Land-Use Planning

Effective land-use planning generates enduring aesthetics, allows a variety of activities on campus, creates operational efficiencies, and saves resources and energy.

The following links go to sections that describe how land-use planning may fit into your climate action plans.

To be truly sustainable, land-use planning should be responsive to the needs of all members of the community and set an example for sustainable development.

Considerations for Land Use Planning

Before undertaking land-use planning project, a research campus should ask these questions:

Expansion Planned

Is land-use planning right for your campus?

  • Are you planning a major expansion or building a new campus?
  • Is your long-term goal to be climate neutral?

The best time to integrate sustainable design, optimize building orientation, thoughtfully plan transportation, and integrate energy supply and delivery systems is when you are expanding an existing or developing a greenfield campus.

Plan for Climate Neutrality

A land-use plan can help reduce carbon emissions from commuters, by bringing them within walking and biking distance of the core campus. A sustainable land-use plan encourages mixed-use development—including residential and commercial areas—at the campus margins to reduce commuting.

Leading Example: University of California, Merced

Designing a new campus is a luxury, and the planners of the University of California (UC), Merced campus took advantage of this rare opportunity.

On October 1, 2009, UC Merced was awarded the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award in the comprehensive land-use planning category.

At the time of the award, the campus already boasted six buildings with LEED Gold certification (for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) from the U.S. Green Buildings Council and another with LEED Silver. Four additional buildings are under construction to exceed LEED Gold standards.

One third of the buildings on the UC Merced campus contain laboratories, energy-intensive buildings that increase the challenges of achieving low-energy goals. Campus planners used benchmark goals of reducing peak demand in addition to decreasing annual energy consumption. In contrast, performance goals based on standards such as California Title 24 focus almost entirely on annual energy consumption.

"We have a goal that buildings consume half the energy and demand of other university buildings in California,"; says John Elliot, UC Merced Manager of Engineering, Energy, and Sustainability Facilities. He says the benchmarks are based on data from other campuses across the state. The first set of buildings was designed to 80% of this benchmark when the campus opened in 2005. The second set, under construction in 2009, is designed to 65% of the benchmark. The next phase aims at 50%.

The following list gives examples of sustainable campus master plans.

  • The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a Labs21 pilot partner, developed its 25-year development plan called General Development Vision—2003. Although this plan has since been updated, the laboratory upholds the underlying principles of sustainability.