Note: This column was originally titled, "A Stupid Attack on Smart Growth," intended as a pun on 'smart' and 'stupid.' However, that sounds harsh so I retitled it. - T.L.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has a well-financed campaign to discourage communities from considering smart growth as a possible way to conserve energy and reduce pollution emissions. They contend that compact development has little effect on travel activity and so provides minimal benefits. The NAHB states that, “The existing body of research demonstrates no clear link between residential land use and GHG emissions.” But their research actually found the opposite: it indicates that smart growth policies can have significant impacts on travel activity and emissions.
There are various ways to define building sustainability. A narrow perspective assumes that sustainable development simply means that buildings minimize energy consumption and climate change emissions, but a broader perspective recognizes that sustainability requires consideration of additional economic, social and other environmental impacts, such as lifecycle affordability, social equity, community integration, public health and safety, and land use impacts.
Although it is sometimes difficult to recognize in day-to-day planning activities, our ultimate goal is to make the world better, that is, to help create paradise on earth. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!
There are two different and often conflicting concepts of how to create paradise. It is important that planners understand the differences between them.