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Green Streets, Neighborhoods + Communities

Posted on by Lauren M

As often as we talk about sustainable building design strategies and technologies, it’s just as critical to look beyond the building and immediate site, to the context of the street, neighborhood, and community infrastructure. 

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With green initiatives being implemented by municipalities and cities at an exponential rate, understanding where to begin and how to participate can be a challenge, as this new paradigm of development requires fundamental changes in not only how we address urban design, but how we consider infrastructure, transit, policymaking, and collective social behavior as factors in shaping the built environment.

However, if broken down into primary elements, we can start to look at these broad issues in a way that is accessible to individuals, families, and homeowners.  To generate a dialogue directly applicable to the concerns and quality of life of residents, building users and stakeholders, the discussion needs to start at the smaller scale of the street and neighborhood.

So, what exactly is a sustainable street?

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image:  corey kuepfer

In short, it is a transportation corridor for everyone, regardless of age, demographic or ability.  According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, ‘there is no singular description for complete street.’  Each one is unique and context-specific and may include ‘sidewalks, bike lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent and safe crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, narrower travel lanes, roundabouts and more.’ 

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While each community has differing needs and priorities based on location, existing conditions and numerous other factors, the basic premise is to ‘balance safety and convenience for all users’, while promoting ecology, connectivity, accessibility, more transit options and flexibility.  With transportation management and infrastructure becoming increasingly relevant issues in the diverse realms of urbanism, economy, ecology and politics, more cities are taking policy and regulatory steps to move towards greener and healthier streets and neighborhoods. 

For a visual of where these changes are happening, take a look at the Complete Streets Atlas, and get inspired to take action in your neighborhood!

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