Search Results for: regenerative

NEW Global Goal 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities

NEWS–The World Has New SD Goals

Historic Event. The Global Goals For Sustainable Development. “This weekend (Sept. 26-27, 2015) 193 world leaders committed to 17 Global Goals to achieve three extraordinary things over the next 15 years: end extreme poverty, fight inequality and fix climate change – in all countries, for all people.”

See Bioregional’s role and story (5 min vid) securing the Sustainable Production/Consumption Goal. It’s an inspiring example of:

  • A small group that worked for a long time to add their ideas to the SDGs.
  • A message to communicate, inspire, and motivate (text + vid)
  • The big effect one small sustainability initiative can have, bioregionalism, an old concept, and the One Planet Living sustainability framework.

SD Goal 11 — Sustainable Cities & Communities

And then, of course, they include SDG 11, just for us! The objectives stake out quite an ambitious agenda, even if not entirely concrete. Accomplishing this goal and its objectives by 2030 will require inventing the spatial manifestation of a regenerative economy, as in regenerative city-regions, on the fly, as we build one new city of 1M per week and reweave the existing urban fabric to achieve sustainable cities and communities, all within a generation. As local community sustainability planners, we have a new context in which to do our work.


This commitment to a new set of global goals for sustainable development is a “huge” deal. The Goals become the international sustainability baseline, touchstone, and driver of all UN related resources, programs, etc. ushering in an institutional change.

As great as these new goals are on one level, the discourse about them is often framed in “old school” concepts such as efficiency, mitigation, and a win/lose relationship between the economy and environment.

Yet, maybe the audacious goals of “ending extreme poverty, fighting inequality and fixing climate change – in all countries, for all people” will push the creativity to the source challenges and transformational solutions, such as creating within one generation by 2030 the material basis for a sustainable society (and requirement for “fixing” climate change):

  • a regenerative ecological economy, including
    • 100% renewable energy
    • 100% materials cycling
    • 100% water reuse
    • with 10x the current economy’s productivity
  • and compliance with the 4 Sustainability Principles of the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD)

Regardless, the new goals are a huge sustainability accomplishment 23 years after Rio, and a big step forward. They are the new international conceptual foundation for creating a sustainable world.

[Post prepared by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, founder/past co-director and Research Program Lead of the Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, one of the APA Sustainable Communities Division’s Sustainability Champions, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist at the SF Planning Department.]

Sustainability at the APA California Conference 2015

The October 2015 Northern News, Plan-it sustainably Column summarizes the conferences sessions in terms of an emerging sustainability “pivot” from mitigation to regeneration. (see page 10)

One of our blog posts expands on the Emerging Sustainability “Pivot” Column.

Another blog post lists the Conference’s sustainability offerings:

In addition, these two PDFs of the two blog posts can be printed or downloaded.

[Post prepared by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, founder/past co-director and Research Program Lead of the Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, one of the APA Sustainable Communities Division’s Sustainability Champions, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist at the SF Planning Department.]

Too Late for 2 Degrees? The latest from the IPCC

. . . There is a lot of pressure to reduce greenhouse gases now, or else in 20 years we may have reached a point where scientists are not sure whether the conditions for life on Earth would be feasible.

“Dr. Thomas Stocker, Co- Chair of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)  Working Group 1 and candidate for the IPCC Presidency, visited Costa Rica to meet with Government officials and gave a public presentation on 14 August 2015 at the Costa Rican Lawyers Bar Association.

Dr. Stocker is a physicist and head of the department of Climate and Environmental Physics at the University of Bern, Switzerland. The focus of Dr. Stocker’s research is the development of models of climate change based on, among others, the analysis of ice cores from the polar regions.

In his presentation, Dr. Stocker shared the latest findings on the global climate change situation, which are incorporated in the synthesis report that the IPCC publishes for policy makers. He mentioned that there was an effort to include simple and easy to understand statements about the current situation, showing that global warming is unequivocally occurring and that it is due mainly to burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.” (click here for rest of article).

An Interpretation

Part of the problem with the exceptional science of the IPCC is that it is so “accurate” and consistent with scientific method that it presents a false sense of possibility, and therefore underestimates and undermines effective lay understanding and public policy for the required response.

First, 2 degrees is presented as a safe limit, when in fact, 2 degrees is the borderline between possible safety and likely catastrophe, a limit to be avoided at all costs. The calculation of the remaining “budget” for GHG production, that is subtracting current cumulative emissions from the limit to achieve only a 2-degree warming, is a false budget. We don’t actually want to achieve production at the 2-degree level; we want to avoid it by as large a margin as possible. In addition, there is substantial disagreement over whether one or two degrees is the “safe” limit.  Ten years ago, the IPCC and discussion was focused on 1-degree. Because even reversing 1- or 2-degrees will take 150-300 years because of the long lag times and “stickiness” in the climate system, even avoidance will incur associated pain, suffering, and costs of temporary “adaptation” during the “mitigation” period, and thus, somehow been subsumed into an acceptable” level.  Finally, there is a wide margin of uncertainty in forecasting the behavior of complex systems. We may “hold” 2-degrees, or 1-degree, as the “safe” limit, but there are many catastrophic surprises possible even within those scenarios.

Second, that the “solution” and effective response is simply a “reduction” in GHGs. Based on current technology, “reducing” GHGs means a real decrease in economic production. If we were only speaking of reduction in luxury and excessive consumption among the “made” elite, the issue would be trivial and goal possible.  However, the global economy can only now support approximately 30% of the population of the planet at what can be characterized as a “restorative” standard, with the rest living in various states of deprivation.

The “reduction” needed to “solve” the climate crisis is not simply a “cut back” in excessive luxury production/consumption, BUT a transformation of the global-local economy that decouples human economic production from effects that compromise and ultimately destroy the regenerative life support capacity of the biosphere. Such a transformation involves the redesign of economic production, processes, and consumption that dramatically increases productivity (x10+) and substitutes materials that are rare in the biosphere with those that are common and plentiful (aluminum for lead, for instance). In addition, for processes where such benevolent substitutions are not possible, it would be necessary to create closed-loop production/consumption/disposal circuits to insulate the toxic human economy from the life generating biospheric system for the duration of the use of those toxic processes. Simple reduction, or doing less damage, is not longer a solution path. The pursuit of transformative paths that lead to net positive, restorative, and regenerative impacts is the solution path. This would include entering, reinforcing, and amplifying the generation and cyclic flows of materials through through the living system of the biosphere.

Third, time is of the essence, and therefore a massive global campaign of socio-economic transformation is essential for success.

Planning has a critical role to play in society’s effective response as follows:

1. Translating the “accurate scientific” understanding into an accurate basis for public policy and action under extreme conditions of uncertainty and dire consequences.

2. Convening the conversation that leads to effective action.

3. Illuminating the settlement pattern and performance parameters of urban and regional systems in a sustainable society in the biosphere (2D land use, 3D urban form, and multimodal transportation system).

[Post prepared by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, founder/past co-director and Research Program Lead of the Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, one of the APA Sustainable Communities Division’s Sustainability Champions, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist at the SF Planning Department.]

Integrating Nature Into the Built Environment – Impressive Practice and Resources

The Challenge of integrating nature into our buildings and cities has been forever changed by the biophilia hypothesis.  Such integration would nurture that elusive and shy direct connection to our essential human nature. We dearly need that connection on a daily basis for our development and on-going well being. A Biophilic approach also creates a package of lower-order but more tangible value, such as habitat and biodiversity enhancement, ecosystem functioning, lower cost ecosystem services, recreation, community development. Ultimately, this integrative approach creates the higher quality places (buildings, blocks, districts, cities, regions) now desired by residents, businesses, and municipalities.

The Practice.  The leading practitioners and communities have been wrestling with how to respond effectively for the past decade, or more (for example, ILFI,, and Singapore).  It is a work in progress that is being informed by a creative cross-pollination of the planning and design professions. At the heart of this innovation is understanding and using the principles of nature–our regenerative, self-organizing, complex, living system. This innovation will forge a new body of knowledge and practice from a synthesis across the disciplines of restoration ecology, urban design, landscape architecture, architecture, urban planning, and ecological urbanism.

Singapore—A City in a Garden.  For more than 50 years, Singapore has been on a long slow path of creating a “City in a Garden.” As a result, they are a leading practitioner with many lessons and resources for the rest of us. Singapore has more than 2 million trees along roadsides, in parks and nature reserves. To achieve its “City in a Garden” vision, various greening policies have been pursued over the past five decades. These policies ensure trees are being planted along streets and within development sites. They also protect and conserve trees within development sites and in designated areas of the city with mature trees. Beyond tree planting and conservation, the City also recognizes the importance of green recreational spaces, which not only contribute to the expansion of the urban forest, but also serve as important community spaces and rich biodiversity sites. More recently, other exciting initiatives have also been developed to create habitat in less traditional “spaces” of the built environment. They promote roof gardens, vertical green walls and mid-level gardens. Together, these policies, schemes, and incentives help to create a city with close to 50% green cover. The various policies have helped Singapore grow into a “City in a Garden.”

Resources on Singapore include the following:

“Super” Green Buildings.  In addition, the leading edge of green buildings are often aptly characterized as super green high rises The following are three inspiring examples.

Two other examples of noteworthy buildings are the award-winning Bosco residential tower in Italy and the Commerzbank building in Frankfurt. The latter building has a series of nine 4-storey sky gardens spiraling up the building that are integrated with the natural ventilation scheme.  It’s been operating for almost 20 years now, so should also be a good source of lessons learned.

The Big Challenge of this emerging theory/practice area is going beyond the aesthetics of ornamental landscape on a big scale, often vertically. That will involve not replicating nature in all its complexity, but creating a simpler “constructed” nature in the built environment of the city-region. What part of that larger, necessarily simpler, constructed habitat will this new “nature” play in the class A office buildings?

This new practice area will not forsake ornamental landscape, but extend it and modify it in a variety of ways. Obviously, it will need to be rooted in “native” plants of the city and its historical ecology, but with an eye to what can work in a city, and a city of the future under climate change, increasingly scarce resources/high demand, equity, even to the point of what role does the nature-in-building play in a 21st century regenerative city. These questions will be addressed in practice over time. The young research area of biophilia hypothesis, the young practice area of biophilic design, and the budding area of biophilic city planning and design are systematically embracing the challenge and advancing practice. Some resources follow from Professor Timothy Beatley’s international research project on biophilic cities that lead to the launch of the Biophilic Cities Network.

 About Terrapin.  Focusing on transformative action for society, Terrapin utilizes whole-systems thinking to develop integrated design strategies, Terrapin challenges design and ownership teams to create restorative, regenerative environments. Terrapin believes in finding solutions that reconnect people with nature and mimic natural systems as this focus offers boundless opportunities to improve the quality of life for all. They also believe that high performance design means fundamentally improving health and productivity, while improving overall economic and environmental performance.


[Contributors to this post include (1) Kate Howe, AICP, Director, SF Office, VIA Architecture, (2) Kirsten Weeks, LEED AP, CEM, GRP Energy and Building Ecology Specialist, AURP, and (3) Stephanie Ng, Urban Planner (green public spaces, urban greenery and green infrastructure), Singapore National Parks Board and Masters Degree Candidate, Environmental Management at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Post prepared by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, is founder/past co-director and Research Program Lead of the Sustainability Committee, one of the APA Sustainable Communities Division’s Sustainability Champions, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist at SF Planning, Information and Analysis Group and Sustainability Planning Group.]

Getting to High Performance Districts, Cities, Regions & Sustainability

Charles Kelley, of ZGF Architects, presented his leading-edge approach and tools for designing high-performance districts to a core group of sustainability planners at SF Planning in late July. The idea arose from a conversation at a reception hosted by ZGF for the EcoDistrict Incubator program held in Portland this past spring. Charles and ZGF, along with other leading sustainability innovator-practitioner “pioneers” are advancing approaches and developing needed tools for high performance districts in their architecture and planning practices.  Their approach involves creating higher value through integration, which generates the revenue from eco-efficiency savings to produce the higher-quality places demanded today by private and public clients. This type of urban development has also become a strategy for municipal economic development based on attracting young high tech workers and firms.

This approach extends the familiar bits and pieces of good planning and urban sustainability (smart growth, public realm urban design, urban activation, transit, green infrastructure, and ecological urbanism) that we typically pursue in a “silo” mode, adds layers of habitat and ecological functions as new urban “infrastructure,” and integrates them in ways that generate cost savings (think energy/resource “eco-“efficiencies).

These efficiencies then become the funding source for creating higher-quality places than would arise otherwise from our mainstream “silo” based approaches. Clients and public are “demanding” these new places, and we need them in our 21st century cities. The approach is multi-scalar. It can be applied from the room to the region, and it leverages the right scale for a function (energy say) to optimize performance.

This next-generation approach to place making in turn generates another round of multiple benefits. The value it generates becomes the basis for 21st century municipal competitiveness (labor force) and community well-being (for all). This approach “sells” sustainability in terms of benefits people want—great place—and accomplishes them by generating eco-efficiencies in the background.

In addition, this approach is developing new modes of collaboration, stewardship, and partnership arrangements, extending traditional approaches that have been the hallmark of planning, urban design, and place making.  The newly emerging modes are informed by new urban governance trends and needs, as government’s capacity to meet public needs continues to be challenged and diminished directly by increasing revenue constraints and indirectly by our continually changing  economy. Accelerating economic change is accentuating inequality along with government capacity to meet needs. There no longer appears to be be a stable, safe, “middle” ground or class, only an accelerating small group of “jack-pot” winners and a large group of the rest of us “losers.” Ultimately, this trend will require a new “social contract,” and the beginnings of it may be addressed in this arena of new collaboration for new governance.

Another characteristic of this approach involves advancing practice a few steps at a time with each new project. This is accomplished by incorporating innovation into the larger culture and values of professional practice, AND even explicitly into a project’s scope of work and work plan as a routine component. This “innovation” in project planning and management provides the mechanism needed to “invent” our desired–and needed–future of durable prosperity and well being in great and sustainable 21st century places, cities, and regions “on the fly.”

This is a powerful emerging approach to sustainable urbanism because it “moves the ball” out of the failing “net negative” realm of doing-less-damage mitigation into the successful “net positive” realm of whole-systems thinking, planning, and management, and their associated lower cost synergies. However, it makes this shift with the familiar bits-and-pieces and terms of good planning, urban design, and ecological urbanism, but integrated in a NEW way that is self-funding. Of course, it is not a “silver bullet” nor the final word on sustainable or regenerative urbanism, but it takes us a long way without closing any doors otherwise, opens new doors along the way, and provides a powerful platform for future moves.

The following resources extend the points of the discussion and provide links to more resources, including the presentation slide deck.

NOTE: the last two document is excellent “primers” on the topic, although not going quite out as far as our presentation/discussion; They are worth downloading and skimming/reading at some point.

[Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, is founder/past co-director and Research Program Lead of the Sustainability Committee, one of the APA Sustainable Communities Division’s Sustainability Champions, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist at SF Planning, Information and Analysis Group and Sustainability Planning Group.]

Sustainable Neighborhood Pre-Conference Tour and Social

The APA California Northern Section Sustainability Committee and the APA Sustainable Community Division’s Champion Program hosted Sustainable Neighborhood Sustainability Committee Pre-conference MeetUp at Swans Market in Old Oakland on Friday, October 2, 2015. About 30 members enjoyed complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres, toured the adjacent C0-housing project (one of the oldest in the Nation) with the project sponsor, two residents, and the lead planner, and afterwards enjoyed dinner at The Cock & Her Farmer in Swan’s market. a Summary and the event invitation follow below.


Hors D’oeuvres and dinner were hosted in Swan’s Market courtesy of  Romney Steele, Owner, The Cook and Her Farmer (THANK YOU Romney!). Romney is a chef, small business owner, cookbook author, food writer, and community builder. She opened her latest Project, the Cook and Her Farmer in Swan’s Market with Steven Day a year ago last summer and provided insights about the business side of this successful urban regeneration project.

For the Co-housing tour, we were fortunate to hear insights about this 15-year old urban regeneration and innovative land use project from some of the key players.

  1. Josh Simon, Executive Director EBALDC (East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation)
  2. Neil Planchon and Michael Coleman, Swan’s Market Cohousing Residents
  3. Patrick Lane, Redevelopment Manager with the City of Oakland’s Economic & Workforce Development Department, Project Implementation Division

Josh has worked with East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation for 14 of the last 21 years as both Executive Director, and Director of Real Estate. His career has been dedicated to working with coalitions of organizations to develop and maintain healthy vibrant neighborhoods and the creation of “Community Hubs” such as Swan’s Market. Josh brings both the technical expertise to develop affordable housing and mixed use community facilities, as well as the clear sighted leadership necessary for the best neighborhood driven outcomes.  Neil has been working actively involved with the Old Oakland Neighborhood Association for 13 years, and with the Cohousing Association of the US for the past 8 years, a non profit whose mission is to promote the awareness and development of cohousing and to provide sustenance to existing cohousing communities in the United States. For the past 11 years, Patrick has worked collaboratively on any number of the City of Oakland redevelopment projects including Swan’s Market. He was also formerly a Manager in the City of Oakland Redevelopment Agency.

The insights into this project provided by the core team were eye-opening in terms of what it takes to make the initial idea work and then keep it working, not the least of which is stakeholder commitment and the occasional serendipitous happenings. Neil provided an invaluable book as a resource, Cohousing–A contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves (just published 2nd edition).

A big thanks to Kate Howe, a planner with VIA Architecture, and Director of the San Francisco Office, who took the concept, found the event location, lined up the tour guides, organized the hosting at The Cock & Her Farmer, signed in attendees, and generally made this event a success. Also, a big thanks to Katja Irvin and Rae Smith, who worked with Kate to make this event happen.

Swan’s Market


What–Social/Tour/Dinner:  Meet colleagues and explore a redevelopment success over wine/ beer, a tour of Swan’s Market & Co-housing, Old Oakland and dinner afterwards at The Cook and Her Farmer in Swan’s Market.  Light drink and snack provided, additional food and drink available for purchase.

Explore this historic 1916 produce market adapted for small restaurant kiosks as well as a co-housing project. Tour guides will discuss history, redevelopment and co-housing (1 CM Credit Pending).

When: Friday, October 2nd, 5:30 – 8:30 pm:

  • 5:30-6:15:  meet-up, soft start, complimentary wine/snack (in Swan’s Market)
  • 6:15-6:30:  talk (in Swan’s Market)
  • 6:30-7:30: tour (market & co-housing: Guides from EBALDC & Oakland Planning)
  • 7:30-8:30: dinner at The Cook and Her Farmer or other venues at Swan’s Market.

Where: Swan’s Market, 907 Washington St (enter from 9th Street between Clay & Washington), Old Oakland (4 blocks from 12th St. BART). Map (click).   Enter off 9th Street (between Clay & Washington) through glass doors to a few “APA”-marked tables in the center of the room.

Please REGISTER at Eventbrite to make logistics easier.

Questions:; also

[Post prepared by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, founder/past co-director and Research Program Lead of the Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, one of the APA Sustainable Communities Division’s Sustainability Champions, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist at the SF Planning Department.]

Living community patterns — bits and pieces of next-generation urban form?

On January 23rd at the Net Positive (Energy+Water) Conference in San Francisco, the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) released their recently completed Living Community Patterns (LCP) – Exploratory Strategies for a Sustainable San Francisco, a research report prepared in collaboration with the San Francisco Planning Department.

Planning teams can use this report to spur innovation to achieve ILFI’s Living Community Challenge (LCC); or they can use both documents to explore the emerging practice of regenerative planning, design, and platemaking as a route to creating sustainable places, neighborhoods, and communities.

The collaboration between ILFI and the SF Planning Department under ILFI’s Living City Grant Program arose from the 2011 Living City Competition. The research project used ILFI’s regenerative framework of the LCC and inspiration from Christopher Alexander’s “Patterns Language” to explore and develop key features of an ultimately sustainable or “living” place (neighborhood, community, and city).

Research included a preliminary carrying-capacity analysis of the city’s energy, water, and food systems. The team conducted neighborhood charrettes in Noe Valley — focused on alley greening — and in Chinatown, focused on deep energy retrofits of public housing buildings.

You can download the PDF, explore its perspective on sustainable neighborhoods and communities, and contribute to its further development with comments to For the SF experience, contact

 Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, a planner with the San Francisco Planning Department, is founder, former co-director, and research lead of Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, and an APA Sustainability Champion. “Plan-it sustainably” is a service of the Sustainability Committee.

State APA Chapter Sustainability Committees & Resources

In the interests of advancing sustainability by sharing existing resources and experience more widely, this post brings together links to the new Sustainable Communities Division, to the five formal sustainability committees of APA State Chapters, and to related links to important State Chapter work that is not part of a formal sustainability committee.

Each committee’s experience and approach represents a home-grown response. Together they reflect many of the leading themes and approaches to sustainability that may be useful for other State Chapters, sections, and planning departments interested in developing a more focused and intentional response.

The Sustainable Communities Division (2012) was founded on the perception that the need for leadership on comprehensive approaches to sustainability planning was growing. The Division’s goal is to help planners engage and collaborate on innovative approaches to this important emerging issue. See the Division’s APA Website and its Blog for resources, updates, and initiatives.

APA_CAAPA CA-Northern’s (2010) Sustainability Committee enhances understanding and practice by illuminating leading edge and strategic sustainability frameworks, initiatives, and planning cases. Such approaches catalyze planning innovation for sustainability by achieving net-zero, restorative, or regenerative environmental impacts, economic prosperity, and vibrant livable communities. Visit the website and subscribe to it’s e-list for periodic updates of exemplary events and leading resources.

APA_COpngAPA Colorado’s (2009) Sustainability Committee’s mission is to “promote the integration of sustainability principles into planning policy and practice.” The Sustainability Committee pursues a work program of education and outreach. The Sustainability Committee pursues a work program of education and outreach. It meets monthly, plans trainings and events, assists with state conference greening; identifies and promotes best practices; collaborates with other organizations; and engages Colorado APA membership.

APA_FLAPA Florida’s (2012) Sustainability Committee completed start-up tasks in 2012, such as defining sustainability and establishing committee objectives after reconciling different ideas about sustainability and defining priorities. They have developed a web-based planners’ resource the inspiring and powerful sustainability toolkit (here) and update it regularly. The Committee also networks with other professional organizations (AIA,ASLA,and ULI) to coordinate efforts. The committee members coordinate their efforts through regular Committee conference calls.

APA_MAAPA Massachusetts’ (2004) Sustainability Committee works towards the following three objectives: (1) providing a forum for professionals, students, and other interested parties involved with sustainability to discuss planning issues; (2) increasing fellowship among committee members through the exchange of information and ideas; and (3) increasing planners’ knowledge of the growing sustainable development practice throughout all aspects of land use planning within Massachusetts.

APA_NJAPA New Jersey’s Sustainability Committee promotes planning that creates sustainable, green, energy efficient communities at all levels of government. This type of planning creates strong relationships between buildings, land use, housing, all modes of transportation, and the environment to improve energy efficiency and reduce environmental impacts.


APA_ORAPA_StSustComms Neither Oregon nor Washington have separate sustainability committees, but their sustainability initiatives are extensive and longstanding. Washington APA addresses sustainability through the lens of climate change, the Growth Management Act, and Livable Washington. The Oregon APA’s sustainability work includes development of an extensive sustainability toolkit for Oregon planners that other planners may find useful.

An article in the Sustainable Communities Division Newsletter contains more information on the APA State Chapter sustainability responses (see p. 4, here) and this blog post describes the results of the facilitated discussion at the 2013 Chicago APA Conference and provides other links.

Planning meets biomimicry?

See the featured Urban Greenprint project, other resources, and the conference link below for a quick glimpse of an inspiring range of innovative, leading-edge, regenerative/ecological/biomimicry-based urban planning projects.

This range of initiatives may be useful for planners in further defining the goal, domain, and methods of sustainability planning (the profession or an individual department).  These projects are too design/building focused to define the full domain of planning, but the connections to the larger city and a/the method is illuminated.  There is not much biophilia or biodiversity directly featured, but it is embedded.

The question to planners:  what would the “planning” behind this work look like (code, general plan policies, guidelines, themes, project types, stakeholder engagement initiatives, etc.)?

The Urban Greenprint Project mentioned below is included in the list under the title, Biomimicry & the Urban Greenprint: how can our cities function like forests (that’s Bill McDonough’s famous challenge, as you likely know).

The Sustainable Design & Development Conf 2013 (Northwest) has some other interesting topics. This is still mostly a green building dialogue, although the movement towards planning is visible.

Looks like Passive House is getting featured as affordable building technology for habitat for humanity.

This Seattle 2030 Districts Rising is worth skimming. It looks similar to the EcoDistrict concept. Again, it is building based. As such, it does not go as far as planning can go, but it is a vision and includes some planning characterisitcs. It is based on the Architecture 2030 Challenge (and associated Planning 2030 Challenge). The Architect 2030’s website also profiles their Seattle 2030 District’s initiative.

URBAN GREENPRINT PROJECT (Jennifer Barnes‘co-founder).

The Urban Greenprint is a biomimicry-inspired approach that asks what Nature can teach us that will help our cities be more resilient, healthy and livable. Although many of the current strategies being applied to solve issues like stormwater mitigation, energy efficiency and CO2 sequestration are effective, these alone will not solve the magnitude of issues that face us.

This methodology approaches environmental issues in two atypical ways: by gaining a deep understanding of a city’s predevelopment ecosystems, and by applying biomimicry to the design process to generate solutions which emulate nature.

The goal is not to recreate the predevelopment ecosystem but instead to understand how urban structures and spaces can restore the functions those earlier ecosystems provided. Through place-based research and a biomimetic process, the Urban Greenprint:

1) Provides biomimicry design guidelines

2) Proposes and champions real projects

3) Establishes a connective framework between existing city initiatives

The combination of these efforts creates a cohesive approach to improving a city’s ecological health and the wellbeing of its population.


Plan-it sustainably Column (Dec2013)–“Biophilic Urbanism” On the Rise Excerpt

Plan-it Sustainably Column Web Post (Northern News, Dec 2013, p 9, slightly expanded).  A media product of Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, Excerpted by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, from a post by Timothy Beatley, October 2, 2013. (See links at end of article.)

“Too often,” notes University of Virginia Professor Timothy Beatley, “urban greening efforts focus on everything except nature, emphasizing such elements as public transit, renewable energy production, and energy efficient building systems.” But as the human environment becomes increasingly urban — 3.5 billion in 2008, 7.6 billion by 2050 — we need nature in cities even more.

Researchers are finding that nature in the city remedies many environmental, economic, and social-psychological urban challenges. In response to those challenges, new approaches are emerging — “biophilic” urbanism, and biophilic design, along with the larger arena of regenerative urban planning and design.  A key principle of these approaches is that contact with nature and the natural world is absolutely essential to a healthy modern urban life. Accumulating research indicates that we are happier, more relaxed, productive, resilient, generous, and creative when we live and work in the presence of nature.

Beatley’s two-year Biophilic Cities Project at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture has been exploring the many creative ways in which cities have been planning for and integrating nature. Partner cities around the world include Singapore, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain), Portland, OR, Birmingham (UK), and Wellington (NZ). Much of the work explores what a biophilic city is, or could be — what it looks and feels like. The project has been developing metrics, assembling data and GIS layers, and producing video stories, such as Biophilic Singapore.

Creative approaches include —

  • Designing nature into denser vertical urban environments through a mix of regulations, subsidies, and R&D;
  • Green walls and rooftops;
  • Networks of urban trail “park connectors”;
  • Urban waterway restoration;
  • Schoolyard gardens;
  • Green streets that collect and treat stormwater;
  • Urban forest master plans;
  • “Parklet” creation in on-street parking spaces;
  • Urban biodiversity planning for natural areas and urban spaces;
  • Investments in large, regional networks of urban forests and green spaces, including marine “blue belts”; and
  • “Natural capital” programs to create climate-secure “markets” (i.e., climate-proofed cities) for and through investment in biophilic city assets (investment pool estimated at 21 trillion dollars in 2014).

These approaches are key to shifting from traditional open space provision, natural area restoration, and ornamental landscaping to local ecosystem and habitat creation in urban spaces — from the balcony to the block, and to larger districts, the city, and the region. Green elements at every scale deliver emotional value, but they will also help to mitigate and adapt to climate change, shade and cool urban environments, conserve water and energy, and produce some of our food.

Fortunately, making a city more biophilic will make it more resilient and sustainable (see article). In fact, biophilic cities may best be understood as the next logical innovative extension of sustainable or “green” urbanism. In addition, biophilia is a key component of leading-edge approaches to sustainability planning, such as eco-districts and the living building/city challenge.

The challenge to planners is to envision and innovate polices, zoning, and design guidelines to generate the added prosperity, health, and beauty of biophilic cities. Mexico City has been investing in large green walls and financially supporting the installation of rooftop gardens to improve air quality and food security. Rio de Janeiro’s Tijuca forest (the world’s largest urban forest) protects the city’s water supply. Manila and Mumbai are protecting and restoring mangrove forests as an adaptation to storm surges and sea level rise.

Biophilic cities involve more than the presence of nature in our city planning and design.  They include how and in what ways residents engage that nature, and how much they know and care. How to foster a culture of curiosity about nature is key. Creative ideas include summer camping in urban parks, free kayaking on river trails, school-based initiatives that cultivate a love of nature in children at an early age, and urban-based citizen science efforts that involve hands-on enjoyment, recreation, and restoration work.

Other dimensions of a biophilic city include public institutional support in municipal decisions, investments, and annual operational budgets, and incorporating ecosystem services and principles, such as circular material flows and renewable energy, into the urban economy.

Although existing initiatives are impressive, important questions remain.

  • How much and what kind of nature is needed in cities?
  • What combination of these natural experiences will deliver the greater health and psychological benefits?
  • What is the minimum daily requirement of nature?
  • Which urban planning tools, techniques, and strategies will be most effective at ensuring this nature exists in our urban future?
  • Can cities become engines for the conservation of biodiversity, where planners guide urban development to restore and enhance global biodiversity?

To mark the next chapter — expanding the learning/practicing community of interested and engaged planners, designers, public officials, citizens, and cities — Professor Beatley held a Biophilic Cities Network Launch for the international partner cities and academic pioneers this past October. To see the agenda, summaries, videos, and other content, or to join the innovation, take the Biophilic Cities Pledge, engage, and begin or continue the work, visit the website.

Timothy Beatley, PhD, is the Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities and Chair of the Department of Urban & Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. Read his original post.  Read a review of Beatley’s book.