In the Ecology of Cities,
Lester R. Brown states that, “By 2007 more than half of us will live in
cities—making us, for the first time, an urban species.” This means
that urban planning decisions made now will have an enormous effect for
a long time to come. The field of urban planning connects many topics
discussed in this guide, such as, energy infrastructure; environmental
and land management; construction and architecture; transportation
infrastructure and much more.
The field of sustainable city planning is a rapidly growing one, with
entire organizations dedicated to it, books written about it,
conferences held and professional associations forming (a Google search
returns over 11 million hits). It is impossible here to describe the
extent to which this global movement intersects with community efforts
carbon protection programs,
but it is important that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions be
conducted with an eye to the impacts they will have on the whole system
of the city.
Sustainable urban development includes planning
that promotes mixed-use development (residential and commercial use in
the same area), transportation alternatives, walkable/denser
communities, compact building design, open/ green space and attractive/
distinctive communities. Such approaches can enable a community to
fight climate change (and improve local quality of life) by reducing
personal automobile dependence (See Chapter 5, Residential
Transportation Section), increasing green space (See Chapter 5, Reducing
the Impact of Continued Emissions Section) and providing incentives for
green building (see Chapter 5, Buildings Section).
Several studies have linked denser communities with reduced driving and,
in turn, reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. High-density urban
areas utilizing mixed-use development make human powered and public
transportation more practical,
while decreasing emissions and encouraging exercise. For
example, the book Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile
Dependence describes the strong correlation between urban density
and driving related consumption. Cities considered to have low-density
development (fewer than 50 persons per hectare) were found to have
fossil fuel consumption rates triple that of more densely developed
cities. A study by Natural Resources Defense Council
notes a similarly strong correlation between density and miles driven in
San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. The following graph from the
study demonstrates how people living in denser areas in these three
cities are traveling fewer miles per year.
Driving vs. Residential Density
The following case studies illustrate policies that different
communities have taken to begin, enhance and reach their sustainable
“Each year, the
Green Guide recognizes cities across the country that are
providing the healthiest, most environmentally-conscious, energy
efficient and least-polluting
places in which to live.”
Green Guide is an internationally recognized source for news and
consumer information about environmental living. In
2006, the Green Guide named Eugene, Oregon the #1 Green City in
Political Action and Policies:
The city staff began a new community-wide pedestrian and bicycle
strategic planning process in 2006. The program includes public
education and input activities to help direct the planning
process. The goal of the planning effort is to increase the use
of non-motorized transportation in Eugene.
Mixed Use Development:
In 2001, the
concept of mixed-use development became the official growth
management policy for the city of Eugene.
The city has identified dozens of potential "centers" that can
eventually be developed to have greater density, yet become
desirable, pedestrian-friendly, neighborhoods, featuring shops,
residences, green space and quality transportation options.
“When combined with improved transit, such centers will reduce
reliance on automobile travel, offset the need for costly street
improvements, slow sprawl onto nearby agricultural and forest
lands and provide a greater variety of housing types inside the
Urban Growth Boundary.”
To ease the
financial burden of this process, the city has applied for
grants from the State of Oregon
Growth Management (TGM) program every two years since 1997.
“These grants funded a demonstration of transportation-efficient
land use planning focusing on the preparation and adoption of a
concept design, strategies and ordinances for several
potential mixed-use development sites.”
By 2006, Eugene had developed 30 miles of off-street paths, 89 miles
of on-street bicycle lanes and 5 bicycle/pedestrian bridges
spanning the Willamette River
Eugene holds an annual Walking and Biking Summit, providing
input on ways to make the city a more “walkable and bikable”
Eugene has preserved over 16% of its land as green space,
including athletic fields, city parks, public gardens, trails
The city has over 2,500 acres of publicly owned wetlands, and
its West Eugene Wetlands Program has been nationally recognized as a
model for resource protection and enhancement.
Eugene offers 120 public parks, 45 playgrounds, 6 community
gardens, 60 miles of trails and over 3,000 acres of natural
Construction Techniques/Energy Efficiency:
In July 2006, the City Council unanimously adopted the city of
Eugene’s first formal “green building” policy, requiring
city-owned and occupied buildings to be constructed and
maintained in environmentally and economically sustainable ways.
Examples of the
new policy include two new fire stations that incorporate day-
lighting, solar hot water, highly reflective roofing, high
efficiency heating and cooling systems, preference for local and
renewable materials, low emission paints and laminates and 90%
recycling of construction waste.
sustainable building policies
Parks and Open Space Manager
Parks and Open Space Planning
CASE STUDY: Saint Paul, MN
Under the Urban CO2
Reduction Project, St. Paul has already surpassed its 1997
goals for CO2
emissions reduction and is currently planning to
reach a 20% reduction of 1988 CO2
levels by 2020. The plan includes a wide variety of
addition to providing great options for alternative and
public transportation, St. Paul also offers commuters and
pedestrians pollution-free transportation and recreation via
an extensive trail system.
operates 101 parks, maintains 101 miles of paved
off-street trails, 24 miles of dirt trails and 160 garden
promotes “green roofs,” which reduce heating and cooling
costs and reduce storm water runoff.
Construction Techniques/Energy Efficiency:
requires every developer that uses public dollars to meet
with energy design consultants to make buildings more
energy-efficient and cost-effective.
St. Paul also supports energy-efficient households by assisting residents to
install renewable energy. The Minnesota State Department of
even encourages businesses and residents to hook up solar
systems to the grid.
general number for the city of St. Paul government
Neighborhood Energy Consortium
Glenwood Park, Atlanta, GA
Park has utilized “infill” planning
on a former industrial site, two miles from downtown Atlanta.
The 28-acre brownfield
redevelopment offers 350 residences in a mix of condominiums,
townhouses, houses and 70,000 square feet of retail and office
mixed use the site was designed with narrower streets and
tighter corners for qualifying “traditional neighborhood
developments.” This type of zoning is crucial to making
Glenwood Park a pedestrian friendly, healthier and environmentally sound
useful retail, shops and restaurants with residences, the
development has brought vitality to the streets, provided
residents with walkable destinations, reducing the number of
local daily driving trips. “By one estimate, Glenwood
Park will save 1.6 million miles of driving per year over what residents
would have driven if they instead lived in a “typical” new
Glenwood Park offers residents many public transportation and commuting options.
The development is:
One mile from
two different Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority rail stops and Directly on an active bus route
that leads to downtown.
On the proposed
route for a trail and transit line that will loop around in-town
Atlanta using old rail lines.
neighborhood contains three parks of varying sizes and
atmosphere. The largest of the three acts as an area for
community gathering and recreation. The second is a classic
urban square in the heart of the commercial area. The third and
smallest acts as a more intimate meeting area, featuring views
of the Atlanta skyline and access to the largest park.
All homes and
condos built in Glenwood Park meet Atlanta’s
EarthCraft House program standards. EarthCraft
House is a voluntary green building program of the Greater
Atlanta Home Builders Association, which helps educate consumers
on the economic and health benefits of “green” building
techniques, provides rigorous testing and inspection of homes
and offers access to discounted energy mortgage programs.
Properties, LLC - the developers
& Partners–Planning Firm
Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates–Planning Firm
Homes, a division of Southface Energy Institute
Home Builders Association:
President Bill Clinton named Civano Arizona one of five national
pilot developments under the Partnership for Advancing
Technology in Housing (PATH). These PATH pilots, selected for
their highly innovative technologies, as well as for new
approaches for land planning and design, were created to be
models for the U.S. residential construction industry.”
Southeast Tucson, Civano encompasses 1,145 acres. The community
is planned to comprise 4 neighborhoods housing over 2,600
families, and 110 acres of commercial, industrial and retail
uses. Its planners refer to it as, “an antidote to urban
sprawl's five banes: loss of community, loss of open space,
traffic congestion, air pollution and poor use of resources."
adopted three tenets to guide its land use and overall physical,
social and economic development: (1) Create a sense of place that fosters community and connects
people to one another and their natural environments, (2) tread
lighter on the land through innovative design, (3) introduce
sustainable construction materials
and new technologies to advance the quality of life.
Mixed Use Development:
Civano designed the neighborhoods to be pedestrian friendly,
attracting foot traffic by mixing uses and activities, such as
corporate offices, a café, art gallery, retail stores and a
meeting hall together in the town center.
to reduce automobile pollution by 40%. To reach this goal homes
are designed to be within walking distance of neighborhood
centers, and developers are striving to create one job onsite
for every two residences.
35% of the land
is set aside specifically for natural or enhanced open space.
orchards, linear parks, pedestrian trails, bike paths,
environmentally-friendly recreational facilities and preserved
desert wild lands are all integral to the community's design.
Nursery's salvage program has been replanting approximately 65%
of the major trees moved during construction with a 97% success
rate. The program has so far saved over 2,400plants and nearly
500 mature trees.
Construction Techniques/Energy Efficiency:
building plan requires adherence to a strict energy and building
code that will result in enough energy savings to prevent 1
billion pounds of carbon emissions over the next two decades.
Homes in Civano
are being designed using passive solar siting and active solar
energy through photovoltaic panels and/or hot water systems on
employ the use of super-efficient windows, “cool tower” water
cooling and thermal mass of walls to help regulate indoor
temperatures while relying less on heating and cooling systems.
using these resource efficient building techniques to reach
their goal of a reduction in home energy consumption by 50% over
harvesting, in which water from the structure's roof is
collected and stored in underground cisterns for cooling will
help designers meet their goal of reducing the community’s
potable water consumption by 65%.
The community will feature xeriscaping.
Civano Development Company, city of Tucson, Fannie Mae American
Communities Fund, Arizona Department of Commerce Energy Office,
Congress for New Urbanism and other partners.
City of Tucson,
Department of Architecture and Engineering
New Urbanism, a Chicago
based non-profit that works with planners, developers, builders
and architects to teach them how to implement the principles of
LASER: Local Action for sustainable Economic Development.
This free manual guides a community in sustainable economic development.
Key to Sustainable Cities: Meeting Human Needs, Transforming Community
Gwendolyn Hallsmith. Nov 30, 2006 – Written to help cities implement
Agenda 21, the UN’s approach to sustainable development, this manual is
the predecessor to LASER. Both are linked to a massive data base of
solutions for cities
Sustainable Cities, Best Practices for Renewable Energy and Energy
Regelson, 2005. This report documents innovative and successful
programs U.S. cities are using to become more sustainable.
Resource Center for Environmentally Responsible Building Development
offers Greener Buildings
USC Center for
offers a multidisciplinary research program that prepares doctoral
students to confront, analyze and resolve the challenges posed by
Sustainable City is
a non-profit organization dedicated to achieving a sustainable future
for San Francisco.www.sustainable-city.org/,