Ellen Dunham-Jones Talks about Retrofitting Our Suburbs for the Future


In January Ellen Dunham- Jones talked at TED about the importance of transforming our existing suburbs into something tat is more sustainable and more inhabitable.

“In the past 50 years we have been building the suburbs with a lot of unintended consequences” She says. She goes on to continue that she believed the next 50 years we will be putting a lot of effort into converting these suburbs into growing sustainable communities. She believes this is going to happen because people will see that it is essential to redirect growth into existing communities rather than destroying our environment like we have been doing and building new neighborhoods.

At one point the suburbs were known to be a very family oriented place. It was always known as “a safe place to raise a family.” However, this has changed over the years. In 2000, over 2/3 of households in the suburbs did not have any kids. Also, studies show that the current generation (GenY) wants to live in a more urban setting. Because suburbia is becoming less centered on this family setting, it is time to change the way we design the suburbs.

She talks about building on existing parking lots and reinhabiting dead malls as nursing homes, office spaces, and art spaces. We need to take these large commercial buildings and make them into community gathering areas.

Retrofitting the buildings is one thing that transforms the way we interact with our surroundings, but another essential thing that we need to do is retrofit the means of transportation. Multi-lane roads can be converted into boulevards and we can widen the sidewalks.

Not only should we be thinking about redeveloping the existing buildings, we should think about sometimes bringing the suburbs back to what they were before we took over. This regreening can bring back some habitat that has disappeared.

By retrofitting our suburbs we can create more sustainable places for the future.

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