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Urban Green: Architecture for the Future Hardcover – 14 Jul 2011

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Product Description


"Neil Chambers is a voice of reason and a visionary. Urban Green inspires and empowers us to creatively integrate sustainability into every level of our world - our homes, towns, cities and infrastructure so we can make room for the future of our planet and all things that live on it." - Dickson Despommier, author of The Vertical Farm

"Neil Chambers has an expert perspective on the deepest of home truths: We are what we live in (and work in), not just what we eat.  Every building, he reminds us, is a pile of choices with implications for planet Earth." - David Quammen, author of The Song of the Dodo"Technology meets ecology in Chambers' fascinating exploration of green building's current limitations and the emerging paradigm poised to supersede it." - Josh Dorfman, author of The Lazy Environmentalist

"As the world becomes more urbanized, there is bound to be conflict between our homes and the natural world. Chambers adds insights that are easy for the layman to understand and are told in an entertaining manner. I highly recommend reading this book." - Peter Fusaro, best-selling author of What Went Wrong at Enron, and Chairman, Global Change Associates

"Where is sustainability going? Let Urban Green point you in the right direction. It's a smart, bold look at the future of green. Full of passion as well as practical information, it declares war on the status quo of doing the bare minimum to go green. If you want a glimpse at a truly revolutionary perspective of how we can truly live in harmony with nature, this is the book." - Graham Hill, founder of and author of Ready, Set, Green

"Buildings, even "green" buildings, have impacts that ripple across the infrastructures of towns, suburbs, and cities. Those ripples also have far-reaching and underappreciated impacts on water, biodiversity, ecosystem services, and wilderness. Like a central stone at the summit of an arch or a predator maintaining biodiversity through strong species interactions, Urban Green is keystone: it melds the art (and science) of building design with the science of biodiversity conservation. A must read for anyone chasing the architecture of the future." - C. Josh Donlan, Advanced Conservation Strategies & Cornell University. 

"Neil Chambers Urban Green is wide ranging, imaginative, and at times ornery and irreverent.  This is just what we need to help rethink building in our immediate future. Chambers makes clear that orthodoxy about 'green building' needs to be contextualized to take into account our development and use of energy, water, and space. More reflection and less impulsive action can go a long way in meeting many goals of an effective green movement." - Martin V. Melosi, author of The Sanitary City

Book Description

A top urban designer and environmentalist reveals the next step for the sustainability revolution - and shows us how to build cities that harmonize with nature.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x92533294) out of 5 stars 9 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9217e474) out of 5 stars Hard-hitting stance on current sustainability efforts 31 Aug. 2011
By Joshua P. OConner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Speaking candidly, there's really no shortage of ideas floating around regarding how we can change our attitudes toward building design in such a manner that allows us align with the context and capacity of the natural environment. There's the LEED standard, the focus on eliminating sprawl espoused by the Congress for New Urbanism, you've got Low Impact Development, and even the government is on board with the EnergyStar construction standard. None of this is good enough for Neil Chambers. I've read my fair share of books on sustainable architecture, design, and urban settlement, but honestly Chamber's Urban Green: Architecture for the Future sets itself apart by driving a harder line for sustainability-focused human settlement. It's not enough that we reduce energy use or conserve water... according to Chambers we need to take a step back and have a more realistic conversation about how our infrastructure is capable of performing and what our end game is.

Urban Green is a short-read. It's interesting, it's fast-paced, and it covers a variety of captivating topics (almost to a fault). However, I finished the book and walked away sort of pissed off. It's been two weeks since I've read it, and it's taken me this long to digest the material that's there. Sure, I'd like to believe that super efficient electrical grids and cars we can plug in at the local McDonalds are going to ensure the quality of life and prosperity that I desire for my kids, but I shouldn't lie to myself. That's exactly what got me so pissed off about Urban Green... it's a reality check... it's essentially 244 pages of Neil Chambers pointing out that in many ways we're greenwashing ourselves toward disaster. Harsh.

Chamber's main point (or at least my synthesis of it), centers around the idea that design and architecture should be contextual. Installing a sustainable office park in the middle of a desert doesn't mean slapping in some low-flow water fixtures and plopping some solar panels on the roof. In fact, it might mean not placing the office park in an area where its very installation is going to exceed the carrying capacity of the local ecosystem. Sure the low-flow fixtures are great, but they don't totally mitigate the volumes of water we are sucking out of water tables that aren't regenerating fast enough. They certainly don't account for all the externalities of the infrastructure necessary to move the water to the site from more water-abundant regions.

Chamber's goes on to murder the latest bastion of Americanized-sustainability by pointing out that electric cars aren't really sustainable when the energy source they're using hosts more environmental problems than the energy source they're meant to replace.

Urban Green presents a fresh (albeit disturbing) look at the way we think about the built environment. It stings a little bit, but Chamber's plays the role of Drill Sergeant in driving home the point that our efforts aren't enough. We have pay even greater detail to the ecological context of the areas that we are working within and ensure that we are planning in a way that supports not only our own perpetuity, but our fellow species. As Chamber's would say, we have to start acting like a keystone species (meaning that we have to take into account our profound ability to alter the existence of our biological companions).

Pick it up. Read it. Get pissed off about hearing the cold, hard truth. Then go do something about it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92255834) out of 5 stars Just had an in-class interview with the author, not just another green design book... 30 May 2012
By GreenerZach - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As part of the Ecology and The Built Environment program here at The Evergreen State College, we were afforded the opportunity tonight to hold a Q & A session with Neil after reading Urban Green a few weeks ago. The book contains a wealth of experience and ideology to guide any society toward a more-sustainable existence, while providing ample evidence from real world applications. The many hidden, value-added benefits of green design are easy to overlook with energy efficiency and recycled materials dominating many a conversation on this topic. As Neil pointed out while speaking to us there are many quantitative and qualitative advantages to thorough understanding of a design's environment, from an individual species to continent-spanning ecological regions. I feel this read has been a worthwhile addition both to my Environmental Design curriculum and in guiding my development of an urban design philosophy. I'd also recommend visiting his website at for those who don't have the opportunity of a live presentation and Q&A from the author.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92258d98) out of 5 stars Accessible and innovative 23 Oct. 2011
By Brian H. Sykes - Published on
Format: Hardcover
One of the hardest things to do is to take a complicated topic, and frame it in a way that is accessible while not reducing the topic's complexity. I believe Neil Chambers has done that in his book. As an architect, I know we as a profession are as guilty as any of making a topic overly complex. We want double curtain walls, when good insulation will do the trick. In the terms Chambers uses, architects tend to want technological answers instead of ecological answers to address the challenges sustainability presents.

It is the fact that Chambers walks the fine line between accessibility and innovation that this book is a rare find. For anyone interested in cities and sustainability this is a must read.

Now if I can only talk my wife into letting our lawn run wild. I won't miss cutting the grass for a second.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9270ea80) out of 5 stars an all encompassing book 22 April 2013
By Rachel West - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book covers all topics related to "going green" when it comes to architecture and the way society has been built. Discusses pros and cons of all green options and looks at the infrastructure of our cities. Very fascinating worthwhile read.
HASH(0x9270e648) out of 5 stars Sustainable sustainability 7 May 2012
By J. Olen - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I'm someone who knows a fair bit about sustainability and the issues surrounding it...and I can honestly say that Urban Green uprooted much of what I thought I knew and gave me a completely new context in which to view it...

I've always thought that trying to keep up with the latest technologies and schemes to save the world can become confusing and overwhelming... Chambers brings the sustainability hoopla down to earth-- both literally and figuratively. He proposes that true sustainability can only come if we embrace the natural environment- understanding it so we can build successfully within it and get inspired by its genius designs. He urges that moving forward, we must demand that sustainability efforts be more than a quick fix-- they must be analyzed for their big picture, long term effect.

It makes sense. It's sustainable sustainability.

Chambers makes these big ideas approachable- there's a practicality behind his reasoning and an emphasis on action over rhetoric. From architects and designers to students and concerned citizens--Urban Green is a vital read for anyone who cares about the future of our planet.
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