Sustainable Urban Planning, Cities Saving the World

Sustainable urban planning brings the most important concepts from the Green movement together into a single coherent plan. The heat island affect, solar heat gain, population density, alternative transportation, renewable energy, conservation, water capture and recycling are all ideas, threats and solutions that fall under the jurisdiction of sustainable urban planning.

The principles include creating lasting, compact walkable neighborhoods that encourage frequent “collisions” between citizens, eliminating separate use zoning and high volume road standards, promoting shared and mixed use form, focusing on sustainability and reinvigorating urban spaces that have been lost to urban blight.

24_Las Vegas Cyclery_LVC_ssThe concepts of the Triple Bottom Line philosophy are perfectly expressed in sustainable urban planning. As a community development, considering people is imperative because space is the product and the space must be filled.

Low waste design saves money for tenants, cheap energy saves money for everyone, native plants add to beautification, which pleases people, and reduces heat gain which saves money. Pleasing people brings in more tenants which in turn raises profits.

A strong example of sustainable urban planning is New York City’s PlaNYC, a city wide effort to address the long-term challenges of a city forecasted to contain 9.1 million residents by 2030. Changing climate conditions, changing economy and aging infrastructure. More than 25 City agencies and partners joined to outline initiatives and goals to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers for the future.

Began in 2007, PlaNYC progress reports are released in April of each year detail accomplishments and issues from the last year. After the ravages of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, city resiliency plans were added to protect the city’s coastline and infrastructure.

PlaNYC holds the diverse history, culture and character of the city’s neighborhoods among its most valuable assets and focuses on improving old buildings and roadways while zoning to maximize growth and character. Highlights of the plan include transit access and mobility, preserving, and fostering, affordable housing and zoning for growth.

Mayor Bill DeBlasio recently released “Housing New York: A Five Borough, Ten Year Plan,” outlining methods of attacking the city’s housing crisis while focusing on fostering neighborhood walkability, multiplicity of choices for transportation and greater access to employment, services and food.

PlaNYC also focuses on waste reduction and recycling, improving air, and water, quality and energy efficiency. According their reports, energy used to power buildings account for about 75% of total GHG emissions. The plan for the city includes diversifying the energy supply while investing in improvements to existing buildings and codifying green development for new construction.

The plans also include investments in new parks and public spaces, improved waterfronts and the addition of plazas and greenstreets. These features are important parts of the plan because, despite the fact the New York’s high density makes it one of the lowest emitting and least wasteful cities in the world per capita, it also features fewer acres of green space per person than any other metropolitan area in the nation.

The city is committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers live within a 10 minute walk of a park and that 90% of waterfronts are open to recreation. The city plans to accomplish this by in part by adding 109 acres of new parkland and restoring coastal ecosystems.

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