Message from the Executive Director

Gerrit Knaap, NCSG Executive DirectorThank you for taking time to visit the website of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education.  As I write this in January, 2012, the Center is beginning its 13th  year of operation, its 11th since I joined the Center in 2002.  My how time flies.

While our mission of conducting research and offering educational programs on topics that pertain to smart growth has not changed, staff and focus areas of course do change.  At present we have four faculty with joint appointments in the Urban Studies and Planning program, approximately 10 full time professional staff and 2 administrative staff.  In addition, Jason Sartori now serves nearly full time as Associate Director.  With some variation, and depending what is counted, we currently generate approximately $2 million per year in grants and contracts and publish about ten articles per year in peer refereed journals and, of course,  produce numerous reports, working papers, and conference presentations.

Although we continue to address smart growth issues around the world, we also continue to engage extensively at the local level.  As Center director, I am by statute a member of Maryland’s Smart Growth Subcabinet and Sustainable Growth Commission.  This has kept us engaged in state policy discussions on PlanMaryland, the state development plan, the regulation of septic systems, and transportation finance.  We also work closely with Montgomery County’s Park and Planning Commission on a variety of topics and joined the leadership team of the Baltimore Regional Sustainability Planning effort.  Our relationship with the Maryland Association of Counties, the Maryland Municipal League and the Chesapeake Bay program have also strengthened over the years. 

We have established four subunits:

  • The Environmental Finance Center, one of nine EFCs funded by EPA and headed by Joanne Throwe, continues to help local governments find innovative ways to finance environmental preservation.  One of its current focus areas is the Sustainable Maryland Certified Program for Maryland Municipalities.
  • The Transportation Policy Research Group, headed by Fred Ducca and cosponsored by the Maryland Department of Transportation, has built and maintains the Maryland State Transportation Model with loosely coupled econometric, land use, nutrient loading, and fiscal impact models.
  • The Center for the Use of Sustainable Practices, led by Amy Gardner, is the administrative home of Watershed, the 2011 winner of the international solar decathlon sponsored by the US Department of Energy.
  • The Housing Strategies Group is our newest addition, and leads our efforts in housing research and education, including the topics of housing affordability, matching housing with employment opportunities, and expanding housing choices.


Our new logo, featured on this new website, is designed to highlight the independent capacities of each of the subunits as well as the synergies created through the integration of multiple centers of expertise.

Over the course of the last decade, sustainable development or sustainable communities has begun to replace smart growth as the popular term to describe better and more thoughtfully considered approaches to urban and regional development.  Part of this change is semantics and part is substantive.  We don’t plan to change our name, though our work will evolve along with the policy discussions we hope to inform.  At this writing the website contains some 80 papers on a wide variety of topics.  While some of these papers are now somewhat dated, we continue to believe that they can provide useful background information and historical context.  Of course, you will have to decide for yourself.

Again, thank you for taking time to visit our website; I hope you found something helpful or informative.  All of us at the Center welcome your feedback and hope you will contact us if you need more information.  Without such dialog between the Center and its external constituencies we cannot succeed at facilitating a smarter and more sustainable approach to urban and regional growth.

Gerrit Knaap
Gerrit Knaap
Executive Director