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Sustainable Cities: There's an App for That!

Sustainable urban development is a new way of thinking for American cities. Technology is emerging to help planners, architects and residents make the transition -- and address the converging pressures of rapid growth and decaying infrastructure. The question isn't whether to use technology to make cities more sustainable, it's how best to use it. Three experts on sustainably built cities discuss the answers with Denis Du Bois.

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Program Notes

Earth reached an important tipping point several years ago: More than half of Humans now live in cities. In some ways that's a good thing: Cities are a very efficient way for us to live. But mass urbanization also has its downside. It puts tremendous strain on city infrastructures that were pretty old, to begin with. It could take investments in infrastructure of $180 billion a year or more, just to keep up.

Meanwhile there's pressure to make cities more sustainable. If a city wants to attract residents and businesses, its infrastructure has to do much more than just keep up. It has to improve on the status quo -- to enable the clean industries and green lifestyles of the 21st century.

The idea of a sustainable city is moving gradually from theoretical to practical. But it needs to happen faster. Part of the solution is technology. It enables us to imagine and model our urban environments and shape how they'll support the needs of the people who live within. Technology let us "see" proposed memorials at Ground Zero in New York City, and "drive" a new approach to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, long before they were constructed.

Our guests for this program are Emma Stewart, James Moore and Terry Bennett. These experts discuss the need for sustainable cities and the role of technology in creating them.


Emma Stewart has been named a Cabinet Member of the World Economic Forum’s Low Carbon Taskforce, and a First Mover Fellow by The Aspen Institute. She founded and directed the Environmental R&D Division at Business for Social Responsibility, which develops corporate sustainability initiatives. In 2009 she founded the Sustainable Design Living Lab program at Autodesk, which uses real facilities as a testing ground for new software to rapidly green existing buildings. She is currently Senior Manager for Sustainability at Autodesk.

James Moore led the Florida Center for Community Design & Research, when he was an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture & Community Design at the University of South Florida. He helped Florida write its statewide transportation policy regarding the role of mobility in developing sustainable communities. He joined HDR, a global architecture, engineering and consulting company, in 2000, as the National Community Design Principal. For the past three years, he's been a member of HDR’s Sustainable Solutions Leadership Team, looking for ways to integrate sustainability best practices throughout the company’s work. He is active nationally with the Urban Land Institute and the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Terry Bennett is the Senior Industry Program Manager for Civil Engineering and Planning at Autodesk. He's been a practicing professional for 28 years and was at one time the company manager and lead designer for a civil engineering, geotechnical, & land surveying firm, directing their services throughout New England for many years.