Deep Ecological Urbanism

Strategies for Ecology, Efficiency, & Ethics in Urban Design

Deep Ecological Urbanism is an approach to urban design and planning that incorporates the ethical consideration of nature into the development of sustainable growth, and encourages a dramatic increase in ecological inclusion in our urban areas. It advocates for a concentration on infill development within dense, compact cities which protects “greenfields”—undeveloped land—from encroaching growth. This form of design looks to nature for inspiration and knowledge, and so a Deep Ecological City functions much like an ecosystem. With a holistic and systems-based view of infrastructure, demands for energy and resources are reduced while efficiency and productivity is improved. As a result of this model of design, a city benefits from an enhanced quality of life, complete self-sufficiency, a more efficient and thus more productive local economy, and a reduction in pollution generation. At the same time, it offers an attractive living environment that is healthier for all its inhabitants—both human and non-human. Essentially, the city becomes more competitive on a global scale and its viability can be sustained indefinitely.

Deep Ecological Urbanism proposes 12 Key Principles:


  1. Ecological |Significantly increase ecology.
  2. Local |Adapt to and celebrate local geography.
  3. Biophilic | Incorporate natural elements as part of architectural and infrastructural experiences.
  4. Holistic | Design cities like ecosystems; Integrate energy systems across buildings and city blocks


  1. Mindful | Recognize the true value of natural resources.
  2. Cyclical | Adjust resource and nutrient flows to become a closed-loop system.
  3. Self-Sufficient |Strive to be self-sufficient, net-zero, and zero-waste.
  4. Compact | Encourage compact, infill development and adaptive reuse close to the urban center.


  1. Democratic | Provide equality for all living organisms.
  2. Connected |Foster relationships with neighborhoods, wildlife, and the land.
  3. Diverse |Encourage a healthy mix of uses on every block.
  4. Spirited | Create places where a variety of experiences and opportunities may come together.

The Deep Ecological Urbanism planning approach was conceptualized as an alternative model for planning our urban centers. During supervised research, the concept was studied. It evolved from a number of other planning and design movements, most notably: biomimicry, biophilia (and Biophilic Cities–many thanks to the author, Tim Beatley, for the brilliant ideas laid out in his book Biophilic Cities), bioclimatic and vernacular designs, ecological urbanism, and permaculture. The model will be explored in more depth over the next year, and will grow into my capstone project leading to my Masters in City and Regional Planning degree.

Read my posts on this blog about Deep Ecological Urbanism.

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