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[IMGCAP(1)]WASHINGTON, DC-At first glance, Stella, MO, and Abu Dhabi, UAE would seem to have little in common. But both are sustainable communities being honored and described at the Green Community exhibition at the National Building Museum, which opened here last week.

Green Community is the first major exhibition in the United States to explore the complex process of creating and sustaining healthy communities, extending beyond technology and materials to the actual impact of both large and small communities.The yearlong exhibit is another step in an education process that in this case serves the general public and the developers, designers and other professionals who create these developments. “It’s about the first person plural, about the ‘we,’ ” said Susan Piedmont-Palladino, the curator of the exhibit.

The museum has hosted two previous green exhibits, in 2003 and 2006-07, but this is the first that extends beyond individual contributions, encompassing urban planning and design for a uniquely eclectic audience. “People in design, construction and development consider this their museum,” Palladino says. “We also attract people who are predisposed to an interest in building. And then there are the people who wander in when it’s raining.”

The 4,000-sf exhibition is divided into two sections, the first defining a green community, the second showing how communities can be made sustainable. Sustainable planning strategies displayed include mitigating and redevelopment brownfields and grayfields, transit-oriented planning and land conservation. The museum also highlights the efforts of specific communities, including Greensburg, KS; Highlands’ Garden Village, Denver; Mendoza, Argentina; Hali’imaile Maui, Hawaii; and Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, UAE and the Atlantic Station development in Atlanta–to show that green communities can vary in size. Stella, MO–the smallest community in the exhibit–has a population of 187. The exhibit’s opening, “Close to Home,” profiles green projects and initiatives in metropolitan Washington, DC.

[IMGCAP(2)]The communities were selected to offer a geographic diversity, though weighted toward towns and cities in the US–while avoiding many of the most-cited green communities such as Seaside, FL, Palladino says. The materials on Greensburg focus on the future, differentiating the exhibit from the many news stores about the sustainable rebuilding of the tornado-ravaged town. “The hard part was cutting the number down, when we realized not all the communities would fit [in the space],” says Palladino, an architect and professor of architecture.

Green Community will conclude on Oct. 25, 2009, and then will be made available digitally to other communities. Those communities, however, must dedicate some space to their own initiatives.

Meanwhile, other educational efforts continue to increase both for the public and professionals. Trade associations increasingly are sponsoring conferences and panels for professionals, and also are working at educating young people about the importance of sustainability.

“There’s a wide range of things going on out there, and it’s all for the good,” says Carolyn Torma, director of education for the American Planning Association (APA) and editor of APA’s newsletter, The Commissioner. The APA–the presenting sponsor of the Green Community exhibition–recently had an exhibit on Sustainable Schoolyard at the US Botanic Garden, which educated children, their parents and professionals about the importance of locating schools and other key destinations within walking or biking distance, incorporating sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly features, and green technologies and materials.

The US Green Building Council’s LEED certification has been educational, Torma notes, because it gives the general public a recognizable tool to evaluate sustainability. Equally important, however, is education about the need for mass transportation

The USGBC will host the Greenbuild 2008 Educational Conference and Expo Nov. 19 to 21 in Boston, while the APA’s National Conference, to be held April 25 to 29 in Minneapolis, which feature tracks on Climate Change and a Sustainable Future, and Green Urban Design. The American Institute of Architects also has dedicated significant resources to green education, including webisodes discussing individual green techniques. Says Torma, “There’s a lot to say.”

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