Do sustainability measures constrain urban design creativity?

Joanne M. Leach, Christopher T. Boyko, Rachel Cooper, Anna Woodeson, Jim Eyre, Christopher D. F. Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
158 Downloads (Pure)


Planners, architects, urban designers and other built environment professionals engage with a myriad of checkboxes, guidelines, requirements and specifications, all of which potentially compromise creativity and innovation in urban design. Approaches that measure performance are accused of belying the nature of places as messy, plural, organic, accidental and emotive; trying to find a formula that works may tick boxes, but it risks creating soulless spaces, oppressing innovation and incorporation of inappropriate design elements. This paper argues that sustainability assessment methods do have something to contribute to creativity and innovation in urban design precisely because they encourage engagement with challenging and often complex societal priorities. Through interviews with built environment professionals and a critical examination of sustainability assessment methods, the authors suggest that such methods can promote creativity and innovation if they engage competently with sustainability, work at a scale that allows for both breadth and depth (typically greater than the building scale) and incorporate in their design a set of eight key characteristics designed to promote creativity and innovation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1300034
Pages (from-to)30-41
Number of pages11
JournalInstitution of Civil Engineers. Proceedings. Urban Design and Planning
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


  • structures & design
  • design methods & aids
  • town and city planning
  • sustainability
  • sustainability assessment methods


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