Douglas Farr

Principal, Farr and Associates

“People love a green building, but they don’t really want to hear that their building is in the wrong place. I think for many people who are focused on green buildings as stand-alone objects, urbanism is an in-convenient truth. Buildings have a contribution—arguably the biggest slice of the energy pie in terms of reducing carbon—but we also need to back up and focus earlier on where we are settling. Are there mixed uses there? Is the building needed? Does it contribute to a sense of place? The green WalMart that people drive up to 50 miles to get to is a kind of symbol of absurdism of the green building movement. It’s the hood ornament of the end game of auto dependence.”

Joel Kotkin

Author and Futurist

“The real issue is not that people want only density or only isolation. What they really want is a spacious place to live, probably with some sort of a yard and the ability to walk to something. That’s really what they want and that is really hard to get, but there are ways to get closer to it. Maybe you have single-family homes but they are on smaller lots and you are a five-minute drive to where you shop, so you can also ride your bike there or walk if you have the time. There are lots of ­middle-range options. Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good.”

John Norquist

Former mayor of Milwaukee; President and CEO, Congress for New Urbanism

“It makes sense for the home building industry to look at a more urban development pattern, whether it’s an infill opportunity or a greenfield development that’s based on streets and blocks rather than cul-de-sacs. It’s a way for builders and developers to get more value per acre, and it might be a way to save the American Dream. For production builders, making the transition to a more urban product may be the way to save the business, as opposed to being risky. The bigger risk may be for them to keep doing what they’ve been doing.”

Kevin deFreitas

Principal, Kevin deFreitas Architects

“These days, a green home doesn’t have to look like a straw bale house or like the person who lives there makes their own clothes out of hemp. Is it possible to do modern aesthetics? I found out [when building my own home] it was really easy to do. I’m not a tree hugger at all and didn’t start out wanting to do something like this, but the plan evolved and I started to realize it was too easy not to do. If we don’t begin to take care of our resources—namely, water and air—our same lifestyle may not be transferable to our children. In America, the hope and goal has always been to give our kids a life better than our own.”

June Williamson

Professor of Architecture, City College of New York

“Previously there was this idea that if you lived off the grid in cabins in the woods and created your own energy, that was the best way to live environmentally. More recent research demonstrates that higher-density urban living actually has the lowest carbon impact per capita.”