Since 1949, APA's program of applied research has resulted in practical, up-to-date information about best practices in urban and regional planning in the U.S.

National Centers for Planning

APA's National Centers for Planning provide urban, suburban, regional, and rural planners with the knowledge, tools, and connections they need to effectively guide decision making related to the built and natural environments.

The Centers are dedicated to helping planners create communities of lasting value: safe, healthy, and sustainable places for all.

Green Communities

APA's Green Communities Center has the expertise and influence to help planners and citizens create greener, more sustainable communities.

Hazards Planning

APA's Hazards Planning Center identifies practices that protect communities from natural and man-made hazards and educates planners and allied professionals about those practices.

Planning and Community Health

By working with policymakers, public health professionals, environmental scientists, transportation engineers, educators, and others, planners work to create healthier communities.

Download the National Centers for Planning brochure (pdf)

Current Research Projects

Advanced Disaster Recovery Strategies for Local Communities

APA and the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center are developing a FEMA-certified course that will help individuals and organizations develop a strategic planning process for implementing pre-disaster recovery plans.

Benefits of Street Scale Features for Walking and Biking

Through a partnership with Active Living Research, this project examines how different street features, either independently or in combination with one another, can promote physical activity. The research will also explore other potential co-benefits to such features, with special focus on economic and social outcomes.

Built Environment and Public Health Clearinghouse

The Built Environment and Public Health Clearinghouse (BEPHC) is a resource for training and relevant news about the intersection of health and place. APA, the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI), were a part of a 2014 relaunch. The clearinghouse now offers both academic and professional training resources that address the link between public health with planning, architecture, health impact assessment and transportation engineering, among others.

Capacity Building for Planners to Address Health

This five-year effort will develop technical tools, educational resources, and professional development guidance that enhance opportunities to pursue health-oriented planning.

Great Urban Parks Campaign

A project to improve environmental and social outcomes in underserved communities through green infrastructure in local parks.

Greater Baltimore Wilderness: Green Infrastructure for Regional Resilience

Working through a team led by The Conservation Fund with APA as co-principal investigator, the Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition is working to conserve, restore, and enhance a regional green infrastructure network delivering multiple benefits for the people and wildlife of central Maryland.

Growing Food Connections

This project will target 20 urban and rural communities across the U.S. that are significantly underserved by the nation’s food system.

Health Impact Assessment's Role in Planning

APA's Planning and Community Health Center is embarking on a project to further the education, training, and development of Health Impact Assessments (HIA) as an integral part of planning practice.

Improving Community Resilience

In this HUD-funded and NOAA-supervised project, team lead AECOM is partnering with APA, NACo, and ASFPM to develop models for integrating resilient hazard mitigation planning into local comprehensive plans.

Innovations in Planning and Public Engagement for Community Resilience

In this FEMA-funded project, APA and its partners are producing online models and tools for community visioning and scenario planning for post-disaster recovery.

Multimodal Planning at the Megaregional Scale

This project will develop and disseminate clear guidance (policies, strategies, and implementation tools) for local governments and regional agencies to address megaregional issues in long-range comprehensive planning.

Naturally Resilient Communities

The Nature Conservancy is working in partnership with the APA and other organizations to develop a green infrastructure siting guide for local planners.

NOAA Digital Coast

A partnership with NOAA to review new planning tools for coastal communities, assist in using and accessing those tools, and in helping advance coastal zone management policy.


Through an overarching collaborative strategy that brings together members of the American Planning Association (APA) and the American Public Health Association (APHA), this project is building local capacity to address population health goals and promote the inclusion of health in non-traditional sectors. Coalitions made up of APA chapters, APHA affiliate groups, and others are working to set a new paradigm for healthy planning. By leveraging complementary expertise and influence, this project seeks to expand innovative tactics to addressing tough problems.

Planning Information Exchange

In cooperation with ASFPM, APA is conducting a series of quarterly webinars for practitioners on hazard mitigation planning.

Planning Tools for Health

In partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this two-year study will result in a set of tools that integrate health into plan implementation. With a focus on creating guidelines for site plan review and subdivision connectivity, the Planning and Community Health Center is examining best practices that directly or indirectly address community health improvement for new development and redevelopment.

Regional Green Infrastructure Planning at the Landscape Scale

An APA and U.S. Forest Service collaboration on regional green infrastructure planning at the landscape scale and the associated needs and opportunities.

Subdivision Design in Flood Hazard Areas

In this FEMA-funded project, APA is constructing a total revamp of the 1997 PAS Report to incorporate new issues and knowledge that have developed over the past two decades.

SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership

APA and partners will help local and regional governments implement solar energy in their communities.

Sustaining Places

APA is leading an initiative to establish standards and a potential designation program for integrating sustainability into comprehensive plans. This work aims to improve plan quality while asserting the planning profession's role as a leader in the sustainability arena.

Featured APA Research Projects
Drought Mitigation report cover

Drought Mitigation

APA and partners published a report on best practices and case studies in drought planning

Planning for Wind Energy report cover

Wind Energy

APA and partners have produced a wind energy implementation guidebook for planners.

Completed Research Projects

Research activities at APA are supported by grants from foundations, nongovernmental organizations, and government agencies, as well as subscription revenues. APA welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with organizations that have similar or complementary interests.

Contact us at APA Research

Arts, Culture & Creativity

The Planning and Community Health Research Center developed a series of briefing papers to illustrate how planners use arts and culture strategies to achieve economic, social, environmental, and community goals.

Bridging the Gap

The effects of policies, practices, and environmental factors on youth diet and physical activity.


This three-year initiative involved community development leaders, community members, and others and resulted in a guide to redeveloping brownfield sites.

City Parks Forum

We are facing a new era of defining what constitutes a park. No longer seen as simply grass and trees, parks provide a multitude of benefits to their users.

Coastal Zone Management

Working with the Coastal States Organization, APA's Hazards Planning Research Center will produce a PAS Report on coastal zone management.

Complete Streets

Discover policy and implementation practices that are helping to create complete streets in communities across the country.

Context-Sensitive Signage Design

For planners and building officials, signs are but one component of the complex built environment. And planning for and regulating signs is just one aspect of a city or community design program.

Drought Mitigation

APA's Hazards Planning Research Center published a PAS Report on best practices and case studies in drought planning, working with the University of Nebraska's National Drought Mitigation Center and the National Integrated Drought Information System.

Family Friendly Communities

This project engaged planners in thinking critically about what makes a family friendly community, what's currently being done, and what opportunities are there to create more friendly communities.

Great Lakes Coastal Hazards

APA is working with the Association of State Floodplain Managers to help local decision makers address the dynamic hazard threats facing Great Lakes communities.

Growing Smart 

States and their local governments now have new practical tools available to help combat urban sprawl, protect farmland, promote affordable housing, and encourage redevelopment.

Hazard Mitigation

Learn how to integrate best practices in hazard mitigation into all forms of local plan making and planning activities.

Hazardous Tree Management and Post-Disaster Recovery

APA hosted a scoping session under USDA Forest Service sponsorship to discuss ways to reduce disaster-caused damage to the urban forest. Several federal agencies and other national nonprofits participated.

Healthy Communities through Collaboration

In 2003, a partnership between APA and the National Association of County and City Health Officials began to restore the bridge between land-use planning, community design, and public health practice.

Housing Choice

Everyone needs housing — a place to live, a place to call home. But the realization of safe, decent, affordable housing is becoming increasingly difficult for more and more individuals and families.

Land Based Classification Standards (LBCS)

The LBCS model extends the notion of classifying land uses by refining traditional categories into multiple dimensions. These multiple dimensions allow users to have precise control over land-use classifications.

Planning and Designing the Physically Active Community

In the last decade, the paradigm of smart growth has prompted many communities to improve the physical design of downtowns and neighborhoods.

Planning for a New Energy and Climate Future

A PAS Report, a database, a reader, and other resources provide information on integrating energy and climate issues into planning.

Planning for Food Access

APA's Planning and Community Health Research Center is identifying and evaluating plans that address community-based food systems.

Planning for Public Health

A multi-year research study to identify and analyze the plan-making processes and the health goals, objectives, and policies of local comprehensive plans across the U.S.

Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery: Next Generation

An update and overhaul of the classic PAS Report Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction, incorporating numerous planning lessons learned from the last 15 years of dealing with major disasters.

Planning for Wildfires

Wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity as more people move into areas where developments meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildlands.

Planning the Urban Forest

Planners need to adopt a green infrastructure approach and incorporate trees into urban plans. Learn how to develop an urban forestry program that reaps the many benefits of trees.

Smart Growth Codes

How do we amend our ordinances to advance smart growth?

State Laws and Natural Hazards

A survey of planning legislation in 50 states.

Tribal Transportation Programs

In early 2005, APA contracted with the Transportation Research Board to produce a Synthesis Study on Tribal Transportation Programs.

Urban Agriculture

Reserach that resulted in a Planning Advisory Service Report on the role of planning practice in developing and sustainable urban agriculture to support economic, social, and environmental goals.

Wildlife Habitat Protection

A census of local planning activity in jurisdictions that contain priority conservation areas.