Plant Chicago via Flickr Creative Commons

EcoDistricts are the cutting edge of sustainability solutions that use a district scale to achieve greater impact. They link energy, transportation, water, and land use in an integrated, efficient resource system.

Business-as-usual development does not prepare our cities for today’s climate and economic uncertainties. As CNT looks to create equitable, resilient communities we find that energy, water, transportation and waste must be addressed as systems, rather than on a purely building-by-building basis. District-scale innovation allows us to do just that. Sustainable infrastructure at a multi-building, or multi-block level can provide clean energy, transportation access, and healthy water while preserving affordability and better protecting us against risks like urban flooding. It can also create green jobs and economic development opportunities as companies increasingly look to locate in areas that support their sustainability and livability goals. CNT served on the advisory committee for the development of the EcoDistricts Protocol which identifies equity, resilience, and climate protection as the three “imperatives” that drive all EcoDistrict efforts. CNT’s EcoDistrict work addresses essential implementation factors, including site selection, governance. community control, financing, policy, and documenting the many benefits that come from sustainable infrastructure.

Work has included showing how the EcoDistrict concept can be applied to industrial and manufacturing development, specific case studies on Chicago’s Central Manufacturing District and the food manufacturing incubation industry and Chicago’s Hatchery, EcoDistrict Feasibility Studies for Elevated Chicago’s targeted transit areas, and in financing and infrastructure modeling for Phoenix, AZ.



Research + Further Reading

Equity Express Fact Sheet

by CNT
April 5, 2018

Equity Express Financial Education Workshops give participants the information and support they need to decrease household expenses, increase savings and reduce environmental impacts. They respond to two major crises of our time- economic and ecological- by increasing the wealth of asset-poor households through consumer choices that are both financially smart and promote sustainable living.

Learn more about Equity Express here.


Industrial EcoDistricts: Primer

June 27, 2017

This paper presents CNT’s recent research on a range of innovations for Industrial EcoDistricts in the areas of energy, water, transportation, and waste. Our work looks at district-scale interventions through the lenses of: What is it?, Why do it?, and What does it cost? with practical, real world examples and financing strategies to help implementers and decisionmakers create next-generation industrial districts in their communities. 

This paper examines: 

  • Energy: Renewables, Storage, District Energy, Microgrids, Energy Efficiency, and Demand Management 
  • Water: Water Efficiency, Demand Reduction, and Water Reuse
  • Transportation: Urban, Transit-Served Locations, Goods Transportation, and Logistics
  • Waste Systems 

We also discuss the several essential implementation factors, including site selection, governance, engagement, financing, policy, and documenting benefits. 

While all of the strategies and technologies we have looked at are being tried in one form or another, for the most part they have yet to be brought to scale. As we begin to reimagine what infrastructure means in our communities, Industrial EcoDistricts present a way to create jobs while saving energy and water, addressing climate change, and creating an economic benefit for businesses and communities.

Listen in to the July 2017 Industrial EcoDistricts webinar as CNT's Jen McGraw and Scott Bernstein presented on research on a range of innovations for Industrial EcoDistricts in the areas of energy, water, and transportation. CNT looks at district-scale interventions and asks What is it?, Why do it?, and What does it cost? with practical, real-world examples and financing strategies to help implementers and decision-makers create next generation industrial districts in their communities.