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This proposal was moved here from Contest Suggestions 2018


Design settlements with internal financial mechanisms to create sustainable lifestyles. e.g. A high internal price on CO2 emissions.



Can low carbon, sustainable lifestyles be created using financial incentives and legal covenants in combination with good physical planning?

Typical lifestyles in the developed world have footprints much greater than the Earth can sustain.  As developing nations adopt "developed" lifestyles,  pollution levels will increase to a point that challenges life on Earth.

There are few, if any, examples of "developed" lifestyles that, if widely adopted, can fit within the Earth's ecological constraints.  This proposal is to initiate action research to provide a background for prototyping settlements to discover which are sustainable, are attractive to residents and fit within the world marketplace.

To simplify this proposal, the initial phase will avoid the issue of property ownership and concentrate on a model, in which dwellings are offered for rent. The research will theorise and test designs for medium sized settlements containing enough households to support a range of local services. That may be, say, 5000 and above. Smaller settlements may be considered when opportunities for actual development arise.

Choosing key indicators for success of these settlements is part of the research. The most important being the residents average carbon footprint but other possible ones are

  • % of residents employed locally

  • % of food produced locally

  • % of goods bought from local retailers

  • Social class of the residents.

  • Average weekly travel distances.

  • A measure of ecosystem services

  • Protection of ecosystems

In the UK there is now interest in plotland development, where housing plots are pre-prepared for custom built dwellings which can be specified by certain types of housing groups. This gives an opportunity for engaging planning authorities, and suppliers of houses and housing services

This proposal identifies an important area of research because it may show how sustainable lifestyles can succeed in the world marketplace.

What actions do you propose?

Initial actions are aimed at persuading planning authorities to understand the potential of local financial incentives, with an appropriate legal framework,  to encourage lifestyles that are sustainable and desirable


Attempts at creating low carbon, sustainable settlements using physical design alone have failed. For example, in a development on the outskirts of York, Derwenthorpe, the buildings have good insulation, and heat is supplied by an efficient centralised wood chip boiler. The development is also on a cycle route to York town centre. However, residents have, on average, higher carbon footprints than the rest of York.

In Derwenthorpe, the residents' carbon emissions were lower because of the well-insulated and energy-efficient homes but this was more than countered by higher emissions from travel, food and shopping. The report A sustainable community? Life at Derwenthorpe 2012–2015 says

“Information from interviews and other contacts to date suggests that some people do not use the seven closest key services but instead, for example, send their children to other schools, still use their previous GP surgery or commute long distances to work.”

Physical design by itself has not succeeded.

The aim of this proposal is to find a new approach, which  uses financial and legal restraints in addition to good physical planning to create the conditions for better lifestyles. It is also to find out how financial mechanisms might change the provision of local services. For example will incentives to encourage the consumption of local food generate more local food production and local employment.


There is a housing crisis in the UK:  Most of the poor and young cannot afford to buy a home and have high housing costs. The Sustainable Plotlands Association (in the process of formation) aims address this crisis by advocating a form of managed plotland development. The aim is to create pleasant, low carbon, sustainable settlements, which also fit into a market economy.

Advocating this type of development may now be easier because several planning authorities are considering plotland development following the lead of the UK Government. Leeds City Council, for example, have a scheme "Dream it, build it, live it - Building your own home": The scheme includes "custom build":

[Custom build] is when people commission the construction of their home from a developer/enabler, builder/contractor or package company. With ‘custom build’ the occupants usually don't do any of the physical construction work but still make the key design decisions. Around a 60 per cent of all private homebuilding is currently delivered this way.

The associated UK Government scheme encompasses Custom Build Service Plots. Several planning authorities are asking for the public to indicate their interest. This government support is to provide new homes – it is not aimed at sustainable developments - but it gives an opportunity to explore sustainable development with planning authorities. Expressions of interest are being sought for both individuals and housing groups. On group projects Leeds City Council say

[Group projects are] when a group of people set themselves up as an organisation to procure the construction of a number of homes as a collective. There are many ways this can be done – for example, by creating their own development company, or by setting up as a housing co-operative, a co-housing organisation or as a housing association.

This project will take the following actions

ACTION 0: Create a citizens' jury to assess the carbon footprints of everyday activities (see the Green Ration Book) to give a basis for estimating the carbon footprints of residents.

ACTION 1: Encourage a people to sign up with a local authority and investigate setting up suitable housing groups. This would include members of the Sustainable Plotlands Association.

ACTION 2: Discuss with planners, how a housing group might use financial and legal incentives within housing projects. For example would it be possible to have rent premiums on residents with larger than average carbon footprints and discounts for those with low carbon footprints; could high parking charges subsidise local public transport facilities and could rents premiums encourage local food production.

ACTION 3: Undertake research to estimate the embodied carbon in building the infrastructure and buildings of a potential sites and find the best method for this estimation.

ACTION 4: Open a dialogue with economists, planners, builders and lifestyle analysts to see how such developments might fit in the marketplace.

ACTION 5: Publicise the above actions through websites, emails, and social media. This may also be in association with the pending Sustainable Plotlands Association.

ACTION 6: Investigate how the approach advocated in this proposal is compatible with predictions of increased urbanisation in the decades ahead. (See Must a Green City have Tall Buildings? and Notes on “The Future of Cities”)

Who will take these actions?

The Sustainable Plotlands Association

Various local councils.

The builders/manufacturers of eco-homes.

Suppliers of services

Where will these actions be taken?

Initially in the UK

How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?

It will lay the groundwork to show the world that pleasant, low-carbon, sustainable living is possible within a market economy.

What are other key benefits?

It will reduces housing costs particularly for the young and the poor.

If successful, it will boost the market for eco-homes and associates services

What are the proposal’s costs?

£200,000 for 1 researcher for two years plus secretarial and external services (Web design , social media and communications).

Time line

0-2 years: years for a starting campaign and bringing stakeholders together. Assessing the success of the project.

Long term the world covered in sustainable developments.

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