Dubuque, Iowa: A model for Raleigh?

As a student of landscape architecture and urban design, many of my discussions with students and professors focus on how to make cities better places to live and work while maintaining (or repairing) ecological functions. While designing sustainable cities involves the design of the built environment, educating people about the value and importance of these systems is also key. Informed communities can make a greater impact on the design of a city than diagrams and renderings alone.

This article in Businessweek (Dubuque, Iowa: The First American ‘Smart-City’?) discusses a strategy used by the city of Dubuque, Iowa to connect people with the impacts of their daily decisions through an innovative approach to data collection and distribution. Through their partnership with IBM, residents are able to understand the tradeoffs of their daily decisions affecting water quality, transportation, and energy usage.

Could this be the future of urban design? If people are more informed about the actual impact of their everyday decisions, will they make different choices about where they live, the resources they use or the value of ecological systems that support their way of life? The early signs point to “yes.”