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Sustainability in Urban Planning and Design: A Reflective Response


The framing and conceptualization of sustainability in urban and suburban areas plan and design is an important aspect to consider when discussing sustainability. Rob Krueger and David Gibbs’ article on “‘Third Wave’ Sustainability? Smart Growth and Regional Development in the USA” (2008)-looks at urban sustainability from the perspective of the “Smart Growth” discourse, which defines urban growth and development as development that is “sustainably aware,” holistic in nature, and that is “environmentally sensitive, economically viable, community-oriented, and sustainable” (Ye et al., cited in Gibbs and Krueger 2008, pg. 1266). They argued that this kind of growth focuses on regional and urban development planning perspectives with the goal much more similar to that of the compact urban planning perspective. Krueger and Gibbs (2008) asserts that the sustainability science framework that is embedded within the smart growth discourse has a contextualized economic and market-based dimension. To this end, they argued that the smart growth discourse has political and theoretical significance and benefits, which heavily relies on economic mechanisms such as innovation, incentives, and disincentives (Gibbs and Krueger 2008). Gibbs and Krueger (2008) asserts that even though there are different conceptualizations and definitions of what smart growth is and how the concept is operationalized at the urban, regional, and national levels among various stakeholders, there are certain principles that transcend throughout these definitions and geopolitical boundaries. They also added that the concept of “Smart Growth” is constructed on two guiding principles of development goals, which involves a tripartite component of urban development planning (i.e. taking into account in its holistic form the community, environment, and economy) as well as a regulatory reforms aspect, which allows these themes to become functional and operational, without which smart growth can not be achieved (Gibbs and Krueger 2008).
The article on “New Urbanism” by Karen F. Al-Hindi (2001) explored the new urbanism discourse based on empirical research, which sought to answer some pressing and compelling questions concerning for whom the new urbanism discourse is targeting and where such developments are operating with focus on the United States. Al-Hindi (2001) argued that even though the new urbanism discourse would benefit everyone in the long-term as suggested by proponent of this thought; however, in the short-term, it is designated to only benefit those who are design professionals, developers, and those of the upper-class homebuyers’ regime. She noted that the new urbanism sustainability framework is aligned with and supported by several current political and social issues (Al-Hindi 2001). She added that neo-traditional architectures of the 20th Century are depiction of the classical lifestyles of those of the new urbanism school of thought. Al-Hindi also touched on a very sensitive theme and discussion concerning the exclusive and isolated lifestyles of new urbanists-a view that is perpetrated by their belief to be associated with people of the same-mindset, engulfed in gated residential buildings away from those they framed as the “others” (Al-Hindi 2001). The plight to seek for and live by principle of a lifestyle that promotes the local ecological values and environment is sometimes refer to as “Smart Growth”-a term that has gradually developed overtime. Al-Hindi concluded  her work that New Urbanism quickly diffused into the mainstream American society, because it seems to present realistic and straight answers that are premised on the built environment in relations to complex and unparalleled social issues that are embedded in our society.

Works Cited

Al-Hindi, Karen F. (2001). “The New Urbanism: Where and for Whom? Investigation of an Emergent Paradigm.” Urban Geography, Vol. 22, 3, pg. 202-219.
Gibbs, D., Krueger, R. (2008).Third Wave’ Sustainability? Smart Growth and Regional Development in the USA.” Regional Studies, 42:9,1263 — 1274.
Ye L., Mandpe S. and Meyer, P. (2005). “What is Smart Growth – Really?” Journal of Planning Literature 19, 301–319.

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