Sustainable Coastal Development

Throughout human history, civilizations have developed and thrived at the interface between land and water – the coast. This is a place of tremendous productivity and biological diversity. But our recent patterns of growth have left our shorelines altered and our coastal ecosystems stressed.


Sustainable development typically makes us think of green building, renewable energy, and local agriculture. But what else does sustainable development mean in the context of coastal living, where living with nature is truly an everyday reality?

The Urban Land Institute developed the Ten Principles for Coastal Development to “provide a comprehensive overview and guidance for implementing better land use policies and practices along the coast to break the cycle of destructive trends and prevent the degradation of coastal systems as growth and development occur.”

Here are ULI’s Ten Principles for Coastal Development (worth a read in full as well):

1. Enhance Value by Protecting and Conserving Natural Systems
2. Identify Natural Hazards and Reduce Vulnerability
3. Apply Comprehensive Assessments to the Region and Site
4. Lower Risk by Exceeding Standards for Siting and Construction
5. Adopt Successful Practices from Dynamic Coastal Conditions
6. Use Market-Based Incentives to Encourage Appropriate Development
7. Address Social and Economic Equity Concerns
8. Balance the Public’s Right of Access and Use with Private Property Rights
9. Protect Fragile Water Resources on the Coast
10. Commit to Stewardship That Will Sustain Coastal Areas

The principles are laudable in that they recognize the interdependency of economic and environmental health in the coastal region, and promote ecologically-sensitive land use planning as a way to foster both.

Woods Hole Group routinely contributes scientific and engineering expertise to communities, developers, and homeowners living with nature along the coast. We have performed vulnerability assessments, developed beach management plans, designed living shorelines, and restored dunes and coastal wetlands. We continue to help clients develop more sustainable communities by integrating the rich and dynamic coastal environment with our cherished seaside communities.

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