Michael Mehaffy

Michael Mehaffy

  • Executive director of a catalytic NGO that facilitates research and practice in the challenges of modern settlement and the resources of traditional patterns
  • Contributor to the SmartCode, pioneering of new urban code now being adopted in a number of US towns and cities.
  • Led or consulted on award-winning sustainability and transit-oriented development projects in the US and internationally
  • Led three different projects in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina

Travels from Portland, Oregon

Contact Forte Speakers for fees and available dates

Michael Mehaffy is an urban and building designer, project manager, researcher, educator and author.  He is an international leader on new trends in sustainable and low-carbon urban design and development, in both research and practice.  He has led or consulted on award-winning sustainability and transit-oriented development projects in the US and internationally, including Orenco Station, Pringle Creek Community, and three different Hurricane Katrina projects in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast.   He is a longtime associate of Christopher Alexander, and co-founder of the Centre for Environmental Structure-Europe, where he is research associate.  He is also founder and coordinator of the Environmental Structure Research Group.

Michael Mehaffy is an active contributor to the latest research, and serves on the editorial boards of Urban Design International, Journal of Urbanism, and Cuadernos de Arquitectura y Nuevo Urbanismo.  He also serves on the boards of two sustainable building NGOs, and on the advisory boards of several research projects and community development corporations.  He has published numerous papers on sustainable urbanism and architecture, most recently including a paper in collaboration with a coordinating lead author of the IPCC presented at the Copenhagen IARU conference on climate change.  He is Academic Chair of the Council for European Urbanism, and coordinator of the European School of Urbanism and Architecture.  He is a member of the LEED-ND Correspondence Committee and has consulted internationally on its concepts and metrics.  He is also a contributor to the SmartCode, the pioneering new urban code now being adopted in a number of US towns and cities.  He has lectured, published and taught in Europe, Asia and North America.

Michael is executive director of Sustasis Foundation, a catalytic NGO that facilitates research and practice in the challenges of modern settlement and the resources of traditional patterns. He is also an adjunct faculty member at the University of Oregon, and a development consultant on projects in the USA and internationally. Michael is an author, researcher and consultant in sustainable planning, and president of Structura Naturalis Inc. in Portland, Oregon. He is also Secretary of the INTBAU College of Chapters and a member of the board of INTBAU-USA.

Planetizen, the US web planners’ journal with 1.5 million readers per year, has just recently named Michael to their “100 Most Influential Urbanists” list. The list is international and has no time limit, and it includes Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Law Olmsted, Frank Lloyd Wright, Baron Haussman, and Vitruvius (!)  (Michael is #61. )https://www.planetizen.com/features/95189-100-most-influential-urbanists

Additional Information

Michael is a strategic planner who works to leverage natural structures and amenities to develop the highest value for a community. He works internationally with governments, NGOs and businesses to align the ingredients of successful mixed-use, transit-oriented and sustainable neighborhood projects. His award-winning work has included key management roles on industry-leading landmarks of sustainable urban development. He was project manager for the master developer of Orenco Station, the acclaimed mixed use development on Portland’s light rail line described in a New York Times op-ed as “perhaps the most interesting experiment in New Urbanist planning anywhere in the country. He was a planner on three different teams for the rebuilding of New Orleans and the US Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, where he spearheaded key elements for the Unified New Orleans Plan. His other projects have pioneered new urban codes, green development, and innovative strategies to monetize sustainable design features. Michael is also a widely published author and speaker on sustainable urban development, and a regular contributor to Urban Land magazine, Building magazine (UK) and others. His research on urban form and climate change was recognized when he was invited to present at the prestigious International Alliance of Research Universities’ Scientific Congress on Climate Change in Copenhagen, a lead-up to the COP-15 treaty negotiations. He has spoken at many other professional and academic venues in Europe, Asia and North America.

Michael is also an adjunct professor, guest critic and lecturer at a number of institutions in Europe and North America. He is on the editorial boards of three international urban journals and on boards or advisory boards of a number of other built environment NGOs and urban research projects. He is research associate with Christopher Alexander at the Centre for Environmental Structure-Europe, where he has collaborated on a new class of “generative code,” and new applications of pattern languages.

He has served as a member of the Correspondence Committee for the development of the new urban sustainability rating system, LEED-ND, and has consulted on a number of noted projects to establish LEED-ND certification.

  • Mehaffy’s talks are carefully tailored to audiences that have included government officials, planners, architects, developers and other business leaders, academics, computer software and IT professionals, and more general audiences. He has been invited to speak on recent advances in sustainable urban development, the UN’s “New Urban Agenda,” the COP21 climate accord, new practices in urban planning, new urban codes, transit-oriented development, urban revitalization and redevelopment, and the pioneering work of urbanists Christopher Alexander and Jane Jacobs.


Beyond the “New Urban Crisis”

Rapid urbanization is putting new pressure on cities, and rising prices are causing more problems with displacement and urban inequality.  Former champions of strong growth in urban cores, like Richard Florida (the “Creative Class”) and Edward Glaeser (the “Triumph of the City”), are expressing second thoughts. What are the issues and the available solutions?

Getting Good Plans Done

Many cities aspire to add multi-modal transit, transit-oriented development, walkable mixed use development, and other more sustainable forms of urbanization. Unfortunately, it is far easier to make these plans than to make them a reality.  In this presentation, Michael shares lessons from Portland, Oregon where he has worked extensively, and from other international case studies, and will make key conclusions about the ingredients of Portland’s  success.

Planning for Climate Change: The Case for Better Cities and Towns

In the wake of the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, many people are exploring actions they can take to respond to growing public concerns about climate change mitigation and adaptation.  One of the most effective things we can do, is to curb urban sprawl by building more walkable, mixed-use, multi-modal, diverse cities and towns. In spite of the serious challenges, we do have the resources available to be successful — and to provide other urban benefits too. Michael will discuss the research that he presented at the Paris Climate Conference in partnership with UN-Habitat, and completed at Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands.

Paris, Quito and Beyond: Planning for the “New Urban Agenda”

How will new international planning agreements — notably the Paris Climate Agreement and the New Urban Agenda — continue to shape the planning agenda at the local and regional levels, even after the US has left the Paris agreement?

Having served as a consultant to UN-Habitat for the New Urban Agenda, approved at Habitat III and adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly, Michael will discuss how it will continue to inform our planning agenda in the US,  as will the Paris climate agreement – especially at the city and state levels. He will also give specific examples attendees can relate to.


A sample of several of Michael Mehaffy’s Presentations:


University of Strathclyde

Sir David Anderson Fellow

Council for European Urbanism

Board Member and Press Liaison

International Making Cities Livable LLC

Board Member, International Society of Biourbanism

Advisory Board Member, Delft University of Technology

Member of the Faculty and Researcher In Urban Form and Climate Change

Biourbanism, Advisory Board Member,

LEED-ND, Member of the Correspondence Committee

INTBAU, Secretary

Congress for the New Urbanism, Member



“I hope you will be pleased to know that your opening remarks were quoted frequently during the second day’s sessions.  I believe your work is very important.”    James Malanaphy, Co-Chair   Historic Resources Committee, American Institute of Architects

 “What a compelling and inspiring synthesis you presented!”  Susan Zielinski, Managing Director, Center for Advancing Research and Solutions for Society

  “Your contribution was terrific.” Elana Horowitz, Manager of Partnerships and Consulting     Government of Ontario, Growth Secretariat

“Your thoughtful messages planning content well in advance of the event assured me we had selected the ideal presenter.”   Piper Foster, Director, Sopris Foundation