Ed McMahon

"We've designed physical activities and green space out of our communities. It's called a 'nature deficit.'"

Ed McMahon

Ed McMahon holds the Charles E. Fraser Chair on Sustainable Development and Environmental Policy at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) in Washington, D.C.

He is nationally known as an inspiring and thought-provoking speaker and a leading authority on topics such as the links between health and the built environment, sustainable development, land conservation, smart growth, and historic preservation.

Read his biography.

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Active Transportation and Real EstateActive Transportation and Real Estate: The Next Frontier (March 2016)

Explore the interconnections among walking, bicycling, and real estate development. This report showcases the growing synergies between real estate development and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure investments.



BHP_TenPrinciples_CoverTen Principles for Building Healthy Places (November 2013)

The report from ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative sets out ten important principles that can be used to create a new approach to building healthy communities. The principles in the report, if acted upon, will help people live longer, more productive lives; re­duce unhealthy lifestyles; help improve a community’s competitive advantages; and allow developers, investors, local governments, and citizens to prosper in the 21st century.



Conservation CommunitiesConservation Communities: Creating Value with Nature, Open Space, and Agriculture (April 2012)

Practical how-to information for conservation-minded urban planning professionals is provided in this invaluable guide. The importance of natural lands or open space in master-planned communities—either in the suburbs or on the edge of existing cities—is thoroughly explained and coupled with examples of conservation-oriented housing developments that incorporate this key component.




Find more of Ed McMahon’s ULI publications.

Non-ULI publications and other writings for Citiwire.net and Planning Commissioners Journal


As the Senior Fellow for Sustainable Development, Ed McMahon leads ULI’s worldwide efforts to conduct research and educational activities related to environmentally sensitive development policies and practices. He is also a senior staff adviser for ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative, and is a sought-after speaker and thinker on health and real estate. He is currently at work on a major new report, Active Transportation and Real Estate: New Frontiers in Development, which will be released at ULI’s Spring Meeting in Houston in May 2015.

Before joining the Institute in 2004, McMahon spent 14 years as the vice president and director of land use planning for the Conservation Fund in Arlington County, Virginia, where he helped protect more than 5 million acres of land of historic or natural significance. McMahon is also the cofounder and former president of Scenic America, a national nonprofit organization devoted to protecting America’s scenic landscapes. Before that, he taught law and public policy at Georgetown University Law Center for nine years, and served in the U.S. Army, both at home and abroad.

McMahon is the author or coauthor of 15 books, including Conservation Communities: Creating Value with Nature, Open Space, and Agriculture; Better Models for Development in Virginia; Developing Sustainable Planned Communities; Green Infrastructure: Connecting Landscape and Communities; Land Conservation Finance; and Balancing Nature and Commerce in Gateway Communities.

He also writes regularly for Urban Land magazine, Citiwire, Planning Commissioners Journal, and other periodicals.

Over the past 25 years, McMahon has helped communities in all 50 states with a wide variety of community planning and economic development issues. He serves on several advisory boards and commissions, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Maryland, the Governor’s Institute for Community Design, the Doris Duke Charitable Fund, and the Orton Family Foundation.

McMahon has an MA in urban studies from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a JD from Georgetown University Law School. He and his wife live in Takoma Park, Maryland.


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Ed McMahon
Senior Resident Fellow
Charles E. Fraser Chair for Sustainable Development and Environmental Policy

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Areas of Expertise

  • Climate change and energy
  • Green building, sustainable development, and historic preservation
  • Urban open space, agriculture, and conservation communities
  • Health and the built environment
  • Active transportation

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