Ecodistrict concept spreads nationwide
By Lee van der Voo
The ecodistrict concept is spreading across North America and cities in a pilot program set up by the Portland Sustainability Institute are sharing information.
Trent Berry makes a great analogy: Sometimes you can have the best idea or invention in the world. But if it never leaves your garage, it can’t spark evolution.
That isn’t the case, he says, at the Portland Sustainability Institute, where ecodistricts — the great idea from the garage in this analogy — are now spreading across North America. And the idea is spreading in ways that show promise for green-leaning service firms and developers.
Berry is in a position to know. He is the founding partner of Compass, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based firm with ties to the institute — known as PoSI for short — and a history of working with governments, communities, corporations other agencies to create, study and execute plans for the built environment.
He sees the marketplace warming to the idea of ecodistricts — sustainability-driven, district-level development. The ecodistrict concept was first applied on a comprehensive scale in Portland when PoSI launched a pilot project focused on developing five ecodistricts around the city.
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“PoSI has opened up a greater interest in looking at a particular set of options that were not being explored as much or as rigorously before,” Berry said. “From that perspective, they’ve built enough market for studying alternatives to what I characterize as the two extremes.”
He defines the extremes as really large developments and single, small-scaled buildings. What he’s seeing is a new interest in medium-sized development with a green focus.
Taking it national
As communities begin adopting these ideas, PoSI is spearheading a 15-city pilot program intended to accelerate the invention as it emerges outside the garage — allowing PoSI to learn from a collection of cities putting ecodistrict ideas to work.
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