What will the community of the future look like? Architects and developers at the 2008 Developer Conference this week said that in 20 to 25 years, projects will be sustainable and self-contained.

The panelists?including Dennis Wilde, a partner at Gerding Edlen Development; David Chilinski, president of architect firm Prellwitz/Chilinski Associates; and Mike Daly, president of Forest City Covington?agreed that, while we can't predict the future, we must plan for it. And 20 to 25 years out isn't that far off, considering that it can take five years just to get a project permitted. "My feeling is we have to move very, very quickly, and we have to make substantive, profound changes within the next seven years," Wilde said.

Sustainable development will be a No. 1 priority going forward, especially given the continued high gas prices. "People are going to get over the car thing," Chilinski said. "All of a sudden, places that have mass transit or are willing to build it are going to become the right thing to do."

Gerding Edlen is already focused on less dependence on cars. Wilde's firm's communities in downtown Portland, Ore., and Seattle promote 20-minute living?everything residents need to fulfill their lifestyles is within a 20-minute walk of their residential property. By 2012, his company plans for all of its projects to generate more energy than they consume and consume more waste than they produce. That's a lofty goal but one likely to be pursued by a growing number of developers in the years ahead.

New regulations will also largely determine what the community of the future will look like. For one, some cities and jurisdictions are already requiring green development, and that number is only expected to increase. "I am telling you regulatory environment is shifting, and you are not even going to have the opportunity to do what you did before because towns are changing the game," Chilinksi said. "We are working in a little town in Cheshire, Conn., and this guy said unless mixed-use is on site he is not going to look at it. Towns are going to be telling us what the score is."

Perhaps the best gauge of future development is Mesa del Sol, a 9,000-acre, $5 billion master-planned community in Albuquerque, N.M., headed up by Daly of Forest City. When completed over the next 35 to 50 years, it will feature a whopping 38,000 homes and 18 million square feet of commercial space.