Monday, September 5, 2011

Reflecting on the Greening America’s Cities: Little Rock Report

The Greening America’s Cities report for Little Rock has this sustainablawger thinking. The ideas in the Report are welcome and interesting, but they are also less than ambitious. Here are a few larger scale ideas for making Little Rock a more sustainable city.
River Power. The Arkansas River is literally a river of largely unharnessed energy. Consider using turbines seated on the riverbed to generate electricity – without damming or otherwise changing the River’s course.

Roof Power. The roofs of the buildings of downtown Little Rock are almost entirely underutilized. The obvious solution is to use them as platforms for conventional solar installations. But consider:
  • Solar Hot Water. Rooftop tanks could provide solar-heated water to downtown’s living spaces.
  • Green Roofs. A companion to the idea of downspout fountains into rain gardens, green roofs provide insulation, absorb storm water, and the potential for unique, urban public spaces.
  • White Roofs. At a minimum, why not paint rooftops white? White roofs reflect heat, resulting in cooler buildings and reducing “heat island” effects.

Parking Power. Every parking structure in Little Rock could immediately be improved by installing solar panels on the top level. Not only would the panels generate electricity, but they would shade the normally uncovered top level of the structure, reducing heat island effect and reducing consumer fuel consumption. In addition:

  • “Smart” Parking Meters. Savvy cities will begin taking creative advantage of the proliferation of smart phones. One such device is the smart parking meter – a digital, wireless device that that lets nearby drivers know when a parking space comes available, reducing the time and fuel spent “trolling” for a space.
  • Smart Parking Signage. A less technologically advanced cousin to smart parking, Little Rock is in dire need of well-placed signs that tell people where to park.
  • Charging Stations. More, better located, and better identified charging stations for the increasing number of smart cars sold in Arkansas and found downtown.
  • Underground Parking. It is probably on the very fringe of the possible, but underground parking structures free ground level space for more productive uses and reduce heat island effect.

Underground Utilities. Little Rock is subject to annual ice storms, tornados, and severe thunderstorms. Yet most of our utilities lines remain above ground. Tunnels dedicated to utilities – electricity, water, cable, internet, fiber optics, and so on – minimize storm damage, make repairs easier, and provide a ready-made framework for smart building and expansion.

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