Conservation Design Similar Concepts

Supporting and similar concepts

Although CMAP is focusing on conservation design, there are many similar and supporting concepts that could be used in conjunction with conservation design. The following sections touch on LEED-Buildings, LEED-Neighborhood Design, Eco-villages, Low-impact Development, Smart Growth and New Urbanism.

LEED for Buildings

Changing the ways we design, build and operate our buildings and infrastructure is perhaps the most powerful way we can address the environmental challenges facing cities as well as the planet. In the United States, buildings account for 70% of all electric consumption, 39% of carbon dioxide emissions and 30% of landfill waste. In addition green buildings improve human health and productivity and make good economic sense. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating Systemâ„¢ is a nationally recognized and widely applied third party certification program operated by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED certification projects can be found in every U.S. state as well as 69 countries around the world. This holistic green building rating system measures performance in 5 key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality (USGBC website).

LEED for Neighborhood Development

The U.S. Green Building Council, the Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Natural Resource Defense council have come together to develop the first national set of standards for neighborhood location and design based on the combined principles of smart growth, new urbanism, and green building. LEED-ND will continue to incorporate the same values and credits offered in the previous LEED products but in a much broader neighborhood scale to include new residential, commercial and mixed use developments. Additional emphasis will be placed on site selection and the relationships between the individual sites and the neighborhood and surrounding landscape as a whole. The three keys areas for certification are: smart location and linkage, neighborhood pattern and design, and green construction and technology (USGBC website).


Eco-villages entail a more holistic approach to low-impact living in both urban and rural communities. Residents of eco-villages integrate social/community, ecological and cultural/spiritual realms into one community using various techniques including ecological design and building, permaculture, green production, alternative energy and community building practices (Global ecovillage network).

Robert Gilman in The Eco-village Challenge defines an eco-village as a "human-scale, full-featured settlement, in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world, in a way that is supportive of healthy human development and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future." In most cases food is grown onsite, power is provided by renewables (solar, wind, etc.), wastes are processed and reused on the land (organic and wastewater) and there is extensive recycling. Eco-villages in modern industrial societies usually have 100 or fewer residents however there are variations found worldwide. The main idea is to live a reduced ecological footprint lifestyle but still maintain the functions of modern society (Gilman, 2008).

Low-Impact Development

Perhaps the most closely linked concept to conservation design is low-impact development. The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines Low Impact Development (LID) as a set of practices that can be used to reduce runoff and pollutant loadings by managing the runoff as close to its source(s) as possible. LID promotes the use of natural ecosystems. In addition cost savings manifest themselves in less infrastructure, since the volume of runoff is manage naturally within ecosystems via infiltration and evapotranspiration. Conservation design incorporates several LID practices, including infiltration and filtration practices, runoff storage and conveyance practices and low impact landscaping. Often LID and conservation design techniques can be used interchangeably (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2007; Guillette, 2007).

Smart Growth

Smart growth is an initiative that matured from the growing concern regarding conventional, low-density development patterns. The abandonment of existing infrastructure, rising development costs, degradation of prime farmland and growing commutes to work have led communities to look for alternatives. Smart Growth, which recognizes the connection between development and quality of life, positions itself as one of those alternatives. Even though Smart Growth communities are often different in the detail, the core principles for each development are uniform. These communities are more town-centered, transit and pedestrian oriented, and have a greater mix of housing, commercial and retail uses when compared to conventional growth which often separates functions and is more car-reliant and isolated (Smart Growth Network).

New Urbanism

New Urbanism is a development design alternative similar to Smart Growth but can be considered more of a movement that promotes and calls for a return to traditional city and village centers. These centers incorporate diversity in terms of both mixed use and population, promotes pedestrian, public transit and car accessibility, public open space and historical, environmental and agriculture preservation. Communities are scaled to be walkable, compact and interactive (Congress for the New Urbanism, 1996). While New Urbanism is "best known (and often stereotyped) for its work at the neighborhood and town scale," in many ways its Charter was aimed at a regional strategy (Congress for the New Urbanism, 1996). As a result, in New Urbanism, truly natural areas are generally found on the periphery of the region, while its more immediate green spaces are more likely to be urban parks. By contrast, conservation design encourages smaller-scale natural areas that are more immediate and accessible to adjacent clustered development. It is reasonable to suggest that a hybrid of the two similar strategies could yield design strategies especially well-suited to a more urban version of conservation design development than is typically the case today.