Kaid Benfield

Kaid Benfield is the Director of Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth, at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He is the co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and the Smart Growth America coalition; and author of Once There Were Greenfields (NRDC 1999), Solving Sprawl (Island Press 2001), Smart Growth In a Changing World (APA Planners Press 2007), Green Community (APA Planners Press 2009). He was voted one of the "top urban thinkers" in 2009 poll on Planetizen.com and named one of "the most influential people in sustainable planning and development" in 2010 by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

Urbanism

Five provocative ways to think about cities and neighborhoods

Want to be more mindful of your city? Here are some great suggestions on how to make that happen.

Sprawl

Which part of Detroit really needs to be ‘right-sized’?

Photo: Trey CampbellCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. At the bottom of this post are two short videos about Detroit, both featuring architect and planner Mark Nickita, principal of the city’s Archive Design Studio and a lifelong Detroit resident. In a very refreshing change from the mind-numbing negativity one usually hears about the city, Nickita is upbeat and hopeful. His point of view, emphasizing revitalization, is much closer to my own than much of what I read, which effectively takes the approach that the city has somehow been abandoned beyond redemption, leaving the only question how to manage its more-or-less …

Urbanism

A Seattle development that is greener than green

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Leave it to a city famous for coffee and rain to produce possibly the best example of transit-oriented urbanism, natural public space, and green stormwater infrastructure I have ever seen. This Seattle redevelopment is green in so many ways that it is hard to know where to start. Maybe we should start with the parking lot, because that’s what the whole nine-acre site was before redevelopment began. Ugly. Horrible for the environment. A complete waste of urban space: Before.Photo: Landscape Architecture Foundation The site is in an area that is transitioning from automobile-oriented …

Smart Cities

How smart growth reduces emissions

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Rob Steuteville has posted a terrific analysis on the New Urban Network rebutting the claim by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) that “the existing body of research demonstrates no clear link between residential land use and greenhouse-gas emissions.” Rob responds with Todd Litman’s excellent research and writing [PDF] on the subject, along with the great mapping from the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) of CO2 emissions per household for every metro area in the U.S. As Rob points out, CNT’s research shows a very consistent geography in just about every region: The …

Sprawl

Suburban corporate campuses are going out of fashion

Is the corporate suburban stampede finally reversing? Photo: KevinCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. In the late 1990s, when Don Chen, Matt Raimi, and I were researching our book, Once There Were Greenfields, we lamented the flight of business from America’s central cities to increasingly outer suburbs and farmland. In that book we frequently turned for data to metropolitan Chicago where, for example, Ameritech had built a half-mile-long “landscraper” near O’Hare Airport far from the Loop, Motorola had set up camp in Schaumberg, and Sears had fled the iconic Sears Tower for Hoffman Estates. Now, just as the tide …

Urbanism

The man who thinks Manhattan isn’t dense enough

New York City may not be the best example of a place that hasn’t lived up to its potential for greater density.Photo: Randy von LiskiCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. New York County, which comprises all of Manhattan, is the densest county in America at 71,166 people per square mile. It is twice as dense as No. 2, Brooklyn (which, incidentally, is followed by two more New York City counties, Bronx and Queens, at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively). Manhattan is over four times as dense as No. 5 San Francisco. This makes me wonder about Ed Glaeser, a …