Planning a new city, mapping out a town redevelopment, or simply coming up with a blueprint for an eco site? Matthew Carmona, Professor of Planning & Urban Design at the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, has ten questions you must answer honestly before digging the first foundations and routing the roads if you want your site to be sustainable.
- Do proposals enhance their context, effectively join-up the range of contributions and therefore help to carefully steward in change over time?
- Are proposals efficient in their consumption and long-term use of energy and natural resources?
- Do proposals support diversity and choice in movement, access and land use mix?
- Do proposals support human needs for security, social contact, comfort and artistic fulfilment?
- Are proposals resilient enough to withstand and adapt to changes over time?
- Do proposals minimise pollution of the wider environment both in their construction and long-term management?
- Are proposals concentrated to reduce land take and energy use and increase urban vitality and viability?
- Do proposals respect what is distinctive about their environment and help to build or preserve local sense of place?
- Do proposals support the biotic environment through the careful integration of built and natural resources?
- Are proposals likely to support the establishment of more self sufficient, involved local communities?
Carmona makes the connection between the theory of sustainability and the practice of urban design and draws on a huge body of research literature to devised these ten questions which hinge on what he considers to be universal principles of sustainable urban design.
By seeking answers to these questions, planners, designers, developers and other people who will be affected might find ways to address the issues of established patterns of living
, which are frequently ingrained and difficult to change, such as personal car use. They would also address public awareness and aspirations, which often hope for a greener life but still aspire to unsustainable lifestyles such as low density housing and multiple car ownership. They could also address economic and governance systems, which usually neglect to calculate true costs of living in terms of the impact on society and the environment.
Answers might also address the lack of political will to influence the development process, lack of skills and vision in the public and private sectors, selfishness and nimbyism that blinkers those involved, and the lack of choice for many people. Finally, those answers will also tackle head on the scale of the problem, in that turning around unsustainable patterns of living and development is an enormous long-term process dependent on fundamental change.
Fundamentally, Carmona argues, good urban design can be sustainable, but this involves a lot more effort and commitment than simply reducing energy use and carbon emissions. He suggests that his ten questions provide the basis upon which decisions that impact on the social, economic and environmental sustainability of the built environment can be made.
Carmona, M. (2009). Sustainable urban design: principles to practice International Journal of Sustainable Development, 12 (1) DOI: 10.1504/IJSD.2009.027528