APU Environmental Original

Building Sustainable Communities: Considerations and Plans

By Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics

Resilience is the key to building sustainable communities. Sustainability creates character and is directly related to property value and assessment. When people choose to buy homes, for example, their key decisions are based on the house’s return on investment (ROI) as well as the character of the community.

Start a transportation and logistics management degree at American Public University.

In some cases, the character of the neighborhood is more important than the home itself. So how does a community create character? And how is that character and the community impacted by factors such as water, weather, and climate?

Creating Community Character

The character of a neighborhood includes aesthetics — trees, walkways, parks and playgrounds — and a focus on what is going well. Neighborhoods with a unique character create a competitive advantage for homeowners when uniformity of the dwellings is removed.

A community is also affected by its surrounding environment, so protecting environmental assets within that community is essential. Examples of unique assets include a neighborhood lake, walkable trails, a view of the mountains or visual architecture that differentiates that community from others. Protecting these treasured assets is essential to the character of any neighborhood.

Building Resilient, Sustainable Communities

Creating sustainable communities includes developing neighborhoods that are resilient to environmental factors of water, weather and climate. Weather-related community planning efforts involves the consideration of:

  1. Water: Floods are by far the costliest environmental disasters. Developing stormwater drainage basins and retention ponds prevents excessive damage from standing water and heavy precipitation. Excessive stormwater can turn streams and ditches into raging rivers and cause erosion, debris, and bacteria from standing water.
  2. Weather: Weather can both help and hinder a community. Many communities include lightweight structures, so it’s important to incorporate wind safety into resilient communities. Strengthening garage doors, external windows, and entry doors can prevent excessive damage during hurricanes and tornadoes. Weather can also help a community by encouraging travel and tourism during peak seasons.
  3. Climate: Building sustainable communities includes developing long-term projects, including wind/solar power generators, retention ponds and alternatives to traditional sources of power. Planting trees, building community gardens, reducing pollution and decreasing emissions are also viable options for combating climate change.

Decreasing Emissions through Walking and Biking

Decreasing emissions within a community includes a public mindset shift to using transportation that has little to no emissions. The two most common forms of zero-emission transportation are walking and biking. The design of a community affects how we use that community, so creating bike lanes and walking trails are essential to this mindshift.

Regulations Are Key to Sustainability

Many communities use regulations to ensure the stability and uniformity of city ordinances. On the plus side, land use regulations define what it means to be a good neighbor and potentially increases the value of community properties. For instance, local regulations may focus on the look of a building, not how that building is used.

But property rights are not absolute; with rights comes responsibilities. Regulation can protect neighborhoods through future plans that will ensure conservation and create a weather-resilient environment.

Homeowner Education Is Essential

Homeowner education reduces the need for regulation. Education takes many forms, including developing voluntary initiatives, incentives and partnerships. Boulder County, for example, provides grants for sustainability projects.

It is also important to create design guidelines for community architects to show what features are wanted by a community. Ultimately, creating sustainable communities resistant to water, weather and climate includes a thorough mix of environmentally friendly sustainability efforts married with incentives, awards, and design guidelines to achieve optimal results.

Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Public University and has over 25 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.

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