To understand this concept, it is helpful to think of a city as a giant piece of fabric. Streets are of one color of thread, and civic spaces another, constructed developments are two more (one color for commercial buildings and another for residential), while green spaces still another. In Fort Lauderdale's case, we must also add our waterways. These threads are woven together to create our urban fabric.
First and foremost, a sustainable urban fabric has no holes, no areas that are weak from decay and no empty spaces that have not been well considered. Holes in the urban fabric tend to be paved with heat-producing asphalt, or fall victim to illegal dumping, or make streets dangerous for people and animals to navigate-- all of which are bad for the environment.
A sustainable urban fabric is cohesive, with well conceived connections between the places people want and need to be and also the services they need. Think of the difference between an inexperienced quilter's patchwork versus a quilt artist's cohesive design. In one, scraps sit side by side but never really connect. You see them individually. In the other, you see the whole more than the individual parts, and your eye follows the overall picture not the stitches that connect the pieces. A city is like that too. Though Fort Lauderdale is neighborhood oriented, a focus on connections is now bringing the pieces together more than ever before. This helps people to live near their jobs, to shop close to home, to find recreation without going too far and to utilize mass transit when they do, all things which support a sustainable lifestyle.
To make this a reality, requires incredible coordination inside our city and in the community. Every space counts, and every space needs to be connected to others in multiple ways.
That park we build, how would people walk or bike to it? Can it connect with the stormwater management network, provide a safe gathering place for residents of several blocks, and also connect two previously separate wildlife habitats? That transit center we plan, is there a safe cycle path between it and residential communities or schools? Does it include commercial space for people to run errands on their way home? Can it include solar or wind power generators which connect to the grid? These are the types questions we are increasingly asking.