I have been involve in the Smart Growth movement for about one and a half years now and have read numerous articles and subscribe to a news letter. Smart Growth isn’t about one way of doing things. It has its basis on the sustainability of the environment and building with minimizing impacts upon the environment. It is part of the environmental movement in reducing our impact on it in terms of pollution (not just air) and the sprawling of communities into natural habitats as a consequence of Growth. That is the fundamental premise of Smart Growth. It is called Smart because in designing communities one must do it in such a manor as not to significantly impact the environment which is a Creative effort unique to each situation. That is fundamentally what Smart Growth is. It of course can manifest itself in many ways as long as it does not expand into unused areas and does not add significant amounts of pollution or use of resources. It is about the conservation of resources such as water, energy, and recycled building materials and independence from greenhouse producing fossil fuels.
So when a community grows and if you stick to the philosophy of Smart Growth you must fundamentally increase the density of human habitat so as not to infringe further into the environment. That means more high density housing and more high density workplaces. To reduce air pollution and the consumption of fossil fuels and also to keep the mobility footprint small (less streets or street expansion) so as not to infringe into the natural habitat you need to design communities that does not depend upon vehicles that need more roads and freeways. The best designs actually return land to the natural habitat that is no longer needed. Thus for growth due to increased population, for it to be optimally environmentally friendly it must be compact, efficient in using green construction materials, energy efficient, and require no dependence upon vehicles for people to get around.
The Smart part of this is to do as much of these things as possible while developing a city which is growing (thinking outside of the box). The more of these elements you can put together the Smarter you are Growing your community which in the end will be most sustainable because it is the most efficient use of land use having the least impact upon humans as well at the natural habitat. This requires very Smart planning. There are many ways people have tried to do this to meet as many of the environmental and sustainable factors at the same time. Some have been more compromising and some have tried to stick more strictly to the philosophy. Some have been more successful than other.
There is no one way of doing it. That is the problem with just reading one or two articles about it. The movement is spreading throughout the nation and world and was initially started in Europe. It is more of a movement than one thing. It is most important to understand the philosophy behind it which is quite simple. Making it work for each situation ad environment is the challenge. It is Smart because there are no blueprint for how to do it best because best is location specific. You must use your brains to solve local challenges. It is a work in progress but it can be made to work with the right combination of will and creativity (Smart).
I hope this overview help to people to better understand it this concept. I have designed one such system for Vallco, or I should say I have developed one such framework for such a system there. To meet the needs of Apple Campus 2 it needs to be big. But it actually will decrease the number of cars on the road from AC2 and its impact upon our community and the environment if done properly.