Smart Growth

An urban transportation and planning theory that focuses growth on walkable urban centers to prevent collapse, smart growth values long-range, local sustainability considerations over a short-term goal. It supports compact, walkable, bicycle-friendly, transit-oriented use of land, including complete streets, mixed-use development and neighborhood schools. The sustainable development goals of smart growth aim to attain an exceptional sense of place and community, broaden the range of employment, housing options and transportation, improve and protect cultural and natural resources, encourage public health and fairly allocate the benefits and costs of development.

Brief History of Smart Growth

Community and transportation planners started to endorse the concept of compact communities and cities during the early 1970s. The complexity and cost of getting land to construct and expand highways caused some politicians to think about basing planning of transportation on motor vehicles.

Peter Calthorpe and the Congress for the New Urbanism popularized and supported the notion of urban villages that depended on bicycling, walking and public transportation instead of using automobiles. Andrés Duany endorsed altering design codes to discourage driving and support a sense of community. Stephen Plowden and Colin Buchanan helped lead the discussion in the UK.

Basic Idea

The smart growth concept came out in 1992 from the adaption of the United Nation of Agenda 21 at the UNCED (UN Conference on Environment and Development) conducted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Supported by new guard urban architects, planners, historic preservationists, community activists and developers, the idea accepts that expansion and growth will persist to occur and thus, aims to control that growth in a deliberate, broad approach. The principles of smart growth are aimed at establishing sustainable communities that are excellent areas to do business, work, raise families and live. Some of the basic goals for the benefits of the communities and residents are boosting family wealth and income, promoting healthy, safe and livable places, enhancing access to premium education and preserving, investing and developing physical resources.

It’s important to know the difference between smart growth regulations and smart growth principles. The latter pertains to concepts and the former refers to their execution or how state, municipal and federal governments decide to accomplish smart growth principles. Smart growth is associated with or may be applied together with New Community Design, New Urbanism, Resource Stewardship, New Classical Architecture, Land Preservation, Sustainable Development, The Three Pillars (Natural, Created Capital and Human), Building Sense of Place, Traditional Neighborhood Development, Preservation Development, preventing urban collapse, Triple Bottom Line Accounting (Planet, Profit and People), Development Best Practices and Sustainable Transport.

The smart growth approach to progress is complex and can involve various methods. There are many practices related to this idea, including redeveloping underutilized areas, encouraging present communities, boosting economic competitiveness, creating livability tools and measures, offering more transportation options, improving integrated investment and planning, giving a vision for sustainable development, influencing government rules, making the process of development clear and redefining housing affordability.

Smart growth’s goals are somewhat different, but related. These include offering alternative sites to work, play and shop, controlling growth, enhancing property worth, preserving open area, making the community more viable for new businesses, improving safety, increasing the tax base, giving jobs for residents and establishing a superior sense of place.

Basic Principles of Smart Growth

The accepted principles of smart growth include the following:

  • Cultivate unique, lucrative communities with a solid sense of place
  • Mix land utilization
  • Develop walkable zones
  • Offer a range of transportation options
  • Make the most of compact building design
  • Guide and strengthen development to current communities
  • Make various housing options and opportunities
  • Promote stakeholder and community cooperation in development verdicts
  • Conserve natural beauty, farmland, critical environmental sites and open space
  • Make development verdicts fair, cost effective and predictable

Facets of Smart Growth

Bicycle and pedestrian-friendly design

Walking and biking can cut down emissions, promote a healthier population and save money on maintenance and gas. Bicycle and pedestrian-friendly design includes a city bike-trail system, related master plans, pedestrian crossings, bike parking and bike lanes on main roads. The most bicycle and pedestrian-friendly modification of New Urbanism and smart growth is New Pedestrianism as motor vehicles are on an individual scale.

Transit-oriented development

TOD or transit-oriented development is a commercial or residential site built to make the most of access to public transport. A lot of municipalities aiming to apply better transit-oriented development methods look for secure funding to enhance current services and build new public transportation communications. Other strategies may consist of regional cooperation to broaden services and boost efficiency. Other matters that fall under this idea include commercial parking taxes, road pricing system and Transportation Demand Management procedures.

Compact neighborhoods

Compact, habitable urban areas attract more business and people. Building such neighborhoods is an important aspect of protecting the environment and reducing urban collapse. This method consists of implementing zoning policies and redevelopment strategies that direct job and housing growth to neighborhood business areas and urban centers to establish transit and bike-friendly, walkable and compact hubs. Sometimes, this requires local governmental organizations to execute code changes that permit increased density and height downtown as well as regulations that abolish minimum parking requirements and create a maximum number of permitted spaces. Other matters that fall under this idea include addition of affordable housing, mixed-use expansion, addition of recreation areas and parks and limitations or restrictions on suburban design forms like strip malls.

The latest movements of New Classical Architecture and New Urbanism in sustainable architecture encourage sustainable approach to construction that develops and promotes smart growth, classical design and architectural tradition. This is contrary to globally uniform and modernist architecture and leans against suburban collapse and individual housing estates.

Other aspects of smart growth include historic preservation, predictable, transparent, cost-effective and fair development rules, saving large sites where development is forbidden and nature can run its track and preserving important habitat and open space, protecting air quality and water supplies and reusing land. It also involves expanding around preexisting areas, which reduces socioeconomic isolation. This permits people to function more equitably and produces a tax base for educational, employment and housing programs. Expansion around preexisting areas also permits public services to be placed where people live.