While the Obama administration is preparing for negotiations on a new international climate change accord at the December United Nations meeting in Copenhagen, and federal and state initiatives also have begun to address climate change, urban planners and local decision-makers need better ways to judge the climate implications of local growth and redevelopment, and to measure the effects of their decisions. Urban Planning Tools for Climate Change Mitigation, the Lincoln Institute's latest Policy Focus Report, details how urban form will play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supported by tools that work at the local and regional scale.
Initiatives at the local and regional level should be comprehensive, capable of being tested and evaluated, intelligible to a wide range of stakeholders, and affordable to implement, the report says. Quick action is imperative because land planning and policy decisions are set to be made at the international, national, state, provincial, regional, and local levels that will have enormous consequences. Scientists have reported that warming impacts are occurring at a faster rate than anticipated, on a number of fronts. The report was authored by Patrick M. Condon, Duncan Cavens, and Nicole Miller, all at the University of British Columbia, where the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Design Centre for Sustainability have convened a series of meetings to assess tools to support land use policy and decision making in the context of climate change mitigation and urban planning at local and regional levels. The goal is to help tool developers and modelers identify critical needs as they design the next generation of planning support tools, identifying strengths and limitations.
The urban planning tools for climate mitigation detailed in the report are:
n INDEX, planning support software for land use and transportation modeling used in Elburn, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and hundreds of other locations. The software, developed by Criterion Planners, makes quick and easy-to-understand calculations about the energy use and carbon emissions associated with different types of land uses, varying density, and transit availability to reduce vehicle miles traveled.
n I-PLACE3S, a Web-based, publicly available modeling platform for measuring the climate impacts of the built environment, developed by the State of California and administered by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, and used in the King County, Washington HealthScape initiative to analyze the transportation and public health impacts of land development alternatives in Greater Seattle.
n Envision Tomorrow, a suite of urban and regional planning tools developed by Fregonese Associates that models land use decisions ranging from the scale of a specific development site to a much larger area, specifically Superstition Vistas, the 275-square-mile expanse of former state trust lands near Phoenix. The tool includes analysis of the physical and financial feasibility of development, and provides data on the carbon footprint of different scenarios – development using green building techniques, for example, or with greater density, walkable neighborhood design, or multi-modal transportation options.
n Development Pattern Approach, a database of parcel-scale examples of streets, open space, and buildings across a range of densities, developed by ElementsLAB in the Design Centre for Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, and used in North Vancouver’s sustainability master plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The spatial modeling incorporates GIS and Google SketchUp to produce dramatic visual and quantitative results when changes are made – replacing a single-family house with a duplex, for example.
Producing comprehensive, three-dimensional, accessible urban planning tools for climate change mitigation, that can be applied to a range of scales from the building to the neighborhood to the metropolitan region, is a daunting task, but the need is great, the report says. Urban Planning Tools for Climate Change Mitigation is designed both to allow public officials and proponents of development projects to make better decisions on climate impacts today, and serve as a foundation to inform the evolution of the next generation of planning support tools and models. The report can be downloaded free here.