Reality Check Plus: Envisioning a Sustainable Maryland

EPA Grant Number: R833346
Title: Reality Check Plus: Envisioning a Sustainable Maryland
Investigators: Knaap, Gerrit , Moglen, Glenn E. , Ruth, Matthias
Institution: University of Maryland - National Center for Smart Growth
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: March 1, 2007 through April 30, 2010 (Extended to February 28, 2012)
Project Amount: $274,060
RFA: Collaborative Science And Technology Network For Sustainability (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Sustainability


There is widespread consensus – based on a growing body of academic research – that how we design and construct cities has a significant impact on the natural environment. The types of natural systems affected are wide ranging and include effects on plant and animal habitat, hydrological cycles, air and water quality, and global climate. How to minimize these adverse impacts through sound land use policy, however, remains under explored. This project explores alternative development scenarios for the state of Maryland and provides estimates of how land development can affect energy consumption and surface water quality.


This interdisciplinary project builds on a large, recently completed public participation exercise in which Maryland residents placed lego blocks on a map as a means of expressing a preferred future development scenario. This development scenario will be compared with existing conditions, an extension of current development trends, and two yet-to-be developed scenarios to identify impacts on a variety of development indicators. Work under this grant will focus on two specific areas: energy consumption and surface water quality. Water quality impacts of alternative development scenarios will be estimated using a GIS based model that yields estimates of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loadings into stream segments throughout the state. Impacts on energy consumption will be estimated using statistical models that capture interactions among urban development patterns, local climate change, and energy consumption.

Expected Results:

The results are expected to reveal significant differences in estimates of water quality degradation and energy consumption by development scenario. More compact growth, for example, will lead to fewer acres with impervious surfaces and thus higher water quality in most Maryland streams. More compact growth will also lead to smaller houses and denser development patterns which may result in higher residential energy use for heat but, perhaps due to heat island effects, lower energy use for cooling. These two sustainability indicators, combined with other social and economic indicators, can lead to better informed decisions regarding land policy and infrastructure investments.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 33 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 14 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

sustainable development, urban planning, energy consumption, stream water quality, scenario analysis, urban growth management, regionalism, state land use policy, hydrological cycle, Maryland, Chesapeake Bay, mid-Atlantic,, RFA, Air, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Atmosphere

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • 2008 Progress Report
  • 2009
  • 2010
  • Final Report