In modern times, efforts to construct sustainable alternative neighbourhood scale developments date to isolated voluntary initiatives in 1970s Europe and the United States. Since about 2006, they have increased rapidly in popularity. They now go by many names: ecodistricts, écoquartiers, eco-cities, zero/low-carbon/carbon-positive cities, ecopolises, ecobarrios, One Planet Communities, and solar cities. They have become frames—sometimes the dominant frame—used to orient the construction of new pieces of a city in a growing number of countries. Despite numerous standardization efforts, the field of ecourban neighbourhood planning and practice lacks a consistent cross-cultural understanding of what constitutes meaningful ecourbanism in specific economic, political, ecological, social, and design-based terms. Ecourban neighbourhood projects also respond to strictly local challenges and opportunities and express themselves in fragmented ways in different contexts. This article presents an original typology of ecourbanism as the integration of seven extreme type principles. We developed this typology through an abductive approach, or the back and forth testing of observed practices with arguments advanced in theories of sustainable development, planning and urban studies. While ecourban neighbourhood developments by definition express integrative goals, this typology permits assessment of the extent to which outcomes are being achieved in terms of each specific principle. We define and present a limiting case for each of these extreme type principles. Rather than attempting to render different standards equivalent across national contexts, this typology-based approach to understand the outcomes of ecourban neighbourhood developments promises a means to facilitate orienting these developments toward higher levels of integration within a common set of principled boundaries, as they are developed around the world.
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