Jul 30, 2014

Residents Deliberate Future of Fairfax County

Environmental sustainability was a hot topic at the final meeting of the county's 'Evolution of Fairfax' series.

Residents Deliberate Future of Fairfax County Residents Deliberate Future of Fairfax County Residents Deliberate Future of Fairfax County

The future prosperity of Fairfax County lies in environmental consciousness, alternative energy and “transitional thinking,” according to architect Doug Carter.

Carter was one of three speakers at Wednesday night’s final installment in the Evolution of Fairfax lecture series.  Fairfax County Board Chairman Sharon Bulova curated the event, and Supervisors John Cook (Braddock District) and Catherine Hudgins (Hunter Mill District) joined the discussion with residents.

“Collectively, we are messing up our planet,” said Carter, who has lived and worked in the area for 40 years. “I happen to think that global warming is real and a very imminent danger to all of us. We need to change the way we do things, and we need to generate new alternative energy sources.”

Rick Smyre, president of Communities for the Future and the evening’s keynote speaker, posed a question to the packed room at the Mason Inn and Conference Center: “Will you improve ideas that have been here for a long time, or will you work together towards a future whose principals and ideas are just beginning to appear?”

Carter said the “transitional thinking” he mentioned had been demonstrated in the county’s past, when it approved the construction of in the 1970s. The school’s unique design – it’s built into a hill and covered in earth to conserve energy – could be seen as an example of county officials preparing for the future, he said.

Unique, revolutionary architecture was one of the evening’s major talking points.

“There is no wasted space in nature, and there shouldn’t be in our buildings either,” said Roger Frechette, president of PositivEnergy Practice (PEP), a Chicago engineering firm focused on sustainable, green buildings. “Buildings in the future will have to be much more compact and use no extra space whatsoever.”

PEP engineers have been involved in the design of such massive, state-of-the-art towers as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Pearl River Tower in China. These buildings provide “one-stop living,” Frechette said, and decreasing a need for single-occupancy vehicles and the population’s carbon footprint.

“This is a vertical city,” Frechette said of Burj Khalifa. The Pearl River Tower, about 1,000 feet tall, is designed to harness energy from the high-speed winds that hit the building.

Mixed-use developments like these will be key going forward, the speakers said. Carter indicated that the development in Tysons was the beginnings of a cityscape, but that red tape from zoning laws could hold it back from its full potential.

When asked what features of their county they wanted to retain in the years ahead, residents unanimously agreed that quality education systems and a diversified economy were keys to success.

“Public transportation needs to be affordable and reliable, or people will continue to use their cars,” said one resident.

Fairfax County Channel 16 will feature the full presentation on Wednesday, July 11.

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