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  • Book
  • © 2012

The Agile City

Building Well-being and Wealth in an Era of Climate Change


  • This book shows that retrofitting cities, communities, and buildings can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that is quicker and more cost-effective than expensive alternative energy investments or complicated tax solutions

  • It is one of the first books about sustainable architecture, planning, and design that is written primarily for a trade and professional audience

  • James Russell is the perfect author for such a book, as he is a journalist and registered architect who has been writing about cities, architecture, and environmental design for more than twenty years

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Table of contents (11 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xviii
    1. Introduction

      • James S. Russell
      Pages 1-12
  2. The Land

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 13-13
    2. A New Land Ethos

      • James S. Russell
      Pages 35-53
  3. Repairing the Dysfunctional Growth Machine

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 55-56
    2. Real Estate

      • James S. Russell
      Pages 57-82
    3. Re-engineering Transportation

      • James S. Russell
      Pages 83-102
    4. Ending the Water Wars

      • James S. Russell
      Pages 103-123
    5. Megaburbs

      • James S. Russell
      Pages 125-145
  4. Agile Urban Futures

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 147-151
    2. Building Adaptive Places

      • James S. Russell
      Pages 153-175
    3. Creating Twenty-first-century Community

      • James S. Russell
      Pages 177-197
    4. Loose-fit Urbanism

      • James S. Russell
      Pages 199-220
    5. Green Grows the Future

      • James S. Russell
      Pages 221-240
  5. Back Matter

    Pages 241-290

About this book

Americans are waking up to the realization that global warming poses real challenges to the nation’s prosperity. In The Agile City, journalist and urban analyst James S. Russell engages the million dollar question: what do we do about it?

The answer lies in changing our fundamental approach to growth. Improved building techniques can readily cut carbon emissions by half, and some can get to zero. These cuts can be affordably achieved in windshield-shattering desert heat and the bone-chilling cold of the north. Intelligently designing our towns, suburbs, and cities could reduce commutes and child chauffeuring to a few miles or eliminate it entirely. Who wouldn’t want a future like that?

Agility, Russell explains, also means learning to adapt to the effects of climate change, which means redesigning the obsolete ways we finance real estate; distribute housing subsidies; provide transportation; and obtain, distribute, and dispose of water. These engines of growth have become increasingly dysfunctional both economically and environmentally.

The Agile City highlights tactics that create multiplier effects. Ecologically driven change can stimulate economic opportunity, make more productive workplaces, and help revive neglected communities. Considering multiple effects and benefits of political choices and private investments is essential to assuring wealth and well-being. The Agile City shows that change undertaken at the building and community level, with ingenuity and resourcefulness, makes the future look very green indeed.


  • Climatic changes
  • Economic development
  • Financial crises
  • Government policy
  • Sustainable development
  • climate change
  • urban geography and urbanism

About the author

James S. Russell is the architecture columnist for Bloomberg News. He has written about cities, architecture, and environmental design for more than 20 years. As a long-time editor, he helped Architectural Record magazine win a National Magazine Award for General Excellence. He has written for numerous newspapers, magazines and books and consulted to environmental organizations, cities, and architects. He teaches at the City College of New York and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

Bibliographic Information