted for food.
So here is an invitation: next time Kongjian Yu is in London I would be delighted to show him round my local park and the new building for the University of Greenwich Department of Landscape Architecture. Greenwich Park was designed in 1660 primarily for food production – and it still produces a large quantity of food, much of which is collected by ethnic Chinese. So it is very appropriate that the roof of the new school has the production of food as one of its main design aims: it will be used for research into the use of living roofs for food production and other sustainable purposes.

MOER Green roofs: history, classification and naming

Scandinavian Green Roof Institute at Malmo

Scandinavian Green Roof Institute at Malmo

This blog has often discussed green roofs and green roof typologies but they always need more consideration:

Green roofs c3500BC

Turf was the standard roofing material in Neolithic North Europe. You can still see this roofing technique in Norway and Iceland

Roof garden c1000BC

The most famous elevated garden in history, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, may not have been on a roof. Nothing is known about the construction and they may have been ‘hanging’ on an embankment rather then a roof. But they were definitely used as a garden and the only illustration of this type of space is a carved tablet in the British Museum. This was a place for fruits and flowers and a place to walk in the cool of the evening

Roof gardens in the twentieth century

Cities were becoming much denser and much higher-rise, so people began making modern roof gardens. Corbusier proposed one in Paris and the landscape architect, Ralph Hancock, designed one for Derry and Toms, now called the Kensington Roof Garden

Green roofs in the twentieth century

People began to remember that ‘green stuff’ could also serve as a roof-covering material and then found many reasons for reviving the idea: water conservation, biodiversity, acoustics, insulation etc. This led to the making of what are called ‘extensive’ green roofs and, by way of contrast, roof ‘gardens’ came to be called ‘extensive’ green roofs. I think the terminology began in Germany.

Moer Roofs in the twenty-first century

The City of Malmö and the Scandinavian Green Roof institute established a 9000m3 green roof which is called the Augustenborg Botanical Roof Garden. It is a good project and, though the name suggests ‘a botanical garden on a roof’, the design objectives of the Malmö roof are broad: ‘environmental, economical, and to improve storm water management, health and aesthetics in our communities’. This type of roof needs a new name and we could base it on MOER technology: Multi-Objective Environmental Roofing (pronounced as ‘mower’, for irony). The roles of a broad spectrum Moer Roof would include: social use, aesthetic use, food production use (including aquaponics), water conservation, biodiversity, acoustics, insulation, energy generation, sustainability etc. The SGRA has a useful classification of green roof advantages and design objectives
Image courtesy i-sustain

Bosco Verticale – vertical forest garden balconies in Milan

Green walls and green roof makes a forest appartment block in Milan

Congratulations to Stefano Boerion his Vertical Forest. He proclaims: ‘The first example of a Bosco Verticale composed of two residential towers of 110 and 76 meters height, will be realized in the centre of Milan, on the edge of the Isola neighbourhood, and will host 900 trees (each measuring 3, 6 or 9 m tall) apart from a wide range of shrubs and floral plants. On flat land, each Bosco Verticale equals, in amount of trees, an area equal to 10.000 sqm of forest. In terms of urban densification the equivalent of an area of single family dwellings of nearly 50.000 sqm.’
But will it work? I do not anticipate a horticultural problem with growing the trees. But will the residents want them? I am sceptical. A planted balcony with shrubs, flowers and living space is a delight. But there is a long history of residents not wanting large trees too near the windows of their houses. Trees keep out the sun and block views. The trees on top of the building should be a great success – providing the structural, horticultural and stability issues have been properly addressed.

Clean, green and responsive: the future of architecture?

Lumenhaus inspired by Mies Van der Rohe’s Fansworth House is described by Virginia Tech students as responsive architecture. Responsive architecture according to Nicholas Negroponte’s definition is “a class of architecture or building that demonstrates an ability to alter its form, to continually reflect the environmental conditions which surround it.”

The aim of Lumenhaus designers was to “maximise user comfort with environmental protection” to make the user’s life “simpler, more energy efficient and less expensive.” They say the goal was to balance design quality, resource conservation and energy efficiency to produce architecture which achieves “beautiful enduring sustainability.”

One of the most significant benefits of the Lumenhaus construction concept is that it is off-grid (with options for feeding energy to the grid where appropriate), prefabricated and transportable making it an ideal solution for remote housing (increasing production standards, optimizing costs and providing improved accessibility to remote locations), temporary housing (mining and student communities) and emergency housing (after natural disasters).

Landscape architects could contribute significantly to the concept by, among other strategies, incorporating green wall technology on the wall cladding and designing a compatible site responsive green roof space beneath a solar panel shaded umbrella roof.

Planning an urban landscape for London's economic and financial future

London has had many economic roles over the centuries and now hopes to settle down as a cultural capital and somewhere between ‘Europe’s financial centre’ and ‘the world’s financial centre’. This requires a planning and design response which is likely to include
(1) more large green buildings, because big firms have big space requirements
(2) more homes for young, rich and mobile people
(3) more urban public space of the highest quality and greatest variety: busy and quiet, large and small, glazed and unglazed, soft and hard, wild and cultured, space at ground level, above ground and below ground, space for shopping and space for prayer, space with quiet water, bright water, dark water, swimming water, boating water and living water, biodiversity, socially diverse space for each cultural group (listeners to Radios 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 etc) and social space for the particular interests of ethnic, work and leisure groups.
London’s new amenities could be provided on a spatterdash basis – or London could have an urban landscape plan. The Canary Wharf development on the Isle of Dogs was a key project. It points to what should be done, to how it should be done – and to where it should be done. London’s traditional rival is Paris, which has a bold plan, now over 300 years old, for projecting the axis of the Tuileries westward – to the Place de la Concorde, to the Arc de Triomphe, to La Défense and beyond. London has a modest plan for projecting Crossrail into the Thames Gateway. But London landscape planning lacks spatial imagination – and axes were a baroque idea.
London will require many new buildings. They should be of the best available quality – and they should be grouped to ‘define and contain’ new urban space of the best quality and variety. The urban space should be designed before the buildings. A great new urban landscape should be planned to run east from the Isle of Dogs. Olympia and York made a significant start when they commissioned Laurie Olin to plan Westferry Circus and the Canary Wharf central axis. Before this, the Isle of Dogs was being developed with small cheap buildings and a pitiful lack of long-term vision. The Hanna Olin plan was much better – but it was more of a plan for Visual Space than for Social Space or Ecological Space. The present period of relative economic stagnation is an opportunity to take a broad perspective on the eastward projection of London and its financial future. There should be a 3-year plan, a 30-year plan and a 300-year plan.
London should remember that ‘He that the beautiful and useful blends, Simplicity with greatness, gains all ends’. Urban designers, architects and landscape architects should plan a multi-functional urban landscape with the highest visual quality and as much sustainability as can be planned at this point in time, with conceptual principles prioritised over design deails.

Top quality home grown organic Charlotte potatoes, seaweed-fed, flavoured with wild mint and dressed with parsley

The world's best potatoes?

The world's best potatoes?

Here are some of the world’s best potatoes – and I grew them! They are organic Charlottes, seaweed-grown, flavoured with wild mint and dressed with fresh organic parsley. No chemical fertilizers or herbicides or pesticides were used. So if the local supermarket can charge £5/kilo for their best spuds then mine must be worth £10/kilo – making the above 1.5kg worth £15. Oh, and they are photographed on an experimental roof garden, with Clematis ‘Bill MacKenzie’. Sumptuous. Delicious. Yellow. Waxy. Wholesome. Sustainable. Wonderful. Free!
But a little over-cooked, sadly.

Socrates, chives, tomatoes and biodiversity on my London roof garden

Tomatoes and chives on a sustainable green roof in London

Tomatoes and chives on a sustainable green roof in London

Socrates looks pleased to see that my chives are doing well but misty-eye puzzled that I have let weeds grow when the space could perfectly well be used to grow tomatoes. I tell him that while my wife grows the excellent tomatoes I am contributing to London’s 2010 Sustainable Green Roof Biodiversity Action Programme. See below post on beautiful food gardening.

Gardening on the roof, don't pass on the past….

What can the past teach us about gardening in the present?

Undoubtably our ancestors were more agriculturally minded and more in tune with the rythmn of nature than we are today. The urban environments in which many of us live are climate modified, we buy our food from the supermarket and we heat and cool our living spaces. 

Perhaps by revisiting previous garden traditions – such as the zen tradition in Japanese gardens – we can begin to imagine a variety of ways of utilising our urban roof spaces for a variety of purposes.

The project to document Middle Eastern garden traditions is likely to provide a valuable source of inspiration for the future as well as potentially preserving and enhancing our knowledge of the past. Don’t skip the drawings.

The art of sketching and drawing can itself through film and projection techniques transform the urban landscape and create a virtual landscape….and a new way of thinking about ‘green’ surfaces.

A book for the landscape architect to die for is Sketch Landscape. There are many ways of communicating ideas, and this book  has 500 sketches and scribbles by some of the best.

How green is my garage?

Bill Gates is famous not only for revolutionising communications but also for being the proud owner of the largest green roof garage in Seattle.

Maserati recently ran a garage design competition…and entries included not only green garages…but an insanely cool garage that is everything about setting and concept (if just a little light on resolution).

The winning entry shown on this youtube clip is car as ‘art’ and perhaps might be a useful way of thinking ‘green garage’ for Lace Hill.  

Just around the Corner

The Architectural Association in describing ‘Landscape Urbanism’ says what Landscape it is not. It is NOT:

“…understood as a scenographic art, beautifying, greening or naturalising the city.”

And then what it IS;

“…scalar and temporal operations through which the urban is conceived and engaged with.”

Thus, Landscape Urbanism prioritises the phenomenological experience of the city, while distancing itself (perhaps defensively) from the visual aesthetic. Perhaps an ironcial realisation of this preference for the non-aesthetic is the prediction by James Corner of the disappearance of the city into the landscape. Perhaps this prophecy will be realised quite differently than the romantic post-industrial ruin?  Corner, typified by the high line project, focuses on the rehabilitation of the abandoned elements of the city and post-industrial landscape.Can landscape urbanism be artfully conceived? 

Perhaps the city of the future will afterall disappear under the advance of the landscape, but once again capture something of the beauty which is now itself abandoned by its favourite profession?

Modernist planning and design for Shanghai's urban landscape

How could the urban landscape design have been done better?

If you look carefully at the pavilion-ettes on top of some of the buildings, you can tell this is a Chinese city. But I see the photograph as an illustration of the way in which context-insensitive modernist design theory is laying waste the ancient cities of China. There a surviving patch of the old city form in the foreground and glitch of marching blocks in the background. It is easy to criticise – but given the available resources, how could things have been done better? As suburban Shanghai demonstrates beyond the realms of doubt, they could certainly be a lot worse! The simplest change is that the blocks should be substantially vegetated: on roofs, balconies and walls. Shanghai is a warm wet city and this would be an adaptation to the geographical context. This policy is being adopted in a wealthy and Chinese-influenced city: Singapore.

(image courtesy leonardo_bonnani)


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Towards a greener London – with help from sheep

London green roofs with flock of sheep to calm bankers

London green roofscape with flock of sheep to calm bankers

In 1992 I wrote a report, Towards a green strategy for London. Many of the proposals are being implemented, but too slowly and with too little drama or imagination. With this in mind, and as my contribution to solving the City of London’s banking problems, I propose keeping a flock of sheep over and above London. They would make a more useful contribution to the sustainablity of the City than any works now in progress but the primary objective would be to restore calm to London’s market traders. With their minds on higher, greener and better things, I believe they would be less frenzied and that we taxpayers would be able to devote more of our savings to our families and a lower proportion to baling out frenzied bankers.

Note: the curvey-roofed building just north of the rooftop meadow, No 54 Lombard Street, is on the site of London’s Roman Forum. So the proposed meadow would be outside the Forum and on an appropriate site.

Talking gardens, roses, the language of symbols, sustainability and Christianity

The green walls being made in gardens have more significance as symbols than as practical contributions to sustainability

The green walls being made in gardens have more significance as symbols than as practical contributions to sustainability

Garden designs can communicate with words and images – or they can continue with the silence of abstract modernism.

The drift from modernism to postmodernism continues, but with little knowledge and less thought. A recent post on The Fower Sermon, recalled that the dying Buddha used a single flower to speak volumes. He also advised: “All conditioned things are impermanent. Work out your salvation with diligence.” Christianity has been more concerned with relationships between humans than with the HUMANITY:ENVIRONMENT relationship.
During Europe’s Middle Age, the Rose was an eloquent Christian symbol. The five petals of the rose symbolised the five books of Moses (the Pentateuch), the five wounds of Christ and other pentads. Gazing at a rose, the garden owner could feel inspired and re-assured, as when remembering a famous quotation, a line of poetry, a proverb or the heroic deed of a saint or martyr.
So are there symbols of comparable power for current garden designers to explore? I think many green roofs and green walls fall into this category. Presently, they have more value as symbols than actual contributions to sustaining life on earth. I make no complaint about this – but am deeply skeptical about any practical contribution they might make to saving the planet from climate change, forest clearance, rising sea levels, interruption of the Atlantic heat conveyor – or sin. And if green walls use electric pumps they aggravate the risks we face.

Masdar City Two & Abu Dhabi landscape planning

Hasan Fathy design for New Gourna (photo 1975)

Hasan Fathy design for New Gourna (photo 1975)

Without knowing too much about Masdar City, I am sceptical about Norman Foster’s proposals. So my suggestion is to develop a Masdar City Two with its focus on using a happy blend of traditional technology with as-little-as-necessary high technology. I would have David MacKay as the energy supremo and Hasan Fathy (had he not died in 1989) as the chief architect – and a landscape planner responsibile for the strategic direction of the new city. I guess there would be lots of mud walls, planting, and shade with excellent provision for cycling and electric floats for transport (as in Nanjing Street, Shanghai). All the roof space would be roof gardens with retractable awnings and limited vegetation supported by grey water. The gardens would be legendary – and related to the lost gardens of Ancient Mesopotamia. I think the result would be cheaper, better, more sustainable and more popular than Masdar City One. It might get less coverage in the architectural press but we could live with this.
Sorry about the quality of the above photograph, taken in 1975. I went to re-take the photo 30 years later and could not find the place – I guess it has been destroyed. The residents of Old Gourna (or Kurna or Qurna) did not want to leave their homes amongst the tombs of the nobles, which had rich pickings and many tourists. Fathy was unpopular in Egypt but designed some beautiful and environmentally appropriate homes for Saudi princes.
Odd that Iran should want nuclear power and Abu Dhabi should want solar power. What next? Will Iceland start making artificial snow? Or is Masdar City One really, as I will assume, an enlightened example of a rich country using its resources to develop technology which will benefit the world? The competition between Masdar City One and Masdar City Two would be very healthy and there should be a prize for the winning design team. Success would be judged from three criteria (1) construction costs (2) measures of sustainability (3) popularity with residents.

Turf roof gardens for back to nature sustainable ecohouse living in the twenty-first century

Turf roof gardens for the twentyfirst century?

Turf roof gardens for the twentyfirst century?

Iceland is the most recently made country and has a great-and-abandonned tradition of turf building. Dwellings were built with stone foundations, birch frames and turf cladding for the roofs and walls. Interiors were probably damp but now that waterproof membranes are available they should go back to to cladding their buildings in turf. It would be good for insulation, sound-proofing, wildlife etc and could create jobs for an icy land now down on its uppers.
I expect the greatest difference between the cities of the 20th and 21st centuries to be the prevelance of a vegetative cladding on cities of the 21st century. Icelanders could export consultancy skills instead of cod – and we should all remember that this was the classic building technique in Neolithic Europe.

Learn from wombats: earth sheltered homes have a lower environmental impact

Earth-sheltered dwelling house in California

The sunken garden looks nice but they could have done more with the external space for this earth-sheltered dwelling house in California

When reducing the total impact of humans on the environment becomes a necessity, we may have to learn more from the lifestyles of wombats, teletubbies and hobbits. If so, I hope our species will also become cuter, cuddlier, and friendlier. JRR Tolkien may prove correct in his view that diminutive sausage-eaters will save the world from the black forces of evil.
PS But is that a triple garage?
(image courtesy Christopher Line)

Can sustainable urban design and landscape architecture help combat global warming?

Designing urban landscapes for motor vehicles discourages human-powered transport

Designing urban landscapes for motor vehicles discourages human-powered transport

Watching Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth at one sitting led me to the following conclusions:

  1. The film is excellent and has much to teach college lecturers, both about the analysis of complex issues and about the the use of words & images in presenting an argument.
  2. Gore’s argument is weakened by his homepage link to a Buy Now button on – regardless of how he shares the profits. It makes him seem like a greedy evangelist on TV.
  3. Gore’s list (below) of Thing’s You Can Do Now, is ultra-trivial and may have set back the cause by encouraging politicians to believe that little change is necessary. The film mentions population growth but it is not on the list, doubtless for ‘political’ reasons.
  4. The best commentary on the issues comes from Justice Burton. He said the film is ‘broadly accurate’ but listed nine inaccuracies
  5. A landscape approach to urban design can do more to combat climate change than Al Gore can imagine. We can and should:
  • use all roofspace:  for vegetation, gardens, power generation or the daylighting of interior space
  • plan cities for extensive use of human-powered and solar-powered transport (above image courtesy TouringCyclist) – but see my recent post on White Commuting
  • compost as much as possible within the boundaries of each and every property
  • infiltrate as much water as possible within the boundaries of each and every property
  • make all buildings energy efficient, by orientation, vegetation, insulation, durability, daylighting, avoidance of lifts and escalators etc
  • design new homes so they can become home offices, when eCommuting becomes the norm, with a smooth transition from indoor to outdoor spaces with differential climatic and temperature characteristics

For landscape architects and urban designers thinking about new jobs and professional opportunities in sustainable urban design, the above are  very convenient truths.

Al Gore does not say enough about urban design

Al Gore does not say enough about urban design

Another ‘inconvenient truth’ ignored by Gore, is that the environmental impact of bottled water has been calculated, by SGWA, to be 1000 times greater than that of tap water. So ban it, as a small town in Australia has done: Bundanoon, in New South Wales. Perhaps the American language needs a new word: an ‘ingored truth’