Sustainable Urban Development

Bill Drummond
Bill Drummond
Associate Professor, School of City and Regional Planning
Read more by Bill Drummond

How would you define this big idea?

The concept of sustainable urban development provides a set of principles that can guide development and redevelopment of the built environment so that the needs of the present generation can be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Can you provide an example of how this big idea is applied to sustainable development?

City and regional planners create plans for the development and redevelopment of urban areas and larger regions. This includes long-range planning for (1) fundamental infrastructure such as roads, water systems, and sewer systems, (2) economic development and increased job opportunities, (3) housing needs for the full range of income levels and demographic subgroups, and (4) the overall pattern of land uses for places of work and residence.

Sustainable urban development emphasizes higher density, more compact urban development patterns; less reliance on the automobile and higher levels of public transit, walking, and biking; reduced conversion of land to built environment; and robust, diverse local economies.

Learn more:

American Planning Association Policy Guide on Planning for Sustainability (2000), available at This policy guide was adopted by the American Planning Association in 2000, and provides sustainabilty-related general policy objectives, specific policy positions, and more than 50 recommended planning actions to support more sustainable communities.

Wheeler, S. and T. Beatley (2014). The sustainable urban development reader, 3rd ed. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, Routledge. This book provides an excellent selection of relatively short readings covering the origins of sustainability, a wide variety of different application areas, and a valuable section on sustainability pedagogy and class exercises.