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People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities [Kindle Edition]

F. Kaid Benfield
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

With over 80 percent of Americans now living in cities and suburbs, getting our communities right has never been more important, more complicated, or more fascinating. Longtime sustainability leader Kaid Benfield shares 25 enlightening and entertaining essays about the wondrous ecology of human settlement, and how to make it better for both people and the planet.

People Habitat explores topics as diverse as “green” housing developments that are no such thing, the tricky matter of gentrifying inner cities, why people don’t walk much anymore, and the relationship between cities and religion.  Written with intellect, insight, and from-the-heart candor, each real-world story in People Habitat will make you see our communities in a new light.

Editorial Reviews


"Kaid Benfield's writings about the shape and strength of our communities constantly challenge readers to think about issues and problems in new ways. He correctly reminds us that 'green' is not always green, 'sustainable' is often not, and 'smart growth' is more than a tag to be hung on a new project like a sales ticket."
(Hon. Parris N. Glendening Governor of Maryland, 1995-2003)

"Kaid Benfield, like Jane Jacobs, is a talented writer who isn't burdened by preconceptions or jargon, who can explain the ideas of others or express his own in a style that is accessible and comprehensible. These 25 essays are not just about cities; they are about making sense of the way we live."
(Lloyd Alter Managing Editor,

"Kaid Benfield, an environmentalist who loves cities, exposes the phoniness of claiming 'green' status for buildings that can only be reached by car. If you love cities, you'll love Kaid's book."
(Hon. John O. Norquist former Mayor of Milwaukee; author of The Wealth of Cities)

"I strongly encourage anyone with even a passing interest in the quality of the place where they live to read Kaid Benfield's writing. His framing of the ecology of 'people habitat' is immensely useful in celebrating how an enormous number of small actions to create healthier local places can contribute to a healthier planet."
(Keith Laughlin President, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy)

"Reading this book was like sitting around a fire talking about city life with an old friend. If you have not read Kaid before, he will quickly feel like an old friend, talking directly from and to the heart, getting to the essence of what makes places that we love and what we can do to make more places like them."

"...Benfield shows he is no dogmatic New Urbanist; he sees the value of design and nature."
(ASLA's The Dirt blog)

"It's truly a delightful and leisurely read, and... points to how we need to get over our addiction to fossil fuels, invest our time and thought in how we build our primary communities, and the importance we place on preserving not just the natural world, but our cities, for future generations."
(Daily KOS)

"On the whole, people who care about the shaping of the built environment—from neighborhoods to regions—will find Benfield's book stimulating and immensely readable. And more than that: wise."
(Better! Cities & Towns)

"People Habitat promises to give us 25 ways to look at greener, healthier cities, but as anyone who has read one of Kaid Benfield's books, articles, or blog posts knows, he delivers at least that many insights on every page. He doesn't just love cities—he gets them, in all their social, demographic, economic, and almost always paradoxical and volatile complexity."
(Richard Florida co-founder and Editor-at-Large, The Atlantic Cities)

About the Author

F. Kaid Benfield is Special Counsel for Urban Solutions at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington, DC.

Benfield is also an adjunct professor at the George Washington University School of Law; co-founder, LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system; co-founder, Smart Growth America coalition; author of several books on smart growth and sprawl, and a regular contributor to the websites The Atlantic Cities, the Sustainable Cities Collective, and NRDC’s Switchboard.  He was selected as one of the world’s “top urban thinkers” on the city planning website Planetizen and one of "the most influential people in sustainable planning and development" by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

Product Details

  • File Size: 122009 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: People Habitat Communications (December 10, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,441 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Community Leader Should Read This February 26, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I absolutely love this book. After several delightful re-reads, I’m now going to loan my copy to the mayor of our town.

“People Habitat” reveals what a long trek forward environmentalism has taken in recent decades: now the good guys are FOR the right kind of development of great places for people, not just against development of wilderness and farmland. (All are crucial.) We will have to grow and build our way of the problems left behind by the sprawl era, and we’ll have to do that by shaping cities and repairing suburbs to create places people really love. Kaid Benfield feels deeply about cities and towns, and he is their genuine advocate, not merely grudgingly accepting of them.

These essays are both very personal and fact-filled. They are argued using the same convincing blend of accessible folksiness, humility, shrewd storytelling, and unassailable data that a great litigator would employ-- not surprising given the author’s lifetime on the front lines in environmental law and policy and his pioneering role in the successful smart growth movement.

Now this book calls for raising the bar on smart growth: “It is not debatable that revitalization is critical to sustainability. But it has to be high-quality revitalization, not just a bunch of concrete boxes or high-rises gobbling up a streetscape that was once more invitingly scaled, and not disjointed buildings drawing attention to themselves without relating well to each other and the whole, either. We must be careful what we wish for.” I couldn’t agree more. Kaid Benfield says it’s time to go beyond the numbers and up our game, with better quality design and execution in the next generation of grand plans.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Enjoyable and Scholarly Read March 19, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I just finished reading this wonderful book "People Habitat", bringing it on vacation with me and determined to read it from start to end. I must say I could not put it down and I completed it in one day. The writing is clear, articulate and thoughtful. I kept asking myself if I was enjoying it so much because I enjoy the way Benfield thinks and expresses himself or was it that it was personal, scholarly, and so genuinely fun to read about the topics I care so very much about. It is both, of course. I hope everyone takes the time to read this book, from the layperson to the planning student to the old time planner, lawyer, advocate, place-maker or architect who thinks he or she knows it all. I loved the honesty, ranging from when Benfield says "I never met him" or "I have never been there" to the important data interspersed with carefully chosen photos and personal accounts of friends and family. Thank you for this important, thoughtful piece. It carefully weaves together into a sensible story all the ideas that are swirling around out there about planning, environment, cities, and places.
Jane Lafleur, Executive Director of Friends of Midcoast Maine
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Kaid's new book provides a comprehensive philosophy of cities that is readily understandable and reflective of a long career spent defining required elements of today's urban sustainability. Each chapter is like a slide show in itself that informs and inspires. It's full of examples, and valuable reflections--not just the "how to's" but the "why's".

Kaid and I are fellow travelers as lawyer-authors who focus on cities. All the more reason that I truly enjoyed People Habitat's fresh and up-to-date presentation of his thoughtful and frank writing. He compiles and focuses and then lets you know what's right by him.

I'd argue that students of cities of all generations should reflect on what Kaid has to say before voicing their own thoughts. It's a great way to advance the collective dialogue about all that cities should be.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By David
This is an extraordinary work as it pertains to livable and sustainable communities. No speed reading is necessary or even recommended. Kaid Benfield presents observations and mentally stimulating concepts concerning urban places that are best savored through mindful reading, some rereading and a lot of reflection. Unlike most publications in this genre, People Habitat holds the reader and it contains "Ah Ha" moments where one wants to place exclamation points in the margins. Most importantly, it allows us a look into what our communities can be if we can successfully reorient our priorities. It is an amazing work and one that needs to be in the hands of many of my fellow planning professionals as we embark on our many projects and our goals for the future health of our communities and our neighbors who reside there.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In this fantastic book Mr. Benfield weaves together 25 thoughtful and thought provoking essays about our natural habitat: cities. I must admit that I found it to be an exhilarating ride as the book shifted from one topic to the next and presented perspectives from a multitude of angles. I came away in the end with both a strong feeling of hope for mankind and a sense of urgency to create great places, lovable places. I highly recommend People Habitat to anyone interested in transforming our human settlements into greener, healthier cities.
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More About the Author

Kaid Benfield is one of the nation's foremost authorities on how to make cities, towns, and neighborhoods work better for both people and the environment. Kaid serves as special counsel for urban solutions at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC, where he works on positive, forward-thinking approaches to environmental challenges in the places where Americans live, work, and play. Kaid also teaches regional planning and sustainable development practices at the George Washington University School of Law.

A longtime leader of the smart growth movement, Kaid co-founded LEED for Neighborhood Development, a national process for defining and certifying smart, green land development under the auspices of the US Green Building Council. He is also a founder and board member of Smart Growth America, a nationwide coalition working on revitalizing cities, building better neighborhoods, and stopping the spread of suburban sprawl. Kaid was named one of "the most influential people in sustainable planning and development" by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and voted one of the "top urban thinkers" on the leading city planning website,

Kaid is a prolific writer whose portfolio spans several books and frequent articles for The Huffington Post, Atlantic Cities, Sustainable Cities, and NRDC websites. His new book is People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities.


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