Innovative strategies to foster spatial and social resilience in high vulnerability suburban environments

It is generally accepted that environments typical of Australian middle and outer suburbs face significant challenges in relation to numerous aspects of sustainability.

Post war suburbs rely heavily on private transportation,experience servicing limitations associated with low population density and displaying a relatively low adaptive capacity.

Vast expanses of Australian suburbs are experiencing a cycle of renewal with ageing building stock being rapidly replaced through private investment at equivalent or slightly increased dwelling densities. With the average household size known to be decreasing, the changes currently occurring in middle ring suburbs fail to significantly contribute to population density, leaving these areas with little improvement in relation to resilience to future sustainability challenges.

Aida proposes a design approach which aims to generate more sustainable suburban environments over time, enhancing the tendency for private property investment to foster suburban resilience through adaptive evolution.

The understanding of suburban resilience is divided into two separate, yet interrelated, elements of social and spatial resilience, expanding previous research on the connection between these concepts. Suburban resilience is discussed as more than a set of requirements. It becomes an approach to confront suburban un-sustainability; a dynamic process that determines the capacity of a system to accept change, through novelty, learning and self-organisation.

As a means of testing and demonstrating the design approach, it is hypothetically applied to an existing Adelaide suburb currently undergoing significant redevelopment and deemed to be highly vulnerable to rising fuel and mortgage costs. Innovative urban development approaches are required to enable communities to accept and direct change, collectively confronting future uncertainty. Without such an approach existing unsustainable suburban fabric is likely to perpetuate as a result of ongoing reinvestment in the status quo.

Mrs Aida Leon, Graduate Master of Sustainable Design, University of SA, Adelaide SA will speak at the 5th International Urban Design Conference – The Hilton on the Park, Melbourne, Australia from the 10th to the 12th of September – 2012

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