Sustaining Places Initiative

The Sustaining Places Initiative is a multi-year, multi-faceted program to define the role of planning in addressing all human settlement issues relating to sustainability.

APA's Sustaining Places Initiative

APA Past President Bruce Knight, FAICP, formally announced the American Planning Association's Sustaining Places Initiative in March 2010 during the first day of the United Nations Fifth World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In his announcement, Knight noted that, "The planning movement and its professional planners are uniquely qualified to provide leadership in defining, analyzing, and debating these issues and in integrating place-based strategies in the broader discussion of sustainability. Thus, Sustaining Places will examine both how places can be sustained and how places themselves sustain life and civilizations. Planning's comprehensive focus is not limited to a building or a site but encompasses all scales and all forms of organization of human settlements, from rural areas and small town to cities and metropolitan regions. The challenges of sustainability and possible solutions require planners' values, skills, and leadership."

Since the initiative was announced, subsequent APA presidents Mitchell Silver, AICP, and Bill Anderson, FAICP, have encouraged APA to continue to define the role of planning in creating sustaining places in all facets of the organization. Sustaining places is a consistent theme in APA blogs, research, events, education, outreach, international planning, and other resources.


APA's Research Department is involved in numerous research projects related to sustainability including the SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership, Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery, Coastal Zone Management, Drought Mitigation, Growing Food Connections, NOAA Digital Coast, and Planning for Public Health.

APA has also released standards for comprehensive plans for sustaining places. These standards should serve as the concise, go-to resource for desired content for comprehensive plans. The standards serve as the foundation for developing a designation program that recognizes exemplary comprehensive plans aimed at sustaining places.


In 2012, APA adopted a policy guide on Smart Growth. This policy guide complements a number of policy guides on sustainability topics include Climate Change, Energy, and Waste Management.

International Planning

APA is a founding member of Global Planners Network, a network of national planning associations that share planning ideas, approaches, and good practices and thereby build the capacities for planning across the globe. APA remains engaged with UN-HABITAT's World Urban Campaign, an international effort to raise awareness about the challenges of global urbanization.

Smart Cities and Sustainability Task Force

The Smart Cities and Sustainability Task Force, a collaborative effort of the Sustainable Communities, Technology, and Transportation Planning Divisions, reported in April 2015 on how technology advances are changing our communities and identified ways in which planners can lead on these important changes. Following the Task Force's report and recommendations, the Divisions Council continues to further the Smart Cities conversation as a cross-division initiative.