MEASURING STRUCTURAL HETEROGENEITY IN NEIGHBORHOODS: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ECOLOGIC PRINCIPLES AND PHYSICAL DESIGN ATTRIBUTES IN GREENDALE, WI

Open Access
Author:
Mainzer, Stephen Paul
Graduate Program:
Landscape Architecture
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
None
Committee Members:
  • Timothy Murtha, Ph D, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • urban design
  • ecology
  • planning
  • GIS
Abstract:
Between 2006 and 2009 the American real estate market crashed after a period of rapid growth (Caballero et al. 2008, Downs 2009, Smith and Smith 2006). This event seems to indicate that American neighborhoods are vulnerable to disturbances in the real estate market. Identifying this challenge provides an opportunity to explore innovative methods for assessing the vulnerability and sustainability of neighborhoods. The typical image of a suburb is commonly considered to be less sustainable, and more vulnerable, than typical urban cities. The historic spatial and demographic separation between private suburban housing and public urban housing seems to reinforce the perception that suburbs lack diversity. However there currently lacks a method for measuring diversity and vulnerability in neighborhoods. Ecology provides good models for assessing vulnerability. Healthy ecosystems exhibit a strong relationship between diversity and a system’s ability to adapt, or be resilient, to a changing environment (Folke 2002). This study translates this concept and proposes that diversity in a neighborhood can be measured by observing the differences, or the heterogeneity, of a neighborhood’s physical and demographic attributes. Sustainable neighborhood planning attributes are identified in the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Neighborhood Development rating system (LEED 2010), and the Congress for New Urbanism’s Charter (CNU 2011). Greendale, Wisconsin is an ideal location for this project because of its history of progressive social and economic goals, its variety of spatial qualities, and its robust composition of attributes as a greenbelt town. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and U.S. Census data are used to measure and visualize the spatial distribution for each attribute in Greendale. This information was observed at the neighborhood, subdivision, and individual property lot scale. Interpretations of spatial distribution identify several common concepts related to the spatial configuration, livability, social, and landscape qualities of the neighborhood. Future research directions consider the role of spatial distribution in planning documents, such as LEED-ND and Congress for New Urbanism Charter. The significance of this study lies in the creation of an adaptable model that can be used to inform future discussions about urban, suburban, and rural vulnerability and provide valuable information for future sustainable planning.