Ten key ingredients of a green and healthy community

Kaid-BenfieldIf someone asks what a green community, or a healthy one, means to you, what comes to mind? I’m willing to bet that for most people it is the visible and tangible aspects: a lovely city park, perhaps, or mature street trees, or bicycle lanes on a city street. If you’re a bit more wonky, you might also think of access to healthy food, or to public transportation. If you work on these matters for a living, you might think of more technical matters such as where we get our energy, what happens to our waste, and whether neighborhood streets are designed in a pattern that facilitates walking to accomplish everyday errands. Continue Reading

Hurricane Harvey provides a sober reminder that resilience is about mitigation and adaptation

Most of us faraway bystanders are observing Houston’s response to Hurricane Harvey with concern at the devastation as well as encouragement at the stories of compassion. With sympathy to the current human suffering from Harvey, we are wishing Houstonians continued strength, fortitude, and safe passage this week. No amount of comprehensive planning or zoning reform can prepare a city for the sort of flood Houston is currently experiencing. An expected 50” of rain in a few days makes this an event that no place in the world is likely to sustain without massive personal and economic impacts. Perhaps not even the Netherlands, who has led the world in stormwater management for hundreds of years, with protection, prevention, and preparedness.
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Finding Tucson’s Lovable Places

I was inspired and delighted last week by working in Tucson and Marana, Arizona. Whenever we are writing character-based zoning, one of the first things we do is a regional tour to analyze the DNA of the most loved places. Places cannot be resilient unless they can be loved. It’s one of the basic principles of the Original Green, which says that buildings must be lovable, durable, adaptable, and frugal, and places must be nourishable, accessible, serviceable, and securable, in order to last and thrive. Extracting that lovable DNA and allowing it by right injects a sense of place into new development, as well as infill and redevelopment.
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Inclusive Cities: Inclusion equals diversity plus equity

The placemakers way is to enable the triple bottom line of resilience: environment, economy, and society, trying to balance the needs of people, planet and profit. And yet it’s always easier to measure the impacts of our collective choices on profit — or even on the planet — than it is on people. We’ve blogged extensively about happiness, with equity as an essential component. Social equity has been defined as equal opportunity in a safe and healthy environment. Social equity requires fair, just and equitable public policy. Social equity is a generator of social capital.
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Balancing the Scales of City Sustainability

Kaid-BenfieldI spend virtually all my professional time thinking about the intersection of human settlement and environmental sustainability. I am particularly interested in the built environment of American cities, towns, and suburbs – what I like to call our “people habitat” – and how it relates to the natural world. How can we make these two realms – people habitat and natural habitat – more harmonious?

These issues are acutely on my mind today because I am preparing a talk I have been invited to deliver early next month on “Urbanism and Sustainability.” (For those who are interested, it will be at the annual meeting of the Congress for the New Urbanism, in Detroit, at 10.15 am on June 8.)

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Making Sense of Community

Let’s start at the beginning. Sense of community is a legitimate thing. Or at least it was, until people like me got ahold of it.

To explain: In 1986, social psychologists David W. McMillan and David M. Chavis published their theory on what they termed “sense of community” — the feeling we experience when engaged in the meaningful pursuit of connection with others.

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The Inuit: A view from the top of the world

Much of what we write about here on PlaceShakers has to do with dense urbanism and clustered rural development, as an alternative to auto-centric suburban development patterns that have dominated North America for the last 70 years. What we don’t talk about as much is that a big part of our raison d’etre is these compact patterns save our farmlands, rangelands, and wilderness from being gobbled up as quickly, and that walkable places reduce vehicle miles traveled and help with our global commons problem of climate change.

For the rest of July, I intend to turn a focused eye on rural settlement patterns, environmental issues, and preservation, thanks to the Heart of the Arctic expedition I’m embarking on with my family this week. Follow my husband, Stephen Borys, for the cultural perspective, as the Director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The WAG holds in trust the world’s largest Inuit art collection and has plans underway for a new Inuit Art Centre.

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