Omnibus: Becoming a Good Sustainability Planning Practitioner

1st November 2010


Introduction to Sustainability Planning Approaches - Urban


Today we begin a series of three classes that focus on the varied approaches to sustainability planning that are being advocated and put into practice. We begin by examining approaches that are primarily urban in orientation. Next week we will examine those that are focused on the environment and natural resources. In the third week we will compare approaches to sustainability planning in developing country contexts with those in the developed world and North America that are the focus of discussion in the first two weeks.

Theoretical Models and Practical Approaches

It is useful for us to supplement the perspectives on planning theory that tend to be primarily driven by discussions among academics with the views that derive more from planning practitioners and focus more on what I am choosing to call "approaches" to sustainability planning. Thus while theorists often focus on comparing and contrasting Rational-Comprehensive, Incrementalist, Mixed-Scanning, Advocacy, and Communicative models of planning as they have been advanced over the last half-century, practitioners are more strongly oriented to exploring the pros and cons of recent approaches that carry labels such as Sustainable Communities, New Urbanism, Smart Growth, Livable Cities and Healthy Communities. This is not to say that academics and practitioners don't each, in varying degrees, dwell on questions of principle and practice. In addition, there is much to be gained by asking how the insights of Rational-Comprehensive, Incrementalist, Mixed-Scanning, Advocacy and Communicative models of planning are already or might be in future productively incorporated into each of the approaches, such as New Urbanism or Smart Growth. It is important to recognize how planning theorists' responses to economic, environmental and social issues over the years have contributed to today's approaches to sustainability planning. Read Scott Campbell's 1996 JAPA paper Green Cities, Growing Cities, Just Cities? Urban Planning and the Contradictions of Sustainable Development for a framework that will be useful to us in our explorations of approaches and their connections with the models discussed in the more theoretical literature.

Characteristics of the Approaches

There are a number of characteristics of the approaches to sustainability planning that we can note as we examine them:

Below are listed some of the approaches to urban sustainability planning that are influential today. They are listed under the topic with which they tend to be most often associated. Where they exist I have provided links to national/international and local organizations or examples relating to these approaches. In reviewing each of these approaches think about the following questions in preparation for our class discussions:

Sustainable Communities


Place Making

Growth Management/Sprawl




WUF3 Cities

The Vancouver Working Group commissioned a series of background papers for the 2006 World Urban Forum that focused on different thematic perspectives on the city. They are of mixed quality. Read the abstracts and executive summaries to get a sense of how they approach their themes. Both the Livable City and the Capable City will be of interest to those of you interested in understanding the GVRD, now Metro.

The Livable City
The Capable City
The Planning City
The Secure City
The Resilient City
The Learning City
The Ideal City

The Youth Friendly City
Youth Resilient, Secure, Capable, Livable


The goal of today's two sessions is to help each case study group further advance its project by drawing on the approaches to sustainability planning discussed above to extend their analytical framework in appropriate ways.

2.00-3.30 Session 1: Round Tables

During the first session today you will come together in the same 3 round tables as during the first half of last week with representatives from each of the Group Assignment case studies:

Round Table 1: Yaheli, Kevin, William, Andrew, Sandra, Lindsay B., Jason, Ryan, John, Devon, Erik, Tim

Round Table 2: Polly, Kerri, Thomas B., Allison, Thomas D., Debra, Yazmin, Juliet, Erica, Lauren, Ruth

Round Table 3: Meredith, Tamara, Maria, Lindsay N., Maysa, Adam, Daniel, Jessie, Sarah, Evan, Jennifer


The schedule for the round table discussions will be as follows:

2.00 - 2.45

Using the triangular framework proposed by Scott Campbell discuss where you would locate each of the approaches within or outside of the space created by the triangle. Designate one of your group members to speak to the reasons for your chosen location for each. To ensure we cover the range of approaches you should work on the following selected list first. If you pick one particular example of one of them (e.g. SFU's approach to sustainable communities) make note of which one it is. If you have time note the differences from the other examples of each that you have examined.

To make it easier for us to organize and visualize the ideas we will use pieces of paper to stick on the wall and you will locate each approach in an appropriate location in relation to the bounds of the triangle.

2.45 - 3.30

We will hear from each table its reasons for the chosen locations as voiced by the individual responsible for speaking for each and then open up for discussion.


20 minute break

3.50-4.50 Session 2: Group Reviews

Convene in your 6 case study groups to review what you have heard about the different approaches and consider how you propose to supplement your analytical framework and advance your case study in the light of this. As last week I will come around to each group to respond to questions and make suggestions.

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