WASHINGTON, D.C. /eNewsChannels/ — The Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, in partnership with the Brazilian Ministry of Cities and the Ministry of External Relations, will host an international conference on “Sustainable Urban Planning and Energy Efficiency Construction for Low-income Areas of the Americas,” November 4-5 in Rio de Janeiro. This collaboration occurs under the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA), announced by President Obama at the April 2009 Summit of the Americas, and builds on Brazil’s ECPA-led initiative “Building with Energy Efficiency and Sustainability.” The American Planning Association (APA) and the Brazilian Council for Sustainable Construction will assist in the organization of the event.

Experts estimate that over 80% of the region’s population now lives in urban areas. This has major implications not only for energy security and climate, but also for citizens’ safety and social and financial inclusion. Urban planning plays an important role in addressing some of the most pressing challenges brought about by urbanization.

The event will serve as a launching pad for two new activities. The first is a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs to the APA to establish an academic network that will link U.S. urban planners with their counterparts throughout the region.

The second is the launch of “The Sustainable Urban Housing Challenge” sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Ashoka’s Changemakers, with support from Rockefeller Foundation. The competition aims to inspire integrated solutions for energy-efficient housing design, which may include construction, finance, community involvement or public policy instruments.

A panel of expert judges will select 15 entries to be posted online. Three winners will be chosen through public voting and each will receive a prize of $10,000. The most competitive entrants will be showcased and reviewed at a closing event in June 2011 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. where they will be viewed by public and private partners, including prospective funders. Successful concepts will provide outcomes that pair affordable, inclusive, and sustainable ideas with implementable plans for testing, replication, adaptation and scale. Submissions will be accepted for consideration until February 2, 2011.

For more information on the initiative, please visit and For more information on ECPA, please visit