Sustasis Foundation

Overview of 2010 Activities

"Pointing to case studies showing a higher foreclosure rate in suburban areas around the country, Mehaffy stated that the quality and efficiency of development is a key economic issue. Denser development is more sustainable economically and also produces less carbon emissions. Mehaffy pointed to a recent study of centers and corridors by an expert advisory group appointed by Metro that found that national trends favor inner city urban development as more walkable, convenient and affordable, due to reduced transportation costs. The May 12 event at Metro was the first in a four-part series..."

            - Metro (Portland) planning authority's news item covering symposium co-sponsored by Sustasis, "Growing the Greatest Places"

The “lens,” so to speak, through which we are increasingly focusing our work, is the topic of climate change. There are two reasons for this. One, evidence is growing that this phenomenon does indeed pose an intolerable threat to human well-being (including economic well-being) in the near future. In fact, evidence is mounting that the effects are already beginning to be felt (e.g. the Russian heat wave, the floods in Pakistan, continued record heat months, and other events).

Second - and perhaps just as important to our future - climate change is a good proxy for a number of other critical issues that we have neglected for much too long: the depletion of resources, including “peak oil,” “peak soil,” collapsing fisheries, and many more; the pressures of population on land and on species habitat; the contamination of water, soil and air; and the potential for geopolitical instability generated by severe inequities, which could produce incalculable human suffering in the years ahead.  Climate change is the ultimate "systems challenge," and its solution will involve the solution of these other long-term systemic issues as well.

But there is reason to be optimistic. Of course, much of the demand for consumption, energy and greenhouse gas emission begins in our own homes and neighborhoods. The shape of our homes, and the lifestyle they afford us, has been shown to have a dramatic effect on emissions.  (We have done some of the leading work on this.)  The more we live the compact, elegant lifestyle of, say, Europeans, as opposed to the sprawling, inefficient and unrewarding lifestyle of many Americans, the more we can dramatically lower emissions. This is particularly important in the patterns of rapid growth occurring in the developing world, where the worst patterns of American sprawl are too often adopted, with profound consequences for the use of energy and greenhouse gas emissions.

And of course, the other things go along with this demand for consumption and waste: the reduction of pollution (around the world), preservation of habitat, conservation of resources, and geopolitical stability.

Our work in this area has taken several forms. In 2008, we worked with Diana Urge-Vorsatz of the IPCC and others on a successful conference on climate change and urban design for the Council for European Urbanism in Oslo, Norway. Growing out of that work, we were invited to present a paper on climate change and urban form at the prestigious International Alliance of Research Universities scientific congress on climate change in Copenhagen in March of 2009. The alliance includes Cambridge, Oxford, Berkeley and other leading research universities. The conference was a briefing session for the COP-15 international treaty negotiations that occurred in Copenhagen in November of 2009. Our presentation was very well received.  We are now guest editing an edition of the Journal of Urbanism, which will include this and several other papers all subject to peer review).  We will continue with this very important work.

We continue to lead efforts of the USA chapter of INTBAU, a patronage of the Prince of Wales dedicated to heritage preservation, and new construction that preserves and builds upon traditional fabric and cultures. After our chapter launch in New Orleans, we did a second annual conference in Chicago, and a third one in Baltimore. (Meanwhile, our monitoring and support of work in New Orleans continues.)  We have been fortunate to partner with Restore Media on these conferences, the pubishers of Traditional Building magazine.  Our conference is part of a larger conference, called the Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference.   (More information at

We have recently been planning our fourth annual conference, to be held in Chicago October 22-23, also with Restore Media. We believe INTBAU is an important voice for a more resilient, adaptive approach to sustainability, and we look forward to its continuing growth, and the growth of the USA chapter, which is the largest.  (We just passed 800 members.)

We also continue our work with the research consortium called the “Environmental Structure Research Group.” (See e.g. Most recently, several members co-authored a paper presented at the Congress for the New Urbanism, to develop a “unified model” of neighborhood structure in relation to transportation. This has been an important debate within the New Urbanism movement, and within the transportation engineering profession. At our session we had leaders from both, and we agreed to continue this important collaboration. Participants included Doug Farr, leader in “green architecture” and a co-developer of LEED-ND, and Rick Hall, a transportation engineer working closely with the Institute of Transportation Engineers on their highly influential new manual standards for street design.

We are also collaborating with ESRG member Andres Duany and other colleagues on several projects, including a new “module” for his award-winning “Smart Code,” an “anti-sprawl” zoning code that has been adopted by a number of cities across the US, including San Antonio, Miami and many others. It has also been adopted in several places in Europe. We are working on a module that will incorporate some of the work of Christopher Alexander on so-called "generative processes.” These are thought to be important in creating more sustainable, more livable, and more beautiful neighborhoods.

In April we also completed the second pilot phase ("EDUAC") for the European School of Urbanism and Architecture, a pilot project funded by the EU’s Leonardo da Vinci program in lifelong learning. The curriculum is designed for continuing education of professionals, students and craftspeople in the most recent techniques and best practices of sustainable urban development and heritage conservation.

In May we co-sponsored and hosted our collaborator Andres Duany for a series of symposia, meetings and speaking engagements in Portland.  They included a presentation and discussion at Metro (with Andres, Michael Mehaffy and Laurence Qamar, Metro Councilor Carlotta Colette, and participation by Metro councilors and staff); a meeting and tour with the City of Portland Planning staff on the new "20 minute neighborhood" concept and a particular challenge in the SE 122nd area; a lecture session at the University of Oregon, on the SmartCode and other form-based codes; a series of meetings and tours at the City of Damascus examining urbanization concepts; and a presentation at the annual meeting of the Oregon chapter of the American Planning Association, on his work on the Transect and the SmartCode, which has been adopted by Miami, San Antonio and other cities in the US and Europe.

An article from the Metro website:

(Additional photos of the symposia and events: 

We also look forward to important synergies with our project consultancies, and the ability to cross-pollinate important benefits. These include new technologies for sustainable buildings and urbanism, new financial instruments, and other new strategies and insights.

An overview of our activities for the year to date:

Facilitated Collaborations

Presentations and Symposia

Essays, papers and book chapters

As always, we welcome suggestions about our work and the ways that we might develop more effective collaborations. And as always, we are very grateful for any and all collaborations, and the other support, that make the work on these urgent topics possible!