Technical Research | Academic Research

Technical Research

Technical research supported by CATS includes codes and modules as well as major transect-based initiatives such as Sprawl Repair and Agrarian Urbanism.

Suburban Retrofit-Infill and Sprawl Repair
Today we are faced with an overwhelming amount of single-use development, at best auto-dependent, at worst abandoned and deteriorating. Sprawl will not mature independently into vibrant, sustainable communities, so transformation needs to be guided and regulated. In recent years, many New Urbanists have been working on a range of design, implementation and finance techniques to enable suburban retrofit and infill.

While Mashpee Commons is a pioneering New Urbanist model for greyfield redevelopment, a more comprehensive suburban retrofit initiative was presented at several Open Source sessions at CNU XVI in Austin, Texas in 2008. Over the course of several days about 25 practitioners contributed to topics ranging from re-forming the regional scale to restructuring single-use enclaves, and finally to transitional building types. The key points of these conversations have been integrated into plans for an instruction manual to repair suburban sprawl.

The Sprawl Repair Manual will provide a toolkit of standard techniques to categorize existing problem areas and tailor solutions to context. The goal is a successful retrofit to complete, reconnect and repair sprawl types such as malls, shopping centers, isolated subdivisions, townhouse/apartment complexes, and office parks, ultimately to be included within a coherent neighborhood structure.

Download Suburban Retrofit-Infill Posters.

Posters by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company

Suburban Renewal Zones, Charleston, SC
This draft document from the City of Charleston is introduced here for review and discussion. City planners have identified numerous key Suburban Renewal Zones (SRZ) for development under a proposed SmartCode. These initial sites are all dying mall and strip shopping sites. The SRZs would require a phasing strategy for expiring leases on the retail properties. Illustrated at left are several "Stage 6" scenarios.

Josh Martin, City of Charleston

Downloads available from the City of Charleston.

Agrarian Urbanism
Research is ongoing to develop techniques for assimilating agriculture into an urbanism acceptable to the expectations of modern life, while meeting the walkability, compactness, and other proven successes of transect-based plans. The ability to grow food has implications for communities on multiple levels: from food security and health issues, to ensuring a local economy, to the vast environmental benefits of local farming, and the social benefits of a productive activity in which all members of a community can engage.

A current draft of a DPZ document notes the following contextual applications: Rural Agriculture may include Forageable Land and large and small Farms; Intra-Urban Agriculture may exist both vertically and horizontally and within both the public and private realms. Different forms of cultivation are suitable to the urban character of the T4 General Urban Zone, T5 Urban Center Zone and T6 Urban Core Zones. These may range from privately owned Yard Gardens to shared Community or Allotment Gardens which may be publicly managed spaces. They may occur within buildings, for example in window boxes or on rooftop areas. Under consideration is how community productivity may be managed: individually or coordinated by a master farmer or other managing body. Please check back here for the comprehensive Agrarian Urbanism program from DPZ.

Image by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company

Academic Research

Academic research on the Transect includes theoretical analysis and debate, and documentation of the environmental and social performance of transect-based applications. Proposals for studies are encouraged. To post existing peer-reviewed research related to the CATS mission, please contact us.

The Codes Project
An important web-based initiative supported by CATS is The Codes Project, coordinated by Arizona State University Professor Emily Talen. The website is an anthology of the codes, laws and related documents that have created, or sought to create, particular urban forms. It includes a searchable archive drawn from a broad array of historical documents. Documents have been selected from around the world, and from all time periods. Included are both legally-binding codes as well as customary rules that may not have involved a governing authority. These documents provide a rich cultural resource for urban planners, architects, and all others involved in the construction of place.

A section of the website called Codes in Real Life provides a protocol for urban analysis called the Synoptic Survey. With this method and with the instructions on the Submit page, users may contribute their own site-specific research and source material.


Bohl, Charles, and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, eds. Special Issue: Building Community Across the Transect. Places, Vol. 18, Issue 1, 2006.

Brain, David, and Andrés Duany. "Regulating as if Humans Matter." Regulating Place: Standards and the Shaping of Urban America, Routledge, 2005, pp. 293-332.

Duany, Andrés. "Transect Planning." Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 68, No. 3, Summer 2002, Americann Planning Association, pp. 245-246.

Duany, Andrés, and Emily Talen. "Making the Good Easy: The SmartCode Alternative." Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 29, No. 4, pp. 1445-1468.

Duany, Andrés et al. Special Issue: The Transect, Journal of Urban Design, Volume 7, issue 3. Routledge. 2002.