Can We Make the Suburbs Sustainable?


The COVID-19 pandemic has produced so many shifts and undercurrents in our world, and many are so subtle that historians will probably spend decades tracking and understanding them all. But some are not so subtle, if you know where to look at the data. Between April and June this year, construction of multifamily housing—apartment buildings and condos—grew by 25.5% in suburban areas. By contrast, construction of the same type of building declined by half a percentage point in major cities. There’s no two ways about it. There’s going to be a lot more Americans living in suburbs.

Every new building means more carbon emissions in the atmosphere, so if the suburbs continue to see as much new construction as they have this past year, we have to act fast. What can we do to A) use the buildings we already have in the suburbs and B) modify existing infrastructure to mitigate some of the negative effects of new construction? Luckily, there’s plenty of good news out of the suburbs on that front. In this episode, Metropolis editor Ethan Tucker speaks with Professor Ellen Dunham-Jones, who is co-author of the book Retrofitting Suburbia, a compendium of 32 case studies for how suburbs are building for better quality of life and a better impact on the planet.


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Deep Green is a production of SANDOW Design Group.


Avi Rajagopal

Avinash Rajagopal is the editor in chief of Metropolis, an award-winning architecture and design publication. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at events related

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