Sustainable and Resilient Communities - Book Review

josh.oconner's picture

Sustainable and Resilient Communities: A Comprehensive Action Plan for Towns, Cities, and Regions (Wiley Series in Sustainable Design)

by Stephen Coyle

Having embarked on a sustainability plan without the aid or foresight of any type of guidebook or comprehensive strategy, I am extremely supportive of the effort that author Stephen Coyle has undertaken in compiling Sustainable and Resilient Communities. This book should be the “Read Me!” document for anyone looking to engage in sustainability planning efforts from a government or community perspective.  It’s not the first book that I’ve read on how to engage in sustainability efforts (honestly such titles are beginning to become “a dime a dozen”), but it is the first book I've read that breaks the mold and focuses intensely on how to create an action plan to make a community more sustainable (rather than simply focusing on successful efforts in other areas).  Coyle manages to provide realistic strategies that can easily be worked into the political context of almost any community without crossing into the fringe of developing technologies or antiquated reductionist themes.

Sustainable and Resilient Communities is broken down into 13 chapters which address the various facets of sustainability.  The chapters are:

  1. The Built Environments and Its Supporting Systems
  2. The Process of Transformation
  3. The Physical Built Environment
  4. The Regulatory Environment
  5. Transportation
  6. Energy
  7. Water
  8. Natural Environment
  9. Food Production/Agriculture
  10. Solid Waste
  11. Economics
  12. Engagement and Education
  13. Public Health

The first two chapters provide a solid assessment of the sustainability planning process and offer a prescriptive framework for how it can be implemented within a community.  Chapter 2 also provides a robust breakdown of the process showing how to assemble potential stakeholders, how to effectively use those stakeholders, how to gain support from a broad segment of the community, and how to successfully implement a sustainability plan.  The remaining chapters break down each of the specialty topics and provide case studies that demonstrate how the topics were successfully tackled.

Sustainable and Resilient Communities is a 404 page manual on how to create a sustainability plan.  This is the manual that you should pass around your organization or civic group to learn how to manage the process and how to build support.  I found it to be well-written and filled with a wealth of information.  Coyle has done a superb job of assembling a group of experts well-versed in the subject matter presented. It doesn’t take a singular or rigid approach to building a sustainability plan but instead shows how communities can create objectives that meet the needs of their citizens.

I found the book to be well illustrated with rational and relevant examples.  The graphics and detailed examples from municipalities around the country are extremely useful in brainstorming approaches.  The graphics are also appropriately placed to make the topics at hand more cogent.  The book opens with a Foreword from Andrés Duany and continues with poignant articles by renowned experts in their respective fields.

If you’re interested in sustainability plans or sustainability action plans or just creating sustainability indicators for your organization this book is an excellent place to start.  It’s targeted to those involved with government organization, but it’s a good tool in the hands of a community activists or civic group.  It would also be an excellent manual for organizations looking to approach sustainability internally.

Originally posted on - I received a review copy of the book from the publisher.


Stephen has been busy this

Stephen has been busy this year. Read about his recent work conducting a charette in the West Bank on the CNU site by clicking here.

You can find more info on Sustainable and Resilient Communities here.


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