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Hickok Cole Program Highlights Sustainable Urbanism — Principles, Projects and Plans

Sustainable urban design was the focus of a special May 19 presentation at Hickok Cole Architects by two leading sustainability experts—the Metropolitan Institute’s Joe Schilling and Professor of Architecture Susan C. Piedmont-Palladino — both located at Virginia Tech’s campus in Old Town Alexandria.  The program highlighted the roots of sustainable urban design in nature and cities and the intersections of sustainable urban design with sustainability planning and policy, including a discussion of examples within the District of Columbia and the region such as the Sustainable DC Plan, Arlington County’s Community Energy Plan, and Alexandria’s Eco City Charter (developed with help from Virginia Tech’s planning professors and students).

The lecture at Hickok Cole Architects, located in Washington, D.C., was coordinated by Lindsey Falasca, RA, LEED AP, and it is part of a new seminar series sponsored by their internal Sustainable Design Committee, that seeks to engage the firm’s 90 architects about a range of sustainable urban design issues. “Many of my colleagues hear about sustainable issues (in the larger scale) but we as a committee fear they don’t fully understand how at the smaller scale, and in our profession, we can actually make a difference,” said Falasca in describing the goal of the series.

“All of our communication and transportation technologies, from the elevator and the telephone to the automobile and the iPad, have changed our relationship to place,” said Piedmont-Palladino.  “Now that our smart technologies allow us to be anywhere and virtually everywhere, we have to ask ourselves what kind of places do we want to make? We have the opportunity to make healthier, greener, and more sustainable places, and there are so many good examples out there.”

“The Washington region is fast becoming a sustainability leader through the adoption and implementation of several pioneering sustainability plans, policies, and initiatives,” Schilling noted. “While each community tailors their sustainability efforts to match local priorities, these plans and policies create a strong framework that can guide the sustainability projects of designers, developers and neighborhood residents.  Indeed, it’s an exciting time for sustainability practice in the Washington DC region.”

In his role with Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute, Schilling leads its Sustainable Communities and Urban Regeneration Initiatives, which investigate innovative ways of creating eco-sustainable neighborhoods and regions through better design, planning, and collaboration. His research explores the design, implementation and transfer of innovative policies and programs through case studies, peer exchanges, and policy charrettes covering diverse topics as smart growth, active living, vacant property reclamation, sustainability, shrinking cities, and zoning code reform.

Piedmont-Palladino is an architect, a professor of architecture at Virginia Tech’s Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC), and a curator at the National Building Museum. She also is the coordinator of the new graduate program in Urban Design at the WAAC.  She has lectured and written on sustainability, American urbanism, design-build, and architectural education. With Tim Mennell, she co-edited the companion book for Green Community, published by the American Planning Association.


Article courtesy of Beth Offenbacker, School of Public and International Affairs.