People and their actions in the built environment can have negative impacts on the natural environment.


The land has a certain capacity to carry on ecological services before poorly planned development interrupts the ability of the natural environment to do so. Inattention to the interaction between built spaces and the environment can undermine the ability of the land to execute its ecological functions.

Excessive consumption and the overuse of finite resources contribute to the overextension of the earth’s resources.  The World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) established the concept of sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  This idea extends to both ecological and economic needs of the planet and the individual.

Because of Florida’s great reliance on the purity and integrity of its coastal regions and water systems, environmental preservation is particularly relevant to the state.  The protection and preservation of the environment can be achieved through the implementation of planning strategies at all scales. Micro and macro level integrated planning strategies can and should be extended to all levels of planning with increasing levels of specificity.  Planners should develop solutions that maximize the features of the natural environment, which will in turn strengthen the built environment.

These challenges to the environment can be overcome through the use of planning tools to promote safe, clean, and affordable shelter; sustainable land planning and management; integrated water, sanitation, drainage, and solid-waste management; sustainable energy and transport systems; disaster management; and sustainable building design and construction practices.

Often environmental protection, environmental justice, and social equity are seen to be at odds with economic growth and property, development, and resource rights. Rather than viewing these goals as competing, they are complementary and have a shared objective of economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Planners can serve as advocates and negotiate to bridge the gap between groups who have difficulty communicating their seemingly different interests to create a shared goal that serves each interest (Campbell, 1996).

Use of low impact design and avoidance of development in Floodplains, is important to the preservation of the land’s ability to maintain its carrying capacity. Treading lightly on the land through Low Impact Development allows the natural and built environment to both exercise their functions and maximize their utility.

Natural Resources Protection is an important component of sustainable planning.  The built environment must be designed so that large tracts of land are conserved, air and water quality is preserved, and the natural environment remains available for the enjoyment of its intrinsic value.  The protection of these resources creates both beauty and utility in the spaces where the built and natural environment intersect.  Natural resources protection includes the following areas of practice:

  • Habitat Preservation, through design of the built environment, conserves spaces where animal and plant life can thrive.  This is important because these elements of the natural environment provide attenuation and remediation functions that would need to be constructed – often at a lesser level of beauty and utility than is provided by the natural environment.
  • Watershed Protection can be achieved through the use of low impact development techniques that naturally remediate and attenuate stormwater runoff before it reaches water bodies that empty into the watershed.
  • Wetlands Management is closely related to both habitat preservation and watershed protection.  Enacting policies and programs that give developments a light footprint will prevent unnecessary invasion of wetland areas.

When poor planning and development practices lead to environmental degradation, Environmental Restoration techniques can be built into project design and infrastructure.  Whether it be the use of natural landscaping, the site layout, or the choice of plantings, or the types of drainage systems installed, allowing the water and drainage systems of the site, city, or region to work freely so the land can heal itself.

We can measure progress in environmental preservation through the following measures of effectiveness:

  • Improved air and water quality
  • Increased diversity of species and growth of threatened species’ inventory
  • Increased use of green building techniques
  • Increased use of low impact development techniques

The use of these measures of will help provide a benchmark for municipalities throughout the state.

Bibliography. Campbell, S. (1996). Green Cities, Growing Cities, Just Cities? Urban Planning and the Contradictions of Sustainable Development. Journal of the American Planning Association, 62:3, 296-312