Tropical Urbanism – Supporting a City in a Rainforest

Study awarded highest honour at National Planning Awards

In Cairns, the relationship between built form, city planning and landscaping is expressed as Tropical Urbanism and is a defining characteristic of the region’s identity.

The Tropical Urbanism: Cairns City Image Study was a combined effort of Cairns Regional Council and a consultancy team comprising Tract Consultants, Follent, Peddle Thorp and local firms CA Architects and Total Project Group Architects.

3D of the Abbot Street Hotel by CA Architects

Tropical Urbanism was incorporated into the CairnsPlan 2016, which was adopted in March 2016 with the inclusion of assessment criteria for development in a number of codes and a supporting Planning Scheme Policy (The Policy) to provide additional guidance.

The Policy includes requirements for development to achieve 15% vertical landscaping and 50% shading on each façade, as well as separation and promotion narrow buildings for ventilation, increased heights and a generous street canopy to provide ventilation and shading and allow for pedestrian movement in response to tropical climatic considerations.

The policy has been well accepted by industry, winning the 2017 National PIA Award for Planning Excellence – the highest accolade for planning in Australia. This followed success in two Queensland PIA awards, including the Best Overall Award for Planning Excellence across all categories. Judges commented that “the study represents a significant contribution of tropical expertise that can be offered, transferred and adapted to suit the needs of other tropical cities, with Cairns defining itself as a leader worldwide in the area of Tropical Urbanism”.

Local Architects have embraced the policy, with several planning applications having been made under the CairnsPlan 2016 that will result in improved urban place and tropical design outcomes. This will result in enhanced aesthetics, shading, sustainability, increased landscaping in the horizontal and vertical planes and improved amenity, leaving a great legacy for planning in the City

The policy encourages designs that better reflect the sense of place and Biophilia, or connection with nature, which can energise residents and the experience of tourists visiting Cairns’ unique tropical environment.

One example is the Abbott Street hotel and apartment building by CA Architects which has been designed to explicitly embrace the principles of tropical urbanism whilst capturing the flavour of Cairns. An architecture of high canopies, filtered shadows, water play and large volumes capture the essence of the rainforest and reef, blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors. The activated street fronts, covered public spaces and landscaped edges provide a uniquely Cairns experience.

To support the implementation of the policy, particularly the provision for 15% vertical landscaping, Council intends to engage further with the building and construction industry to explore how to the policy may be further refined through guidance on species selection, vertical gardens, podium planting, and shading devices.

Cairns is currently developing a new City Centre Master Plan, which will further integrate Tropical Urbanism principles into the urban domain through a series of identified urban design projects.

The Tropical Urbanism Policy provides a framework to express the unique tropical environment on two levels; firstly by providing a physical representation of the brand of Cairns as a City in the Rainforest (where rainforest meets the reef); and secondly by ensuring that the urban domain remains climatically responsive and is a place that people want to live and visit in generations to come.

This article was kindly provided by Sophie Barrett, Coordinator Strategic Planning, Economic Development & Sustainability, Cairns Regional Council

Are Promises Kept ? Verification and Validation

Various large and small developments happen in our cities every day to build a better liveable and smarter space for us. The current process of using a contract or deed and a contractor to deliver the development could be further improved. It is vastly expensive or impossible to rectify, after the development completion, when the development failed to deliver the benefits.  There needs to have certainty in the achievement of the desired outcomes in urban design or smart city projects.

Richard Lau

A process of consistently verifying the requirements and validating the products (results) during the project would enhance the probability of achieving the results that the project is proposed to achieve. This verification approach has been applied in major infrastructure projects and could also apply to smaller scale local developments or any precinct-wide urban projects.

Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) means that a completely independent entity reviews/evaluates the work products generated by the team that is designing and/or executing  a given project. The IV&V provider will often monitor and evaluate every aspect of the project itself from inception to completion. It is far easier and more cost effective to correct problems that are identified earlier rather than later in the project.

Looking at a project in progress from the perspective of an outsider, and not allowing oneself to be engulfed in details or assumptions, enables the independent reviewer to recognise warning signs and impending problems while they can still be mitigated or corrected.

The primary value of IV&V is in identifying high-risk areas early in the project which allows the organization to either mitigate risks or prepare contingencies.  Project implementation should be a partnership between the organization and the IV&V team, where the IV&V team provides tangible measurement and alternatives and helps identify issues which may not be immediately visible.  Independent verification and validation is a time-tested methodology that should be carefully considered as a relatively low-cost insurance policy at the outset of projects, in particular public ones.

This article was kindly provided by Richard Lau, Arcadis Australia Pacific Pty Ltd.

Richard presented an abstract entitled ‘Are Promises Kept ? Verification and Validation’  for the 2016 International Urban Design Conference.

Cities Performance Leaves Way Too Much Data Off The Table

If we can’t manage what we don’t measure, then crucial gaps in the indicators proposed for the federal government’s National Cities Performance Framework plunge its effectiveness into doubt as a tool for improving the resilience and sustainability of our cities and the people that live and work in them.

The Interim report, released this week, outlines the framework and data-driven indicators that will be made available as a digital dashboard for the public and others to assess cities across economic, social and environmental aspects.

city-performance
Photo: article supplied

It aims to show how well cities are performing against the Smart City policy priorities of jobs and skills; infrastructure and investment; liveability and sustainability; innovation and digital; governance, planning and regulation; and housing.

These have been converted into 41 proposed indicators that will be being applied to 21 of Australia’s largest cities and also Western Sydney.

Gaps in the architecture

However, even the Property Council of Australia, which has hailed it as “vital policy architecture” has noted that there are some gaps in the data it proposed to deliver.

A proposed indicator that would reveal the ratio of population growth to dwellings constructed has not been included “due to lack of data”.

“We believe there is one area of potential improvement for the Interim Framework and that relates to housing affordability and the ability to properly assess housing supply,” Ken Morrison PCA chief executive said.

“The big gap is the lack of data on housing supply which is a critical part of the housing affordability equation, and we again call on the Turnbull Government to reinstate the National Housing Supply Council to plug this gap.”

Ironically, news broke this week that 2016 Census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows there are around one million empty dwellings in Australia, and that in Sydney close to one in five dwellings are empty. Sounds like available data to us.

And here’s another one – while the data will include air quality in terms of particulates in the air, and overall carbon emissions, a proposed indicator on carbon emissions from specific sectors was also left out due to… lack of available data.

The Fifth Estate is seeing something of a pattern there that looks scarily like the Trump approach. Don’t measure it, don’t monitor it and then you can wilfully refuse to manage it.

Mr Morrison said that the framework brings “some rigour” to the question of whether our “big and small cities are successful or not”.

“What gets measured gets done – and this framework will assist policy makers in our big cities as well as our smaller cities and regional centres.”

Policy makers it may not assist terribly well are those concerned about vulnerability to natural disasters.

This article was originally published by The Fifth Estate.

Click here to continue reading the entire article.

Ten Steps to Better Sports Investment

Across the world, governments and sports fans continue to be enamoured of huge sporting events and the ambitious new infrastructure that goes with them. We all understand the health and wellbeing benefits and the value to local economies. But without careful planning they can equally become dead places, or end up a drain on public funds.

Matt Lally 

Taking a global perspective I’ve arrived at ten rules for creating vibrant sporting destinations that have real long-term value:

1. Think beyond the finish line. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was planned to provide a huge variety of on-going uses in its post-Games phase. It’s now a much-loved leisure destination for Londoners, bordered by a new neighbourhood that was originally the Olympic Village. Athens 2004, by contrast, demonstrates how not to do it.

2. Take the wider view. A successful venue must connect to the world beyond its doors or gates. That’s why the 2012 Games in London included regeneration plans for much of East London’s surrounding waterways and parkland.

3. Sustainability in each mode of operation. Set clear achievable targets for energy, waste, materials, water and mobility, from base-build, through event and legacy modes. These will safeguard long-term operational costs, while doing the right thing by the environment.

4. Not just sport. Enduring footfall relies on local enthusiasm. In its first year of operation the Singapore Sports Hub, with its mix of sports, entertainment, office, retail and community uses set in parkland, attracted more than one million people on non-sporting-event days.

5. Embedded urbanism. Be a valued neighbour. The Emirates Stadium precinct in London, squeezed into an unforgivingly tight site, has managed to incorporate mixed-tenure housing (including more than 1,000 affordable homes) helping its bottom line while meeting community need.

6. Partnership in delivery. Public and community bodies need to work with private ones. After London’s 2011 riots all key stakeholders came together to find more inclusive ways to use public space. Coinciding with local Tottenham FC’s redevelopment plans, the result is a proposed enlarged stadium that integrates with the surrounding area, creating new, more engaging public spaces.

7. Focus on the ‘Last Mile’. Get the first and last leg of the journey wrong and a facility might be doomed. Ensure good public transport connections, pedestrian ease, wayfinding and accessibility.

8. Beyond the front door. Facilities need to embed attractively and intuitively into their immediate surroundings, with a focus on the quality of public spaces.

9. Build a broad business case. A venue should have breadth of commercial audience and purpose all year round, from sport to music, art to business.

10. Think local. The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NYC, has embraced local food and drink vendors, building a reputation for supporting neighbourhood artisans and entrepreneurs, rather than relying on the usual giants like KFC and McDonalds.

Taken together these rules provide an approach that ensures the whole community, from sports fans to local businesses, contractors to local government gains long-term benefits from sporting infrastructure investment, socially as well as financially.

This article was supplied by Matt Lally, Associate Principal of Integrated Design + Planning for Arup.

Shaping Australian Cities: Driving Global Competitiveness Through Strategy and Design

The 10th International Urban Design Conference will be held at Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa, Gold Coast, Queensland from Monday 13 – Tuesday 14 November 2017. 

Australian cities
James Tuma

James Tuma, National Director – Design, will be joining us this year to discuss “Shaping Australian cities: Driving global competitiveness through strategy and design”.

What makes a city globally competitive? Where do Australian cities sit in the global context? How should we shape them?

Cities are human kind’s greatest achievement and challenge. Predictions indicate that by 2050 well over half of the world’s 5 billion people will live in cities. Investment in cities and real estate worldwide is estimated to more than double from 2012 to 2020. Cumulatively, cities globally represent the greatest opportunity to enact and effect change at a planetary scale.

This body of work considers the emerging language and strengths of cities and identifies ten strategic opportunities for Australian cities to address when it comes to their design and place in the world. This guidance is by no means exhaustive or definitive, however it aims to provide the foundation stones of creating a compelling national conversation about our shared urban future.

 This 10th International Urban Design Conference is an opportunity for design professionals to exchange ideas and experiences, to be creative and visionary, and to contribute to redesigning our urban futures.

Secure your spot for this year here.