Page E1.1 . 14 August 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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    Suburban Renewal

    by Jan Spencer

    Two years ago I moved into a modest, 1950s-era, one-story house. From the beginning, my intention has been to make better use of on-site resources such as sun, rain, and soil while using the existing house and property as points of departure for my own local suburban renewal project. A primary strategy of "permaculture" central to this work is to develop what I call "chains of benefits," when single actions produce multiple positive outcomes.

    Since moving to Eugene, Oregon I have developed a keen interest in land use planning and in making better use of urban space. Urban land use issues are receiving increasing attention nationwide as many citizens and policy makers are having second thoughts about automobile-dependent, low-density suburban development.

    I believe that new developments of that sort should be discouraged, while those already here can be put to much better use. Retrofitting suburbia with improved transit and pedestrian- and bike-friendly mixed use strategies can help to salvage the suburban landscape.

    My reasons for remaking my property are political and environmental. My goals are to live more "locally" and to protect my own health. Besides, home projects are fun and creative.

    Rethinking My Suburban House

    My suburban real estate came with several positive attributes. The house is oriented east-west for good solar exposure. The back yard is to the south. The area had been a flood plain, so the soil is naturally fertile. And there are few large trees shading the site, even in the winter when the sun is low.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    A modest suburban property is transformed into an energy-efficient house and edible landscape. A sunroom looks out over the vegetable garden. In the foreground are water barrels for rain water collection.
    Photo: Jan Spencer

    ArchWeek Image

    Tropical plants and summer vegetable starts do well in a closed-in patio/sunroom, which is heated only by the sun.
    Photo: Jan Spencer


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