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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An Overlooked Threat to the Family of Man

Cities are three-dimensional environments that are sprawling without restraint across the face of the planet. Satellite photography has made it very apparent that cities consume the land of their dominant partner and have not learned to live within limits. As a result, they have not struck a sustainable balance with the natural environment of the Earth, nor have they resolved their physical, social, psychological and economic deficiencies. 

City planning must become city design before sustainable relationships between The Built and Natural Domains can be established. A city’s land use plan is similar to a floor plan. It is not a strategy until its three-dimensional implications are considered.  

The default for land use plans and annexation is sprawl. Sprawl can only be limited by a conscious design for activity and intensity within geographic limits. Activity is defined by a land use plan. Intensity is defined by design specification values attached to land use areas. These values determine the gross building area expected per buildable acre.  

Design specification alternatives produce intensity options that can be predicted with Development Capacity Evaluation software. Decisions define the form that must emerge from a plan to achieve its physical, social, psychological and economic objectives. In other words, city design relates activity to intensity for physical, social, psychological and economic stability. 

The goal is to shelter and serve populations within sustainable geographic limits that protect ALL life on Earth. The tactics of architectural design will produce a response one project at a time, but tactics without a goal and strategy produce random battles across the landscape. The result is many casualties and little progress.  

In the end this is about people and the shelter, movement, open space and life support they build; since these divisions of the built environment consume the resources of their natural partner and pollute what remains. Our success in constructing a sustainable presence will be expressed by the nature of this evolving urban form, since it will illustrate our success in learning to live within limits.  

City design will depend on our ability to quickly and accurately forecast intensity, or development capacity options and implications. I say this because life within limits requires an ability to wisely use every acre we consume to shelter and serve the activities of growing populations. I can think of no greater challenge to the family of man, even though others may be equal.  


Development Capacity Evaluation is a software CD attached to its manual of explanation entitled, Land Development Calculations, ed.2, published by the McGraw-Hill Companies.

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