The Charrette Handbook

The Essential Guide to Design-Based Public Involvement

By Bill Lennertz, Aarin Lutzenhiser

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Charrettes help citizens see and shape a new future for their communities. These design exercises foster the collaboration, creativity, and consensus needed to define a vision everyone can share.

The Charrette Handbook, developed by the National Charrette Institute, walks step by step through planning and conducting a charrette then putting the results into action. The new edition also shows...

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Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
June 1, 2014
APA Planners Press

About the Authors

Bill Lennertz

Aarin Lutzenhiser
Bill Lennertz, AIA, is Executive Director of the National Charrette Institute. Bill is a principal author and lead trainer of the NCI Charrette System™, the first structured approach to design-based collaborative community planning. Since he co-founded NCI in 2001, Bill has trained top staff from various organizations including the US Environmental Protection Agency, US General Services Administration, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fannie Mae Foundation, and Departments of Transportation in Oregon, New York, and Arizona, as well as many private planning firms across the country. First as Director of the Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ) Boston office, and then as partner in Lennertz Coyle & Associates, Bill has directed over 150 charrettes. The charrette projects for both public and private clients range from main street revitalizations, town centers and affordable housing, to complete, new neighborhoods and communities. By incorporating the charrette process in a broad range of challenging projects, Bill has encountered virtually every type of political, economic, and design problem that challenges smart growth and he brings this experience to NCI trainings and publications. Bill co-authored The Charrette Handbook, published by the American Planning Association, is the co-editor and essayist of Towns and Town-Making Principles, a monograph on DPZ, and a contributor to the Charter of the New Urbanism. Bill has taught at various universities including Harvard, where he received his Masters of Architecture in Urban Design and now annually teaches the NCI Charrette System™ certificate course.

Table of Contents



Introduction to the NCI Charrette System

The History of the Charrette Process

NCI Charrette System Tools and Techniques

Phase 1: Research, Engagement, and Charrette Preparation

1.1 Project Assessment and Organization
1.1.1 Guiding Principles
1.1.2 Objectives and Performance Measures
1.1.3 Stakeholder Identification and Preliminary Analysis
1.1.4 Complexity Analysis
1.1.5 Charrette Purpose and Products
1.1.6 NCI Charrette System Road Map
1.1.7 Charrette Ready Plan
1.1.8 Team Formation
1.1.9 Charrette Schedule
1.1.10 Project Budget Estimate

1.2 Stakeholder Research and Involvement
1.2.1 Outreach
1.2.2 Engagement and Information Exchange
1.2.3 Secondary Stakeholder Analysis
1.2.4 Informational Events

1.3 Base Data Research and Analysis
1.3.1 Base Data Research and Gathering
1.3.2 Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats Analysis

1.4 Project Feasibility Studies and Research
1.4.1 Conceptual Sketching and Testing
1.4.2 Pre-charrette Project Brief

1.5 Charrette Logistics
1.5.1 Studio Logistics and Set-up
1.5.2 Meeting Planning
1.5.3 Pre-charrette Logistics Summary

Phase 2: The Charrette

2.1 Organization, Engagement, Vision
2.1.1 Start-Up Team Meeting
2.1.2 Charrette Team Tour
2.1.3 Primary Stakeholder Meetings
2.1.4 Charrette Public Meeting #1

2.2 Alternative Concepts Development
2.2.1 Concepts Team Meeting
2.2.2 Alternative Concepts Development
2.2.3 Initial Stakeholder Reviews
2.2.4 Alternative Concepts Refinement
2.2.5 Charrette Public Meeting #2 or Open House

2.3 Preferred Plan Synthesis
2.3.1 Plan Synthesis Team Meeting
2.3.2 Concept Synthesis into Preferred Plan
2.3.3 Intermediate Stakeholder Reviews
2.3.4 Public Open House

2.4 Plan Development
2.4.1 Plan Development Team Meeting
2.4.2 Plan Development and Refinement
2.4.3 Intermediate Stakeholder Reviews

2.5 Production and Presentation
2.5.1 Production Team Meeting
2.5.2 Final Stakeholder Reviews
2.5.3 Production
2.5.4 Final Charrette Public Meeting

Phase 3: Plan Adoption

3.1 Project Status Communications
3.1.1 Project Management Team Debriefing
3.1.2 Public Communications

3.2 Product Refinement
3.2.1 Document Review and Feedback
3.2.2 Document Revision

3.3 Presentation and Product Finalization
3.3.1 Final Project Public Meetings
3.3.2 Project Closeout

Charrette Case Studies

Downtown Kendall, Florida
Contra Costa Centre Transit Village, Walnut Creek, California
Liberty Harbor North, Jersey City, New Jersey

Supplemental Material

Frequently Asked Questions
Charrette Scheduling Variations
Further Reading
About the National Charrette Institute


"The charrette process — as clearly taught in this important book — is the most effective tool, bar none, for reaching consensus around placemaking."

— Jeff Speck, AICP, author, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

"The Charrette Handbook is a clear and practical guide that truly works as a desktop reference. It gives easy guidance on where you can be flexible, where you can't, and how to avoid common mistakes."

— Marilee A. Utter, Urban Land Institute

"Over the past decade NCI has led a campaign for collaborative community planning. The second edition of The Charrette Handbook makes the entire NCI Charrette System available to planners everywhere."

— Shelley Poticha, Natural Resources Defense Council

"Lennertz and Lutzenhiser once again provide planners with the best, most current tools and techniques for effective community engagement. The Charrette Handbook is a must-read, must-use resource."

— Rick Bernhardt, FAICP, Metropolitan Nashville–Davidson County Planning Department