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Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature

Douglas Farr

ISBN: 978-0-471-77751-9 November 2007 352 Pages


A call to action and a comprehensive guide to sustainable urban design

"This book celebrates the magical power of design and of an emerging pattern of human settlement—Sustainable Urbanism—that holds the promise of strengthening the interdependence of all life on earth. . . . This book is a strategic call for leadership in the design and development of the places where Americans live, work, and play."
—From the Preface

Written by the chair of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) Core Committee, Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature is both an urgent call to action and a comprehensive introduction to "Sustainable Urbanism"—the growing sustainable design convergence that integrates walkable and diverse places with high-performance infrastructure and buildings.

Providing a historical perspective on the standards and regulations that got us and keep us on the course toward sprawl and unsustainable development, along with earlier attempts at reform, Douglas Farr makes a powerful case for Sustainable Urbanism, showing how architects and urban designers need to shape the built environment for the benefit of both humans and nature. He then explains how to implement Sustainable Urbanism in cities, towns, and neighbor-hoods through coordinated leadership and communication. Essays written by Farr and others delve into such issues as:

  • Increasing sustainability through density

  • Integrating transportation and land use in an auto-dependent era

  • Creating sustainable neighborhoods with walk-to-work neighborhood centers of locally owned businesses, share cars on every block, and walkable neighborhoods

  • The health and environmental benefits of linking humans to nature, including walk-to open spaces, neighborhood stormwater systems and waste treatment, and food production

  • High-performance buildings and neighborhood-scale infrastructure including district energy systems

Enriching the argument are in-depth case studies in Sustainable Urbanism, from BedZED in London, England, and Newington in Sydney, Australia, to New Railroad Square in Santa Rosa, California, and Dongtan, Shanghai, China. An epilogue looks to the future of Sustainable Urbanism over the next 200 years.

At once solidly researched and passionately argued, Sustainable Urbanism is the ideal guidebook for urban designers, planners, and architects who are eager to make a positive impact on our—and our descendants'—buildings, cities, and lives.

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Foreword (Andrés Duany).


How to use this book.


Part One The Case for Sustainable Urbanism.

Chapter 1: The Built Environment: Where We Are Today.

The American Lifestyle on the Wrong Course.

Pioneering Reforms: Setting the Stage for Sustainable Urbanism.

Chapter 2: Sustainable Urbanism: Where We Need to Go.

Sustainable Urbanism: The Grand Unification.

The Three Steps of Sustainable Urbanism.

Part Two Implementing Sustainable Urbanism.

Chapter 3: Leadership and Communications.

Leadership Talking Points for Sustainable Urbanism (Jim Hackler and Irina Woelfle)

The Power of Paired Choices.

Implementation Agendas for Leaders.

Chapter 4: The Process and Tools for Implementing Sustainable Urbanism.

RFQ for Sustainable Urbanist Professionals.

Benchmarking Municipal Sustainability: The Santa Monica Sustainable City Plan (City of Santa Monica).

Documenting Community Preference in Form and Sustainability: Image Preference Survey (IPS) (Christina Anderson)

Conducting a Charrette (Bill Lennertz)

Shaping Sustainable Neighborhoods with the Toledo Smart Neighborhood Analysis Protocol (SNAP) (Carolee Kokola).

A Sustainable Urbanist Neighborhood Plan: Toledo SNAP (Carolee Kokola).

Regulating Plan and Form-Based Code (Christina Anderson).

Incorporating Sustainability through Codes, Covenants, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) (Dan Slone).

RFP for a Sustainable Urbanist Developer (City of Victoria, British Columbia).

Part Three Emerging Thresholds of Sustainable Urbanism.

Chapter 5: Increasing Sustainability Through Density.

Explaining Density.

Illustrating Density.

The Transect of the Everyday.

Water and the Density Debate (Lynn Richards).

Transit Supportive Densities.

Chapter 6: Sustainable Corridors.

The Sustainable Corridor (Doug Farr, Leslie Oberholtzer, and Christian Schaller).

The Integration of Transportation, Land Use, and Technology (Shelley Poticha).

Biodiversity Corridors (Rebecca L. Kihslinger, Jessica Wilkinson, and James McElfish).

Chapter 7: Sustainable Neighborhoods.

Neighborhood Diagrams.

Neighborhood Definition (Victor Dover and Jason King).

Neighborhood Completeness (Eliot Allen and Doug Farr).

Neighborhood Housing (Laurie Volk and Todd Zimmerman).

Car-Free Housing.

Neighborhood Retail (Robert J. Gibbs).

Economic Benefits of Locally Owned Stores (Matt Cunningham).

Third Places.

Healthy Neighborhoods (Melanie Simmons, Kathy Baughman McLeod,and Jason Hight).

Walkable Streets and Networks (Dan Burden).

Complete Streets (Fred Dock).

Universal Basic Home Access (Eleanor Smith).

Managing Travel Demand (Jeffery Tumlin).

Car Sharing (Jeffery Tumlin0.

Chapter 8: Biophilia.

Open Space (Carolee Kokola).

Public Darkness (Nancy Clanton and Todd Givler).

Stormwater Systems (Jim Patchett and Tom Price).

Food Production (Lynn Peemoeller and Jim Slama, with Cathy Morgan).

Outdoor Wastewater Treatment (Thomas E. Ennis).

Indoor Wastewater Treatment (John Todd Ecological Design).

Chapter 9: High-Performance Buildings and Infrastructure.

The Impact of Planning on Building Energy Usage (Alan Chalifoux).

2030 Challenge (Ed Mazria).

High-Performance Infrastructure (Hillary Brown).

Large District Energy Systems (Doug Newman and Robert Thornton, John Kelly, and Adam Lund).

The 2030 Community Challenge: Economic Growth with Sustainable Urbanism.

Part Four Case Studies in Sustainable Urbanism.

Chapter 10: Lessons Learned from Sustainable Urbanism.

Built Infill.

BedZED: London, England.

Glenwood Park: Atlanta, Georgia, United States.

Holiday Neighborhood: Boulder, Colorado, United States.

Christie Walk: Adelaide, Australia.

Newington: Sydney, Australia.

High Point: Seattle, Washington, United States.

Built Greenfield.

Upton: Northampton, England.

Kronsberg: Hannover, Germany.

Loreto Bay: Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Civano: Tucson, Arizona, United States.

Poundbury: Dorchester, England.

Chapter 11: State of the Art in Unbuilt Sustainable Urbanism.

Unbuilt Infill.

Dockside Green: Victoria, Canada.

Lloyd Crossing: Portland, Oregon, United States.

Z-Squared: London, England.

New Railroad Square: Santa Rosa, California, United States.

Uptown Normal: Normal, Illinois, United States.

Unbuilt Greenfield.

Dongtan: Shanghai, China.

Galisteo Basin Preserve: Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States.

Pulelehua: Maui, Hawaii, United States.

Coyote Valley: San Jose, California, United States.

Scales of Intervention.




"The book's appealing-sounding moniker knits together smart growth, new urbanism, and green building, three movements that address the sliding scales of regions, neighborhoods and buildings. Farr advocates for transit-served, walkable neighborhoods with high-tech buildings and infrastructure." (A Daily Dose of Architecture, July 2009)

"Providing a historical perspective on the standards and regulations that got us and keep us on the course toward sprawl and unsustainable development, along with earlier attempts at reform, the book makes a strong case for Sustainable Urbanism, showing how architects and urban designers need to shape the built environment for the benefit of both humans and nature." (APADE, 2009)

"A masterpiece, it combines good writing with a thorough treatment of the subject." (The Bernard Place Bee Line, 4/22/08)

"It's not immediately obvious how Doug Farr's new book differs from the many other books in this field, aside from having a laudatory preface by Andres Duany. His careful division of the case studies into built greenfield, unbuilt greenfield, built infill, and unbuilt infill, should be a clue. It's also nice that he offiers a fairly specific definition of the s-word. Farr's book is distinguished by his systematic determination to reveal the trade secrets of sustainable design-those rules of thumb that bridge the gap between woolly generalities and highly specific case studies." (, February 1, 2008)

"A broadly-focused and solutions-based look at environmentally sustainable urban design. Case studies and essays written by Farr and others give a real-world context to the ideas and methods espoused in this ambitious argument on behalf of a new type urban design and development that is interrelated with nature." (; 1/29/08)

"The author of Sustainable Urbanism wants to break down barriers between nature-focused environmentalists and human-focused urbanists. The book asserts that we need a radical change in how we live, not just for the health of our planet, but for ourselves. The author's ambitious goal is to make sustainable urbanism the dominant pattern of human settlement by 2030. This book is a valuable resource for anyone that is in a position to advance a more organic way of life that is more in tune with the environment." (Vector 1 Magazine, January 6, 2008)

"Sustainable Urbanism is important because it addresses the sustainable development issue from all sides and provides solutions across the vast array of disciplines that create the built environment. The book…should be a resource not just for developers...but also for city councils, mayors, governors, engineers, and voters." (Urban Land, 1/08)

"Beyond just developing a concept, however, the book acts as a comprehensive how-to manual for anyone who helps shape the environment...after setting the stage with a compelling case for sustainable urbanism, Farr provides specific and detailed standards and steps to guide readers." (Environmental News Network, 12/21/07)

"There is something for everyone in Sustainable Urbanism, the new book that tackles exactly what the title implies. Backed by an impressive range of research, tables, charts, it is a comprehensive look at how to make our development pattern more sustainable." (Joe Urban Blog, 12/07)

"Chicago architect Douglas Farr is no Le Corbusier--Who is?--yet his thoughtful new book is propelled by the same sort of visionary energy and desire to integrate architecture, city planning and nature for a better way of life. Here's the twist: Whereas Le Corbusier celebrated the car, Farr fingers it as a prime factor in creating today's sprawling, auto-dependent suburbs and all the lifestyle woes, like rising levels of obesity, they've supposedly wrought. While that's a familiar rant from the New Urbanist architects who call for compact, walkable communities, Farr wisely goes beyond them, urging a grand integration of the New Urbanism and the fledgling green building movement." (Chicago Tribune, December 2007)

"What makes his volume stand out is that it combines expertise in New Urbanism with a thorough understanding of environmental issues and techniques. The result is the most comprehensive, technically informed volume available on how to design and build places that are environmentally responsible and also gratifying to inhabit." (New Urban News, December 2007)

"makes excellent use of physical case studies, it is also concerned with the intangible forces that shape our cities…" (Building Design, Friday 15th February 2008)

The book includes:
  • background on sustainability
  • standards for sustainable urbanism
  • case studies of exemplars of sustainable urban design.
  • LEED-ND information and guidelines.

Sustainable Urbanism provides clear direction for urban designers, urban planners, and architects to design cities and developments that are sustainable and reduce environmental harms. The text includes background on sustainability, standards for sustainable urbanism, and case studies of exemplars of sustainable urban design. Written by noted national experts on sustainable urban design, who are involved with both the Congress for the New Urbanism and the US Green Building Council.