Back in May, I blogged about what — in addition to David Byrne’s dazzling bike-centric slideshows, natch — was undoubtedly one of the highpoints of the 18th national conference of the Congress for the New Urbanism: The launch of The Home Depot Foundation’s Sustainable Cities Institute (SCI).

At the time, SCI was half realized with the website — described as a “dynamic online toolbox” for city leaders and sustainability professionals to “utilize for a holistic, long-term approach to sustainability planning and implementation of healthy communities" — up and running but the on-the-ground component of SCI, the City Program, still in the works. As I mentioned back in May, the City Program aims to bring the resources available on the SCI website to life through the greening of two pilot cities.

Although the battle plan of the SCI City Program was announced in May, it wasn’t until today that the specifics of the program, particularly which two cities would be awarded grants and become SCI pilot cities, were revealed. 

Well, it looks the lucky residents of Charleston, S.C., and Fayetteville, Ark., will find their cities getting a whole lot greener as part of the SCI’s three-year, $1 million ($500,000 in funding is awarded to each city) program that through various "sticks and bricks" initiatives will “demonstrate the challenges and successes of implementing lasting sustainability programs at the local level.” Said challenges and successes will be shared on the SCI website.

The selection of Charleston and Fayetteville as pilot cities wasn’t exactly arbitrary. Each city — in all, 37 cities were invited to submit a letter of intent — went through an extensive selection process to “win” the honor of being a pilot city. Ann Arbor and Salt Lake City were two other finalists in the running for the grant.

Explains Kelly Caffarelli, president of The Home Depot Foundation, in a press release:

Charleston and Fayetteville presented impressive initiatives to save local resources and reduce costs while providing great benefits to local residents. We’re excited at the opportunity to work with them to implement those plans and to share the common successes and pitfalls with cities everywhere.
So what exactly do Charleston (in collaboration with the Sustainability Institute of South Carolina) and Fayetteville (in collaboration with The National Center for Appropriate Technology) have on the chopping block for the next three years? A whole lot, particularly on the affordable green housing front, as detailed by the press release.


• Achieve significant utility savings by conducting energy assessments and retrofits on 200 single-family residential homes within the city of Charleston, including historic, low- to moderate-income households, and affordable housing units.

• Provide substantial and verifiable data on the current condition of Charleston’s residential building stocks, best practices for energy-efficiency retrofits, and savings potential.
• Create a specialized curriculum to teach energy-efficient renovations for historic structures in hot humid climates; and enhance the city’s Green Collar Workforce and energy-efficiency services industry through industry growth and job opportunities.

• Provide data needed to reduce the environmental impact of Charleston’s built environment, as well as arm Charleston’s building industry with the skilled labor force and resources it needs to integrate energy efficiency as a standard of building practices.


• Build approximately 40 EnergyStar-certified homes for low- to-moderate-income families in the Walker Park neighborhood, which will advance goals for healthy, affordable housing, improve access to alternative transportation corridors and increase economic opportunity in the area.

•  Design and build the new neighborhood to meet LEED for Neighborhood Development Standards, ensuring the principles of smart growth and energy-efficient design are included. For instance, due to the existing urban forest on the site, the neighborhood will serve as a model design for maximized tree canopy conservation and urban cooling eco-services. A community garden is also included in the site design.

• Develop a Low Impact Development (LID) Drainage and Engineering Specifications Manual to provide technical guidance for developers as the city works to reduce non-point source pollution through stormwater runoff into its 100 miles of streams, which drain into local drinking water reservoirs. This manual will be field tested immediately in the Walker Park neighborhood. This manual will serve as a national model for how to implement LID specifications into mainstream site design standards. In addition, a teaching/ demonstration area will be implemented in the Walker Park neighborhood development.

• Extend a section of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Multi-Trail system to the Walker Park neighborhood, providing residents with inexpensive transportation options and opportunities to further reduce overall vehicle traffic in Fayetteville.

Congrats to both Charleston and Fayetteville on snagging this notable achievement. I can’t wait to see the successes in each of these green-thinking towns replicated in communities across the nation. 

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Sustainable Cities Institute lends Charleston and Fayetteville a helping hand
Affordable housing in Charleston, S.C., and Fayetteville, Ark., is due to get a big, green boost with the announcement that they've been chosen as pilot cities