Kaid Benfield is the director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and co-founder of Smart Growth America.
A new website offers communities practical advice on energy efficiency, transportation alternatives and more.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has created an important online resource for professionals and citizens interested in improving America’s metro regions, cities and neighborhoods. It looks very promising to me, especially as a sort of living compendium of best practices.
In its description, the agency’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities describes the site’s purpose:
America’s communities are developing strategies to help ensure their economic, environmental and social well-being. A sustainable community is an urban, rural, or suburban community that has a vibrant local economy, more housing and transportation choices, is closer to jobs, schools and shops, is more energy independent, and helps protect clean air and water.
Because every community is different and sustainability encompasses a range of needs and opportunities, there is no ‘one size fits all’ model. Rather, sustainability uses a bottom-up approach and a range of strategies in response to the needs, assets, and visions that each community brings to the table.
What all of these communities have in common are coordinated, well-thought-out approaches to leveraging investments that attract jobs, save taxpayer money, offer more energy-efficient housing and transportation choices and that balance economic and natural assets to meet both the current and future needs of all Americans.
The Sustainable Communities Resource Center is intended to provide the public with a comprehensive set of information that supports local and regional strategies, with a particular emphasis on sustainable housing and planning. The Resource Center provides ready access to best practices, cutting edge research, new reports and resources, and spotlights innovation in the field.
Today, the home page provides links to stories on exemplary developments in three California cities; a column of "sustainability news" links; a link through which users can subscribe to the Office’s eNews service; and subject-matter highlight stories on Walk Score, energy efficiency in multifamily rental housing, and on housing affordability when transportation costs are considered. There are also what appears to be standing links to information on six key categories: rural, tribal and small-town sustainability; economic competitiveness; regional planning; green building; healthy communities and housing and transportation choice.
And there’s even more, but the design of the site is clean and uncluttered. When Shelley Poticha was tapped by HUD secretary Shaun Donovan to lead the agency’s sustainability efforts, I wrote that the agency had done really well to get her. Shelley and her wonderful staff just keep proving me right.
This post originally appeared on the NRDC's Switchboard blog.