Sustainable Design & Development

City and regional planning is integrally related to defining how, where, and when human development occurs. Planners can therefore play a crucial role in improving the sustainability of communities and the resources that support them.

At its core, sustainability means lasting. To be sustainable is to function in a manner that can be perpetuated, continued, or maintained over time. Sustainability is a concept that recognizes human civilization as an integral part of the natural world. It describes a capability that equitably meets the vital human needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. By subscribing to the fundamental concepts of sustainability and planning for their application to every aspect of human existence, improvements can be made that will ensure a life-giving and healthful world for future generations.

Planners are in a unique position to promote sustainability by working with regions, cities, and communities to implement sustainability principles, ideas, and concepts into their plans, processes and daily practices.

The Sustainable Design and Development concentration is designed to provide a thorough understanding of the term sustainability and its role in the planning process. The recommended core and elective courses offered within and outside the Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP) provide students with an understanding of sustainable development that recognizes its underlying ecological, economic, and social forces. These courses cover techniques and skills for developing land and cities more intelligently, using minimum of nonrenewable energy, producing a minimum of pollution and wastes, and costing a minimum of energy dollars, while increasing the comfort, health, and safety of residents and workers.


The primary DURP faculty teaching and conducting research relevant to sustainable design and development include Arnab Chakraborty (land use planning, Smart Growth), and Daniel Schnieder (ecology and environmental planning).

There are other faculty in the Department and across the campus teaching and conducting research on topics relevant to the DURP Sustainable Design & Development concentration. They include, among others: Brian DealBill Sullivan, Bill Stewart, Geoff Hewings, Michelle Wander, Tony Endress, David Wilson, and Al Valocchi.

Course Recommendations

The set of courses developed for this concentration are focused on developing an understanding of the terms, theories, ideas and analytical skills that surround environmental sustainability in planning. Students interested in the field either domestically or internationally, need to develop many of the same skills as in the other areas of specialization within the planning profession, e.g., problem solving, critical thinking, communication, analytical and process skills. The Department encourages students to consider courses in other concentrations such as Land Use & Transportation, Local & Regional Economic Development and GIS & Analysis to complement the courses suggested below.

Recommendation Number Course
Highly recommended courses forming the core of the concentration
UP 405
UP 406
UP 446
Watershed Ecology & Planning
Urban Ecology
Sustainable Planning Seminar
Electives: Recommended depending on specific interests UP 418
UP 447
UP 456
UP 460
UP 466
UP 480
UP 519
NRES 401
NRES 422
NRES 439
GEOG 466
GEOG 468
GIS for Planners
Land Use Planning Workshop
Sustainable Planning Workshop
Transportation/Land Use Policy
Energy, Plng & Blt Environment (Climate Action Planning)
Sustainable Design Principles
Advanced Applications of GIS
Watershed Hydrology
Earth Systems Modeling
Environment & Sustainable Development
Environmental Policy
Biological Modeling

Career Paths

Sustainability is becoming an endemic part of our societal conversations. The need for planners that understand the concepts and have the analytical skills to apply sustainable planning solutions to regional, community, and site development projects is increasing rapidly. The most significant employment opportunities for students developing expertise in Sustainable Design and Development are in:

  • Regional planning agencies (including environmental planning divisions, research and development divisions, and infrastructure planning)
  • Private consulting (e.g., green developers, sustainable design consultants, traditional planning firms)
  • Non-governmental organizations (e.g., watershed planning advocacy groups, community planning advocacy groups)
  • Parks and greenway planning organizations (e.g., parks and preserve organizations)
  • Green infrastructure planners
  • Ecology planners
  • Policy developers
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