By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Energy-efficient construction was the topic of discussion last week in Rio, during the Urban Planning and Energy Efficient Construction for Low-Income Areas of the Americas seminar, sponsored by both the United States and Brazilian governments, which kicked off a larger-scale, urban planning initiative.
The invitation-only event, which was held on November 4th and 5th at the Itamaraty Palace in downtown Rio de Janeiro, and was promoted with the assistance of the Brazilian Council for Sustainable Construction (CBCS) and the American Planning Association (APA), aims to create a network of urban planners focused on sustainable planning and energy-efficient civil construction.
Expected to be an example in the region, and to lead long-term, sustainable development due to its role in the upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the Brazilian government has proposed an initiative dedicated to urban development in low-income areas of Latin America, inspired by the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas proposed by the U.S. President Barack Obama at the Summit of the Americas in 2009.
With energy-efficiency being the main focus of the initiative and the seminar, the event’s main purpose was to bring together urban planners, government officials, and academic partners from the Americas with the common goal of more efficient planning and construction that will provide sustainability in the long term, while strengthening the role of Rio de Janeiro as a leader in Latin American urban development.
The effects of the climate change, energy-efficient housing, and building sustainable cities were among the topics discussed at the summit, which also had the goal of launching a global cooperative effort to improve energy-efficiency across the Americas, as well as continuing the work that has been done until now to develop recommended best practices, which were presented in April at the World Urban Forum in Rio.
The APA launched its initiative to share planning best practices across the Americas, and to connect American urban planning experts with participants to build planning capacity and encourage the participation of citizens during the seminar.
Additionally, The Ashoka Foundation launched the online competition Sustainable Urban Housing: Collaborating for Livable and Inclusive Cities, in anticipation of the 2012 Summit of the Americas, which will be funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, with support from the U.S. Departments of State and Housing and Urban Development, as well as the APA.
Officials from the Department of State and the Department of Housing and Urban Development represented the U.S. government in the event. Ana Marie Argilagos, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development led the U.S. delegation, and was accompanied by Deputy Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs Shalini Vajjhala, Director of Economic Policy and Summit Coordination for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. State Department Kevin Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. State Department Jeff DeLaurentis and American Planning Association President W. Paul Farmer.