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Green Giants: Myth or Miracle?

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[View from atop Arterra, harbinger of green condo living]

San Franciscans seem pretty anti high-rise—at least the vocal ones do. Heaven forfend that our precious skyline ever change or evolve, right? Perhaps one way to achieve buy-in on future high-rise projects is to see if their construction can in some way benefit the environment. Today "Green City," the San Francisco Bay Guardian's environmental column, takes a short examination on that very possibility, interviewing several locals with different opinions on the matter— all of whom, granted, have a proverbial dog in the hunt.

Gold Stars!: Can cut suburban sprawl; population density enables more public transportation efficiency; economies of scale (sharing infrastructure, etc); opportunities for "creative efficiency; energy-generation (solar panels/wind devices); and large-scale recycling. (A good example of the latter is Arterra's garbage chute-in-progress, which separates rubbish from recyclables.)

Demerits!: 1000s of elevator trips (up to 10% of total energy consumption); usually climate controlled via mechanisms versus windows; always-lit common areas; construction demands preclude "green materials" construction.

Seems that a couple of the negatives can be easily addressed, and some of the positive may prove overblown. But is it really the materials used that make something "green," or is the ultimate impact during the lifespan of the building what matters most? Hearing both sides of the equation, at least according to those that the Guardian spoke with, we can't help but think that a holistic approach—weighing the ultimate impact—may prove more valuable than worrying about each individual part.
· Are High Rises Green? [SFBG]
· Curbed Inside: Arterra [Curbed SF]