Sprawl Repair Manual / Edition 2

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There is a wealth of research and literature explaining suburban sprawl and the urgent need to retrofit suburbia. However, until now there has been no single guide that directly explains howto repair typical sprawl elements. The Sprawl Repair Manual demonstrates a step-by-step design process for the re-balancing and re-urbanization of suburbia into more sustainable, economical, energy- and resource-efficient patterns, from the region and the community to the block and the individual building. As Galina Tachieva asserts in this exceptionally useful book, sprawl repair will require a proactive and aggressive approach, focused ondesign, regulation and incentives.The Sprawl Repair Manual is a much-needed, single-volume reference for fixing sprawl, incorporating changes into the regulatory system, and implementing repairs through incentives and permitting strategies. This manual specifies the expertise that’s needed and details the techniques and algorithms of sprawl repair within the context of reducing the financial and ecological footprint of urban growth.

The Sprawl Repair Manual draws on more than two decades of practical experience in the field of repairing and building communities to analyze the current pattern of sprawl development, disassemble it into its elemental components, and present a process for transforming them into human-scale, sustainable elements. The techniques are illustrated both two- and three-dimensionally, providing users with clear methodologies for the sprawl repair interventions, some of which are radical, but all of which will produce positive results.

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Editorial Reviews

Urban Design International
"[Tachieva] brings a wealth of knowledge, insight and pragmatism to the contents of the manual, and the techniques for repairing sprawl at all levels of the built environment. This is an important book for anybody who is contemplating being involved in the task of repairing sprawl. Its strength is in the compelling urban design ideas and proposals that are communicated via the wealth of illustrations in the book....the author and the firm have to be congratulated for publishing this book at this time that clearly inspires and illuminates the potentials for sprawl repair."
Professor in the School of Architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology - Ellen Dunham-Jones
"The successful strategies and highly effective illustrations of prototypical solutions in the Sprawl Repair Manual are extremely useful to both citizens and professionals eager to communicate the many advantages of reconfiguring sprawl into more compact, complete, and connected places. Packed with ideas, this book is a great read and will be a must-have reference for years to come!"
Director of Smart Growth, NRDC, Co-founder, LEED for Neighborhood Development - Kaid Benfield
"Haphazard, dysfunctional land use has wreaked havoc on our landscape, waterways, and atmosphere. To achieve sustainability, we must seize every opportunity to fix the damage, and this wonderfully illustrated book provides us with the tools, step by step and place by place. Environmentalists as well as planners need to learn from its teachings."
Master Planner of Prince Charles' Poundbury Project in Dorset, UK - Leon Krier
"The Sprawl Repair Manual is so far the only complete physical planning manual for handling the impending transformation of suburbia into vital human communities. It is not only hugely instructive but formidably inspirational."
Urban Design
"[Tachieva] brings a wealth of knowledge, insight and pragmatism to the contents of the manual, and the techniques for repairing sprawl at all levels of the built environment. This is an important book for anybody who is contemplating being involved in the task of repairing sprawl. Its strength is in the compelling urban design ideas and proposals that are communicated via the wealth of illustrations in the book....the author and the firm have to be congratulated for publishing this book at this time that clearly inspires and illuminates the potentials for sprawl repair."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597267311
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Galina Tachieva is a partner and director of town planning at the central office of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, in Miami, Florida. She is originally from Bulgaria, and received a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Architecture and Civil Engineering in Sofia and a master’s in urban design from the University of Miami, Florida. Galina submitted a “Sprawl Repair Kit,” which contains some of the ideas and drawings from her book, to the 2009 Re-Burbia competition sponsored by the blog Inhabitat and DWELL magazine, where it won the People’s Choice Award.

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Read an Excerpt

Sprawl Repair Manual

By Galina Tachieva


Copyright © 2010 Galina Tachieva
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59726-985-8




This manual provides guidance for transforming fragmented and inefficient development into complete communities that are livable and robust. Polemical as well as practical, the manual will equip design professionals, developers, regulators, and citizens with strategies drawn from successful built projects.

Sprawl is a pattern of growth characterized by an abundance of congested highways, strip shopping centers, big boxes, office parks, and gated cul-de-sac subdivisions—all separated from each other in isolated, single-use pods (figure 1-1). This land-use pattern is typically found in suburban areas, but also affects our cities, and is central to our wasteful use of water, energy, land, and time spent in traffic. Sprawl has been linked to increased air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, loss of open space and natural habitat, and the exponential increase in new infrastructure costs. Social problems related to the lack of diversity have been attributed to sprawl, and health problems such as obesity to its auto-dependence.

In contrast, complete communities have a mix of uses and are walkable, with many of a person's daily needs—shops, offices, transit, civic and recreational places—within a short distance of home. They are compact, so they consume less open space and enable multiple modes of transportation, including bicycles, cars, and mass transit. A wide variety of building types provides options to residents and businesses, encouraging diversity in population. This mix of uses, public spaces, transportation, and population makes complete communities economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable (figure 12).

The promise of suburbia has been eroding for decades, but reached a critical point with the mortgage meltdown of 2008. A record number of homes went into foreclosure and entire subdivisions and commercial developments began to fail. Yet the expanse of sprawl represents a vast investment, and cannot be simply abandoned or demolished. Pragmatism demands the reclamation of sprawl through redevelopment that introduces mixed uses and transportation options. It must be acknowledged, however, that portions of sprawl may remain in their current state, while others may devolve, reverting to agriculture or nature. The design and regulatory strategies and incentives shown here are intended for the places that are best suited to be urbanized because of location or existing investment.

The history and consequences of suburban development, specifically sprawl, are well documented. Numerous books articulate the trajectory of sprawl within its historical context—from the Federal Housing Administration's mortgages for new construction, the subsidies of the interstate highway system, and the tax laws allowing accelerated depreciation of commercial development, to the evolution of Euclidean zoning's separation of uses and the cultural mandate for separation by race. Recent publications put forward the need to redevelop sprawl and what specifically should be repaired; among these are Greyfields into Goldfields and Malls into Main Streets, reports by the Congress for the New Urbanism. Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs, by Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson, explains why we need to retrofit sprawl and documents successful examples of retrofits through illuminating and comprehensive analysis.

The Sprawl Repair Manual seeks to expand the literature as a guide that illustrates how to repair the full range of suburban conditions, demonstrating a step-by-step design process for the creation of more sustainable communities. This is a framework for designing the interventions, incorporating them into the regulatory system, and implementing them with permitting strategies and financial incentives.

The proposed approach addresses a range of scales from the region down to the community, street, block, and building. The method identifies deficiencies in typical elements of sprawl, and determines the best remedial techniques for those deficiencies. Also included are recommendations for regulatory and economic incentives.

Lessons learned from history guide this methodology. Rather than the instant and total overhaul of communities, as promoted so destructively in American cities half a century ago, this is a guide for incremental and opportunistic improvement.

Most of the diagrams have been conceptualized and generalized to make them applicable to a wider range of situations. In some cases the real conditions were simplified to make the components and their deficiencies easily identifiable, and the techniques explicit. All techniques are shown with two- and three-dimensional drawings and diagrams, in a declension from the most general to the most specific (figures 1-3 and 1-4).


There are two primary options for growth: conventional sprawl development and complete communities.

Sprawl abandoned the neighborhood structure in favor of car-dependent patterns. When driving is mandatory for almost all daily activities, carbon emissions are higher. With the price of gasoline rising, long commutes to or from exurban locations become economic disadvantages. Because sprawl developments are not compact, they consume excessive amounts of farmland and valuable natural areas.

Studies have shown that sprawl is damaging to both physical and social health, isolating people in car-dominated environments where they are deprived not only of the physiological benefits of walking, but also of the natural human interactions typical of complete communities. This is especially relevant to aging residents, who lose their independence when they can no longer drive, and need to leave their suburban houses for retirement communities. Children and younger adults are also vulnerable to the car-dependence of sprawl. In 1969, 90 percent of all children walked to school, as schools were part of complete neighborhoods, but in 2002 only 31 percent walked to school.

Sprawl developments, particularly in exurban areas, suffered some of the highest foreclosure rates, and many have also seen dramatic increases in crime rates, some greater than 30 percent. Many homes, and even entire subdivisions, have been abandoned, creating the effect of sporadic and dispersed occupancy typical of the consequences of natural disasters. Christopher Leinberger, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, predicts that the suburbs on the fringes, poorly served by public transport, will sufer a very visible decline as low-income populations move in and these areas become "magnets for poverty, crime, and social dysfunction."

Nonetheless, the development industry continues to produce sprawl, with the support of the financial industry, planning practices, and government policies. Sprawl remains cheaper to plan, easier to finance, faster to permit, and less complicated to build, primarily due to the regulations governing development. It is simpler to attach the freestanding, isolated, single-use components of sprawl to the already subsidized and prolific highway system than to assemble these elements into real neighborhoods and towns. Sprawl is extremely inflexible and will not mature into vibrant urbanism on its own. Without precise design and policy interventions, sprawl might change—a strip shopping center might be scrapped and replaced with a lifestyle center when the next owner comes along—but it is unlikely to produce walkable, sustainable urbanism.

In contrast to sprawl, complete communities are economically robust because they include a variety of businesses that support daily needs, and nearby residents work at and patronize those businesses. They are socially healthy because many generations with diverse incomes and backgrounds live and interact within them. Complete communities are livable because of their comfortable human scale. They are environmentally superior because they are compact, saving land and natural resources. Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) are reduced by as much as 30 percent, resulting in less pollution and less energy used.

Complete communities also support walking and physical activity, which have been proven important to public health and general well-being. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers from the University of Miami has determined that communities with a mix of uses and good connectivity, block structure, public spaces, and transit proximity have residents who are more likely to walk, less likely to be overweight, and have greater social and community interactions. The researchers worked with the Florida Department of Health to create evidence-based criteria for the Surgeon General's Seal of Walkability so the general public would know what to look for in a community.

The demand for complete communities is greater than the current supply. According to Todd Litman, founder of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, in 2009 North-American households were evenly divided in their preferences for sprawl or smart growth in the form of walkable, diverse neighborhoods. He predicts that by 2030, more than two-thirds will prefer smart growth. This manual shows one way to meet the growing needs for walkable environments by repairing sprawl into complete communities.


Sprawl repair transforms failing or potentially failing, single-use, and car-dominated developments into complete communities that have better economic, social, and environmental performance.

The objective of the sprawl repair strategy is to build communities based on the neighborhood unit, similar to the traditional fabric that was established in towns and cities prior to World War II. The primary tactic of sprawl repair is to insert needed elements— buildings, density, public space, additional connections—to complete and diversify the mono-cultural agglomerations of sprawl: residential subdivisions, strip shopping centers, office parks, suburban campuses, malls, and edge cities. By systematically modifying the reparable areas (turning subdivisions into walkable neighborhoods, shopping centers and malls into town centers) and leaving to devolution those that are irreparable (abandonment or conversion to park, agricultural, or natural land), sprawl can be reorganized into complete communities.

To identify the proper targets for repair, it is essential to understand the form and structure of sprawl in the American built environment. Sprawl can take place in intensely urban areas, but most is found in suburban areas. There are three generations of suburbia that vary in form as related to urbanity and walkability: pre-war suburbs, post-war suburbs, and the late 20th-century exurbs. While the pre-war suburbs are often complete communities, the latter two types abandoned the pedestrian-centered neighborhood structure in favor of auto-centric dispersion.

The pre-war suburbs include patterns of growth that can be defined as suburban, but are not sprawl per se (figure 1-7). In the U.S., the first suburbs sprang up in the nineteenth century along the newly built railroad lines, as compact, middle-class communities assembled around stations (examples include Lake Forest and Riverside in Illinois and Forest Hills in Queens, New York) (figure 1-8). These were modeled after the suburbs built in England in the eighteenth century to serve the London bourgeoisie, and inspired development outside of cities in other parts of the world. With the invention of the electric streetcar, another group emerged closer to the city and accessible to a more diverse economic and social population than the railroad suburbs (examples include Cleveland Park in Washington, DC, the Country Club District in Kansas City, Missouri, and Brookline, outside of Boston, Massachusetts). These developments depended on their proximity to rail stops, and maintained an urban structure for pedestrian walkability and a mixture of daily uses. In the beginning of the 20th century, yet another type of development joined the suburban echelons; communities such as Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and Coral Gables, Florida, were designed to accommodate the automobile, but still consisted primarily of mixed-use, compact, and diverse neighborhoods.

In stark contrast to the pre-war suburbs, the second generation of suburbs was single-use, low-density development spurred by new incentives from the federal mortgage system and the increase in automotive infrastructure and use (figure 1-9). The second-generation suburbs began to develop in the 1920s, but flourished after the end of World War II, when, under the auspices of national defense, the federal government created the interstate highway system, the largest infrastructure project the country had ever seen. Ironically, the main achievements of this monumental effort were to facilitate personal mobility and undermine the fundamental walkability of American urbanism.

Levittown, built on Long Island, New York, in 1948, was the preeminent example of a community dependent on the nation's new commitment to the car (figure 1-10). Conceived as an innovative and affordable master-planned community based on the mass production of housing, Levittown was the prototype of the post-war American suburb, and ultimately became the symbol of the ascent and failure of sprawl. Levittown's thousands of identical houses on identical lots transmogrified the American dream of the earlier suburbs by making everything within them subordinate to the automobile, including the residents.

Though Levittown had schools, shopping centers, and park areas, its master plan ignored the traditional neighborhood structure, and the community was created only for families who owned cars. The use of the automobile eliminated the need for convenient proximity of the elements of everyday life, and the walkable compactness of the pre-war suburb gave way to sprawl. In the wake of its 60th birthday in 2008, Levit-town adopted an environmental program, aimed "to persuade residents to upgrade their homes, improving energy efficiency and cutting fuel bills." As logical and noble as such efforts are, especially in this time of climate change and amidst the (first) great recession of the 21st century, Levittown and suburbs of its kind will need more than the "greening" of individual buildings. They will need a major repair of the overall urban structure, because even if buildings are made more efficient, driving is not reduced, and the environmental, societal, and economic burden of sprawl will remain.

The second generation of suburbs has been blighted by traffic, obsolete housing stock, and inadequate amenities, and has been leapfrogged by newer sprawl out in the exurbs. These places are the urgent contenders for repair, as their deficiencies prohibit them from responding to the changing demographics of a fast-aging and more diverse population. Mashpee Commons in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, one of the first redevelopments of a greyfield (obsolete, underutilized land) in the country, represents the potential to revitalize this generation of suburbs. It is a retrofit in which a dead shopping center built in the 1960s was transformed into a town center in the 1980s (figures 1-13 and 1-14).

The last generation, or third-ring suburbs (figures 1-11 and 1-12), flourished from the 1980s through the early 2000s on the exurban edge. Until recently, these suburbs have been highly competitive and in good physical shape, due in part to potent owners' associations that enforced special standards and bylaws to maintain quality within the developments. The developments are often gated, single-use housing pods or commercial agglomerations such as strip shopping centers, malls, corporate campuses, or entire edge cities, and all are reachable only by automobile.

Repairing these suburbs will require a proactive, visionary approach that anticipates the potential economic decline and devaluation of developments. Urban planners, business owners, developers, and municipal governments must anticipate their failure and intercede. An example of a farsighted repair of a still-successful mall and its surroundings is Downtown Kendall in Miami-Dade, Florida, where the county, chamber of commerce, and landowners worked together to outline a long-term plan for the transformation of this edge city into a transit-oriented, regional center (figures 1-15 and 1-16).


Excerpted from Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva. Copyright © 2010 Galina Tachieva. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Sprawl to Complete Communities
Chapter 2. The Sprawl Repair Method
Chapter 3. Repair at the Regional Scale
Chapter 4. Repair at the Community Scale
Chapter 5. Repair of Thoroughfares and Parking
Chapter 6. Repair at the Block Scale
Chapter 7. Repair at the Building Scale
Recommended reading

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