12 Design Principles for a New Urban Default

By CC Huang and Lili Pike


City life in today’s China is taking new shapes. Chenggong, a new city district outside of Kunming, is being built in small blocks to tilt transportation towards walking and away from driving. Board a bus in Guangzhou, and the doors open all at once in subway-like fashion before the bus motors down an exclusive BRT lane, cutting congestion and costs. Other neighborhoods, such as Liuyun Xiaoqu, are reinventing their cityscapes by creating car-free zones where pedestrians can walk and shop without the hazards and omnipresent pollution of cars.

While we are continuously learning more about what makes human habitats both livable and sustainable, a consensus has emerged on the most foundational and necessary design principles. Last year, China Development Bank Capital, Energy Innovation, and Energy Foundation created the Guidelines for Green and Smart Urban Development to outline these design principles. The guidelines are highly aligned with the Chinese government’s recent efforts to redirect cities away from sprawl and towards sustainability.

We found that there are 12 that are the most important for urban designers, planners and developers to incorporate into the planning stage. Our approach quantifies these principles to prevent greenwashing. The beauty of these design principles is that they are simple – anyone can understand them and evaluate the sustainability of their own city.

Please download the full report here for details on metrics, best practices, and case studies.

Here is a quick rundown of our 12 Green Guidelines: