Reading Through A Plan: A visual theory of what plans mean and how they innovate

Planners may read plans often, but the profession continues to view the interpretation of plan content as something that is either too obvious or too unimportant to require explicit discussion. Plans are seldom adequately interpreted. This is regrettable because plans contain a rich variety of content and meaning.

Shale Gas and State Regulatory Functions

About 10,000 feet below much of the United States lurks a wealth of natural gas. This high-profit resource is accessed by “fracking,” or piping pressurized chemicals and water into a deep bore in order to break apart compressed layers of shale, releasing the gas between them, and pumping the gas to the surface.

As part of Tushar Kansal’s thesis (MCP 2012), he asked whether the states or the federal government is better able to regulate the risks and environmental and community impacts associated with fracking.

Tushar’s analysis hinges on four concerns:

A Way Forward for Hydroelectricity in South America

In recent years, governments in South America have turned to large-scale hydropower as a cost-effective way to improve livelihoods while addressing the energy “trilemma:” ensuring that future energy technologies provide effective solutions to climate change, environmental degradation, and supply security.

Patricio Zambrano-Barragan (MCP ’12) explored the rapidly-changing context for hydropower in South America by looking at three flagship projects: Ecuador’s Coca-Codo-Sinclair (1,500MW), Chile’s HidroAysén (2,750MW), and Perú’s Inambari (2,000MW).

Vancouver 2010 – A Lesson in Olympic Sustainability

The London games began with a quirky opening ceremony on July 27, 2012, and will wrap up August 12. Ever wondered whether the new Olympic stadiums are LEED certified, or what happens to the city on August 13? Have the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) done their jobs with long-term sustainability principles in mind?

Collaborative Adaptive Management in the Southwest

Since the 1970s, some natural resource practitioners and academics have argued that natural resource management should be collaborative and should be adaptable over time in the face of new information and changing environmental and social conditions. Collaborative adaptive management, or CAM, is a natural resource management approach in which a diverse group of stakeholders iteratively plan, implement, monitor, evaluate and adjust management actions to reduce uncertainty and improve decisions over time.

Using Community Meetings to Recruit Households into Home Energy Upgrades

Around 65 million homes in the USA could benefit from comprehensive upgrades to save energy. Serving these homes can decrease emissions, create jobs, stimulate local economies, and improve the health of indoor environments. However, marketing upgrades has proven difficult; households typically do not understand energy saving opportunities, are hesitant to take on financing to realize small net energy savings, and distrust programs and contractors.

Do Planners Have A Role in Wildfire?

Yes! Maybe it’s not strapping on heavy gear and dragging hose, but Molly Mowery (MCP 2008) argues that planners play an important role in shaping policies that reduce catastrophic wildfire incidents. Since writing her DUSP thesis on wildfire and development, Molly has been advocating for stronger links between planning decisions and wildfire risk. You can see her latest thoughts on this topic in this New York Times Room for Debate thread, “Does the Government Cause or Prevent Wildfires?”

Do Renters Miss Out on the Benefits of Energy Efficiency?

Increasing energy efficiency is a popular notion. It garners support from environmentalists to economists to every person who pays a utility bill. But when it comes to retrofits, more homeowners are benefiting from energy efficiency than renters. Patrick Coleman (MCP 2011) thinks this a problem worth looking into.

Why Don't More Cities Act Like Philadelphia?

Managing stormwater is tricky business in urban areas, where paved roads, rooftops, and parking lots keep water above ground rather than letting it soak naturally into soils, grasses, and other vegetation. Rain and snow runoff must be caught, channeled, and eventually discarded in “gray” infrastructure, such as curbs, gutters, storm drains, and sewers. All this effort and expense seems so unnecessary, when there are green ways to capture and use the water rather than funnel it away.

Do Community Benefits Agreements Produce Sustainable Results?

Large-scale real estate development in low-income neighborhoods is a major source of municipal-level conflict in the United States. One way developers and communities have tried to resolve these conflicts is through negotiating Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs). In theory, these agreements are a great idea, but Rebecca Economos (MCP ’11) looked at five New York City-based case studies and found troubling results. She claims the ad-hoc nature of the negotiations leads to confusion and wildly different outcomes for different communities.

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