Sustainable DC: Vision 2032

Arup supported the strategic and technical development of former Washington DC Mayor Gray’s ambitious Sustainable DC Vision and Plan for 2032. Released in 2012, Sustainable DC was the District’s first comprehensive sustainability plan, establishing the Mayor’s ambitions and bringing together integrated planning across government departments to define an action plan for the American capital to be the healthiest, greenest, and most liveable city in the United States. As Arup is mapping key projects against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it has found the DC Plan aligns particularly well with the Goals, which it identifies as an example of best practice in terms of stakeholder engagement, approach and identifying ways to action objectives.

As a recognized international destination for people and investment, the District needed a strategic plan to achieve the Mayor’s goals to transform the city into a model of innovative policies and practices which improve quality of life and economic opportunity. The Vision and Plan set a pathway to achieve the District’s development goals and demonstrated how enhancing the natural and built environments, investing in a diverse clean economy, and reducing disparities among residents can create an educated, equitable and prosperous society. 

In order to establish a successful and well-integrated plan, extensive stakeholder engagement was conducted in June 2011 – with a particular focus on the DC urban community. Over a period of 18 months, ideas were collected from thousands of residents and stakeholders, current District government initiatives were assessed, and additional research was conducted on best practices in sustainability from around the world. The community outreach campaign included 24 public meetings and events and Washington DC’s planning team engaged with nearly 5,000 people at more than 180 events across the city, ensuring all demographics were consulted.

Based on this engagement, nine working groups were set up, each focusing on different aspects of sustainability—the built environment, climate, energy, food, nature, transportation, waste, water, and the green economy. More than 700 community members volunteered their time to develop more than 900 recommendations that informed Mayor Gray’s release of A Vision for a Sustainable DC. 

Together with firm Ayers Saint Gross, Arup led the preparation of the Sustainable DC Plan, applying a wide range of technical skills to identify, evaluate and develop practical strategies across priority sustainability areas. The Vision 2032 resulted in a Plan which included a broad range of goals, under each of the key sustainability themes. Very much like the SDGs, it provides a broad definition for sustainable development and it identifies several targets and actions to achieve objectives aligned with stakeholders’ interests.

This extensive scope of action reflects the breadth of the meaning of sustainability, in this case in the context of the city. In this respect, the integrated nature of Arup’s services has been instrumental in providing a comprehensive response to support DC’s aspirations of sustainability leadership. Some of the main goals under the different themes are the following:

  • Jobs: Increase by 5 times the number of jobs providing green goods and services
  • Health: Cut citywide obesity rate by 50%
  • Built Environment: Attract and retain 250,000 new and existing and residents
  • Climate: Cut citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 50%
  • Energy: Cut citywide energy use by 50%; increase use of renewable energy to 50%
  • Food: Bring locally-grown food within a quarter mile of 75% of the population
  • Nature: Cover 40% of the District with a healthy tree canopy; Ensure 100% of residents are within a 10-minute walk of a natural space
  • Transportation: Make 75% of all trips by walking, biking, or transit
  • Waste: Achieve zero waste by consuming less and reusing everything else
  • Water: Make 100% of District waterways fishable and swimmable; use 75% of the landscape to filter or capture rainwater for reuse

The goals are being implemented through a wide range of campaigns and actions identified through the engagement process. In addition, the Plan has built on several existing and ongoing sustainability initiatives in the city, such as a Green Building Act, a Green Power Purchasing scheme, a Disposable bag law, and the Healthy Schools Act.

In 2018, a Fifth Year Progress Report was published and reported significant progress towards meeting the Plan’s 2032 goals in areas ranging from climate to energy to waste and maintains the objectives to meet the 2032 goals of the Plan.

In 2019, the Sustainable DC Plan was updated by current Mayor Muriel Bowser. The updated Plan 2.0 commits the city to the objectives of the Paris Agreement while reinforcing the original outcomes set in 2012 and aiming to make the District the healthiest, greenest, most liveable city for all residents, providing an updated roadmap to achieve the Vision for 2032. The Plan is structured around a revised set of 13 topics and several underlying goals – shown below are 36 of those goals:


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