Communities that are pursuing sustainability face issues that take creativity, resources and support over a long period of time to be successful. The community planning process is an essential way to identify these issues and build the capacity to implement solutions.
In 2009 evolveEA began working with community leaders to examine opportunities for greening the upcoming Friendship’s future Master Plan. Building on strengths of the existing community plan, evolveEA developed a green overlay strategy for the future of Friendship and helped to envision the potential for a green, vibrant and low carbon neighborhood. The “green overlay” illustrated the potential for a process that aggregates the benefits of sustainable design in Friendship, and included a decision making module for sustainable initiative prioritization for use in any community planning process.
Community planning for a greener future
Our process, based on a successful community planning programs in London and Portland, was developed for three reasons. First, the Friendship community had five years of successful master plan implementation under their belt and were excited to consider use of new indicators. Second, many community planning processes do not consider sustainability as a central priority in master planning. Lastly, the overlay would provide the opportunity for new types of measureable goals and indicators to track progress over time.
The Pittsburgh region has a number of city-wide or regional plans, such as the Climate Action Plan, that contain several sustainability directives for communities within the region; however, they often lack a mandate, legislation, and funding streams for communities and neighborhoods to pursue identified strategies with limited resources. As funding streams shift from federal and state levels, increased local capacity to identify and manage funding streams is increasingly important. Communities with strong planning goals and well developed organizational capacity will be best suited to take advantage of this new opportunity.
Friendship Green and neighborhood support tools
Working with Friendship Development Associates, Friendship Preservation Group and Councilman Bill Peduto, we engaged a number of community stakeholders and developed materials to begin a community dialog process. evolveEA also began brainstorming concepts around each of the Key Performance Indicators for the creation of a more sustainable neighborhood over the next five years.
The evolve overlay would leverage the impact through the aggregation of several simultaneous improvements; an effort that would make a far bigger impact that working with one building at a time. Our strategy illustrated how a neighborhood could integrate existing community planning processes with green principles and allow communities to think on a larger scale. While our plan considered the importance of economic development, which is a goal of every community plan, it refocused the issues on sustainable strategies and community capacity building, education and involvement.
Many of evolveEA’s recommendations focused on housing, the business community and existing infrastructure improvements. As examples we recommended a meta-analysis of housing stock which considered the age of buildings, whether they were insulated, how they were metered and asked residents to participate in energy reduction initiatives. We also suggested the development of a revolving loan fund that would allow participants to apply for small loans under existing financial assistance programs. For businesses, we developed a green membership program that would help brand the neighborhood as a green business friendly area. This initial concept eventually led to the collaboration and development of Greener Expressions, a Pittsburgh wide clearinghouse for green resources.
Friendship Green, a foundation for evolveEA’s future thinking
In working to develop Friendship’s first green overlay concept it informed our thinking on the potential and future of green community planning. The opportunity to create macro scale changes toward more sustainable communities—not just buildings or projects—truly exists. The development of living communities or net zero neighborhood districts within regions and cities illustrates the potential for long term vibrancy and greater resilience in our urban centers.