Urban Transitions Studio (UTS)

The UTS Goal is to Promote Urban Sustainability
through Green Building and Transit Oriented Communities.

Urban Transitions Studio is a collaborative partnership between Western Washington University, Bellingham's Office of Planning and Community Development, and Sustainable Connections.

Beginning in 2010, the Western's Planning Studio class participated in a coordinated service learning curriculum that partnered several WWU classes with the City of Bellingham, Sustainable Connections, and other community and institutional partners in order to develop new urbanism planning concepts to help transition Bellingham into a more urban and sustainable community. Planning Studio is the first in the series of coordinated class investigations that emphasizes the preparation of the plan/design concept.

Other classes participating in the Urban Transitions Studio program include: Planning Studio II (Implementation), Sustainable Design Studio, and Environmental Impact Assessment. Each of the participating classes further build upon the concepts developed in planning studio. The program is intended to expand student learning by concentrating planning studies over the course of an entire year and incorporating multiple dimensions of the planning process that aims to effect change towards sustainable community development.

What is Green Building?

Green building is a whole-systems approach to the design, construction and operation of a building. The purpose of green buildings is to minimize resource consumption, maximize resource reuse and energy efficiency, and create a healthy, non-toxic environment for people. Green buildings integrate the built with the natural environment. Students will assess sustainable design opportunities in prototype building structures, streetscapes, and public spaces. Emphasis is placed on achieving self sustaining independence for energy, water supply, wastewater, food security, and other aspects of sustainable development.

What are Transit Oriented Communities?

Transit Oriented Communities and Development (TOC) is the creation of compact, walkable neighborhoods centered around high quality rapid transit systems. TOC design adheres to the principles of sustainability, requiring compact rather than spread out buildings, and reducing our dependence on oil by making it easier for more people to have more choices in how to get around.

The Overlap Between Green Development and TOC Principles

Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) are compatible with and enhance the goals of green building. Green buildings allow communities to grow and thrive while both enhancing the natural environment outside of the development and improving the human environment within the building. Developments are considered "green" when they make efficient use of land, are close to transit, reduce natural resource use, decreased pollution and run-off, and integrate both pedestrian and bicycle-friendly design. The creation of green mixed-use, mixed income, transit oriented neighborhoods is an important element of any smart growth strategy.

(See UTS Publications to read more about Green Development and TOC Principles)


UTS Partners

WWU Faculty:
Professor Nicholas Zaferatos, Urban Planning
Professor Paul Stangl, Urban Planning
Professor Troy Abel, Environmental Policy
Professor Arunas Oslapas, Industrial Design

City of Bellingham:
Chris Koch, Lead project planner
Chris Comeau, transportation planning resource
Darby Galligan, UTS coordinating planner

Sustainable Connections:
Rose Lathrop

Whatcom Transit Authority:
Rick Nicholson

For more information on UTS, contact Nicholas Zaferatos at (360)650-7660 or