Ken Hughes

It’s 2040 in Santa Fe. Temperatures typically top 90 degrees half the year. Rainstorms are infrequent, warm and ferocious. Others areas around New Mexico have been hit hard, with many communities dried up. Yet, because of actions taken 25 years ago, Santa Fe avoids a setting for a Cormac McCarthy novel and remains a livable city that offers sustainable levels of food, water, energy, mobility and sociability.

Inspired by no-carbon cities such as Colonia, Uruguay, Santa Fe sports hundreds of pocket gardens and thousands of street trees watered from batch wastewater plants that process water from nearby homes and businesses, along with storm retention features and permeable paving. Walking through the city, even on hot days, remains comfortable due to our towering rows of trees, having reached maturity since their 2018 planting.

Santa Fe’s building code was amended to emplace Ed Mazria’s Architecture 2030 challenge, resulting in homes, offices and schools putting more power into the grid than they take. Cooling chimneys induce passive ventilation, shower towers cool air evaporatively, solar panels offer shade and electricity, and geothermal provides space conditioning. Heat emitted from computers is stored in phase-change salt canisters, used as needed for heating. Optical tubes bring natural light into interior rooms.

Starting with St. Michaels Drive (left 2012 and 2042), each neighborhood has fashioned plazas from road diets that open up space for people. The plazas offer social interactions prized by Santa Feans for centuries as well as mobility choices of electric-powered bikes, cars and chauffeured vehicles known as the bus, all charged at a solar-powered shade structure that stores three days’ worth of electricity underground in reservoirs of air or salt. The neighborhood microgrid ensures delivery of locally generated power to and from the regional grid, a ballet of 300MW worth of carbon-free electrons serving 150,000 Santa Feans and two million tourists.

Hughes is a member of the Finance Working Group of Santa Fe’s Climate Action Task Force.