1st Edition

Net-Positive Design and Sustainable Urban Development

By Janis Birkeland Copyright 2020
    408 Pages 84 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    408 Pages 84 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    ‘Sustainable’ urban planning, policy and design professes to solve sustainability problems, but often depletes and degrades ever more resources and ecosystems and concentrates wealth and concretize social disparities. Positive Development theory holds that development could create more net ecological and social gains than no construction at all. It explains how existing conceptual, physical and institutional structures are inherently biased against the preservation and expansion of social and natural life-support systems, and proposes explicit reforms to planning, design and decision making that would enable development to increase future options and social and natural life-support systems – in absolute terms.

    Net-Positive Design and Sustainable Urban Development is aimed at students, academics, professionals and sustainability advocates who wonder why existing approaches have been ineffective. It explains how to reform the anti-ecological biases in our current frameworks of environmental governance, planning, decision making and design – and suggests how to make these changes. Cities can increase both the ‘public estate’ (reduce social stratification, inequity and other causes of conflict, increase environmental quality, wellbeing and access to basic needs, etc.); and the ‘ecological base’ (sequester more carbon and produce more energy than used during construction and operation, increase ecological space to support ecological carrying capacity, ecosystem functions and services, restore the bioregions and wilderness, etc.). No small task, this new book provides academic theory and professional tools for saving the planet, including a free computer app for net-positive design.

    PART I: DESIGN AND ANALYSIS Section A. Introduction to Positive Development Chapter 1. Overview of Net-positive Development Chapter 2. Centrality of the Built Environment in Sustainability Section B. Sustainability Revisited Chapter 3. Sustainability Paradigms in Historical Context Chapter 4. Sustainability and Positive Development Theory Section C. Built Environment Solutions Chapter 5. Eco-positive Retrofitting Chapter 6. Design for Nature Exemplified Section D. Systems Mapping Themes (SMT) Analyses Chapter 7. SMT Analyses for Physical Design Chapter 8. SMT Analyses for Institutional Designs PART II: DECISION MAKING AND ASSESSMENT Section E. Development Governance Chapter 9. Governance and Futures Planning Chapter 10. Development Control and Assessment Section F. Rating Tools Critiqued Chapter 11. Rating Tools and Procedures Chapter 12. Rating Tools and Substance Section G. Eco-positive Design Review (a qualitative tool) Chapter 13. The Eco-positive Design Review (social issues) Chapter 14. The Eco-positive Design Review (ecological issues) Section H. STARfish (a quantitative tool) Chapter 15. The STARfish Tool Described Chapter 16. The STARfish Tool Benchmarks


    Dr. Janis Birkeland is Honorary Professorial Fellow, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne. She was Professor of Sustainable Design at the University of Auckland, New Zealand and Professor of Architecture at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Before that, she was a lawyer, architect and planner in San Francisco. She originated the theory of net-positive design, design for eco-services and other increasingly popular concepts, and taught and published various aspects of sustainable development for over two decades. Her PhD was Planning for Sustainability (1993) and her books include Positive Development, Mapping Regional Metabolism and Design for Sustainability.

    'An excellent encyclopedic explanation of the root causes of current interacting environmental issues, this book provides an impressively detailed set of useable models and tools to address them, while welcoming debate. Drawing on Birkeland’s decades of academic research and practice, the book is both an invaluable education tool and a practical guide.'  —Dr. Stephen Knight-Lenihan, School of Architecture and Planning, University of Auckland, has a particular research interest in local government urban biodiversity and climate change adaptation decision-making

    'This is the essential textbook for every design practitioner. Janis uniquely synthesizes the vast ground of interdisciplinary practices required to transform the world of both physical and institutional design and assessment - and thoroughly details the what, why and how of it.' —Peter A. H. James, has had sustainability leadership roles in multinational firms including Arup, SKM, Davis Langdon and E.C. Harris

    'Birkeland’s visionary proposals for environmental planning leave no stone unturned. She carries the reader through a critical outline of models for sustainability to her own path-breaking conception of the "net-positive" approach. A comprehensive textbook on design and governance for architects and town planners alike.' ⁠—Dr. Ariel Salleh, is a sociologist with the University of Sydney who writes extensively on environmental ethics and ecopolitics. She is co-editor of Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary (2019)

    'From the author who developed Positive Development theory comes another tour de force – a delightful guide for those of us disappointed with the direction of conventional approaches to wicked problems. By integrating the technical and creative dimensions of sustainable development (free online app included!), Birkeland’s new odyssey is a must-read primer for anyone considering deeds more important than words.'—Mirek Dymitrow, PhD in Human Geography and Researcher at Chalmers University of Technology, Lund University and University of Gothenburg, Sweden

    'Birkeland is a true pioneer in the field of sustainability theory. This book sets out her key arguments and proposes a design tool to enable collaborative creation for "positive development".  Like Birkeland’s advocacy, it is comprehensive and challenging and offers real options for going beyond sustainability.'—Dr. Paul Downton, architect, writer, urban evolutionary, proprietor Ecopolis, founder Urban Ecology Australia, co-founder Ecocity Design Institute

    'In the wake of the catastrophic impacts of climate change and global warming, Birkeland’s new book brings hope.  By re-engineering our approach to urban development, she reveals how CITIES could become our most powerful resource in reversing the trends associated with climate change.  Advocating "positive development", her evidence-based methodology centres on design and ethics, rather than policy and planning, to apply measurable principles, tools and strategies. Essential reading for all decision makers.' —Dr Kathi Holt, Vice-President UDAL, Urban Design Alliance, Director TANDEM, is an architect and strategic urban designer, specializing in cities research and design