Larco and Knudson Write the Handbook on Sustainable Urban Design

The School of Architecture & Environment (SAE), and by extension the College of Design, has a storied history of innovation and expansive sustainability research that includes the design of buildings, interiors, landscapes, and communities. The Sustainable Urban Design Handbook, the latest publication from Professor of Architecture Nico Larco and Kaarin Knudson, AIA, MArch '07, builds on the school's reputation with a substantive, yet approachable handbook that gathers the best sustainability practices and latest research from numerous fields to flesh out the ideas of sustainable urban design. With urban areas housing more than half of the world's population and the uncertainty of climate change, it is important for design and planning professionals, community members, students, and elected officials to have a framework to reference for creating a sustainable future for our communities. Larco and Knudson hope their handbook will serve as a bridge to that future. Here's what their publisher, Routledge, had to say about their latest book:

Cover design for Nico Larco and Kaarin Knudson's book, The Sustainable Urban Design Handbook.

With more than half of the world’s population now living in urbanized areas and the threats of climate change and resource depletion evident, sustainable urban design is a critical field. "The Sustainable Urban Design Handbook" gathers the best sustainability practices and latest research from the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, planning, development, ecology, and environmental engineering and presents them in a graphically rich and accessible format that is relevant to urban design projects in cities of all sizes. 

The book presents a comprehensive framework that organizes the +50 elements of sustainable urban design under five main topics: Energy Use & Greenhouse Gas, Water, Ecology & Habitat, Energy Use & Production, and Equity & Health, and relative to four project scales: Region & City, District & Neighborhood, Block & Street, and Project & Parcel. This organization allows people to see the range of elements they could address in any given project, as well as related elements at other scales and co-benefits. Each element is described in a dedicated section that describes its importance, background, compares typical practices and recommended approaches, explains connections to other elements, and concludes with urban design guidelines that can be used to directly inform projects and decisions. 

Easy to use and reference, The Sustainable Urban Design Handbook provides both an in-depth introduction to topics across sustainable urban design and serves as an ongoing reference for anyone involved in the creation of sustainable urban environments. This resource will be useful to design and planning professionals, community members, students, and elected officials in guiding decisions about our sustainable future. Book excerpts can be found on Larco's website here:

Larco and Knudson present over 50 elements of sustainable urban design in five main topics, allowing people to see the full scope of elements that could be addressed in a given project. The book has 464 pages of comprehensive research and rich illustrations that are perfect for both professionals and the public. The publication goes on preorder April 9 and will be available the end of April. Ordering the book directly from Routledge with the code EFLY01 will add a 20% discount. 

Image of the Sustainable Urban Design Framework matrix. Shows the five main topics in the book and a comprehensive list of activities/projects that correlate to the main topic.
The Sustainable Urban Design Framework Matrix from the handbook. Book excerpts can be found here:

Chapter Preview

Larco and Knudson have provided a few select pages from one of the book's chapters below. Click an image to read more. 

Learn More


Photograph of Professor of Architecture, Nico Larco.

Nico Larco, AIA, is an urban designer, architect, and Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Oregon where he is the Director of the Urbanism Next Center and Co-Director of the Sustainable Cities Institute. He leads ELEMENT/Urban Design, a design and consulting firm.


Photograph of Mayoral Candidate, Kaarin Knudson.

Kaarin Knudson, AIA, MArch '07, is a civic leader, architect, and educator with over 20 years of experience working to advance sustainable urban design and community-led solutions. She is the principal of BETTER PRACTICE and teaches the graduate workshop in urban design at the University of Oregon.

Current Reviews

"For the past twenty years, we have seen how sustainable design can be addressed through nature-based systems and solutions. With climate change and resilience as critical concerns, we need to push these boundaries with our design interventions. Resources like The Sustainable Urban Design Handbook can help all disciplines to do that." 

- Margot Long, BCSLA FCSLA ASLA, Principal, PWL Partnership Landscape Architects Inc., Canada 

"Making great urban places combines ecology, design, and the social sciences at many scales. The Sustainable Urban Design Handbook is comprehensive road map for doing this holistically, with detail for practitioners and accessible writing for community members alike."

- Blaine Merker, Gehl, Director and Head of Climate Action, USA 

"This well-researched and comprehensive book makes sense of the often confusing and counteracting, multiple threads that must work together to produce sustainable urban design. It will be very useful to professionals, community stakeholders, elected officials, and students." 

- Ellen Dunham-Jones, Professor and Director of the Urban Design Program at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Author of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs