Everyday I receive messages annoucing new webinars, reports or resources.  Here is a sampling of items I received this week:


100 Urban Trends: A Glossary of Ideas from the BMW Guggenheim Lab—New York, Berlin, and Mumbai



Over the past two years, the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a mobile urban laboratory centered around the topic of life in cities today, has offered free programs and workshops and implemented urban projects in New York City (August 3–October 16, 2011), Berlin (June 15–July 29, 2012), and Mumbai (December 9–January 20, 2013). Created as a resource, 100 Urban Trends aims to identify the most talked-about trends in urban thinking, as they were discussed in these three venues. Each individual glossary offers 100 contextualized definitions that apply to the way we understand, design, and live in cities.


Integral to 100 Urban Trends is the concept of cities as “idea makers.” In cities, people come together, share their thoughts and common interests, and generate the ideas that shape our world. Dense, growing cities have been and continue to be the catalyst for human progress, powered by daily proximity among their citizens as much as anything else. Despite some of the drawbacks of such massive urban centers, they may well embody the future for human life. Today’s cities are competing to attract more people; greater urban density can mean more conflict, but it can also produce a greater diversity of viewpoints and more opportunity for positive change.


In recent years, there has been an unequivocal shift in the study of cities. Urban thinking, whether related to architecture or urbanism, has become dramatically less focused on infrastructure, and more on the ultimate goal and reason for the existence of cities — that is, the well-being of the people that inhabit them and constitute their very soul and essence. “Cluster,” “concentrate,” and “collaborate” seem to have become the three big Cs of urban thinking of late — but that story is not new. Clustering, searching for a concentration of people, and finding ways to collaborate have been part of the human experience since prehistoric times. Then, as now, people gathered in search of protection, conviviality, and exchange.


The terms presented here reflect this type of urban exchange. They are new and old, classic and ephemerally fashionable. Among them are some of urbanism’s “usual suspects,” which interestingly, keep reappearing in the urban discourse of the early twenty-first century. Each definition concludes with an example of a Lab program that illustrated the relevance and context of that term. Some terms are shared between the three glossaries, as they proved relevant in all of the Lab’s locations.


What do people talk about today when they discuss the future of cities? Many things. Find some of them here—and tell us about the Urban Trends people are talking about now in your city.

100 Urban Trends: A Glossary of Ideas from the BMW Guggenheim Lab was written by Maria Nicanor, Curator, BMW Guggenheim Lab; Amara Antilla and Stephanie Kwai, Curatorial Assistants, BMW Guggenheim Lab; and Christine McLaren, Resident Writer, BMW Guggenheim Lab.


Listening Session: EPA's Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities

Register Here

Date: June 11, 2013

Time: 3:00pm - 4:00pm EDT


EPA is creating a training program for public agencies and nonprofit organizations that provide technical assistance to communities. The training program will help staff understand EPA's Building Blocks tools and incorporate them into their technical assistance. During this listening session, EPA will gather input from key stakeholders on how best to design the training program, addressing the following questions: Who is the best target audience for this kind of training? Should it be a one-day training, two-day training, or some other format? Should training sessions be coordinated with major national conferences or held as separate events?


Sustainability Coordinator's Workshop

 Learn More Here

Date: July 31 - August 4, 2013

Location: Grand Lakes, Colorado


This four-day workshop, hosted by the National League of Cities' Sustainable Cities Institute, will address the unique sustainability needs of small to medium-size communities. Led by a team of experienced city sustainability directors, this workshop will guide participants through the concepts, challenges, strategies and opportunities to create strong, healthy and sustainable communities. City sustainability directors from Missouri, Arizona, and Colorado will lead participants through the program and share their on-the-ground experiences.


Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development


This new publication from Smart Growth America surveys 17 studies that compare different urban and suburban development scenarios. The analysis found that that smart growth development generates 10 times more tax revenue per acre than conventional suburban development, saves an average of 10 percent on ongoing delivery of services, and costs one-third less for upfront infrastructure.


Organizing to Promote Targeted Improvements in Our Neighborhoods (OPTIONs): Community Engagement Workbook  


Smart Growth America has released this new workbook designed to help encourage and aid community engagement in the brownfields redevelopment process. The workbook contains seven worksheets with instructions designed to help community groups think about how to organize, what they need, and how to build a strategy to participate in the redevelopment process.


FRED - Free Energy Database


Free Energy Data "FRED" is a new open platform to help state and local governments, energy planners and policy-makers, private industry, and others to effectively visualize, analyze and compare energy-use data to make better energy decisions and sustainable strategies. FRED gathers complex, disparate energy datasets and distills them down into simple, easy-to-understand graphics, useful to a wide audience, from expert energy planners to non-energy professionals and the interested public. FRED strives to become an open exchange where users can compare and share their own data against others in FRED, becoming a resource for energy policy decision-making. Read more about FRED here.


New Report Showcases Successful Community Engagement Tactics in 14 US Cities


A new report from the National League of Cities (NLC) released this week highlights effective community engagement efforts in 14 communities across the United States. The case studies-which focus closely on innovative work in Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Austin-show new pockets of civic energy emerging in different sectors. The report, Bright Spots in Community Engagement: Case Studies of U.S. Communities Creating Greater Civic Participation from the Bottom Up, was produced in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


EPA Lists Agencies Providing Help for Brownfields


A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency gives an overview of federal programs that assist in brownfields development and lists the type of financial and technical assistance each program offers. The 2013 Brownfields Federal Programs Guide said that since 1995, EPA's brownfields investments have leveraged more than $19.2 billion in cleanup and redevelopment funding from a variety of public and private sources and have resulted in the creation of about 86,200 jobs. The report on brownfields federal programs, posted May 22, is available at http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/partners/brownfields-federal-programs-guide-2013.pdf.


Solar Ready logo


Are you interested in adopting solar energy to create a more sustainable and resilient community? The Solar Ready II project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge, is streamlining and standardizing solar processes across the country to ultimately provide new solar market access to ten million people nationwide. To spur the adoption of solar energy in regions and communities, the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) created the Solar Ready II website. This website is a great resource for city planners and managers, community developers, utility managers, and other public works officials interested in solar energy. The solar best management practices webpage offers over 30 resources ranging from zoning code improvements, solar access ordinances, building code improvements, streamlined and standardized permits and fees, financing, and much more. Each resource links to additional information and in-depth examples.

The resources found on the BMPs’ page are categorized by three main sections: Planning Improvements, Process Improvements, and Financing.


Planning improvements codify and emphasize a jurisdiction’s support of a building owner’s right to use solar. Removing local ordinance barriers, adopting facilitating codes, and enabling solar access in new developments fosters a community that supports individual choice. There are several planning improvement resources that public works officials can use to bolster solar energy adoption, including the American Planning Association’s Integrating Solar Energy in Local Plans. This resource examines different approaches used to integrate solar energy into planning, and breaks down common, comprehensive, subarea, and functional plans to demonstrate how to incorporate solar. It also provides examples of jurisdictions that have successfully met goals, changed policies, and taken action to support simple or complex solar initiatives within a community.


Process improvements are one of the fastest and most effective means to facilitating solar installation. Streamlining the permitting process, offering a centralized location for information that clearly explains the process, standardizing permit fees, and pre-qualifying plans and installers will make the process clear and seamless. Implementing solar energy can be an overwhelming task for a community that is not familiar with the process. The Mid-America Regional Council’s Solar Permit Checklist can assist installers, construction officials, planners, and others involved in the installation process. This resource explains the purpose and benefits of having a solar permit checklist, kinds of questions city officials should include, and examples of checklists cities currently have in place.


Financing options are key to increasing solar capacity since many communities still face high up-front costs for solar development. Evaluating local soft costs, engaging lenders, and launching Solarize campaigns are just a few of the numerous mechanisms communities can use to help make solar energy more affordable and accessible. In particular, Solarize campaigns have become an increasingly popular financing strategy. The Solarize strategy allows groups of homeowners and businesses to work together to collectively negotiate lower rates, and overcome the financial and logistical barriers to solar installation. The NREL Solarize Guidebook provides information on how to create a Solarize campaign in your community, including planning templates to initiate the campaign.  


There has never been a better time to start investing in solar energy. New approaches, resources, falling prices, and improved technologies are making solar the most affordable it has been in history. In 2013, the U.S. installed over 10 GW of solar, which is enough to power nearly 7.5 million homes. The resources found on the Solar Ready II website strive to simplify the process for cities, so that they can capitalize on this growing industry.  By implementing solar best management practices in their communities, cities will be able to take action on solar in a more cost and time efficient manner.


To learn more about available resources and Solar Ready II, please visit www.narc.org/solarready/ .  

Guest Blogger:  Mia Colson, MPAProgram Analyst , National Association of Regional Councils. 


The EPA has recently launched two new tools to assist local governments in complying with clean air regulations and creating community plans to encourage conservation. One of the tools is called AVoided Emissions and geneRation Tool or AVERT. Many states and localities have adopted energy efficiency/ renewable energy (EE/RE) programs to encourage energy conservation and reduce the amount of emissions produced by energy production. Local government officials, policy professionals, and other stakeholders can use AVERT to assess the effectiveness of their EE/RE programs. AVERT is a one stop shop for publicly available data on emissions from electric power plants. Now stakeholders can download the AVERT data to compare emission rates from before or after EE/RE program implementation, or even among different regions to get a better understanding of  how the EE/RE programs are affecting air quality. To explore the new AVERT program, visit http://epa.gov/avert.


The second tool is called the Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy Series.  To create this strategy series, EPA compiled and analyzed many different state and local strategies for GHG (greenhouse gasses) emission reduction and energy efficiency. The EPA also compiled many related studies and reports from think tanks, and advocacy groups. The results of this compilation are several easy to follow strategy guides for improving air quality and increasing conservation.  The strategy guides are divided into five subject areas: energy efficiency, transportation, community planning and design, solid waste and materials management, and renewable energy.  Many of the guides feature case studies from select state and local governments making it easier for stakeholders to assess which strategies are most relevant to their community’s needs.  Now state and local government officials can use this tool to plan new strategies or evaluate and revise existing ones.  To learn more about this new EPA strategy series, visit http://epa.gov/statelocalclimate/resources/strategy-guides.html.


You can also access these new tools and many more at the APWA Center for Sustainability Tools & Resources page here: http://www.apwa.net/centerforsustainability/tools%20and%20resources


Guest post by Tracy Okoroike, APWA Government Affairs Associate