Greening the Blue Ridge

Friday, January 21, 2005

Winter might be in the air and white snow on the ground, but green - as in "green" building - is the color of the season in Roanoke, a city of 100,000 nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Using a $100,000 CDBG planning grant from the City of Roanoke, the husband-and-wife architectural team of George and Jennifer Smith Lewis have invited the world to submit designs for housing that embody the "C2C" - Cradle to Cradle - principles pioneered by George McDonough and promoting environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient and neighborhood-compatible housing.

The world is responding. As the January application deadline approached, more than 650 submissions from more than 40 countries, including 60 universities, had been received for this first-ever international C2C competition. "I'd say it's mushrooming," Lewis told The Roanoke Times. Roanoke "will be the envy of other communities across the nation," added City Manager Darlene Burcham.

All told, Roanoke's C2C competition will honor nine - three each for professional designers and architects, students of architecture and university design teams. - with cash awards of up to $5,000 and internship opportunities for students. C2C designs will also be featured in a special, month-long exhibition at the Art Museum of Western Virginia. The C2C panel of judges includes McDonough, Sarah Susanka, author of "The Not So Big House" series, Alexander Garvin, author Randall Stout of the Art Museum of Western Virginia, and Daniel Libeskind, designer of Freedom Tower at ground zero in lower Manhattan.

Even better, the designs on paper are just the start of the C2C process in Roanoke. Competition sponsors already have made plans to build, beginning in May 2005, between 10 and 30 homes in Roanoke neighborhoods. "Roanoke," explained Lewis, "is the perfect place" for C2C homes. "It's a small enough community with people who are engaged - people who have a deep understanding of the landscape and the environment around us."

C2C homes "built here," Smith believes, " will serve as a model for a way of life that will begin in Roanoke and spread to thousands of similar communities around the world."

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