This well-written and well-organized book, edited by English architecture and urban design professor Randall Thomas, provides a cohesive overview of the current state of theory, techniques and practices for the nascent field of sustainable urbanism. Urban designers, architects, planners, developers and others involved in the design of the built environment are the intended audience.
It is organized into two parts. The first part, comprised of ten chapters, describes the concepts of sustainable urbanism, including principles and background of urban planning, transportation issues, landscape and nature in the city, building design, energy and information, materials, water, and waste and resources. The second part is a series of European case studies, showing best practices of sustainable urban design and building construction. The case studies are well-illustrated with black and white photographs, diagrams and line drawings, including construction details of such things as wall sections and chimney stacks, and provide useful information for design professionals.
In his introduction, Thomas describes sustainability as being about "poetry, optimism and delight," and that energy use and CO2 figures are secondary concerns. Thomas recognizes the importance of contextual design beyond the building envelope and focuses his argument to inspire, rather than prescribe, sustainable solutions for the block, neighborhood, city and regional scale, though many of the case study examples seem to be focused on solutions for the building.
Sustainable Urban Design is one of several books on the topic that have come out within the last couple of years and is a good complement to Douglas Farr's Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature, Mike Jenks' Future Forms and Design for Sustainable Cities, and Matthew Carmona's Public Places - Urban Spaces.