Imagine KC Terms and Concepts

Air Pollution
Contaminants or substances in the air that interfere with human health or produce other harmful environmental effects.

Alternative Energy
Usually environmentally friendly, this is energy from uncommon sources such as wind power or solar energy; not fossil fuels.

Alternative Fuel / Vehicles
Vehicle fuels which have reduced impacts, including hybrid electric, bio-fuel or hydrogen, compressed natural gas or place to buy bottled fuels. Exchange batteries or fuel cells, and other renewable and ecologically preferred power sources.

A broad street, often lined with trees.

Bicycle Lanes (a.k.a. segregated bicycle facilities)
Roads, tracks, paths or marked lanes designated for use by bicyclists from which motorized traffic is generally excluded.

Something that absorbs into the eco-system when left alone to break down.

Fuels composed of biological materials including crops (especially trees) and animal wastes. The term covers solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases. Biofuels are gaining increased public and scientific attention, due to factors such as oil price spikes and the need for increased energy security.

A main road or thoroughfare (usually including sidewalks), that is lined with buildings.

Polluted site that was once used for industrial or military purposes and now has the potential to be cleaned up and redeveloped. Often located near residential areas, may currently be an empty lot. Brownfields usually do not have high concentrations of hazardous waste.

Buffer Zone

Bus Rapid Transit
A term applied to a variety of public transportation systems which use buses to provide faster, more efficient service than ordinary bus lines. Often this is achieved by making improvements to existing infrastructure, vehicles and scheduling. The goal of these systems is to approach the service quality of rail transit while still enjoying the cost savings and flexibility of bus transit.

Centers / Activity Centers
(as they relate to the regional vision for sustainability)
Dense, vibrant areas, where people live, work, shop and entertain.

Cleaned-up / Rebuilt Site
Opportunity area that is well-located for ecologically-sound regeneration as open space and public amenities, or for buildings. Might currently be a blighted site, paved over, brownfield, abandoned or under-utilized, with potential to add value to the community and environment.

Combined Sewer Overflow

Community Garden
Often planted on public or formerly abandoned land, community gardens are run by volunteers who cultivate vegetables and flowers, closer relationships to nature and one another. Sometimes fenced and locked, but generally open to all participants, community gardens are recognized as community assets that help improve the quality of life for residents of surrounding neighborhood, while offering hands-on learning experiences. Community gardens also benefit the soil, local ecosystems, birds, insects and other wildlife.

Complete Streets
Roadways designed to safely and comfortably provide for the needs of all users, including, but not limited to, motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, transit and school bus riders, movers of commercial goods, persons with disabilities, seniors, and emergency users. Sustainable complete streets are complete streets which simultaneously aim to minimize adverse environmental effects, including, but not limited to, issues concerning drainage and stormwater runoff. Sustainable complete streets also form a comprehensive, integrated network supporting sustainable and transit-oriented development, and sustainable land use patterns.

When food waste, leaves, garden and lawn cuttings are biodegraded into rich new soil. Composting facilities include home systems, large-scale or demonstration projects, drop-off sites, or places that sell locally produced compost, worms and other resources for indoor and garden composting.

Comprehensive Plan
An official local government statement, which has been adopted to set forth goals, policies and strategies that direct physical, social and economic development within the local community.

Preserving and renewing, when possible, human and natural resources.

Corridor / Transportation Corridor (as they relate to the regional vision for sustainability)
Connective, sustainable corridors accommodate different modes of transportation including the car, public transportation, pedestrians and bicycles; expedite the flow of people between the places and activity centers; connect vibrant places with mixed uses, including housing, green spaces, trails, and natural areas. Corridors should transition smoothly to surrounding neighborhoods.

Cultural Site
Important contributions to a community's sense of place and built environment. Cultural sites can be historical, art, music, non-institutional resources, monuments, organizations and places, even temporary projects may be included.

A statistic characterizing human populations (or segments of human populations) broken down by age, sex, income, geographic location, race, education level, etc.

Eco-Agriculture / Permaculture
Encompasses small-scale city farms to full-size rural farms that are organic, biodynamic or using other sustainable methods. Term also refers to organizations that make the link between urban communities and nearby farmers though community-supported agriculture, 4H demonstration farms, agriculture schools or food security resources and networks.

Place where the land is beautified in an ecologically sustainable manner.

Edible Landscape

Energy Efficiency
Actions, behaviors and technology that can reduce the amount of electricity or fossil fuel used to do the same work. Such as keeping a house warm using less energy.

Energy Infrastructure
Includes conventional, fossil-fueled, hydro-electric or nuclear facilities that provide electricity to the public and industry.

Form-Based Code
Form-based codes address the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks. (Learn More)

A neighborhood or district that has been redeveloped by upper- and middle-income individuals and stores, sometimes at the cost of displacing low-income families and small businesses.

Green Building
Practice of increasing the efficiency of buildings and their use of energy, water, and materials while reducing building impacts on health and the environment throughout the complete building life cycle by incorporating better siting, design, construction, systems, operation, maintenance and waste removal. (See also LEED certification).

Vacant land that has never been developed or was formerly occupied by farms or low-density development that left the land free of environmental contamination. Greenfield sites are typically located in suburban or ex-urban areas and are much less costly to develop than are the brownfield sites often located in urban areas.

Green Infrastructure
Infrastructure is the physical framework of a community, often divided by function: either green or gray. Gray, or traditional infrastructure, includes buildings, roads, utilities and parking lots. Green infrastructure encompasses the interconnected network of open spaces and natural systems that manages stormwater, reduces the risk of floods and captures pollution.

In cities, that interconnected network utilizes structures such as rain gardens, green roofs, tree planting, permeable pavement and other landscape-based drainage features. These features restore, protect and mimic natural water flow within a man-made environment.

Green infrastructure assets works to reduce and treat runoff before it reaches stormdrains. Local research on green infrastructure in Johnson County shows it can capture or retain 90 percent or more of the rain from typical storms delivering an inch or less. This is crucial since the majority of pollutants are carried in the first half-inch of rain.

Utilizing green infrastructure reduces runoff entering stormdrains, which reduces wear and tear on them, saving money in maintenance and replacement costs. It also provides wildlife habitat and areas for recreation and green space.

Green Print

Green Roof
A planted roof that cools and cleans the air and retains rainwater while providing beauty, wildlife habitat, fire and soundproofing. Intensive Green Roofs may be used as gardens and Extensive Green Roofs are designed to be viewed but not walked upon. Green roofs are also referred to as eco-roofs, vegetated roofs, living roofs, planted roofs, biotope or cool roofs.

Green School
School with an environmental curriculum, green building and/or sustainability practices. In some cases, design and construction adhere to standards identified by a certification program from a Green Schools authority.

Wooded and grassy areas that provide sites for recreation and enjoyment of nature, often located in the midst of urban areas that are otherwise occupied by buildings and paved areas.

Natural areas that take the form of corridors, often following streams or rivers, and provide opportunities for trails and bike paths connecting scenic areas and other destinations.

Greyfield Land
A term used in the United States and Canada to describe economically obsolescent, outdated, failing, moribund or underutilized real estate assets or land.

Impervious Surfaces
Surfaces built from materials that repel water, preventing water infiltration / absorption into the ground.

Infill Development
Development on relatively small, vacant or underutilized sites in urbanized areas, which make use of existing infrastructure and community facilities. Infill development in the urban core of a metropolitan area is one means of reducing urban sprawl.

Services and facilities commonly provided by a municipality and affiliated organizations including roads, water, sewer, emergency services, parks, etc.

Invasive Species

These are locations where garbage and soil are layered together, preferably in a safely lined facility with a methane gas capturing system. Decommissioned landfills are sometimes “capped” and eco-landscaped for other use.

LEED Building Certification
Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies intended to improve performance in metrics such as energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

Life Cycle Analysis (aka life cycle assessment)
Technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all stages of a product's life from start to finish.

Light Rail
A form of urban mass transit that is a modern successor to the trolley systems widespread in the early 1900s. Light rail routes are usually a mix of urban streets (often in crowded downtown zones) and grade separated tracks (for faster travel to outlying areas).

Local Food Systems
Local food systems are an alternative to the global corporate models where producers and consumers are separated through a chain of processors/manufacturers, shippers and retailers. Conversely, the local food system redevelops these relationships and encourages a return of quality control and healthier products to the consumer and the producer respectively. These quality characteristics are not only in the product but in the method of producing.

Mass Rapid Transit
An urban public transit system using underground or elevated trains.

Mixed-Use Development
The practice of allowing more than one type of use in a building or set of buildings. In planning zone terms, this can mean some combination of residential, commercial, industrial, office, institutional, or other land uses.

Native Forest / Plants
Flora that is indigenous to a region, sometimes called old growth, heirloom or indigenous species. Native species requires less water and care than exotic imports, and usually attract more birds, bees and butterflies, and help the cycle of life stay in balance.

Natural Corridor
These often follow along a river or streambed, ravine or steep hill, disused rail bed or roadway, and serve as a wildlife corridor for land animals and native plants. These environmental assets sometimes include paths for running, cycling, walking, skating, etc.

Park-and-Ride Facility
These are parking lots with convenient public transport connections for cars or bicycles. Park and Rides are sometimes subsidized or free to encourage the use of public transportation. Facilities may include electric vehicle charging spots, carpooling or car sharing resources.

Place Making
A term that describes the process of creating attractive community activity centers such as squares, plazas, parks, streets and waterfronts that people enjoy because they are pleasurable or interesting. Landscape often plays an important role in the design process.

Public Art
Public art is one way that communities add beauty and character to the natural and built environment. These works may include ecologically-oriented artworks, earthworks, monuments, other permanent installations or temporary performance art.

Public Transportation
A public system for moving passengers around a city or county. Public transportation options may include buses, vans, rail, ferries, trolleys, street cars, etc.

Public Space / Square
A community gathering place, often car-free, that may have benches, fountains, events space, etc. It can be located in a town square, garden or park, or in special cases, may be indoors (a shopping mall). These places are often all-inclusive by nature, and are accessible to all.

Rain Garden
A shallow depression designed to capture and soak up stormwater runoff from your roof or other impervious areas around your home like driveways, walkways and even compacted lawn areas. Rain gardens protect surface water quality while adding beauty to the yard. Water from the roof or pavement is routed to the garden where it soaks in instead of running off. Native plants with deep root systems help absorb water and filter pollutants.

Typically, rain gardens are supplied with clean water that runs off from rooftops through gutters and downspouts. Water entering rain gardens seeps slowly into the ground; in heavy storms, it collects for a short time and slowly evaporates. They can be used as a buffer to shoreline areas to capture runoff from the home landscape before it enters a lake, pond or river.

Solar Arrays
Solar panels convert solar energy into direct current electricity via the photovoltaic effect, but the power that one module can produce is seldom enough to meet requirements of a home or a business, so the modules are linked together to form an array.

Solar Panels
A solar panel (photovoltaic module or photovoltaic panel) is a packaged interconnected assembly of solar cells, also known as photovoltaic cells. The solar panel can be used as a component of a larger photovoltaic system to generate and supply electricity in commercial and residential applications. Photovoltaic cells have also been widely used to power spacecraft, including space stations.

Stream Setback Ordinance
Stated simply, a Stream Setback ordinance is a regulation that creates a “buffer zone” between a river, creek, or stream, by specifying where construction of buildings and other infrastructure is or is not permitted.

Stormwater Runoff
Stormwater runoff occurs when precipitation from rain or snowmelt flows over the ground. Impervious surfaces like driveways, sidewalks, and streets prevent stormwater runoff from naturally soaking into the ground.

Triple Bottom Line (Sustainability Model)
The triple bottom line concept is made up of "social, economic and environmental," the "people, planet, profit" phrase was influenced by 20th century urbanist Patrick Geddes's notion of 'folk, work and place'. "People, planet and profit" succinctly describes the triple bottom lines and the goal of sustainability.

Walking School Bus
A Walking School Bus is a group of children walking to and / or from school accompanied by trained adult volunteers as a safe, fun and healthy way to educate and encourage more students to walk to and from school. The program can be led by parents or teachers and can even involve valuable community members like senior citizens or high school students as part of a leadership and community service club.

Water Pollution Source
This can be a "non-point" source, where vehicle-related pollutants wash off roads or a farm where animal wastes or chemical fertilizers drain off the land into waterways and drinking water supplies. It could also include combined sewer overflows (CSOs) that contaminate waterways after it rains.

A watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place. John Wesley Powell, scientist geographer, put it best when he said that a watershed is: "that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community."

Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes. They cross county, state, and national boundaries. In the continental US, there are 2,110 watersheds; including Hawaii Alaska, and Puerto Rico, there are 2,267 watersheds.

The practice of protecting a building and its interior from the elements, particularly from sunlight, precipitation, and wind, and of modifying a building to reduce energy consumption and optimize energy efficiency.

Common method of guiding and regulating land use and development, primarily in the form of ordinances at the local government level.