The University of Utah
College of Architecture + Planning

What Is Conservation Development?

“Conservation development defines the process of planning, designing, building, and managing communities that preserve landscapes or other community resources that are considered valuable for their aesthetic, environmental, cultural, agricultural, an/or historic values.  The term also can refer to a community that results from this process.

Conservation development requires an integrative, systemic, and holistic approach to land use planning and development.  It can help communities preserve open space and protect rural character.  Most important, it can enhance property values, minimize infrastructure costs, and foster the development of graceful, environmentally responsible, and livable communities that appeal to today’s increasingly sophisticated consumer.

Conservation developers undertake a deliberate, conscientious, and engaged approach to site planning, land preservation, infrastructure design, landscaping, architecture, and community governance.  Conservation development typically is accomplished through the use of layered, iterative planning process.” (Edward T. McMahon, Conservation Communities, 2010).

Conservation Development results in carefully planned development patterns that preserve significant proportions of open space (ideally more than 50%) with minimal impacts on hydrology and landscape connectivity. It creates desirable neighborhoods with a high quality of life by integrating natural landscapes and human habitation.

Conservation Development in Utah

The Swaner family has been instrumental in founding the CEPD at the University of Utah, motivated by their leadership in conservation development and green infrastructure in Utah. As a result of this relationship, the CEPD is able to make available a set of resources that reflect decades of experience in conservation development and open space preservation. Many of these resources were developed through Sumner Swaner’s former organization, the Center for Green Infrastructure Design.