Resource Library


Smart Climate Action Through Transfer of Development Rights

By Rick Pruetz, VP, Ecocity Builders

Land use is essential to climate action. We need diverse, compact communities where people can meet their daily needs without a car. We need to preserve our farms, forests, and wetlands, as well as maximize their ability to sequester carbon. We need to secure the embedded energy in older buildings, safeguard our water, restore biodiversity, and adapt to the growing threat from wildfires, floods, and sea level rise. By accomplishing any one of these goals, we often receive many other benefits in addition to the mitigation of greenhouse gases and adaptation to the growing threats of climate change.

Transfer of development rights, or TDR, is a cost-effective way of steering growth away from places needed for climate action and into locations where development can be safely and efficiently accommodated. Unlike other preservation tools, TDR is primarily powered by private sector profits rather than taxation. In addition, jurisdictions themselves can engage in the TDR process to transform a limited investment into a perpetual revolving fund for preservation.

Smart Climate Action profiles 282 TDR programs and highlights how this market-based tool can and has been used to preserve greenbelts, forests, farms, wetlands, and landmarks as well as reduce vulnerability to wildfire, floods, sea level rise, and water scarcity. Developing a successful TDR program requires extensive community engagement and political will. However, the cost of using TDR for climate action remains much lower than the cost of inaction.

Rick Pruetz is a former city planner and planning consultant who continues to write about sustainability in general and TDR in particular. He has authored six books including Lasting Value: Open Space Planning and Preservation Successes and Ecocity Snapshots: Learning from Europe’s Greenest Places.

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World Rescue – An Economics Built on What We Build

world-rescueBy Richard Register

Climate change? Biodiversity collapse? Failed states proliferating? Design yourself! Build our future! Richard Register’s new book takes off and goes right to the physical foundations of society, built on biology, built on planet Earth, bathed in the sun’s life-giving glare. Nature’s economics is the foundation for human economics, he says, and survival and thriving hangs in the balance.

The Ecocity Coloring Book

ecocity-coloringA Sketchbook of Ecocity Visions by Richard Register

Richard Register is as much an artist as he is a writer and activist. The Ecocity Coloring Book includes dozens of imaginative depictions of his ecological urban philosophies and visions. Add your ecocity embellishments to his ideas!

EcoCities: Rebuilding Cities in Balance with Nature

ecocitiesBy Richard Register

Ecocities is about re-building cities and towns based on ecological principles for the long term sustainability, cultural vitality and health of the Earth’s biosphere. Unique in the literature is the book’s insight that the form of the city really matters – and that it is within our ability to change it, and crucial that we do.

Ecocity Berkeley

ecocity-berkeleyBy Richard Register

Ecocity Berkeley offers innovative city planning solutions that would work anywhere, but the book offers a vision of what the future can be like with a fair amount of planning beforehand. This inspirational book is meant for anyone interested in environmental activism, and anyone looking to advocate for similar planning improvements in their city.

Village Wisdom: Future Cities

village-wisdomEdited by Richard Register and Brady Peaks

Village Wisdom is an incredible presentation of real-world solutions for population and environmental issues now faced all over the world, summarizing information presented at ECOCITY 3. It includes examples of design, planning, appropriate technology, and social and environmental activism in contemporary Africa and around the world.

Sustainable Cities: Governing for Urban Innovation

sustainable-citiesBy Simon Joss

In an era where entirely new eco-cities are being built and established ones being retro-fitted in response to environmental pressures, this text looks at the varying successes of the urban sustainability movement and its relationship to the planners, policy-makers and citizens who are inseparable from it. In this wide-ranging text, Simon Joss examines mainstream policy and practice and looks at the approaches that can overcome some of their drawbacks.

Tomorrow’s City Today: Prospects for Standardising Sustainable Urban Development

tomorrows-citySimon Joss, Robert Cowley, Martin de Jong, Bernhard Muller, Buhm Soon Park, William Rees, Mark Roseland, Dr. Yvonne Rydin

This research report provides a conceptual and empirical overview of the emerging field of eco-city frameworks. It conceptualises the rise of indicators, standards and frameworks for sustainable urban development from the twin perspective of innovation and governance. The empirical research encompasses over 40 frameworks used globally.

Ecopolis: Architecture and Cities for a Changing Climate

ecopolisBy Paul F. Downton

From 2008, for the first time in human history, half of the world’s population now live in cities. Yet despite a wealth of literature on green architecture and planning, there is to date no single book which draws together theory from the full range of disciplines – from architecture, planning and ecology – which we must come to grips with if we are to design future cities which are genuinely sustainable. Paul Downton’s Ecopolis takes a major step along this path.

Ecocity Snapshots: Learning from Europe’s Greenest Places

tdr handbookBy Rick Pruetz

Europe’s greenest places offer hope for a positive outcome. The 19 cities profiled in this book are reintroducing greenways and stream corridors into the urban landscape, often in ways that assist with floodwater management and biodiversity while reconnecting people with their environment. These cities are building compact, diverse neighborhoods that can easily be navigated on foot or by bicycle and public transportation. They are turning brownfields into ecodistricts that expand the limits of closed-loop energy, waste and water systems. They are cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and pursuing a carbon-free future by fueling district heating and power systems using wind, water, geothermal, biomass and other innovative technologies.

The TDR Handbook: Designing and Implementing Transfer of Development Rights Programs

tdr handbookBy Rick Pruetz

The TDR Handbook provides a comprehensive guide to every aspect of TDR programs, from the thinking behind them to the nuts and bolts of implementation-including statutory guidance, model ordinances, suggestions for program administration, and comparisons with other types of preservation programs. In addition, six of its twenty chapters are devoted to case studies of all major uses to which TDR programs have been utilized to date, including recent urban revitalization projects that utilize TDR principles.

Dynamics and Resilience of Informal Areas: International Perspectives

dynamicsresilienceEdited by Sahar Attia, Shahdan Shabka, Zeinab Shafik, & Asmaa Abdel Aty Mohamed Ibrahim

This volume provides visionary approaches within the multi-disciplines engaged with informal settlements covering three main themes; ‘Innovative Policies and Strategies to Informal Urbanism’; ‘Production, Operation and the Life-World of Urban Space’ and finally ‘The Dynamics of Informal Settlements’.

Our Ecological Footprint – Reducing Human Impact on the Earth

ecological-footprintBy Mathis Wackernagel & William Rees

Our Ecological Footprint presents an internationally-acclaimed tool for measuring and visualizing the resources required to sustain our households, communities, regions and nations, converting the seemingly complex concepts of carrying capacity, resource-use, waste-disposal and the like into a graphic form that everyone can grasp and use.

Resilience in Ecology and Urban Design: Linking Theory and Practice for Sustainable Cities

resilience-ecologyEdited by S.T.A. Pickett, M.L. Cadenasso, Brian McGrath

The contributors to this volume propose strategies of urgent and vital importance that aim to make today’s urban environments more resilient. Resilience, the ability of complex systems to adapt to changing conditions, is a key frontier in ecological research and is especially relevant in creative urban design, as urban areas exemplify complex systems.


An urban metabolism and ecological footprint assessment of Metro Vancouver

Jennie Moore, Meidad Kissinger, William E. Rees
Journal of Environmental Management

Getting to One-Planet Living

Jennie Moore and William E. Rees
Chapter 4, State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? World Watch Institute Publication

Ecocity mapping using GIS: introducing a planning method for assessing and improving neighborhood vitality.

Kirstin Miller and Richard Smith
Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education and Action. Vol 7., Issue 1, (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013)

“Smart City”: A Regressive Agenda?

Simon Joss
History of Science and Technology, Annual Meeting 2016

One Planet Living: A Tale of Three UK Urban Sustainability Initiatives

Simon Joss
Conference: Sustainable Innovation 2014: Cities & Regions as Catalysts for Smart & Sustainable Innovation, At Copenhagen, DK, Volume: page 114-188

Tomorrow’s City Today: Eco-City Indicators, Standards and Frameworks.

Simon Joss
Bellagio Conference Report


How a Peer-to-Peer Approach is Transforming Urban Systems Around the World: An Example from Cusco

By Sven Eberlein, The Nature of Cities
Ecocity Builders Communications Director argues that the transformation from an extractive to a regenerative city can only take place with the input and buy-in from as broad a coalition of stakeholders as possible. He uses Ecocity Builders’ Urbinsight project, a model piloted in cities around the world to bring together community leaders, local government, academia, open data, and citizens to re-envision their urban spaces, as a real world example for such a transformation.

Community-generated data crucial for implementing New Urban Agenda

By Brendon Bosworth, Citiscope
This article makes the case for why our Urbinsight participatory mapping and planning platform is such an important piece in the puzzle to implement the kind of “institutionalized mechanisms for sharing and exchanging information, knowledge and expertise” that the New Urban Agenda calls for.

Bridging the GAP: What are researchers, academics bringing to the New Urban Agenda?

By Gregory Scruggs, Citiscope
Ecocity Builders Board Member Dr. Sahar Attia comments on the critical contribution that the academic community can make to the conversation about urbanization. “We spend time, money and effort on teaching, researching, inventing or writing books,” she said. “Governments could benefit from these efforts. We want to share our [knowledge] production for the welfare of cities.”

Implementing Sustainable Development — 8 Tips for Cities and Citizens

By Kirstin Miller, for Medium
How do we actually implement sustainable policies and practices in order to meet the SDGs? For this answer we must turn to cities, where more than half of the world’s population now lives, and where, by 2050, two-thirds of all humans will reside. Clearly, sustainable development can’t be achieved without transforming the way we build and manage cities and urban areas.


By Simon Joss, for Modus Magazine
The completion of the first phase of Masdar, the self- proclaimed ‘world’s first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city’, towards the end of 2010 was heralded as a milestone achievement in urban sustainability. Yet if reports are to be believed, it is just one among many so-called eco-cities currently in the making.

Depaving the World

By Richard Register, for Culture Change
Maybe you’re itching to take a wide, full swing to drive the shiny steel of a nice heavy pick deep under the asphalt. You too can leverage up a satisfying big slab of that black, gooey hard stuff. I love destroying asphalt and maybe you’d like to join the party. Here’s a “how to.”

Ecocities – Setting the Standards

By Kirstin Miller & Sven Eberlein, for GreenMoney Journal
Not unlike greenwashing, “ecocity” used as a feel-good word for any town with a bike lane or a recycling program can hurt the cause of building and reclaiming an integrated urban ecosystem more than it helps. At what point then, does a city graduate from boasting a collection of “eco-scores” to becoming an actual ecocity?

So You Think Your City is Green? Introducing a Sustainable Cities Rating System

By Sven Eberlein, for Mother Earth News
Have you ever stood in the supermarket aisle, looking at rows of detergent or snacks, trying to decide which one’s packaging and ingredients would do the least environmental damage if it landed in your shopping cart? Spent endless hours calculating the benefits of keeping the old workhorse-but-power-sucking refrigerator you’ve got versus getting a new, more energy-efficient one?

What Your Garden Can Teach About Cities

By Sven Eberlein, for Mother Earth News
In the age of rapid global resource depletion, loss of biodiversity, and increasing occurrences of extreme floods and droughts caused by the burning of fossil fuels that power our energy-intensive and pollution-prone industrialized infrastructures, re-imagining our cities as living breathing organisms is no longer just a boutique thought experiment but a matter of necessity and survival.

The Urban Metabolism: Understanding Your City by Understanding its Flow

By Sven Eberlein, for Daily Kos
If we had a platform that could organize and visualize the data of the various in- and outputs of a city — food, water, energy, transportation, etc — and the conversions that happen between, you’d get an honest picture of where in the system most of the waste, pollution, and externalizations occur and which adjustments or loops might produce a more streamlined, efficient, and ecologically healthy process.