“Castles in the Air” left the false impression that high-rise buildings are inherently “green” and essential to making cities more sustainable. Compared with lower-rise construction, they require more energy, and their wind tunnels and long shadows diminish livability. Whereas cities do need minimum corridor and neighborhood densities to support their pedestrian and transit-based economies, an occasional high-rise barely makes a dent. Lacking definitive research on the optimal scale of a sustainable city, I’ve nonetheless made informal surveys of expert colleagues that suggest that four to 30 stories is the optimal range for buildings in a sustainable city.
President, Farr Associates
David Pogue is correct in “Password Prevented” [TechnoFiles] that our current method of making passwords is the worst of all possible worlds; it creates passwords that are nearly impossible for a human to remember but still relatively easy for a computer to guess.
The true secret to security is the reverse: a password scheme that is easy for users to remember (so they don’t write it down) but close to impossible for a computer to guess. The method of picking a string of letters and numbers gives a result that could be beaten in about three days of determined effort and is pretty much impossible to remember. A phrase of four random words, however, can be easy to remember but can require more than 500 years to guess.
Edward Glaeser’s point that education matters more to the health of a city than construction and transportation projects in “Brains over Buildings” is valid but superficial. For a poor, urban community of color to prosper—or, nowadays, survive—good education that’s free and relevant is essential. But people need to eat, too.
The trouble with urban development is that the contractors and workers almost never come from the community being developed. And the article doesn’t mention the barriers erected in the past few years to accessing the two things it touts: education and entrepreneurship. Even San Francisco City College is too expensive for most people in the city’s neighborhood of Hunter’s Point, and cutbacks to faculty and classes make it futile for many. We’re all for entrepreneurship, but what about redlining, which has gotten worse and is augmented by predatory loans that are nothing but landgrabs? And try running a business without money.
Further, a metric Glaeser ignores is the rich, who have education and entrepreneurship in abundance, pushing the poor out of the cities altogether.
If the poor see that education will get them somewhere and help them feed their families, they and their kids will go for it. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Editor, San Francisco Bay View