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What is a Sustainable Community?

Phrases such as ‘zero carbon communities’ or ‘triple bottom line’ have emerged over the past decade to help focus thinking around sustainability.  Climate change has added yet another touchstone with increasing urgency. 
The challenge remains the same regardless of the  definition – providing shelter for millions of new households, and improving the quality of their lives all while reducing their impact on an already over-stressed planet. 


The UrbanGreen Thesis – developed in 2007, our thesis has been used successfully with many of our clients as a way to communicate the inter-relationship of land use, community form, carbon footprint and the triple bottom line metric.
UrbanGreen 2007 All Rights Reserved

The complex organism that that we call community, is vastly underserved by measuring its success against sound bite phrases and jargonistic metrics. The theory and practice of creating wonderful places to live - sustainable communities to the lay person - relies on intergrating the best of centuries-old thinking with contemporary design and technology. 

Increasingly inter-connected issues such as resource conservation; renewable energy expansion; habitat restoration and regeneration; human and biologic diversity; ready access to quality food, education and medicine are just a few of the imperatives that need to be concurrently addressed in the process of creating more sustainable communities. 


Elements of the Sustainable Community – after a decade of working with the many facets of sustainable communities, we have developed a framework for organizing the key components that must be addressed in the programming, planning, design and operation of sustainable communities.
UrbanGreen 2008 All Rights Reserved

UrbanGreen believes that sustainable communities cannot be measured by a single definition or metric. Instead they need to be continually tested against a series of ten hallmarks that capture the essence of enduring community design, human and natural ecology and long term economic viability. These include:

  1. Positive contribution to the environment, region and surrounding communities
  2. Evolutionary framework that adapts to changing lifestyles and social requirements
  3. Continual improvement in quality of human and natural systems
  4. Infrastructure to support spiritual, physical and educational improvement
  5. Memorable and enduring quality of place
  6. Inter-generational, economic and demographic diversisty
  7. Carbon neutral at minimum or carbon positive at best outcomes
  8. Robust economics for the region and the sponsor
  9. Governance that emanates from the community
  10. Commitment to record and share lessons, so others can build on their success

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