The obvious strain on gingerbread houses, jelleybean-and-honey fastening products, and other sugar-based infrastructure systems brings them to our attention during the holiday season. With the increasing efforts made in city and regional planning to maximize resources, minimize environmental effects, and improve livability through pedestrian access and human-scale development, many in the development community have expressed the need for clarity in that often-overlooked element of zoning and development codes: codes and plans for not just gingerbread houses but gingerbread condos, malls, office parks, modular developments, hip shipping-crate-based warehousing, downtown office towers, and transit.

Due to outmoded gingerbread building techniques, failures in the Christmas-table staples every year account for not only staggering loss of cheer but a number of gingerbread person deaths that is simply shameful. In many states it remains unclear, for example, whether inspections of contractor-supplied icing are even legal, let alone required; and such simple steps as edibility standards for contruction-grade gingerbread remain hopelessly beyond the capacity of many city-planning patiesseries.

"We don't know what to plan for at all," says Louis St. Augustus, head planner/pastry chef for Harrods and the township of North Cookievillechesterberg. "We have everybody trying to figure out how to manage the sudden shift from site-mixed gingerbread to modular, factory-supplied graham crackers, and then all of a sudden we're hearing about frosting made using black-market foreign powdered sugar, and after a day or so it gets all runny." Structure collapses in several states have closed gingerbread villages, derailed gingerbread trains and other dessert-oriented public transit, and resulted in a significant blow to the structural candy cane industry.

Plus don't forget the American gingerperson has grown larger and -- especially -- wider since the demise of gingerbread trains and gumdrop sidewalks for milk-carton automobiles and plate-sized development parcels. Pop-tart doors have had to be widened and waffle-cookie roofs raised. The expense of something as simple as frosting-snow-removal can throw entire regions into economic meltdown during a climate-changed superstorm fueled by warming seas.

But that's just issues for the gingerbread development community itself. People who design, build, accidentally topple, furiously smash, and then tearfully consume gingerbread communities face a completely different set of problems. The expansion of the modular gingerbread housing market, profiting large international makers of kits instead of neighborhood gingergbread developers, has created not just instant housing but entire cookie villages. Regrettably, the gingerbread used in those areas is considered by almost all eaters of gingerbread housing materials as inedible and possibly poisonous. Those who enjoy, for example, hearing a five-year-old ceaselessly discuss his plans for eating his gingerbread house -- ceaselessly -- do not revel in the thought of an endless feedback loop of discussions about why he can NOT eat the house because of inedible building products. The pastilles used for doorknobs or lawn ornaments are now indistinguishable from plastic beads, and lard-instead-of-butter-based icings may hold shape and maintain tensile strength far longer than butter-based, but, seriously, yuck.

To say nothing of the construction industry itself, which despite almost constant inspection and regular citation cannot be deterred from licking its fingers. Even inspection agents are largely suspected of giving up on their own regulations, instead weakly imploring, "well, at least wash your hands once in a while, you disgusting pigs," licking their own fingers all the while.

Frosting, graham cracker, gingerbread, and hard-candy manufacturers as well as designers together claim: once it's used by a contractor, food becomes either building material or garbage. Looking for it to be edible is a mistake, they say, siding with their unlikely allies in the arts-and-crafts-grade pasta industry.

In this time of stress, then, a couple simple rules will help improve gingerbread development in years to come.

1. High-density development allows the reservation of more plate space for gingerbread-scale activities. As you can see in the picture, gingerbread condo development not only creates more space for outdoor activity in the green-plate plaza, but it leaves space for public art (the sculpture called "Red Bottle Cap") and things like a farmer's market (detail). Even though American gingerbread persons have grown so staggeringly large in recent years, they can still be successfully housed in this high-density arrangement.

2. Use of pretzel-rod rail service encourages placemaking and pedestrian activity, as evidenced here by the small shop set up near a rail stop by this enterprising gingerbread type, selling the same sort of multicolored sugar crap that their entire economy depends on. And leaves those who built cheap graham-cracker dwellings on enormous plots of lands in the exurbs out on their own where they belong.

High density development; public transit. The ginger population requires the same things the rest of us require, though lacking representation they have to get to it with no say at all in their standards or codes. Which actually makes them not much different from us. And, of course, they are only allowed to remain around for a while, at which point they are consumed by the very developers who designed their dwellings. Which, now that you think about it, makes them not much different from us. In any case, during this gingerbread dwelling season, happy everything. Nom nom nom.