Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities
Design Strategies for the Post Carbon World
Questions of how to green the North American economy, create a green energy and transportation infrastructure, and halt the deadly increase in greenhouse gas buildup dominate our daily news. Related questions of how the design of cities can impact these challenges dominate the thoughts of urban planners and designers across the U.S. and Canada. With admirable clarity, Patrick Condon discusses transportation, housing equity, job distribution, economic development, and ecological systems issues and synthesizes his knowledge and research into a simple-to-understand set of urban design rules that can, if followed, help save the planet.
No other book so clearly connects the form of our cities to their ecological, economic, and social consequences. No other book takes on this breadth of complex and contentious issues and distills them down to such convincing and practical solutions. And no other book so vividly compares and contrasts the differing experiences of U.S. and Canadian cities.
Of particular new importance is how city form affects the production of planet-warming greenhouse gases. The author explains this relationship in an accessible way, and goes on to show how conforming to seven simple rules for community design could literally do a world of good. Each chapter in the book explains one rule in depth, adding a wealth of research to support each claim. If widely used, Condon argues, these rules would lead to a much more livable world for future generations—a world that is not unlike the better parts of our own.
"Seven Rules is worthy of our attention because it improves our understanding of how urban form affects greenhouse gas production. In referring to an imminent 'planetary meltdown' (p. 10), Condon sounds an alarm bell about global warming. Yet, he brings the discussion down to the level of designing individual sites, building neighborhoods, retrofitting cities, and promoting smart growth in regions. Planners who want to respond to the warning bell but have not yet deciphered exactly what can and should be done at local and regional (rather than national and global) levels will benefit greatly from Seven Rules.
I offer four other observations in recommending Seven Rules. First, I applaud Condon for appropriately denigrating decade-old minimum school parcel size standards, which set acreage provisions so high that they make small schools within walking distance of neighborhoods impossible. Second, Condon also alludes to reasons why conventional zoning needs to be overhauled. He points out that because 'most new jobs don't smell bad' (p. 87) we no longer need to separate most industries from our homes. Further, he remarks that the 'zoning habit has not caught up with the changing nature of jobs' (p. 87). His indictment of zoning, however, is stronger in other parts of the book, particularly with regard to socially 'heinous' patterns of densities that result from most zoning codes (p. 102). Third, his blending of historical perspectives of planning (with references to Jane Jacobs, Ian McHarg, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the like) adds increasing value to urban designers and academics alike. Fourth, Condon demonstrates keen understanding of infiltration, natural processes, and nature-based infrastructure. He is adept at comparing performance of natural systems with conventional 'pipe' drainage systems.
Seven Rules is well-illustrated and well-substantiated in terms of the literature. It is convenient to read because literature references are provided in footnotes on the same page as the narrative. He advances green infrastructure and green building concepts beyond what the literature has offered to date. Sufficient attention is paid to the social equity perspective, especially with regard to housing issues. Finally, Seven Rules is a source of inspiration for local planners and urban designers. We can make a huge difference in bringing about more sustainable development practices."Jerry Weitz, FAICP, Practicing Planner
Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Restore the Streetcar City
Chapter Three: Design an Interconnected Street System
Chapter Four: Locate Commercial Services, Frequent Transit, and Schools within a Five-minute Walk
Chapter Five: Locate Good Jobs Close to Affordable Homes
Chapter Six: Provide a Diversity of Housing Types
Chapter Seven: Create a Linked System of Natural Areas and Parks
Chapter Eight: Invest in Lighter, Greener, Cheaper, Smarter Infrastructure