From: Rachel Navaro , BuildingGreen, More from this Affiliate
Published December 21, 2007 02:51 PM

Sustainable Urbanism

Combine walkable, transit-served urbanism with high-performance building and infrastructure and, according to author Douglas Farr, AIA, you’ve got Sustainable Urbanism.

Beyond just developing a concept, however, the book acts as a comprehensive how-to manual for anyone who helps shape the built environment, from architects to mayors, planners to neighborhood groups.

After setting the stage with a compelling case for sustainable urbanism, Farr provides specific and detailed standards and steps to guide readers. A first essential strategy is to develop a clear and simple message around sustainable urbanism by breaking it down into a number of manageable strategies, talking points, and images that contrast sustainable urbanism with conventional development.

The book details how to hold community charrettes and how to conduct image and character preference surveys in the community. Farr also describes how codes, covenants, and restrictions all play a role in shaping a place and, because they are inherently restrictive and can be difficult to change, should “contain the DNA for the layout of the community and its sustainability programs.” Farr intends that these processes and tools will catalyze the adoption of sustainable urbanism as a dominant pattern of human settlement by the year 2030.

The book’s third part defines the emerging thresholds of sustainable urbanism in five categories: density, sustainable corridors, sustainable neighborhoods, biophilia, and high-performance buildings and infrastructure. The thresholds turn unmanageable problems into manageable challenges, and inconceivable notions into achievable goals. As Farr and others have argued, electronic visualization tools not only help counter negative myths associated with high density but also shift people’s focus away from frightening statistics and into action.

That’s the strength of an unrelated effort, the Playbook for Green Buildings + Neighborhoods and its website, www.greenplaybook.org.

This website, a joint effort of more than 20 organizations, agencies, and local governments, focuses on three categories: buildings, neighborhoods, and infrastructure. The categories are further divided into sections titled “learn,” “play,” and “act,” each of which is filled with tools to help planners and officials in their pursuit of sustainable development. A combination of the two distinctively formatted resources, Sustainable Urbanism and the Playbook for Green Buildings + Neighborhoods, would equip and empower anyone to play an effective role in shaping smarter development.

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