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Q&A Series: Durham’s Sustainability Roadmap Outlines a Path to Becoming a World-Class Sustainability City

In 2017, Durham, NC developed an interdepartmental sustainability team with the goal of making Durham a world-class sustainability city. In June of 2017 the City published its first Sustainability Report and in November received a 4-STAR Community Rating. These efforts have led the City to develop a Sustainability Roadmap, which outlines goals and strategies to further local sustainability. General Services Director, Steven Hicks, has played a leading role in the entire process and provides insight in this month’s STAR Q&A.

Why did the City decide to develop the Durham Sustainability Roadmap?

The City developed the Sustainability Roadmap to expand upon the scope of its first-ever Sustainability Plan. Through the Roadmap, the City intends to better align its services, programs, and spending with its vision for a more sustainable and resilient future. This plan was adopted by City Council as part of the City’s Strategic Plan for Natural and Built Environment Goals.

How was it developed and were residents involved in the process?

The Roadmap was developed through a year-long, cross-departmental planning process which originated from and complemented the City of Durham’s Strategic Plan. The City gathered feedback from residents through online public input surveys, in-depth interviews with local community leaders, and outreach at public events and places.

Why was it important to build an interdepartmental sustainability team and not just let the Office of Sustainability develop and implement the Roadmap? Who is involved?

The City built an interdepartmental Sustainability Team to encourage a culture of sustainability throughout the organization. The Sustainability Team is made up of representatives from all City departments, chosen for their expertise in the particular subject matter of their department.

How does the Roadmap relate to other plans, such as comprehensive plans and strategic plans, adopted by the City? What sets it apart?

The Roadmap originated from and complements the City of Durham Strategic Plan and its Sustainability Plan. It goes beyond these plans by broadening the City’s definition of sustainability, laying out seven goals across social, economic, and environmental impact areas. The Roadmap sets aspirational, but achievable targets to measure progress over the short-term (through the year 2020) and long-term (through the year 2040), along with priority strategies to help reach these goals. Most of the goals of the roadmap will also be included in the City’s Comprehensive Plan that is currently being updated.

How did you select the goals and strategies? Are STAR metrics included?

Strategy ideas came from best practices as identified by the STAR certification process, recommendations from subject matter experts, and the public input process. Each potential strategy was prioritized using several criteria including impact, operational feasibility, cost-effectiveness, public input, and alignment with the City’s guiding principles. The STAR framework allowed us to develop a matrix and measures as part of being a sustainable city.

The Roadmap is described as a living document. How do you intend to keep track of progress and update goals as you move forward? How do you foresee STAR supporting this work?

The Sustainability Team will meet quarterly to evaluate new initiatives for alignment with the City’s long-term vision, share progress on sustainability performance measures, and ensure implementation of the sustainability initiatives presented in the Roadmap. This will be led by our new Energy and Sustainable Analyst, Paul Cameron.  The City will also publish a Sustainability Progress Report every two years to report progress on the long-term goals identified in the Roadmap. Outcome measures and priority strategies in the Roadmap will be used to guide updates of the City Strategic Plan, Comprehensive Plan, and Departmental Plans. The Roadmap will be revisited and updated in alignment with the STAR re-certification timeline.

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