APTA | Passenger Transport
November 3, 2008

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National Building Museum Exhibition Highlights Green Technologies

Not only is being green becoming easier, it’s also becoming a global necessity—and public transportation is one of the keystones of the process.
“Green Community,” the newest exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, focuses on the big picture from two perspectives: what constitutes a green community and how people can make existing communities greener. As a museum spokesperson said: “It isn’t a new idea, to build as if our lives depended on it.”
The exhibit makes clear the importance of public transit to communities even before visitors go inside. Interactive projections on the floor outside the entrance compare the environmental impact of driving a car compared with riding a bicycle or using transit; the transit rider will save money and carbon emissions while avoiding the stress of driving, while the bicyclist will gain health benefits from exercise.
The exhibit itself has two major points of reference: What kind of community is green, and how can people make communities green? The first section explores the qualities of green communities in six ways: remediating, repurposing, reinvigorating; getting around; land conservation; resourcefulness; waste; and close to home. The second organizes its survey of technologies around the four ancient elements: earth, air, fire, and water.
The basis of the green community is living in cooperation with nature. The museum uses timelines and glass columns filled with environmental materials such as lava rock, recycled cork, shredded tires, chopped plastic from recycled water bottles, and even bottle caps to represent changes in the built environment over the years and the centuries.
The museum showcases projects of many different sizes, geographic regions, and economic levels, from a 187-resident town in Kansas recovering after a catastrophic tornado to the reclamation of brownfield areas in metropolitan areas and the totally car-free, transit-based community of Masdar in the United Arab Emirates. The exhibit cites Arlington County, VA, for its multi-use development—including residential, business, and commercial sites—along the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Orange Line.
Looking forward, the second half of the exhibition examines new technologies such as geothermal heating for university buildings in California, PA; wind energy in Denmark; solar energy at sites around the world, including solar panels as part of the installation; and natural wetlands restoration in Illinois.
The last element of the exhibit is a wall-mounted, interactive scene of a community. Visitors can touch the screen to see how different green alternatives could change the landscape, such as the addition of light rail or increased tree planting in residential neighborhoods.
APTA is a major sponsor of the “Green Communities” exhibit, the third in the museum’s series of exhibitions focusing on sustainability in architecture, planning, and design; the earlier exhibitions were “Big & Green: Toward Sustainable Architecture in the 21st Century” and “The Green House:  New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design.” It will remain open through Oct. 25, 2009, at which point it will tour.
Thomas Costello, vice chair-marketing, represented APTA at the Oct. 20 opening reception for the exhibit. He offered remarks outlining the environmental benefits of public transit, saying transit is key to a green community.

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