Applied Research

APA's applied research program draws on the expertise of staff, APA members, allied professionals, and partner organizations to identify, evaluate, and disseminate local and regional solutions to challenges associated with community growth and change. Research activities at APA are supported by grants from foundations, nongovernmental organizations, and government agencies, as well as subscription revenues and member dues. Most sponsored projects involve collaboration between our in-house research staff and outside researchers, authors, or academics. This work results in the creation of resources such as practical guides, PAS reports, webinars, symposia, and training workshops.

Featured Program

APA Foresight

APA Foresight helps planners navigate change and prepare for an uncertain future. With foresight in mind, planners can guide change, create more sustainable and equitable outcomes, and establish themselves as critical to a thriving community.

Recent Publications

Sponsored Research

APA's sponsored research efforts bridge the gap between theory and practice, providing evidence-informed guidance, educational opportunities, and place-based support.


Green Communities

The Green Communities program advances practices that improve environmental quality, address climate change, and reduce developmental impacts on natural resources. Research priorities include green and blue infrastructure, green energy, and green transportation.

Hazards Planning

The Hazards Planning program advances practices that promote resilience by reducing the impact of natural hazards on communities and regions. Research priorities include hazard mitigation, post-disaster recovery, and climate change adaptation.

Planning and Community Health

The Planning and Community Health program advances practices that improve human environments to promote public health through active living, healthy eating, and health in all planning policies. Research priorities include active living, food systems, and health in all planning policies.


APA has detailed information and resources resulting from more than 50 research projects undertaken since 2003.

Current Projects

Planning Information Exchange

In cooperation with the Association of State Floodplain Managers, APA is conducting a series of quarterly webinars for practitioners on hazard mitigation planning and its connections with recovery planning and preparedness.

Scenario Planning for Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaption

Through a Cooperative Technical Partners agreement with FEMA, APA is preparing a PAS Report on scenario planning for hazard mitigation and climate adaption.


APA has partnered with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) on Solar@Scale, a new U.S. Department of Energy-funded project to help cities, counties, and special districts take advantage of opportunities to site solar projects on public lands. It will help planners and local officials update plans, zoning regulations, development review procedures, and assistance programs to make context-sensitive large-scale solar development on private sites easier.

Planning for State Resilience: A 50-State Breakdown

With support from The Pew Charitable Trusts, APA has analyzed resilience governance approaches across all 50 states.

Completed Projects

Addressing Health and Equity Through Comprehensive Plans

Drawing on experience with three jurisdictions and national research, APA and the Health Impact Project developed a toolkit for other communities interested in integrating health and equity into their comprehensive plans.

Arts, Culture & Creativity

This series of briefing papers illustrates how planners use arts and culture strategies to achieve economic, social, environmental, and community goals.

Autonomous Vehicles: Planning for Impacts on Cities and Regions

APA and its partner organizations developed a playbook for cities and regions to maximize the benefits and minimize the potential negative consequences associated with the deployment of autonomous vehicles.

Benefits of Street-Scale Features for Walking and Biking

Through a partnership with Active Living Research, this project examined how different street features can promote physical activity, with special focus on economic and social outcomes.

Building Coastal Resilience Through Infrastructure Planning

APA and ASFPM developed guidance to help practitioners incorporate climate, flood, and hazard data into local and regional capital improvement plans. They worked with regional partners in Savannah, Georgia, and Toledo, Ohio.

Capacity Building for Planners to Address Health

This five-year effort developed technical tools, educational resources, and professional development guidance to enhance opportunities for pursuing health-oriented planning.

City Parks Forum

We are facing a new era of defining what constitutes a park. No longer seen as simply grass and trees, parks provide a multitude of benefits to their users.

Coastal Zone Management

Working with the Coastal States Organization, APA's Hazards Planning Research program produced a PAS Report on coastal zone management.

Complete Streets

Discover policy and implementation practices that are helping to create complete streets in communities across the country.

Context-Sensitive Signage Design

For planners and building officials, signs are but one component of the complex built environment. And planning for and regulating signs is just one aspect of a city or community design program.

Creating Community-Based Brownfield Redevelopment Strategies

This three-year initiative involved community development leaders, community members, and others and resulted in a guide to redeveloping brownfield sites.

Creative Placemaking in Planning

APA developed planner-friendly tools, vetted by the public art field and APA's Arts and Planning Interest Group, to increase planners' competencies in working with artists on creative placemaking projects.


Disaster Recovery Guidance

APA and the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center at Texas A&M University partnered for a two-year research project, funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Cooperating Technical Partners program, that produced a Post-Disaster Recovery Guide for Planners.

Drought Mitigation

APA's Hazards Planning Research program published a PAS Report on best practices and case studies in drought planning, working with the University of Nebraska's National Drought Mitigation Center and the National Integrated Drought Information System.


Everyday Destinations

This blog series describes 15 planning approaches that can be implemented in small and rural communities by professionals with the ability to influence the policies and processes that shape the built environment with support from public health experts.

Family Friendly Communities

This project engaged planners in thinking critically about what makes a family friendly community, what's currently being done, and what opportunities are there to create more

Growing Food Connections

This project targeted 20 urban and rural communities across the U.S. that are significantly underserved by the nation's food system.

Great Urban Parks Campaign

APA completed a project with the National Recreation and Park Association and the Low Impact Development Center to improve environmental and social outcomes in underserved communities through green infrastructure in local parks.

Greater Baltimore Wilderness: Green Infrastructure for Regional Resilience

Through this project, APA and its partners developed a regional green infrastructure decision-support tool, a toolkit to guide local policy and implementation, and provided planning assistance for two pilot projects in central Maryland.

Growing Smart

States and their local governments now have new practical tools available to help combat urban sprawl, protect farmland, promote affordable housing, and encourage redevelopment.

Hazard Mitigation

Learn how to integrate best practices in hazard mitigation into all forms of local plan making and planning activities.

Hazardous Tree Management and Post-Disaster Recovery

APA hosted a scoping session under USDA Forest Service sponsorship to discuss ways to reduce disaster-caused damage to the urban forest. Several federal agencies and other national nonprofits participated.

Health Impact Assessment's Role in Planning

APA's Planning and Community Health program completed a project to further the education, training, and development of Health Impact Assessments (HIA) as an integral part of planning practice to integrate the use of HIA into plans and policies that shape the built environment.

Healthy Communities through Collaboration

In 2003, a partnership between APA and the National Association of County and City Health Officials began to restore the bridge between land-use planning, community design, and public health practice.

Helping Communities Plan for Climate Extremes

APA, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, and the University of Illinois worked with five pilot communities in the Chicago metropolitan area to find ways to incorporate sound climate science into their local planning efforts.

Housing Choice

Everyone needs housing — a place to live, a place to call home. But the realization of safe, decent, affordable housing is becoming increasingly difficult for more and more individuals and families.

Innovations in Planning and Public Engagement for Community Resilience

In this FEMA-funded project, APA and its partners produced online models and tools for community visioning and scenario planning for post-disaster recovery.

Land Based Classification Standards (LBCS)

The LBCS model extends the notion of classifying land uses by refining traditional categories into multiple dimensions. These multiple dimensions allow users to have precise control over land-use classifications.

Multimodal Planning at the Megaregional Scale

Through this project, APA developed policies, strategies, and implementation tools for local governments and regional agencies to address megaregional issues in long-range comprehensive planning.


Through an overarching collaborative strategy that brings together members of APA and the American Public Health Association, this project is building local capacity to address population health goals and promote the inclusion of health in non-traditional sectors.

Planning and Designing the Physically Active Community

In the last decade, the paradigm of smart growth has prompted many communities to improve the physical design of downtowns and neighborhoods.

Planning for a New Energy and Climate Future

Planning for a New Energy and Climate Future is the culmination of a three-year research and education project on the integration of climate change and energy issues into planning practice.

Planning for Early Care and Education in Hurricane-Affected Areas

APA and partners created an educational module and a public participation guide to help educate planners and decision makers about the proper siting of early childhood education programs in hurricane-affected areas.

Planning for Food Access

APA's Planning and Community Health Research program is identifying and evaluating plans that address community-based food systems.

Planning for Public Health

A multi-year research study to identify and analyze the plan-making processes and the health goals, objectives, and policies of local comprehensive plans across the U.S.

Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery: Next Generation

An update and overhaul of the classic PAS Report Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction, incorporating numerous planning lessons learned from the last 15 years of dealing with major disasters.

Planning for Wildfires

Wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity as more people move into areas where developments meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildlands.

Planning the Urban Forest

Planners need to adopt a green infrastructure approach and incorporate trees into urban plans. Learn how to develop an urban forestry program that reaps the many benefits of trees.

Planning Tools for Health

In partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this two-year study resulted in a set of tools that integrate health into plan implementation with a focus on creating guidelines for site plan review and subdivision.

Regional Green Infrastructure Planning at the Landscape Scale

APA and the U.S. Forest Service collaborated on regional green infrastructure planning at the landscape scale and the associated needs and opportunities.

Subdivision Design in Flood Hazard Areas

In this FEMA-funded project, APA revamped a 1997 PAS Report to incorporate new issues and knowledge that have developed over the past two decades.

Smart Growth Codes

How do we amend our ordinances to advance smart growth?

SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership

From September 2010 to July 2016 APA worked with its partners to provide outreach, training, and technical assistance to local and regional governments to make it easier for residents, businesses, and property owners within their jurisdictions to use solar energy.

Surveys of State Planning Laws

Since 2002, the American Planning Association (APA) has periodically surveyed planning enabling laws in all 50 states. The first survey, conducted under the auspices of the Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook project, served as a benchmark for subsequent efforts. In 2022, APA researchers completed their most recent survey: 2022 Survey of State Planning Laws.

Tribal Transportation Programs

In early 2005, APA contracted with the Transportation Research Board to produce a Synthesis Study on Tribal Transportation Programs.

Urban Agriculture

Research that resulted in a Planning Advisory Service Report on the role of planning practice in developing and sustainable urban agriculture to support economic, social, and environmental goals.

Urban Conservation: Thinking Megaregionally

This project is a collaboration with the South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative to improve the utility and utilization of the Conservation Blueprint within populated areas for the mutual benefit of the planning and conservation professions.


Cutting-edge research in urban and regional planning requires a close working relationship with planning practitioners, academics, partner organizations, and funders. Collaboration also makes it possible for other organizations to have their research results reach APA's diverse audience of professional planners and planning commissioners. Moreover, APA's research agenda is supported by the great ideas generated from our members and partners across the country. APA welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with organizations that have similar or complementary interests.

Contact APA Research

Research KnowledgeBase

The Research KnowledgeBase connects APA members to curated collections of topically related resources. Each collection includes commentary and a collection-specific search tool.

Research Blog Posts