Simon Taylor of the Western Australian government's land development arm, Landstart, asks:
Are you aware of any organizations (local governments, state government departments, federal authorities, private developers/builders etc) that have developed successful land development and/or build-out design criteria that are based on sustainable urban design principles; and who can be contacted and would be willing to share information?
The aim is to create a generic set of design criteria which powerfully incorporate sustainable urban design principles, without being too prescriptive, that allow opportunity for innovation; are flexible so that they can be readily adapted to meet site and project specific constraints, objectives and opportunities; and avoid attracting just expensive pilot/demonstration style proposals.
The design criteria would be used to guide private sector companies during the tendering process for government development projects and provide the basis of the short-listing and selection process. The intention is make sustainable urban design a core part of every project we develop; rather than just a being a fancy add-on concept occasionally used in the abstract in a demonstration project.
We have already developed such criteria for a number of specific projects but would be interested in comparing with and drawing from other examples from around the world, particularly the U.S., in developing a more generic set of criteria that can be adapted from project to project rather than starting from scratch.
Gil: What a great and well-formulated question, Simon! Thank you. I'm encouraged that you not only seek to raise the bar; you recognize both the value of standards and the hazards of over-specification. (It's a core issue we're grappling with in the development of the Sustainable Business Rating System.) Here's what three of our expert buddies have to say in response.
- Tom Osdoba, sustainability manager for City of Vancouver says:
"The Southeast False Creek Official Development Plan could be cited as an example. This project is definitely an example of a policy-driven approach, with the one factor that it took eight years of planning to get formally adopted."
The vision includes: "Establish a foundation of urban design principles, sustainability principles, and environmental, social, and economic sustainability strategies to enable the development of SEFC as a complete community, and to serve as a learning experience for application of such principles and strategies on a broader scale." This plan addresses a specific community, but there are useful generalizations within it that could be adapted to other settings.
Twelve major urban design principles "are to govern development...dealing with overall structure, urban design, integration, and special opportunities, are to govern development": overall basin form legibility, distinct neighborhood precincts, integrated community, street hierarchy, connected public open spaces and parks, integrated transit, vibrant commercial heart, waterfront animation, clustered community services, heritage recognition, incremental varied development, demonstrated sustainability.
This is followed by 12 sustainability principles, with guidelines for environmental, social and economic sustainability. This high-level approach, without specific metrics, depends on a high degree of communication and education among the stakeholders. But then, all successful projects do.
- Sue Roaf of Oxford University takes a footprint/carrying capacity approach:
"Look at 'land' in terms of its yield potential -- this is something i started to explore in our book on Closing the Loop: Benchmarks for Sustainable Buildings (2004, RIBA Entreprises). For a plot of land one could say that it would produce so much wind, solar, water or bio energy; so much rain a year could be harvested from it or it could produce enough food for so many people or house so many people at various densities. In our book Adapting Buildings and Cities for Climate Change (2005, Architectural Press) we even advocate shifting existing populations from areas of stressed resources, such as water, to areas where they are abundant.... it will have to come and a sensible planned rearrangement of populations now will obviate the need for panic migrations in the future."
- Bill Reed of Integrative Design Associates points to the Revitalization Institute Rating System, which he notes is not yet tested but "an interesting take on an accessible approach to large scale integration":
"This approach "integrate(s) socio-economic renewal strategies along two axes: 1) the eight sectors of restorative development (Ecosystem, Watershed, Fisheries, Agriculture, Brownfield, Infrastructure, Hertiage, Catastrophe), and 2) the four stakeholder groups (business, government, NGO/citizen groups, and academic)... by identifying three factors for each of the eight sectors... [that] can be referenced in order to ensure that a project that's primarily focused on one sector (such as an historic building, or a brownfield) contributes as much as possible to the restoration of the other sectors....These 24 restorable assets are specific enough that we will be able to tell whether a project has restored them, damaged them (which docks points from the project), or left them unchanged. Future versions of the Project Rating System will identify and/or create rigorous metrics for each of these integration links."
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Gil Friend, systems ecologist and business strategist, is president and CEO of Natural Logic, Inc. -- offering advisory services and tools that help companies and communities prosper by embedding the laws of nature at the heart of enterprise. Sign up online to receive his monthly column via email.