Lean Urbanism

Lean Urbanism occupies the emerging seam between the pilot projects of Tactical Urbanism and the policy-focused national agendas of New Urbanism. Diminished circumstances call for a return to common sense in the processes of building, incubating small businesses, community engagement, and learning a trade.

Andrés Duany, speaking at CNU-Atlanta about Lean Urbanism. This video makes the case for the initiative and provides a full background for discussion.

The Need to Go Lean

Three overlaid conditions this century prompted the need for Lean Urbanism. The first is the recognition that we are losing the war on climate change, which has the potential of physical disaster, but well before that, of a general collapse of morale. The second is the vaporizing of wealth — not simply the real estate overhang, which will be absorbed, but the underlying impoverishment it revealed: the intractable conditions of aging populations and social commitments that will bankrupt countries and municipalities. The third is that whatever energy may be found in nature, whether solar, wind, or tide, it will not be cheap, as petroleum was for a time. The cost of running the suburban parts of cities that were built throughout the 20th century will be ruinous.

A new generation has entered adulthood, and the dismal beginning of the 21st century is all they know. The typical 20th-century corporations provide too few jobs. This generation has the energy and the education to create both places and businesses, but the constrictions of bureaucracy prevent it. These are the suffocating urban and building codes, and the processes and constraints on small businesses that have proliferated in the last few decades.

Modern environmentalism is complicit in this accretion of bureaucracy. Nowhere in the LEED standards promulgated by the United States Green Building Council is there an economical, low-tech solution. Reaching the level at which urbanism requires government subsidy, the requirements consume rather than create wealth. And so the small builder has been shut out.

Administered through the nonprofit Center for Applied Transect Studies, the Project for Lean Urbanism will devise common-sense techniques that reduce the time, resources, and hurdles required for regulatory compliance. These techniques will be made freely available to governments seeking to streamline their processes and to would-be entrepreneurs who require a transparent economy.


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