What is an Ecocity?

An ecologically healthy city

An ecocity is “a human settlement modeled on the self-sustaining resilient structure and function of natural ecosystems.”

Here is a longer working definition by Ecocity Builders and the International Ecocity Framework & Standards (IEFS) advisory team.

An Ecocity is a human settlement modeled on the self sustaining resilient structure and function of natural ecosystems. The ecocity provides healthy abundance to its inhabitants without consuming more (renewable) resources than it produces, without producing more waste than it can assimilate, and without being toxic to itself or neighboring ecosystems. Its inhabitants’ ecological impact reflect planetary supportive lifestyles; its social order reflects fundamental principles of fairness, justice and reasonable equity.

— February 20th, 2010, Vancouver, Canada


The ecocity concept can be traced back to 1975 with the Berkeley-based non-profit Urban Ecology. Founded by Richard Register and a group of visionary architects and activists, Urban Ecology supported urban design concepts that integrated urban planning, ecology and citizen participation. 

Furthering these experiences, Register coined the term “ecocity” in his 1987 book “Ecocity Berkeley: Building Cities for a Healthy Future.” 

In 1992, Register founded Ecocity Builders. Ecocity Builders remains the steward of the International Ecocity Conference Series, now known as Ecocity World Summit. This series is the longest running conference on ecocities and urban ecology. 

Ecocity Standards

Ecocity Builders facilitates a framework that enables participating cities to assess their overall ecological health and performance. Designed for a wide range of stakeholders, the Ecocity Framework & Standards charts a city’s steps forward along eighteen conditions organized through four fundamental urban arenas: urban design, bio-geo-physical conditions, ecological imperatives, and socio-cultural conditions.