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35 Examples of Sustainable Urban Design

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Sustainable urban design is the practice of transforming the systems, norms, architecture and infrastructure of a city to improve quality of life and eliminate environmental impacts. Such practices can also make cities healthier, happier, more economically viable and resilient. The following are common sustainable urban design techniques.

Adaptive Reuse

Reusing old buildings and infrastructure for new purposes. For example, converting a factory into offices.

Architectural Conservation

Saving sites of significant architectural, cultural or historical value.

Bicycle Parking

Efficient bicycle parking at strategic locations such as train stations. Requires a method of dealing with abandoned bicycles and rationing space. Charging a small hourly fee often isn't a bad idea.

Bicycle Sharing

Providing bicycle rentals at locations such as train stations. Requires diligent management such as regular maintenance processes.


The goal of providing habitats for a great variety of organisms that are compatible with the local environment.

Blue Spaces

Beaches, waterfront parks, lakes, rivers, open air streams, canals and fountains.


Brownfields are abandoned sites that are polluted due to commercial or military activities. They often require an expensive cleanup but may represent a unique opportunity to revitalize a city.

Clean Energy

Moving cities towards energy self-sufficiency by putting solar panels wherever there is free space. In theory, any surfaces exposed to sunlight such as roads can generate clean energy.

Community Gardening

Providing space for school children, seniors and other people in a community to take responsibility for a garden. Requires some ground rules such as prohibiting the use of harmful chemicals.


A move to making things smaller and closer together. For example, efficient rail may handle more passengers than a highway that consumes far more space.

Cycle Highways

Wide cycle paths that are fully separated from roads. Designed for distance bicycling connecting strategic locations such as a suburb with downtown.

District Heating

A centralized facility that provides heating and cooling to buildings in a neighborhood. Allows for sustainable approaches such as deep water cooling.

Energy Efficiency

Reducing energy consumption by installing efficient systems and reducing waste such as unnecessary lighting.

Green Roofs

The planting of vegetation on roofs to reduce stormwater runoff, clean air, insulate buildings, moderate urban heat islands and beautify a city.

Green Walls & Green Facades

Two methods of growing plants on unused walls.

High Performance Buildings

Buildings designed to produce little or zero environmental impact. Typically highly self-sufficient in terms of energy and water.

Highway Removal

Many cities have devoted a great deal of space to roads and highways. Improvements in public transport and urban density may allow this space to be reallocated to worthy initiatives.

Linear Park

Long parks that can be used for cycle paths and sidewalks that are pleasantly walkable.

Passive Design

Architecture and infrastructure that makes use of natural energy without converting it to electricity.

Pocket Park

Converting vacant lots to small neighborhood parks or community gardens.


A term for closeness. Typically associated with village-like neighborhoods that offer employment, schooling, shopping, dining, entertainment, public space, medical services within walking distance.

Public Space

Public spaces allow for freedom of movement and provide spots for exercise, creativity, hobbies, personal solace, social and family activities.

Rain Garden

A garden designed to absorb and clean water to reduce and purify runoff.

Rainwater Harvesting

Collecting and using rainwater where it falls. Reduces stormwater and improves resilience to water shortages.

Regional Links

Designing highly connected infrastructure such as rail improves its value and usage rate.

Resilient Cities

Designing cities to be resilient to physical, social and economic stresses.


Reusing buildings, infrastructure, materials and resources such as water.

Soft Engineering

Using rocks and plants as opposed to concrete to reinforce shorelines and hills.


Closing small roads to create large city blocks with ample public space and wide sidewalks.

Sustainable Transport

Transport such as light rail and high speed rail that reduces the use of space and energy.

Urban Reforestation

Planting large numbers of trees to reduce temperatures and smog.

Urban Intensification

Strategies aimed at making a city more dense. Generally speaking, reasonably dense cites are more walkable and use less resources such as energy and space.

Vertical Farming

Farming on walls and other vertical structures has potential to make cities more self sustaining by producing fresh local food.


Walkability is a term for how practical and pleasant walking is in a neighborhood to accomplish daily tasks such as shopping and commuting to work. It is affect by a variety of factors including safety, sidewalks, air quality and access to transit.

Wet Infrastructure

Infrastructure to provide clean drinking water, support urban green spaces, prevent shortages and floods and minimize water related pollution produced by a city.


This is the complete list of articles we have written about cities.
Activity Center
Air Rights
Bicycle Boulevard
Blue Space
Business Cluster
City Branding
City Culture
City Issues
Clean Air Zone
Cosmopolitan City
Creeping Normality
Cycle Highway
Cycling Infra.
Deep Water Cooling
District Heating
Emergent Cities
Fashion Capital
Fashion Week
Freedom To Roam
Genius Loci
Ghost Spaces
Green Facades
Green Roofs
Green Walls
Happiness Index
High-Speed Rail
Hostile Architecture
Human Factors
Human Scale
Induced Traffic
Last Mile
Living Street
Natural Surveillance
Night Architecture
Night Economy
Play Street
Public Infrastructure
Public Space
Quality Of Life
Rain Garden
Resilient Cities
Robot Highways
Security Landscaping
Slow Cities
Smart Cities
Soft Engineering
Sponge City
Street Canyon
Tactical Urbanism
Transition Design
Urban Agriculture
Urban Density
Urban Design
Urban Forests
Urban Planning
Vertical Cities
Vertical Farming
Vertical Gardens
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