The Sustaining Places Initiative is a multi-year, multi-faceted program to define the role of planning in addressing all human settlement issues relating to sustainability.

APA's Sustaining Places Initiative

APA Past President Bruce Knight, FAICP, formally announced the American Planning Association's Sustaining Places Initiative in March 2010 during the first day of the United Nations Fifth World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In his announcement, Knight noted that, "The planning movement and its professional planners are uniquely qualified to provide leadership in defining, analyzing, and debating these issues and in integrating place-based strategies in the broader discussion of sustainability. Thus, Sustaining Places will examine both how places can be sustained and how places themselves sustain life and civilizations. Planning's comprehensive focus is not limited to a building or a site but encompasses all scales and all forms of organization of human settlements, from rural areas and small town to cities and metropolitan regions. The challenges of sustainability and possible solutions require planners' values, skills, and leadership."

Since the initiative was announced, subsequent APA presidents Mitchell Silver, AICP, and Bill Anderson, FAICP, have encouraged APA to continue to define the role of planning in creating sustaining places in all facets of the organization. Sustaining places is a consistent theme in APA blogs, research, events, education, outreach, international planning, and other resources.

Here is a summary of recent activities and resources related to sustainability:


Sustaining Places blog

APA's Sustaining Places blog is a key component of the Sustaining Places Initiative. The blog delivers the details on our sustainability partnerships, policy efforts, and research programs, and provides observations on sustainability planning.


APA's Research Department is involved in numerous research projects related to sustainability including the SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership, Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery, Coastal Zone Management, Drought Mitigation, Growing Food Connections, NOAA Digital Coast, and Planning for Public Health.

APA has also released standards for comprehensive plans for sustaining places. These standards should serve as the concise, go-to resource for desired content for comprehensive plans. The standards serve as the foundation for developing a designation program that recognizes exemplary comprehensive plans aimed at sustaining places.

APA Publications

Planning magazine

Recent Sustaining Places articles in Planning include: "Oregon's 40-Year-Old Innovation," "Resurrecting an Icon," "Renewable Energy Gets Real," and "After Sandy: New Money, New Rules."

The Commissioner

An article in the summer 2012 issue of The Commissioner examined how planners have addressed social equity through sustainability and the comprehensive plan.

APA also offers a host of other publications that regularly cover topics on sustainability.


In 2012, APA adopted a policy guide on Smart Growth. This policy guide complements a number of policy guides on sustainability topics include Climate Change, Energy, Waste Management, Water Resources Management, and Planning for Sustainability.


Planners Training Service Workshops

PTS workshops in the coming months include Water Resources: Best Practices for Planners; Sustainable Zoning and Development Controls; Tackling the Challenges of Vacant Properties; Sustainable Comprehensive Planning; Planning in the Face of Conflict; and Hazard Mitigation: Integrating Best Practices into Planning.

International Planning

APA is a founding member of Global Planners Network, a network of national planning associations that share planning ideas, approaches, and good practices and thereby build the capacities for planning across the globe. APA remains engaged with UN-HABITAT's World Urban Campaign, an international effort to raise awareness about the challenges of global urbanization.

APA continues to remain involved in the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA), a multi-national effort funded by the Department of State aiming to mitigate the effects of climate change across the western hemisphere.


National Planning Conference

In Atlanta in 2014, the National Planning Conference included a Sustaining Places Symposium. It highlighted the work of the APA's Board task force on sustainability and the comprehensive plan and include sessions on the best of contemporary community and sustainability planning.

Federal Policy & Program Briefing

The 2013 Federal Policy & Program Briefing Opening Keynote, "Planning for Urban America," looked at the broad policy changes needed to move toward a more prosperous, sustainable, and equitable future.

L'Enfant Lecture

The 2013 L'Enfant Lecture focused on coastal planning, floods, and hard and soft approaches to hazard mitigation in the Netherlands. The address, delivered by Renée  Jones-Bos, was given in conjunction with APA's Study Tour to the Netherlands.

Smart Cities and Sustainability Task Force

The Smart Cities and Sustainability Task Force continues the focus on sustainability by addressing recent advances in technology and innovation to cultivate cities which are smarter, more resilient, and sustainable. The Task Force, which is a collaborative initiative between the Sustainable Communities, Technology, and Transportation Planning divisions of APA, seeks to research and report on how technology advances are changing the field of planning and our communities, identify best practices, and demonstrate how planners can lead on these important changes.