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Is Smart Growth Really So Smart?

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Mitigating Climate Change

Part of the book series: Springer Environmental Science and Engineering ((SPRINGERENVIRON))


The world’s population has been growing at an exponential rate, increasing demands on energy and resource use and contributing to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and pollution. This increase in population has been primarily in urban areas. In developed countries, 75 % of the population already lives in cities and for every 1 % increase in urban population, energy consumption increases by 2.2 % (WBCSD in Energy efficiency in buildings: Business realities and opportunities. Atar Roto Presse SA, Switzerland, 2008). Clearly we are moving towards a crisis if we continue traditional methods of development. So how can cities accommodate this growth in a sustainable manner? One movement to address these issues has become increasingly popular with urban planners, environmentalists and some developers: “smart growth” (Downs, J Am Plann Assoc 71(4):367–380, 2005). This chapter will begin with a definition and overview of smart growth to familiarize readers with its basic premise and will then provide arguments both for and against implementation. Implementations will be reviewed and their results assessed, with a focus on Canadian data. Based on the data reviewed, it is the position of the author that smart growth has not achieved its intended results. This is due to both implementation issues well as with smart growth theory itself. Conflicting planning guidelines, localized authority and consumer preference have been the primary contributors preventing effective implementation, while smart growth theory has a limited approach to environmental and ecological issues. It is suggested that in better engaging stakeholders, transitioning toward regional planning and incorporating complementary initiatives, smart growth would more effectively realize the three objectives of sustainable development.

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    While it is beyond the scope of this chapter to discuss these existing programs in detail, for further information, visit CaGBC’s “Programs” page at


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Correspondence to Dana Coble .

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© 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

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Coble, D. (2013). Is Smart Growth Really So Smart?. In: Khare, A., Beckman, T. (eds) Mitigating Climate Change. Springer Environmental Science and Engineering. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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