Broadening the Definition of Infrastructure

A guidebook to redesign and redevelop suburbs could be a useful tool to make our crumbling infrastructure more sustainable.

I’m reading a new book from John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs by Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson. It brings to mind the current discussions on infrastructure, particularly the Obama’s administration plan to create 2.5 to 3 million new jobs by rebuilding our decaying infrastructure.

There’s also talk among architects as well as AIA chapters about broadening the definition of infrastructure; they say it’s more than just road widenings and bridge rebuilding. It needs to include our schools, public buildings, parks facilities, and fixing suburban sprawl. They have a point.

Retrofitting aging suburbs to be more urban will, of course, create jobs and reduce our dependence on cars and, incidentally, this will also help reduce global warming. Creating greater proximity between home, workplace, and shopping will give lower-income Americans more spending power, and this will also help revive the country.

It’s encouraging to see that there are enough suburban retrofits to fill a whole book. Retrofitting Suburbia helps provide evidence the new administration needs to put together a broad spectrum program that will create jobs, improve quality of life for all, and energy independence.

Recent Viewpoints