Who We Are

Brochure on the National Center for Smart Growth Research & Education 
(PDF 1.4 MB)

The National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education is a non-partisan center for research and leadership training on smart growth and related land use issues in Maryland, in metropolitan regions around the nation, and in Asia and Europe. Located at the University of Maryland in College Park, MD, just eight miles from Washington, D.C., the National Center for Smart Growth was founded in 2000 as a cooperative venture of four University of Maryland schools: Architecture, Planning and PreservationPublic PolicyAgriculture and Natural Resources, and Engineering.

The mission of the Center is to bring the diverse resources of the University of Maryland and a network of national experts to bear on issues related to land use and the environment, transportation and public health, housing and community development, and international urban development. The Center accomplishes this through independent, objective, interdisciplinary research, outreach and education. It is aided in these efforts with the work of its five affiliated centers: the Environmental Finance Center, the Center for the Use of Sustainable Practices, the Transportation Policy Research Group, the Housing Strategies Group, and the Planning & Design Center.

Upon request, the Center also offers smart growth leadership training to federal, state and local government officials as well as to private sector decision-makers. The Center staff and its affiliate faculty offer specialized education and training programs as well as smart growth study tours and workshops. Center staff invites suggestions or ideas for tours, training or workshop programs and is interested in establishing partnership arrangements.

EFC Logo

Environmental Finance Center

In 2007, the National Center for Smart Growth merged with the Environmental Finance Center. The merger allowed the Center to expand its capabilities beyond land use research and education and to provide technical and outreach assistance to individual communities.

The Environmental Finance Center is one of nine university-based centers across the country established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1992.  These centers help create innovative financing solutions that assist communities with managing the costs associated with environmental protection and improvement.

The Environmental Finance Center promotes a comprehensive model of environmental financing where state and federal funding programs are combined with innovative financing techniques to create a sustainable watershed protection financing strategy. It uses a number of tools to help communities identify the financing strategies that best fit their needs including:

  • Technical Assistance and training programs;
  • Financing charrettes, seminars, conferences and workshops;
  • Handbooks and publications; and,
  • Program facilitation, coordination, and management.



The Center for the Use of Sustainable Practices

The Center for the Use of Sustainable Practices (CUSP) was founded in 2008 at University of Maryland’s School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation as an inter-disciplinary center for the design and research of sustainable practices. It began operating under the umbrella provided by the National Center for Smart Growth a year later. Conducting research and engaging in design, education and public outreach activities, CUSP focuses on sustainable practices at multiple scales: the building, the community and the city.

CUSP serves to foster the integrated practice necessary for current and future practitioners who are charged with creating built environments and who must cross generational and academic-industry boundaries to do so. Encouraging inter-disciplinary collaboration, joining with other schools and colleges within the University and with affiliated professional colleagues, CUSP provides an unusual venue for design, research, and outreach through its integrated activities. It assists clients in achieving economic, equitable and sustainable design, while educating students and the public at-large on sustainable design best practices.

CUSP competes regularly in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, placing nationally and internationally in the top standings.

HSG LogoHousing Strategies Group

Housing Strategies Group (HSG) is the most recent addition to the NCSG. It was established in 2010 to conduct housing policy research, while making connections to smart growth and sustainability.

The State of Maryland and the United States are experiencing significant demographic changes that will transform housing market demand and supply as the 21st century unfolds. Housing affordability, matching workforce housing with employment opportunities and expanding housing choices to meet changing lifestyles promise to remain important public policy issues with regional dimensions in the foreseeable future.

The “great recession” of this century’s first decade dramatized the importance of housing market issues. Rising foreclosure rates have had impacts on urban neighborhoods, redefining the meaning of housing affordability and raising social equity concerns. Smart growth and sustainability also require an increased emphasis on mixed-use, transit-oriented and more compact development, while matching housing choices with employment opportunity locations.

HSG is engaged in research, teaching and public education with respect to these issues, working with public agencies and non-profit organizations.

TPRG LogoThe Transportation Policy Research Group

The Transportation Policy Research Group (TPRG) investigates solutions to complex problems raised by the interactions of transportation and land use. Working with state and local officials, the TPRG develops and applies analytic methods to better understand the ways that land use and transportation affect each other. Issues which the TPRG typically addresses include exploring methods of congestion relief, the use of multi-modal alternatives to reduce automobile dependency, and the impact of alternative land use patterns on the transportation system. The TPRG also examines land use and transportation impacts on the environment. With respect to these wide-ranging activities, the TPRG not only engages in analytical modeling and the development of policy alternatives, but also works with public officials and other stakeholders on policy implementation, ensuring that procedures developed in TPRG’s academic laboratory move smoothly from analysis to policy development and into practice. Most recently, TPRG has worked closely with the Maryland State Highway Administration and the Maryland Department of Transportation as well as relevant Federal government agencies on these and related issues.

PDC LogoPlanning & Design Center

The Planning and Design Center (PDC), founded in 2012, is the newest addition to the National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG) at the University of Maryland. The PDC assists local, regional and state agencies in Maryland and across the nation on a wide range of projects. These include land use planning, urban design, integrated land use/transportation planning, economic analysis, agricultural preservation, housing and environmental issues. A particular strength of the PDC is its extensive modeling and visualization capabilities.

The PDC draws on the substantial expertise of the faculty and practitioners associated with the NCSG and throughout the University whose leading scholars can apply their expertise to planning for sustainability. Drawing on Maryland’s 50 years of experience in managing growth and on the national experience of its staff in award-winning work around the country, the PDC assists with comprehensive plans, smart growth audits, corridor planning, MPO scenario-based planning, and multi-modal planning.