Research helps reduce pollution, urban sprawl

provided by University of Oregon

esearchers at the University of Oregon Center for Housing Innovation (CHI) have developed a set of guidelines to help control urban sprawl in ways that reduce environmental impact and increase property values.

    Ron Kellett, UO associate professor of architecture, and Cynthia Girling, UO associate professor of landscape architecture, wrote “Green Neighborhoods: Planning and Design Guidelines for Air, Water and Urban Forest Quality” to help property owners and planners develop environmentally sensitive neighborhoods without urban sprawl.

    Kellett and Girling are co-directors of the UO Neighborhoods Lab that focuses on developing tools to design new neighborhoods that are less dependent on automobiles, cause less environmental impact, increase property values, and are well designed and affordable.

    “Conventional suburban development patterns affect air and water quality in ways that could be avoided or mitigated,” says Kellett.

    Segregating land uses, for example, increases demand for automobile trips, streets and parking lots. More streets and parking lots force natural waterways underground and increase the amount of impervious surfaces where runoff gathers volume and pollutants concentrate before being piped into streams. The effects can be flooding, erosion and poorer water quality in streams and rivers.

    Kellett says there are more desirable patterns of development.

    “Land uses and street networks can be organized to reduce automobile trips and increase pedestrian and bicycle trips,” he explains.

    “Some cities have reduced water pollution by retaining natural waterways and incorporating them into neighborhoods. That an open space for the community as well as allowing soil and plants to filter out pollutants before runoff reaches drains or natural waterways,” says Girling.

    Girling and Kellett, working with a group of graduate students in the UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts, wrote the “Green Neighborhoods” guidelines to illustrate alternative ways to develop neighborhoods on identical sites. The publication also examines the costs and benefits of each approach.

    The guidelines compare two alternative plans with a traditional approach to neighborhood design. Both alternatives provide more residences, more open land and create less pollution than the traditional approach.

    Professionals working on neighborhood and environmental design have high praise for the guide.

    The City of Eugene is applying many of the techniques in the UO guide to a proposed new development in the Bethel area.

    The Oregon Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects awarded the publication an Honor Award for Research the only one awarded to a project from the public sector. The US Department of Agriculture's National Urban and Community Forest Advisory Council also will feature the guide in a report.

    See (University of Oregon). “Green Neighborhoods: Planning and Design Guidelines for Air, Water and Urban Forest Quality” can be downloaded from: