Greater City Providence

Little green houses, for you and me

i'm in a lime house...

The Mayor’s Office announced today a design competition to design environmentally sensitive affordable housing for Providence.

PROVIDENCE – Imagine Providence neighborhoods with houses that are affordable, energy efficient and environmentally sustainable. That’s what Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline will ask the community to do when he kicks off the city’s first-ever Sustainable Housing Design Competition on Thursday, March 6 at 1: 30 p.m. at 17 Gordon Avenue in Providence.

One of the goals of the design competition is to demonstrate that “green” can be affordable and to provide developers with guidance on how to integrate energy efficient and environmentally friendly building designs into the construction of affordable homes. Mayor Cicilline will announce the winning design at the City’s 3rd annual Celebration of Housing Breakfast in May.

I find this encouraging but wonder what kind of designs we’ll get out of a 2 month contest period.

Portland, Oregon has an Infill Design program aimed at creating good infill development. While it does not specifically reach for environmental sustainability, many of the programs objectives lead to good environmental benefits. Such as: Providing for automobile parking while contributing to pedestrian-friendly street frontages; Making our cities pedestrian friendly is the first step towards encouraging people to leave their cars behind and actually walk. Minimizing impervious surfaces while ensuring durable vehicle areas; in Providence we are paving our yards to provide parking, these paved surfaces send runoff into storm drains, rivers, and eventually Narragansett Bay. Portland is also encouraging these infill developments along transit corridors, again allowing residents the option to leave their cars at home.

I hope the competitors when submitting their designs, and the city when choosing the winners, considers these extended green benefits that reach beyond the physical home itself. Low flow toilets and windows placed to collect the sun are all well and good, but if we are driving from these homes to shops and work, and continuing to send dirty runoff into our rivers and the bay, then the green benefits are lost.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


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