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Sustainability at the block level promotes integration of local climatic conditions, topography, soil conditions, and available regional materials. The block composition should consider opportunities for local food, reuse/sharing of resources, and orientation of building forms.


Consider heating/cooling methods for building orientation and form.

Consider block level technologies, resources, equipment, and infrastructure.

Understand regional building materials and construction techniques.

Consider Light Imprint toolkit for managing stormwater on a block level.

Consider ability for dwelling units to grow and/or process food.

Understand alternative transportation options.


Consider solar control methods such as south facing porches and building heights. Understand available energy technology options and apply as appropriate.

Place hose bibs on porches, design closets for gardening tool storage

Limit buildings to 10 minute vertical walking distance: not to exceed 5 stories.

Reduce parking requirements where possible for economic and sustainability reasons.

Proper placement of yards and gardens with regard to necessary sun/light needs.

Accommodate alternative transportation options by providing block and neighborhood transit stops, bike storage, car charging stations, etc.

Sustainability Applications


Sustainability at the block level is an important concept to incorporate into block design. Street design is one way to implement these environmentally sensible ideas. Material selection, as well as the overall composition of plantings, gutters/drainage-ways and paving is crucial to the sustainability of a street. The example above shows how using a pervious paving material, such as gravel, can be simple solution to mitigate water runoff. The street trees, and drain detailing celebrate the sensitive nature of this design. The street trees could also be incorporated as an agricultural amenity for the residents. Sensitivity to solar orientation is also evident; there are abundant plants thriving on one side of the street, but none on the other.


The ability to accommodate change and growth within a block is an important aspect of sustainability. Having room to grow and build additional flexible structures such as sheds, garages, or workshops is a wise planning tool to incorporate. The image above shows how a simple structure could be built on a site to allow for craft or retail opportunities to be sold from home. This could include agricultural goods grown on-site as well.


Utilizing space within a block to meet some basic food needs is an important aspect of the design. By using space in the most efficient manner, small gardening opportunities are available through a variety of methods. These can be collaborative, such as a community/allotment gardens, shared courtyards or roof decks. They can also be individual and on-site, using patios, balconies, roof decks, window boxes and containers. The image above shows how small raised planting beds are utilized as a perimeter design element, allowing the center of the courtyard to have a different function.

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