National Planning Award Categories & Eligibility

Eligibility Requirements

What can be entered?

  • Any plan, project, program, tool, process, report, or ordinance entered must have been published, implemented, or completed within three years of the date of submission. Published drafts of plans are not acceptable. This does not include the Implementation award category.
  • Any plan, project, program, tool, process, report or ordinance may only be entered in one award category per award year.
  • Any project or plan occurring outside of the United States may only be entered in the Pierre L'Enfant International Planning Award category.
  • You do not have to win a chapter or division award to be eligible for a national Planning Award.

Who can be nominated?

  • Recipients of any of the National Planning Leadership Awards are ineligible to receive the same award for 10 years after accepting it.

Who can nominate?

  • An individual may not nominate himself/herself (the individual) for an award. Anyone working on a plan or project may nominate that plan or project for an award.
  • Nominators may not be related by blood or marriage to any individual they wish to nominate.
  • Members of the APA Awards Jury, APA staff, APA Board of Directors, and AICP Commission are not eligible to nominate or to receive individual awards.
  • Any firm that employs APA members currently serving in national leadership positions is ineligible to be nominated.
  • APA staff may not nominate, contribute to, or review award nominations.

Award Categories

The HUD Secretary's Opportunity & Empowerment Award

A single award will be made for a community or plan, program, or project that, as a direct result of the effort, demonstrates improved quality of life for low-and moderate-income residents. Emphasis is placed on how creative housing, economic development, and private investments have been used in or with a comprehensive community development plan to empower residents who reside in that community or around it.

Example: Affordable housing; neighborhood revitalization; preservation plans; and sustainable, economic development.

Eligibility & Criteria

Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan

For a comprehensive or general plan that advances the science and art of planning. The award honors America's most famous planner, Daniel Burnham, for his contributions to the planning profession and to a greater awareness of the benefits of good planning.

Eligibility & Criteria

Best Practice

This award is for a specific planning tool, practice, program, project, or process. This category emphasizes results and demonstrates how innovative and state-of-the-art planning methods and practices help to create communities of lasting value.

Examples: Regulations and codes, tax policies or initiatives, growth management or design guidelines, transferable development rights programs, land acquisition efforts, public-private partnerships, applications of technology, handbooks, or efforts that foster greater participation in community planning.

Eligibility & Criteria

Grassroots Initiative

Honoring an initiative that illustrates how a neighborhood, community group or other local non-governmental entity utilized the planning process to address a specific need or issue within the community. Emphasis is placed on the success of planning in new or different settings, with total project budget (including staff, consultant, and direct expenses) not exceeding $25,000.

Examples: Community policing or drug prevention, neighborhood outreach initiatives, programs designed for special populations, public art or cultural efforts, community festivals, environmental or conservation initiatives, summer recreational initiatives for children, vacant lot management, transportation innovations, or focused tourism ventures.

Eligibility & Criteria


Recognizing an effort that demonstrates a significant achievement for an area—a single community or a region—in accomplishing positive changes as a result of planning. This award emphasizes long-term, measurable results. Nominated efforts should have been in continuous effect for a minimum of three (3) years, not including the time for plan preparation and approval.

Examples: Plans for smart growth, signage, farmland preservation, urban design, wetland mitigation, resource conservation, capital improvements, citizen participation, neighborhood improvement, transportation management, or sustained economic development.

Eligibility & Criteria

Public Outreach

This award honors an individual, project, or program that uses information and education about the value of planning to create greater awareness among citizens or specific segments of the public. The award celebrates how planning improves a community's quality of life.

Examples: Broad community efforts showing how planning can make a difference, curricula designed to teach children about planning, neighborhood empowerment programs, use of technology to expand public participation in planning.

Eligibility & Criteria

Communications Initiative

This award honors efforts to "tell the planning story" and increase awareness and understanding about the planning profession. 

Examples: Newspaper articles; series of blog posts or a planning-focused blog; publications (books or magazines); websites; podcasts; films.

Eligibility & Criteria

Transportation Planning

This award honors efforts to increase transportation choices for all populations, reducing dependence on private automobiles and helping to ease congestion and reducing climate change impacts.

Examples: Transportation studies; plans for pedestrian, streets, highways, aviation, parking, maritime, transit or rail; development and expansion of transportation systems; development and expansion of trail systems.

Eligibility & Criteria

Environmental Planning

This award honors efforts to create greener communities that reduce the impact of development on the natural environment and improve environmental quality.

Examples: Green infrastructure plans; resource conversation efforts; alternative energy programs; efforts to reduce carbon emissions; public health initiatives.

Eligibility & Criteria

Urban Design

This award honors efforts to create a sense of place, whether a street, public space, neighborhood, or campus effort.

Example: Streetscape plans; public space plans; hospital, college or other campus plan.

Eligibility & Criteria

Economic Planning & Development

This award honors efforts to transform economies and stimulate economic development in communities of all sizes.

Examples: Economic plans, economic recovery initiatives, urban and regional economic analyses, commercial district revitalization, corridor revitalization, town center developments, and strategic plans for economic development.

Eligibility & Criteria

The Pierre L'Enfant International Planning Award

This award recognizes planning practices and efforts undertaken outside the United States to promote communities of lasting value. The award criteria are based on a set of goals developed by the Global Planners Network.

Eligibility & Criteria

Advancing Diversity and Social Change in Honor of Paul Davidoff

This award honors an individual, project, group, or organization that promotes diversity and demonstrates a sustained commitment to advocacy by addressing the concerns of women and minorities through specific actions or contributions within the planning profession or through planning practice. The award honors the late APA member, Paul Davidoff, for his contributions to the planning profession.

Examples: A general or comprehensive plan that improves the living conditions of those in an underrepresented neighborhood, an individual working to improve the lives of others, a policy that addresses a need not currently met through other efforts.

Eligibility & Criteria

Planning Advocate

This award honors an individual or appointed or elected official who has advanced or promoted the cause of planning in the public arena.

Examples: Engaged citizens demonstrating outstanding leadership in a community, region, or state; members of planning commissions, board of appeals, economic development boards, environmental or historic preservation councils, or other appointed officials; elected officials holding office at the local, regional, or state level; citizen activists or neighborhood leaders.

Eligibility & Criteria

Planning Firm

Honors a planning firm that has produced distinguished work that continues to influence the professional practice of planning.

Eligibility & Criteria

Planning Agency

This award honors the work of a public sector planning agency that has continually produced a program of exceptional work that has elevated awareness about planning.

Examples: Metropolitan planning organizations, regional planning associations, planning department, planning board, zoning board.

Eligibility & Criteria

Emerging Planning & Design Firm

This award honors a young planning and design firm that has helped elevate the planning profession and build public support for planning, and through its current work demonstrates the potential of having a continual influence on the planning profession for years to come.

Eligibility & Criteria

Planning Landmark

Recognizing a planning project, initiative, or endeavor that is historically significant and that may be used or accessed by the public.

Eligibility & Criteria

Planning Pioneer

The Planning Pioneer Awards are presented to pioneers of the profession who have made personal and direct innovations in American planning that have significantly and positively redirected planning practice, education, or theory with long-term results.

Eligibility & Criteria