Professional Practice

Sustainable Urban Development

Urban development should be guided by a sustainable planning and management vision that promotes interconnected green space, a multi-modal transportation system, and mixed-use development. Diverse public and private partnerships should be used to create sustainable and livable communities that protect historic, cultural, and environmental resources. In addition, policymakers, regulators and developers should support sustainable site planning and construction techniques that reduce pollution and create a balance between built and natural systems. 

New sustainable urban developments or re-developments should provide a variety of commercial, institutional, educational uses as well as housing styles, sizes and prices. The provision of sidewalks, trails, and private streets, connected to transit stops and an interconnected street network within these mixed-use developments provides mobility options and helps reduce pollution by reducing vehicle trips. Walking, bicycling, and other mobility options should be encouraged throughout the urban mixed-use core and mixed-use neighborhoods with easily accessed and well-defined centers and edges.

U.S. Organizations

Center for Sustainable Urban Development, The Earth Institute, Columbia University

City Parks Alliance

Institute for Sustainable Cities, CUNY

Regional Plan Association

Red Fields to Green Fields

Smarter Cities, Natural Resources Defense Council

Sustainable Cities

Sustainable Cities Collective

USC Center for Sustainable Cities

International Organizations 

UN-Habitat, Sustainable Urban Development Network 

World Bank: Ecological Cities as Economic Cities (Eco2Cities)

Sustainable Urban Development Plans

Copenhagen Carbon Neutral Plan, Denmark Government 

Greenest City 2020, Vancouver City Government 

PlaNYC 2030, New York City Government

Sustainable City, Portland City Government  

Sustainable Development, San Francisco City Government  

Sustainable Singapore, Singapore Government  


Interview with David Owen, Author of Green Metropolis: How Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability, ASLA

Interview with Jaime Lerner, former Mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, on Sustainable Urban Development, ASLA

Interview with Jan Gehl on Designing Cities for People, ASLA

Interview with Jeff Speck, Honorary ASLA, Co-author of The Smart Growth Manual

Interview with Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA, on Landscape Urbanism and Ecological Urbanism, ASLA

Interview with Neil Chambers, Author of Urban Green: Architecture for the Future, ASLA

Interview with Nina-Marie Lister, Affiliate ASLA, on Ecological Urbanism, ASLA

Interview with Peter Calthorpe, Author of Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change, ASLA

Interview with Peter Newman, Author of Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change, ASLA

Interview with Thomas Balsley, FASLA, on Resilient Waterfront Parks, ASLA  

Returns on Resilience, Urban Land Institute (ULI)  

Three Perspectives on Designing Resilient Cities, The Dirt blog  


Environment at a Glance, Harvard University, Working Group for Sustainable Cities

Curitiba: Towards Sustainable Urban Development, Jonas Rabinovitch, Environment & Urbanization, 2013

U.S. and Canada Green Cities Index, Siemens Corporation and Economist Intelligence Unit, 2012

Red Fields to Green Fields: Los Angeles, 606 Studio, Department of Landscape Architecture, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, 2010

Green Cities, Living Cities, 2009

Fighting Sprawl

The application of land-use based zoning, real-estate tax laws, and highway design regulations, has created automobile-dominated sprawl conditions where cars are required for almost all activities, leading to ever-increasing congestion and longer commute times. Decentralized suburban or exurban expansion has created developments with no sense of place, which consume exorbitant amounts of land, necessitating huge infrastructure commitments, and often contribute to the deterioration of urban centers.

Development patterns that result in sprawl are not in the long-term interest of cities, small towns, rural communities, and agricultural lands. As communities plan for growth and change, in-fill and redevelopment should utilize existing infrastructure. Public agencies should promote and facilitate processes for remediation of urban sites to relieve pressure to develop at the urban fringe. Plans should identify open lands that can be sustainably developed into green spaces or left alone. In fact, preserving open green spaces in cities is crucial to fighting sprawl because these spaces provide important outlets within the city.

Sustainable urban development means responsible growth and development strategies that are broader in vision and more regional in scale. There are a range of sustainable growth strategies: For instance, urban in-fill, suburban redevelopment, and open-land development can all lead to more diverse housing styles and multi-modal transit. As there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” solution for every community, appropriate principles must be developed for each. Responsible and innovative development strategies at the federal, state and local levels are needed to guide private development.


Active Living by Design 

Embarq, Center for Sustainable Transport, World Resources Institute: Urban Sprawl

Natural Resources Defense Council: Smart Growth Resources 
National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, University of Maryland 

Smart Growth America 

Smart Growth Online  

Smart Growth, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 

Smart Growth Planning, Maryland State Government 


The Case for Placemaking without the Sprawl, The Dirt blog

HUD Secretary Donovan on Fighting Sprawl, The Dirt blog

Interview with Kathryn Gustafson, FASLA, on Using Parks to Fight Sprawl

New MIT Report: Places in the Making, The Dirt blog


Smart Growth and Economic Success: Investing in Infill Development, U.S Environmental Protection Agency, 2014

Our Built and Natural Environments: A Technical Review of the Interactions between Land Use, Transportation, and Environmental Quality (2nd Edition)
, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2013

Building for the 21st Century: American Support for Sustainable Communities, Smart Growth America, 2011 

Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs
, Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson, Wiley & Sons, 2008

Retrofitting Suburbs: Instant Cities, Instant Architecture, and Incremental Metropolitanism, Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson, Harvard Design Review, Spring/Summer 2008

Sustainable Zoning

The replacement of conventional zoning codes that control land use with those that control physical form can benefit growth and development. Implementing form-based codes can result in communities that fit their place and time, have a mix of uses that are appropriately scaled, enjoy pedestrian friendly well-defined public realms, and are generally more sustainable.


Creating a Regulatory Footprint for Healthy Community Design, Smart Growth Network

Growing Smart, American Planning Association

Positive Development: From Vicious Circles to Virtuous Cycles Through Built Environment Design.” Janis Birkeland. Earthscan Publications, 2008

"Saving the World through Zoning," Chris Duerksen, American Planning Association, January 2008 

Smart Growth Codes, American Planning Association

Reusing Brownfields

The redevelopment of “brownfield” sites enables communities to reuse abandoned areas that are often located in urban centers with existing infrastructure. Communities should take advantage of programs which focus on facilitating the cleanup and reuse of these areas by awarding grants, capitalizing loan funds, providing technical assistance and training, and absolving innocent prospective and contiguous landowners of liability.


"Cities Use Brownfields to Go Solar," The Dirt blog

"Rebuilding Communities Through Brownfield Rehabilitation," The Dirt blog

"Reconnecting Philadelphia to Its Riverfront," The Dirt blog


Creating Community-based Brownfield Redevelopment Strategies, American Planning Association

The Cleanup War Chest: State Bond Financing for Environmental Initiatives and Brownfields Redevelopment,” Greg Lewis, Northeast-Midwest Institute, March 2009

Potential Application of Renewable Energy on Brownfield Sites: A Case Study of Michigan,” Soji Adelaja, Judy Shaw, Wayne Beyea, and Charles McKeown, Land Policy Institute, January 2009 


ChonGae Canal Source Park: Sunken Stone Garden (Mikyoung Kim Design)

From Brownfield to Greenfield, Wellesley, Massachusetts (Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc)

Gowanus Canal Sponge Park, Brooklyn, New York (dlandstudio)

Port Lands Estuary: Reinventing the Don River as an Agent of Urbanism, Toronto, Canada (Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.)

Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan, Los Angeles, California (Mia Lehrer + Associates/ Civitas, Inc./ Wenk Associates)

Red Ribbon, Tang He River Park, Qinhuangdao City, Hebei Province, China (Turenscape)

Shanghai Houtan Park: Landscape as a Living System, Shanghai, China (Turenscape)

Tianjin Qiaoyuan Park: The Adaptation Palettes, Tianjin City, China (Turenscape)


From Industrial Wasteland to Community Park, ASLA

Infrastructure for All, ASLA

Investing in Downtowns

Encouraging businesses, non-profits, governments, and cultural institutions to locate their offices and other facilities within the urban core as opposed to suburban or fringe locations can support sustainable urban development. Investing in an urban core can help support urban core revitalization efforts, and attract and retain businesses and services. Often, tax credits or other incentives are needed to encourage the preservation or rehabilitation of historic properties or green spaces within the urban core.


"E.P.A. Smart Growth Awards Applaud Projects That Use Collaborative Approaches and Reclaim Public Space," The Dirg blog


Downtown Revitalization Resources, USDA


Buffalo Bayou Promenade, Houston, Texas (SWA Group)

HtO Park, Toronto (Janet Rosenberg + Associates, Claude Cormier Architects, and Hariri Pontarini Architects)

Penn Connects: A Vision for the Future, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Sasaki Associates)

Spadina Wavedeck, Toronto (West 8 and DTAH) 

Open Spaces

Communities should take advantage of government and private initiatives, such as conservation districts and open land trusts, to preserve open space. Open space can help curb scattered development, protect watersheds and natural habitat, maintain historic and cultural assets, and provide diverse recreational opportunities.Emphasis should be placed upon the creation of a diverse mix of uses and housing options within communities, such as an infill redevelopment instead of developing on open spaces.


Developing an Open Space Strategy, Sustainable Cities, UK

National Recreation and Park Association

Project for Public Spaces

The Trust for Public Land 


"Goldhagen: Democracies Need Physical Spaces," The Dirt blog

"Reinventing Public Space in NYC: Brooklyn Bridge Park," The Dirt blog

"The Value of Urban Parks," The Dirt blog


On Common Ground,” National Association of Realtors, 2009

How Much Value Does the City of Philadelphia Receive from its Park and Recreation System?” The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence, June 2008

The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting with Nature,” Marc G. Berman, John Jonides, and Stephen Kaplan, University of Michigan, 2008

Green Visions Plan for 21st Century Southern California. 14. Park and Open Space Resources in the Green Visions Plan Area,” University of Southern California GIS Research Laboratory and Center for Sustainable Cities, Los Angeles, California, 2007


The High Line, Section 1, New York, New York (James Corner Field Operations, Diller, Scofidio + Renfro)

The Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois (Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd)

Orange County Great Park Comprehensive Master Plan, “A Vision of the Great Park for the 21st Century,” California (Ken Smith Workshop West and Mia Lehrer Associates)

Open Space Seattle 2100: Envisioning Seattle’s Green Infrastructure for the Next Century, Seattle, Washington (University of Washington, Open Space Seattle 2100 Coalition)

Remodeling Paradise - Landscape Renovation Round West Lake Region in Hangzhou, Hangzhou, China (Hangzhou Landscape Architecture Design Institute, Beijing Forestry University, Atelier DYJG)


Revitalizing Communities with Parks, ASLA

Sustainable Landscapes and Buildings in an Urban context

Decreasing impervious pavement areas; providing abundant (usable) interconnected greenways and open space; implementing sustainable stormwater techniques; and planting or preserving vegetation will all help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from urban areas. In addition, siting buildings to maximize passive heating / cooling, using energy-efficient building technologies, including green or cool roofs can help mitigate building emissions.

Communities should also move toward energy conservation and non-oil and coal based alternatives, such as solar, wind, thermal, and biomass, which can reduce dependency on non-renewable resources, as well as minimize air, water, and thermal pollution.


National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Sustainable Sites Initiative

U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy



"A New Way to Plant Urban Trees," The Dirt blog

Optimize Site Potential (Whole Building Design Guide)

"Philadelphia's Cutting Edge Green Infrastructure Plan," The Dirt blog

"Recreating Wildlife Habitat in Cities," The Dirt blog

Government Resources

High Performance Park Guidelines (NYC Government)

Climate Friendly Parks (National Park Service)


Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy,” McKinsey and Company, July, 2009

By-Law to Require and Govern the Construction of Green Roofs in Toronto,” Chief Building Official and Executive Director, Toronto Building and Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning, March 2009

Green Roof Systems: A Guide to the Planning, Design, and Construction of Landscapes Over Structure.” Susan Weiler, and Katrin Scholz-Barth. Wiley, 2009

Urban Heat Island Mitigation Can Improve New York City’s Environment: Research on Impacts of Mitigation Strategies,” Sustainable South Bronx, October 2008

Can Good Design Advance Urban Development: On the Harvard Design Magazine Symposium “Can Design Improve Life in Cities? The Cases of Los Angeles, London, and Chicago,” Tim Love, Harvard Design Magazine, Summer/Spring 2008

When Does Green Infrastructure Make Sense? Comparing Conventional Systems with Green Infrastructure,” Water Environment Research Foundation, June 2007


California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, SWA Group

Geos Net Zero Energy Neighborhood, David Kahn Studio


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