PennDesign's Barnett Argues for Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs in New Book

Megan Schmidgal | megands@design.upenn.edu | 215-898-2539
Tuesday, June 16, 2015

As the global population grows and more people move to cities and suburbs, they place greater stress on the operating system of our planet. Jonathan Barnett, Emeritus Professor of Practice in City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design has teamed up with Larry Beasley, former director of planning for the City of Vancouver, to make a case for ecodesign as a way to resolve this profound challenge.

In their new book, Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs (Island Press, June 2015), they describe how ecodesign, a new perspective that integrates environmental soundness and resilience with city design and planning, when paired with generally accepted business practices and normal development regulations, has led to many successful examples already carried out from Vancouver to Boston.

Barnett and Beasley show how ecodesign helps adapt the design of our built environment to both a changing climate and a rapidly growing world, creating more desirable places in the process. In six comprehensively illustrated chapters, the authors explain ways to:

  • Preserve and restore natural systems while also adapting to climate change;
  • Minimize congestion on highways and at airports by balancing the transportation system with transit, particularly BRT and improved passenger rail, by making it easier and safer to walk and cycle, and by making places more compact;
  • Craft and manage regulations to create more desirable places and fulfill consumer preferences, while meeting economic constrains and creating development incentives;
  • Make an inviting and environmentally responsible public realm from parks to streets to forgotten spaces; and
  • Most importantly, the authors then explain, in their final chapter, how to implement these concepts.

Throughout the book, the ecodesign framework is demonstrated by innovative practices that are already underway or have been accomplished in many cities and suburbs—from Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm to False Creek North in Vancouver to Battery Park City in Manhattan, as well as many smaller-scale examples that can be adopted in any community. Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs will be relevant to anyone who has a part in shaping or influencing the future of cities and suburbs—designers and planners, public officials, real estate investors and developers, concerned citizens, and also students of architecture, landscape architecture and planning who will soon confront these issues in practice.

Jonathan Barnett is an emeritus Professor of Practice in City and Regional Planning, and former director of the Urban Design Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an architect and planner as well as an educator, and is the author of numerous books and articles on the theory and practice of city design. Along with PennDesign colleagues Gary Hack and Stefan Al, he teaches an on-line course, Designing Cities, available on Coursera.

Larry Beasley is the retired Co-chief Planner for the City of Vancouver. He is now the “Distinguished Practice Professor of Planning” at the University of British Columbia and the founding principal of Beasley and Associates, an international planning consultancy. He is a Member of the Order of Canada, his country’s premier civilian honor for lifelong achievement.