SPECIAL ISSUE PAPER
Sustainable urbanism in temperate‐arid climates: Models,
challenges and opportunities for the Anthropocene
Carlos J. L. Balsas
University at Albany, Albany, New York, USA
Carlos J. L. Balsas, University at Albany, G&P
AS210, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany 12222,
New York, USA.
Climate change requires more sustainable urbanism developments. Locales in temperate and arid
climates are under added pressure to create more economical, ecological, and just neighborhoods.
Do sustainable urbanism developments have advantages over traditional urbanism projects in
temperate–arid climates? The main purpose of this paper is to examine four distinct neighbor-
hoods in the southwest of the United States in order to clarify the evolution of sustainable urban-
ism developments according to the three C's framework of compactness, connectedness, and
completeness. The methods included a study of each development's history, motivations, design
principles, and built environment features. The key finding is an up‐to‐date understanding of how
neighborhood development models have been implemented to help create more sustainable cit-
ies as well as the identification of a set of challenges and opportunities for advancing sustainable
Climate change requires more sustainable urbanism developments.
Locales in temperate and arid climates are under great pressure to
create more economical, ecological, and just neighborhoods. Do sus-
tainable urbanism developments have advantages over sprawl devel-
opments in temperate–arid climates? This is the main research
question of this paper. I am motivated by master planners' and
designers' aims to create more sustainable environments from walk-
able, energy, and societal perspectives.
The main purpose of this paper is to examine four distinct
neighborhoods in the southwest of the United States in order to
clarify the evolution of sustainable urbanism neighborhoods accord-
ing to the three C's framework of compactness, connectedness,
and completeness. I hypothesize that there are lessons to be
learned from examining these two‐paired neighborhood develop-
ments in each state and that bio‐climatic, morphological, urban,
and regional dynamics as well as public policies have important
roles in influencing what gets built and how it gets appropriated
by their owners and users.
The four neighborhood developments exemplify alternative land
development strategies, typical of urban design strategies in midtown
and suburban locations of the southwest. These strategies have com-
mon goals pertaining to the accommodation of urban growth, water,
and energy conservation, air pollution mitigation, mixed‐use areas
within each development in order to reduce immediate and long‐range
ecological risks and vulnerabilities within scenarios of climate change
The research methods and techniques comprised a study of each
development's history, motivations, design principles, and built envi-
ronment features. Special attention was devoted to understanding
their real estate motivations, ecological dimensions, and contributions
to more sustainable land development practices. Extensive literature
reviews of the theory behind sustainable urbanism, together with anal-
yses of the four site plans and neighborhood phases were instrumental
to comprehending the subtle distinctions among each development.
Furthermore, there was a concern in reviewing each municipality's
public affairs opportunities and constraints (Homsy & Warner, 2015),
permitting and approval processes and the existence or not of sub‐
municipal neighborhood governance mechanisms, such as homeowner
neighborhood associations (HOAs).
The key finding is an understanding of how neighborhood devel-
opment models have been implemented to help create more sustain-
able cities as well as the identification of a set of challenges and
opportunities for advancing sustainable urbanism research. This
research constitutes a novel effort to the comparative study of urban-
ization and associated urban form patterns in temperate–arid regions
of the U.S. southwest (Liverman et al., 2013).
Unique to this research is an up‐to‐date analysis of the most recent
iteration of a long evolutionary lineage of city‐building practices based
on land development and ecological thinking, which started with
Ebenezer Howard's Garden City movement, continued on with
Received: 22 April 2017 Accepted: 3 July 2017
J Public Affairs. 2018;18:e1663.
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/pa 1of11