Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Professor asks engineers to consider impact of infrastructure on climate change

Daily Commercial News and Construction Record (Canada): A different slant on the relationship between infrastructure and climate change was presented to the participants at the recent Future of Canada’s Infrastructure Conference…. Using historical events, Kennedy asked the audience to consider the reverse view — the impact of infrastructure on climate change.

Eight per cent of London, England, was destroyed by the great fire of 1666. The year before, 70,000 people died from the plague. Despite those tragedies and an ongoing war with Holland, most of the city was rebuilt within five years thanks to a new progressive building code. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the city expanded through road widening and bridge construction with the result that by 1840, 40,000 people commuted to the centre of London compared with only a few hundred a century before, said Kennedy.

In North America, where the average house size doubled from 1950 to 2000, suburban sprawl has placed a tremendous strain on infrastructure services. “We may have gone too far (with sprawl),” said Kennedy, suggesting planners and engineers look overseas to alternate growth models.

Some examples include the “very excellent” suburban system in Singapore; the master planned transportation system in Curitiba, Brazil; and the public transit and pedestrian-oriented policies of Freiburg, Germany, which bans cars in its central core.

The Great Fire of London, from a contemporary painting

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