Book Review Archive: Superbia!: 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods

Each Tuesday, I’m posting book reviews that I did in the past for D+A Studio’s blog. I’m doing this because, well, I love to read, and a good book will not be dated and will keep coming up when discussing current issues.  Click on the “Book Review” tab to see all reviews. 

Overall, this is a fun book, easy to read and pleasing to the eye. The authors bring up many great ideas-many I have heard, many new-about how to move the suburbs into the future.  Suburbs have been built based on a world with an endless supply of cheap, abundant oil where no ill effects are caused by car exhaust. I picture Frank Lloyd Wright cruising in an old car around Broadacre City (his vision of spread out houses on large yards). He thought it was perfect, and it might have been if cars had no exhaust, there were no negative externalities related to fuel, and the suburbs were not directly or indirectly linked to modern social ills such as isolation, obesity, sprawl, and personal financial over extension.

They say that the suburbs will probably be rebuilt by “constructive demolition” to make them more dense and efficient, like small towns, since they are not currently built to last. A great quote from Peter Calthorpe, a leader in the New Urbanist movement, sums up our current situation:

“The old suburban dream is increasingly out of sync with today’s culture. Our suburbs are designed around a stereotypical household that is no longer predominant. But we continue to build suburbs as if families were large and had only one breadwinner, as if jobs were all downtown, as if land and energy were endless, and as if another lane on the freeway could end congestion.” (The Next American Metropolis) 

Ideas to create “Superbia” include:

  • Converting one existing garage in the neighborhood for the “recycling coordinator.” One person opens up their garage to store give away items, distributes a list to neighbors (items available/needed), makes trips to the dumpster or has regular garage sales.
  • A community office (could be a converted garage or formal living area), could be next to a community daycare center
  • Use an elderly neighbor’s yard for a community garden or pea-patch: they have their yard taken care of, people living in apartments or who don’t have room can have access to a garden.

These are just a few of the 31 ideas, but I found that this book is much more than just the sum of its parts. Their experience and knowledge in the field of green building and community living shine through, making for an overall engaging read beyond just a list of ideas.

In closing, a goal of their book is that we need to “Start where we are, and do what we can.”

The authors are on the board of directors for the Sustainable Futures Society: Fostering Transitions to a Global, Sustainable Society.