Promote Sustainable Development Patterns

How can sustainable development patterns contribute to housing and environmental goals?

The increased energy usage associated with low-density development patterns has obvious implications for greenhouse gas emissions and other related environmental challenges.

Another outcome is a reduction in the quality of life for many Americans. The shortage of desirable, affordable homes near job centers and public transit stations forces many families to endure longer commutes and higher transportation costs. (Click here to learn more about reducing household energy costs.) This leads to increases in traffic congestion and commute times for everyone, including those who live closer to their places of work.

Sustainable development patterns promote redevelopment of the urban core, more compact development, and increased public transit. Shortages of well-located housing that is affordable play a central role in contributing to the problems of sprawl. Sustainable development patterns resolve many of these problems by incorporating a full range of housing choices into a smart growth plan. Such policies also benefit the environment by reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled - the number of miles that families need to travel each day - leading to lower energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality.

What is the relationship between development patterns and energy costs?

As energy prices rise, there is growing interest both in how homes are constructed and where they are built relative to other amenities. People are wondering if new homes are energy-efficient and whether or not they are located near public transit or job centers. If new housing is located close to job centers and public transit then families can benefit by either reducing their car use or not having a car altogether.

In communities with single-use zoning, homes will likely be located much further from destinations and transit than homes in an area with mixed uses. Certain development patterns require automobile travel or offer few transportation alternatives. The congestion and greenhouse gas emissions associated with these land-use decisions have serious environmental implications.

Why should communities consider sustainable development patterns?

Improved coordination of land-use, transportation and housing policies can lead to more efficient development patterns. These improved patterns can help working families and individuals reduce their combined housing, energy and transportation cost burdens. This will free up those families' funds for food, health care, higher education, and other important objectives.

Such policy coordination that includes a full range of housing choices can also help contain sprawl. This will reduce the incentives for moderate-income families to seek lower-cost housing in developments at the periphery of the metropolitan area. Sustainable development patterns may also contribute to beneficial health outcomes for families by encouraging pedestrian friendly neighborhoods.

Types of Sustainable Development Patterns

Sustainable Development Patterns can be described in four closely-related development patterns. These patterns can be used together or separately to support housing and transportation options while reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

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Related Case Studies

Hawthorne EcoVillage Cluster 

A four-block area in North Minneapolis that has been greatly impacted by foreclosure is implementing a redevelopment vision for the area to create a new, welcoming and sustainable community...