Sustainable Built Environment Initiative

What is SBEI?

Downtown waterfront pedestrian access, Cadillac, MIThe Sustainable Built Environment Initiative (SBEI) (formerly Small Town Design Initiative) began as a pilot in 2013 as a means of assisting communities to address physical planning, design and land use issues (see image right for downtown waterfront pedestrian access in Cadillac, MI). It offers a graphic visioning process that provides citizens with a set of images and recommendations to guide improvements in their community with a sustainability theme. The SBEI builds on the success of the Small Town Design Initiative by providing a “go-to” source for Michigan’s communities for physical sustainable design assistance in community development and land use.

Franklin Historic Village Center, Franklin, MIMSU Extension (MSUE) and the School of Planning, Design and Construction (SPDC) have jointly developed SBEI to address sustainability challenges and improve the quality of life in Michigan’s communities. The partnership allows for an integrated approach to solving complex community problems through the diverse expertise found within SPDC, including Construction Management, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture and Urban & Regional Planning, along with MSUE’s institutes and Extension educators (see image left for the Franklin Historic Village Center in Franklin, MI). Download a promotional flyer about the initiative.

The Objectives of the SBEI are to:

Stockbridge Area Urban Trails Plan, Stockbridge, MI

  • Work with communities to develop sustainable planning and design ideas for local issues and opportunities;
  • Build consensus and generate ideas to address challenging sustainability concerns; 
  • Act as a bridge between communities and consulting planning and design professionals; and
  • Provide in-community student learning, and serve as a creative and scholarly outreach and engagement work endeavor involving campus faculty and field Extension educators.

(See image right for the Stockbridge Area Urban Trails Plan, Stockbridge, MI.)

Project Types

The SBEI seek projects that integrate planning and design elements within a sustainability framework, including regeneration (vacant land reuse, brownfields, placemaking), renewable energy (green development and building technology) and resiliency (economic shock, climate adaptation, natural disasters) using the imaging/visioning umbrella of physical sustainable design. Examples could include downtown streetscapes, parks, bikeways and trails, open space systems, industrial/commercial reuse, beautification, land use, signs, agricultural/conservation land preservation, ecosystem management, and neighborhood/residential development (see image below right for the Cadillac Heritage Plaza in Cadillac, MI). The scale of the project can vary from a single parcel to a subarea plan.

Cadillac Heritage Plaza, Cadillac, MIWho Qualifies for
SBEI Services?

Political jurisdictions in Michigan can make application for SBEI assistance. This may include townships and charter townships, as well as villages, cities and counties. Nonprofit organizations are also eligible.

What to Expect

Each project will be completed as an individual effort by the SBEI. A team will be assembled, as appropriate, to properly address the project needs. Size, timing and complexity of the project will determine how and who it is assigned to the project by the SBEI.

The energy, creative thinking and innovation of students, faculty and professionals at Michigan State University will all be brought into focus to assist Michigan’s communities in developing a vision and plan, build consensus and create physical images of sustainable design projects. This process, and resulting products, provides the community with a clearer definition of the problem and potential solutions. The natural, and intended follow through is for the community to engage professional planning and design consultants who will further evolve the ideas, and prepare the technical studies, plans, drawings, specifications and cost estimates that turn the project ideas into reality (see below before-and-after images for a Meridian Charter Township project, which was part of the Community Sustainability Plan. Before: Single-use development. After: Mixed-use development).

Before: Single-use development, After: Mixed-use development part of Community Sustainability Plan, Meridian Charter Township

What is required?

Communities interested in receiving Sustainable Built Environment Initiative assistance must complete an application package. Applications will be evaluated by the SBEI. Evaluation criteria include: Project meets SBEI goals, broad-based community involvement and support, clear community objectives, quality of base materials (maps, data, etc.) and financial commitment. If appropriate, applicant communities will be contacted by the SBEI to further review their application. In some cases a community visit will be necessary with the SBEI.

Complete applications are encouraged to be submitted by March 30 and September 30 each year for priority consideration. However, applications can be submitted throughout the year at any time. Projects will generally be approved by May 15 and November 15, respectively.

How to Apply

  • Download and complete the Application Form and follow the instructions within.
  • Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but priority will be given to applications submitted on March 30 and September 30.
  • Please feel free to contact the SBEI if you have any questions.

Past Project Examples

Examples of Previously Completed Projects (Note- Some of these projects were supported with additional grant funding):

Contact Information

Wayne Beyea, JD, AICP
Director, Sustainable Built Environment Initiative
Senior Specialist, Urban & Regional Planning Program

School of Planning, Design and Construction
Michigan State University
Human Ecology Building
552 W. Circle Drive, Room 101
East Lansing, MI 48824-1030
(517) 432-7600
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)