1st Annual National Green Building Conference

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Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of Sustainability

This picture was taken from the median of a high speed arterial looking at the main entrance and the main collector street into a community in Bonn Germany of about 5,000 people. The truck is parked, you can see that the safety platform and neckdown is one car width wide.

This picture shows the same collector street at a neckdown and raised linear platform that bisects the pedestrian only shopping street.

In HomeTown we have taken the best of these new traffic-calming methods and combined them with historic, timeless, human-scale neighborhood design principles.

This is the first device - the traffic circle near the entry. You can only drive in it at about 15mph. This is the gazebo in the traffic circle. It has become the icon of HomeTown.

This is the second device we use - a safety platform combined with a neckdown. It has a design speed of 12mph according to the Netherlands street design manual.

This is the third device - neckdowns combined with sharp offsetting turns at each end of each Neighborhood Park.

In HomeTown we have restored much of the physical safety and human scale that residential streets had before the automobile destroyed the delicate balance between the public's needs and the resident's needs.

We have freed our residential streets from the tyranny of high speed automobiles and trucks so that the residents who live on them can enjoy them.


These are the town planners for HomeTown. Alexandria and Victoria are the oldest of my five grandchildren. I reviewed every element of design in HomeTown with these young ladies in mind. HomeTown was designed for children - for my grandchildren.

Many families buy their first home because of their children - or in anticipation of having children. However, very few families make the special needs and growth potential of their children an active part of the decision as to whether to buy a home in a real neighborhood or an average subdivision.

As a country, the only real asset that we have is our children; as parents, there is nothing more important to us than our children. Most builders do not design houses and neighborhoods "for" children because children don't make the home buying decision. Most young families buy their first home "because of" their children. Shouldn't the house that's bought "because of" children be in a REAL neighborhood that is designed "for" children?

HomeTown has been designed "for" children - from the streets, to the parks, to the Living Courts and Living Lanes, to the homes themselves - like a small town. Research shows that children spend 35% to 45% of their playtime running and walking, 10% to 15% on bicycles, tricycles, or other wheeled toys, and 25% to 35% just sitting or standing. The Living Courts, Living Lanes, public walks, Neighborhood Parks and public parks all are designed to more safely accommodate these activities.

As importantly, parents want to feel that their children are safer and more secure with regards to cars and strangers. The only way to accomplish this is with Living Lanes and Living Courts. Strangers have no reason to go there so they feel uncomfortable being there and they know they're being watched.

We have already talked about how HomeTown's Living Courts are special places for children.

Because HomeTown's Living Lanes are private lanes, not public streets - and they feel private; the owners, not the public, control the lanes - this is a tremendous advantage for the children. The Living Lane becomes a "Woonerf" type lane where children and cars both have full use of the lane. The entire area from the front of one house to the front of the house across the lane becomes a zone where children can play more safely. The Living Lane itself becomes a playground. Drive down a typical Living Lane and you'll drive around the big wheels, tricycles, and wagons strewn all over the lane. The Living Lane and the front yards are like a big private park.

HomeTown ends the dog days of summer when kids become bored by 10:00 in the morning because they can't play outside anywhere except in their own rear yard and on their own boring swing set. With their short attention span, they've "been there and done that!" In HomeTown, children can participate in an endless array of interesting activities without the necessity of "mom's limousine service." Children rarely meet automobiles that don't belong to HomeTown residents or guests because outside cars will not use HomeTown as a short cut - they can drive around HomeTown faster than driving through it.


HomeTown has the ability to be as environmentally sustainable as the market will accept. The specific following conservation components are currently included in the plan:
1. There will be 1100 homes in HomeTown on 146 acres. That's 7.5 dua, and all of it is SFD. The average density for SFD in Chicago is 2.5 dua; i.e. we use only 1/3 the land that other builders use to build 1100 homes; i.e. we conserve and preserve 300 acres that can remain farm land or woodlands.
2. Living Lanes and Living Courts have an east-west axis, so houses face north or south for optimum passive solar orientation. Only about 10% of the windows will face east or west, which are the worst solar orientations.
3. The typical single family detached community has three times as much street and utility improvement. The typical single family attached community has two times as much street and utility improvement. This community uses about to 2/3 the "embodied energy" in the original installation of the improvements. There are comparable savings to the City in maintenance, repair, snow plowing, paving replacement, etc.
4. Most exterior house lighting will be fluorescent, which is about four times more efficient than incandescent.
5. HomeTown is designed to encourage pedestrian and bicycle activity by providing the opportunity (subject to market demand) for many commercial, retail, employment, child care, and recreational activities to be within walking distance of the homes in the Village Center.
6. PACE, the provider of public suburban transportation, has collaborated in the design so that HomeTown will be served on the inside with public bus transit with connections to RTA commuter trains, major employment centers, and major commercial centers.
7. HomeTown uses native grasses and landscape materials where possible to minimize maintenance, watering, fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides.
8. And at HomeTown all construction waste is recycled.


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