Stone Aims to Cool Cities through Design

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“Hotlanta” has become a popular nickname for the city based on the high temperatures that are synonymous with Atlanta’s summers. But Brian Stone wants people to realize that the heat in the city isn’t just the result of weather patterns.        

“I’ve looked at cities around the world, and they are warming twice as fast as other areas around the globe,” said Stone, an associate professor in the School of City and Regional Planning. “My research focuses on how we can make cities cooler by changing the physical design elements.”

Some solutions for keeping cities cool include planting more trees and preserving them, because they provide natural shade. Increasing the reflectivity of buildings by using less black roofing and asphalt and finding ways to reduce the amount of heat emitted through buildings and cars are other ways to accomplish this, Stone added. He recently published a book on the subject titled, “The City and the Coming Climate: Climate Change in the Places We Live.”

Recently, The Whistle had an opportunity to learn more about Stone and his time at Georgia Tech. Here’s what he shared.

What did you want to be when you were a child?         
I can tell you that I didn’t want to be a planner — what kid does? I went to college knowing that I wanted to teach and earned a bachelor’s in English. I didn’t really understand what a planner was until after I’d earned a master’s in environmental management and realized that I was interested in cities and air quality. So I pursued my PhD in city and regional planning here at Tech.

How did you end up in your position here?     
After I earned my PhD in 2001, I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to teach until 2005. Then I was offered a position at Tech and have been here ever since.

What are a few misconceptions about your field?   
Zoning is actually very little of what we do as planners; we focus more on public policy. Also, people in my field can be unique at an institution like Tech because we are more interested in behavioral than technological solutions.

What have you learned from your students?
I’ve learned that if students aren’t inspired, they’re not going to learn, which is why a lot of my teaching takes place outside of the classroom. So if I’m teaching about air quality, we visit a power plant. We’re fortunate because Atlanta serves as a great lab for students who are studying planning.

What piece of technology could you not live without?
My solar-powered electric scooter. It looks like a little Vespa, and I have solar panels on my roof at home that collect the energy I need to charge it.

Which do you prefer: Facebook, Twitter or a world without all of this social media stuff?
A world without it.

Where is your favorite spot in Atlanta?
The old-growth forest around the Frazer Center in Candler Park.  

What is the greatest risk you’ve ever taken, and did it pay off?
It was probably coming to Tech as a graduate student. It was tough coming to a technical school when my background was in the humanities. But I’d say it paid off in the end.

If you could have dinner with someone, dead or alive, who would it be?
It would be Edward Abbey. He wrote about environmental issues, and I’d enjoy having a conversation with him.  

Where is your favorite place to have lunch?
Antico Pizza, and I order the Verdura Pizza.

Tell us something unique about yourself.
I am a self-proclaimed, highly skilled bocce ball player. I even have my own court in the backyard.



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