Technology and design solutions

Q. You talk quite a bit about design solutions vs. technology solutions — what can be done by designing the places we live differently, rather than putting an emphasis on “What’s the new electric car?”

A. The whole point of urbanism is that it reduces the demand on the technology. If we just posit that everybody’s going to keep driving 24-25,000 miles per household per year, the burden on electric cars and streets and parking and congestion — just the hundreds of square miles of solar farms or wind farms that we’re going to have to build — is going to be extraordinary. It’s much more cost-effective to reduce that fundamental behavior number, the amount of auto dependence we have, before we start thinking about what kind of automobiles we’re going to drive.

The same is true of energy in buildings. It’s exciting to see all the green technology that’s being applied to buildings, and it’s very, very important, but step one has got to be to build more compact buildings that inherently demand less energy to heat, cool, and light.

Peter Calthorpe discussing the difference between design solutions and technology solutions. I like this a lot. After reading through some of the back and forth design vs technology interchanges between Don Norman and Bruce Nussbaum. I’m not really sure technology vs design is a useful debate. Using technology and design to improve our lives and the world we live in, on the other hand, is very useful indeed. Chicken-and-egg questions and turf wars can easily distract my attention from what I should be focusing on: working on something I care about.

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