The methods by which we envision, plan, develop and redevelop our built environment will have a lasting effect on both current and future generations. Often we, as a society, fail to realize the full extent of the impact of the built environment on our social, natural and economic systems. We are now faced with enormous challenges related to:

Urban planning/design and economic development

Urban and economic development strategies must be synchronized and comprehensive, to link energy and infrastructure elements with measures to ensure healthy urban environments that promote social well-being, economic progress and environmental responsibility. The speed and volume of population growth, and production of specific goods and services, has generally overwhelmed the potential to incorporate efficiency and innovation in urban planning. By focusing solely on the efficient delivery of goods and services, regions and municipalities have tended to miss opportunities to holistically address the challenges of creating a truly sustainable urban environment.

Other elements to consider include:

  • Recognizing that the distribution of physical impacts from economic development and related activities are not limited to local areas, and must be understood and considered in a geographically broad planning and policy-formation context.
  • The value of creative re-use:  integrating innovation and technological advancements into a society built around obsolete practices. 

Energy production and usage

Addressing energy issues on a large scale can seem at first to be a daunting task. However, it is essential if for no other reason these inherently vulnerable systems more resilient.


While infrastructure includes nearly every facet of the built environment, a focus on essential services (i.e. energy, water, wastewater, and transportation) would include the following observations:

  • Public investment in infrastructure can be guided by the mission to create public works that increase productivity, with the understanding that improvements that mainly increase the quality of life for residents can also increase productivity by making life more efficient.
  • Coordinated efforts will be required at local, regional and national levels to embrace technological innovations that promote a more sustainable future.
  • The distribution of essential services will need to become more efficient, while simultaneously increasing capacity to ensure access to potable water, renewable energy sources and effective disposal or reuse of wastewater.
  • While transportation modes can be made more effective through technology, sound urban design can also yield returns in transportation efficiency.