System versus Silo Thinking

Neal Peirce writes about the the “green revolution” happening in America’s cities and towns in the January, American Prospect

Peirce describes a number of cities (Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle) that are re-connecting the commons (parks, roads, rivers, and everywhere there is public investment) through public infrastructure investments to create heatlhy places.  The projects are bold, exciting, and hold promise for state and national policy.  But, he points out, the work ahead requires a change it the way we think and approach problem solving.  He writes,

“[…] there’s the challenge to the professionals — the architects, planners, designers, engineers, builders, utility representatives, city and county housing officials, and others engaged on the front line of building and reshaping communities. Historically — and often, still today — they have worked sequentially, first doing the land planning, then the underground pipes, then roadways and buildings and so on.

In a smart 21st century, that won’t do. It costs too much and it misses opportunities for better aesthetics, energy efficiency, and quality of life. The time’s at hand to move from silos to systems [emphasis added]. It’s the right moment to ask the professionals to start thinking more broadly, to work closely with colleagues from the other disciplines from start to end of any project.”


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