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Wisconsin Bike Lanes

5 Eco-Friendly Features from our Nation’s Greenest Cities

Last Updated on March 29, 2010

Boulder, CO: The Solar Access Ordinance

In 1991 the city of Boulder, Colorado decided to look toward the future and implement an ordinance that would prove to be the gold (green?) standard for municipal building codes. Due to the rising cost of conventional sources of energy in the late 1980’s the “Solar Access Ordinance” was enacted to make sure that everyone in Boulder considering erecting a new building or structure had to keep sunlight in mind. The ordinance mandates that each new building leave room for a 12’ or 25’ “hypothetical solar fence” allowing for enough sunlight to produce energy. Construction planning has taken shadow cover and movement and the angles of shadows over the heavily graded terrain of Boulder into the development process. If the shadows don’t comply then a new blueprint must be written. For 19 years now sunshine and solar has found its place in the small Colorado city outside of Denver. The rest of the country might want to take a page out of Boulder’s book.

boulder solar ordinance
Workers install a solar fixture on a Boulder home.

Portland, OR: Vegetated Fin Initiative

Urban landscaping is a great step towards going green; lining the streets with trees and bushes that oxygenate and beautify the concrete jungles they live in. And, of course, city-dwellers put plants inside their homes and office buildings to capture a bit of countryside green. But what if someone put plant-life on buildings? The General Services Administration is laying down a $133 million dollar initiative to place soaring, 200-foot high plant-covered panels (vegetated fins) on the GSA building in downtown Portland. It would be one of the greenest high rises in the entire country. The design would save the building roughly $280,000 annually in energy costs, and would use 65% less energy overall. This would be a landmark development in the field of green architecture. Portland, lead the way!

vegetated fins Portland
A rendering of Portland's vegetated GSA building.

Ithaca, NY: The Roy H. Park School of Business and Sustainable Enterprise

College campuses are often on the front-lines of sustainability innovation. Smack dab in the center of the Ithaca College campus in Ithaca, NY sits the Roy H. Park Center for Business and Sustainable Enterprise. The Park Center was one of the first buildings in the United States to receive a “platinum” rating on the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system – a rating held by fewer than 100 buildings worldwide. Built from local materials and packed with enough solar energy capacity to power the entire technically rigged facility, interior designers and architects adhered to the strictest green guidelines. On the roof a series of drought-resistant plants rest, waiting to collect rainwater (and due to its close proximity to Lake Cayuga the hilltop campus receives a generous amount of rainfall) that is then converted into the entire water supply for the building. The Roy H. Park School of Business and Sustainable Enterprise is an engineering marvel discretely tucked away in the rolling hills of Northern New York.

roy park school ithaca
The elevated path leading to the Roy H. Park School of Business and Sustainable enterprise in Ithaca, NY.

Chicago, IL: The Green Craze

When people think of Chicago, the second most populated metropolis in the United States, they might think that it’s full of congestion and pollution. Not so. In fact Chicago is one of the greener cities in our country. All of the nine museums and the famous Chicago Art Institute are run partially by solar power, a huge undertaking considering the immense size of many of those buildings. In addition, the city of Chicago powers roughly 20% of their city by using renewable resources. Taking it back down to a personal level (because people must drive cars, right?) 1/3 of the entire Chicago commuting population takes public transit to and from their day jobs. City Hall even has a green roof capable of providing energy and water to the massive government building. To keep such a large and populated place so eco-friendly is truly commendable.

CityHall chicago
The green roof atop Chicago City Hall.

Madison, WI: A Biker’s Dream

Though Madison reports to only have a population of 208,054 citizens it’s estimated that there are 150,000 bikes in use in the Midwestern college town. Over 100 miles of bike trails and scenic inner-city bike-only lanes have been implemented to make getting around town on two wheels a breeze. In 2004 the city of Madison released the comprehensive “Wisconsin Biking Facility Design Guide,” which explains, in detail, the ins and outs of one our country’s largest urban bike-path systems. In addition to the expansive bike lane system, roughly 20% of Madison is devoted to parks, so no matter where you’re going (probably by bike) a park in which to relax and admire the green scenery is never too far.

wisconsin bike lanes
One of the many (crowded) bike lanes in Madison, WI.

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