Smart Growth

Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities

Smart Growth Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities
This video from EPA describes how a walkability audit — one of the Building Blocks tools  was conducted in Blue Springs, Missouri.This video from Housing & Community Solutions, Inc. (HCSI) describes how community members in the 26th Ward of St. Louis, MO worked with HCSI to apply for technical assistance through EPA's Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program. A walkability audit was conducted in the 26th Ward as part of this technical assistance.

Background

Many communities around the country are asking for tools to help them achieve their desired development goals, improve quality of life, and become more economically and environmentally sustainable. In response to this demand, EPA developed the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program.

Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities provides quick, targeted technical assistance to selected communities using a variety of tools that have demonstrated results and widespread application. The purpose of delivering these tools is to stimulate a discussion about growth and development and strengthen local capacity to implement sustainable approaches.

A tool includes:

  • An agenda, presentations, and exercises that help facilitate discussion around a given topic.
  • Data or information from the community that can be analyzed, helping to drive a conversation.
  • An action-oriented process that leads to a set of potential next steps.

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Assistance from EPA

Technical assistance is delivered by EPA staff and EPA-hired consultant teams. Each technical assistance project includes:

  • Public engagement through a one- to two-day workshop.
  • Direct consultation with relevant decision-makers.
  • A memo outlining specific steps the community could take to implement the ideas generated during the workshop.

Learn more on our Frequently Asked Questions page.

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Tools Offered

EPA offers a variety of tools through the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program. Not every tool is offered in every round. Once EPA has used a tool in several communities, the tool will be refined to create a product that any community can use with limited outside assistance.

  • Bikeshare Planning: Helps communities lay the groundwork to establish a bikeshare system, discussing feasibility, system planning, business plans, system operations, and health, safety, and social equity.
  • Complete Streets: Teaches communities how to set investment priorities, draft policies, and implement changes to make their streets safe and appealing to all users, including drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders.
  • Creating a Green Streets Strategy: Helps communities begin to develop strategies for greening their streets by adapting national best practices and case studies to their local context.
  • Flood Resilience for Riverine and Coastal Communities: Helps communities adapt to climate change and plan for disaster resilience by auditing local plans, policies, and development regulations. For more information on flood resilience, please see our Flood Resilience Checklist.
  • Green Building Toolkit: Helps local governments identify policies that support compact development that features sustainably built homes and other buildings.
  • Infill Development for Distressed Cities: Helps local governments in distressed communities identify obstacles to development in their downtown core and strategies for overcoming those obstacles. The tool is based on Attracting Infill Development in Distressed Cities: 30 Strategies.
  • Land Use Strategies to Protect Water Quality: Helps local governments examine land use approaches to green infrastructure that manage stormwater.
  • Neighborhood Planning for Healthy Aging: Explores the role of supportive neighborhood design in creating great places for aging residents.
  • Parking Audit: Evaluates local parking policies and offers advice on parking management strategies, drawing from successful strategies in other communities.
  • Preferred Growth Areas: Offers a process for communities to review values, opportunities, tools, and constraints to determine the most environmentally beneficial locations for growth.
  • Smart Growth Guidelines for Sustainable Design and Development: Helps the community understand the key principles and decisions at the location, site, and building levels that can result in a more sustainable plan or development proposal. The tool is based on Smart Growth Guidelines for Sustainable Design and Development.
  • Supporting Equitable Development: Helps communities evaluate their needs around equitable development and identify strategies to manage neighborhood change and support community goals around housing, culture, and local businesses.
  • Sustainability Strategies for Small Cities and Rural Areas: Uses EPA's Small Town and Rural Code and Zoning Audit Tool to identify barriers to smart growth in local development codes, programs, initiatives, and policies to help small cities and towns achieve their goals for sustainable development patterns and economic growth.
  • Sustainable Land Use Code Audit: Evaluates local land use codes, including zoning and subdivision regulations, for opportunities to incorporate community sustainability goals, remove barriers, and create incentives.
  • Using Smart Growth to Produce Fiscal and Economic Health: Helps communities evaluate how to get better economic results from private development and public investments.
  • Walking Audit: Guides communities in assessing the pedestrian environment and forming a vision for short- and long-term improvements to sidewalks and streets. This tool, completed in 2012, is now online: Walkability Workbook (PDF) Exit.

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Communities Selected in 2015

In January 2015, EPA selected 22 communities in 18 states to receive Building Blocks assistance. Five tools were offered:

  • Bikeshare Planning: Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Fresno, California; Passaic County, New Jersey; St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Infill Development in Distressed Communities: Canton, Mississippi; Danville, Illinois; Marysville, Washington; Terre Haute, Indiana
  • Flood Resilience for Riverine and Coastal Communities: Mobile, Alabama; Newburyport, Massachusetts; New Paltz, New York; Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, California; Scituate, Massachusetts
  • Sustainable Strategies for Small Cities and Rural Areas: Damariscotta, Maine; Nederland, Colorado; Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Wisconsin; Steamboat Springs, Colorado
  • Supporting Equitable Development: Asheville, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; Polk County, Iowa; Prichard, Alabama

No communities were selected in 2014.

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Communities Selected in 2013

In February 2013, EPA selected 42 communities in 27 states to receive Building Blocks assistance. Nine tools were offered:

  • Creating a Green Streets Strategy: Bellevue, Nebraska; Dayton, Ohio; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Lynchburg, Virginia; Maui, Hawaii
  • Green Building Toolkit: Boise, Idaho; Vinton, Texas
  • Land Use Strategies to Protect Water Quality: Atchison, Kansas; Beaverton, Oregon; Caddo, Louisiana; Dubuque, Iowa; Gun Lake Tribe, Michigan; Jersey City, New Jersey; Lake Zurich, Illinois; Petersburg, Virginia; Washoe Tribe, Nevada
  • Neighborhood Planning for Healthy Aging: Chattanooga, Tennessee; Inyo County, California; Pompano Beach, Florida; Seneca Nation, New York
  • Parking Audit: Brunswick, Maine; Carpinteria, California; Lawrence, Kansas
  • Planning Bikeshare Programs: Bridgeport, Connecticut; Denver, Colorado; Fort Collins, Colorado; New Orleans, Louisiana; Portland, Maine
  • Supporting Equitable Development: Atlanta, Georgia; Buffalo, New York; Stamford, Connecticut; Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Sustainable Strategies for Small Cities and Rural Areas: Bowling Green, Florida; Brattleboro, Vermont; Maui, Hawaii; Murray, Kentucky; New Castle, Delaware; Vinton, Texas; Williamson, New York; Yurok Tribe, California; Zolfo Springs, Florida
  • Using Smart Growth to Produce Economic and Fiscal Health: Fargo, North Dakota; Lake Worth, Florida; Omaha, Nebraska

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Communities Selected in 2012

In 2012, EPA selected 56 communities in 26 states to receive technical assistance through the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program.

  • Complete Streets: Binghamton, New York; Burlington, Vermont; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Modesto, California; Pocatello, Idaho; and Roxbury, Massachusetts.
  • Green Building Toolkit: Dunwoody, Georgia and Niles, Illinois.
  • Green Streets Strategy: East Lansing, Michigan; Passaic County, New Jersey; Northampton, Massachusetts; and Surprise, Arizona.
  • Linking Land Use to Water Quality: Campton Hills, Lakemoor, and Round Lake Heights, Illinois.
  • Parking Audits: Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Greensburg, Pennsylvania; Hennepin County, Minnesota; Holyoke, Massachusetts; Roanoke, Virginia; Simsbury, Connecticut; and Trenton, New Jersey.
  • Preferred Growth Areas: Dickinson, New England, and Richardton, North Dakota.
  • Smart Growth Guidelines for Sustainable Design and Development: Greensboro, North Carolina; Hazel Crest, Lansing, and Olympia Fields, Illinois; and Salina, Kansas.
  • Smart Growth Zoning Codes for Small Cities and Rural Areas: Dallas Center, Iowa; Hays, Kansas; Marietta, Pennsylvania; Onondaga County, New York; Onslow County, North Carolina; University City, Missouri; Van Meter, Iowa; Wakulla County, Florida; and Woodward, Iowa.
  • Sustainable Land Use Code Audit: St. Joseph, Missouri.
  • Using Smart Growth to Produce Fiscal and Economic Health: Fall River, Massachusetts; Henderson, Nevada; Kelso, Washington; Northampton County, Pennsylvania; Stony Point, New York; and Topeka, Kansas.
  • Walking Audit: Blue Springs, Missouri; Contra Costa County, California; Corpus Christi, Texas; Daytona Beach, Florida; Jackson, Michigan; Jersey City, New Jersey; Lewes, Delaware; Newtown Borough, Pennsylvania; Olympia, Washington; and Port Arthur, Texas.

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Communities Selected in 2011

In 2011, EPA selected 32 communities from two sources to receive Building Blocks assistance.

  • Complete Streets: McKinney, Texas; Nashville/Davidson, Tennessee; Portland, Maine; and Wichita, Kansas.
  • Preferred Growth Areas: Bluffton, South Carolina; Ranson, West Virginia; and Rockport, Texas.
  • Smart Growth Guidelines for Sustainable Design and Development: Hellertown, Pennsylvania; Kayenta Township, Arizona; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Syracuse, New York.
  • Smart Growth Zoning Codes for Small Cities and Rural Areas: Cambridge, Maryland; Essex, Connecticut; Reedsburg, Wisconsin; and Spencer, North Carolina.
  • Sustainable Land Use Code Audit: Dover, New Hampshire; Granville, Ohio; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Shelburne, Vermont.
  • Using Smart Growth to Produce Fiscal and Economic Health: Bemidji, Minnesota; Chelmsford, Massachusetts; Deerfield Beach, Florida; Erie County, New York; Muskegon, Michigan; and Pike's Peak Council of Governments, Colorado.
  • Walking Audit: Helena, Montana; Renton, Washington; and St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Linking Land Use to Water Quality: Fitchburg, Wisconsin, and Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.

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Assistance from Grantees

In addition to the EPA Building Blocks assistance described on this page, EPA provides grants to nonprofit organizations to provide similar assistance to communities. Learn more about assistance from the grantees.

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Other Tools and Technical Assistance Programs

Please see our Tools page and Technical Assistance page for additional resources.

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