City Temperatures and City Economics, a Hidden Relationship Between Sun and Wind and Profits

Urban design undoubtedly influences the urban economy.

A simple thing like designing an area to make it more walkable can boost local business profits.

This can also increase real estate value, create more and better jobs and generate stronger local economies.

Street temperatures also determine their walkability. With climate change bringing longer and more frequent heatwaves, street temperatures will become even higher than at present. This will reduce walkability and, in turn, local business profitability.

Walkability impacts local businesses

The evidence shows businesses do better with foot traffic than car-based mobility. For example, closing New York’s Times Square to cars increased business revenue by 71% during an eight-month pilot project in 2009.

The following example helps explain why foot traffic benefits local business. In car-based cities, a take-away coffee on the way to work may involve a series of decisions:

  1. driving the car to a certain cafe
  2. finding car parking
  3. leaving and closing the car
  4. joining a queue to buy a coffee
  5. getting back in the car
  6. proceeding on the journey to work.

In contrast, when walking down the street we may not even have considered having a coffee, but we can smell it. So:

  1. we walk into the cafe
  2. join the queue to buy a coffee
  3. carry on walking to work.

The process is shorter, more spontaneous and part of a daily journey. Impulse buys as a result of exposure to stimuli have surprisingly big economic consequences, particularly for the retail industry.

What is microclimate?

Microclimate refers to the atmospheric conditions in an area. These can vary not only from the surrounding region but also within the area itself. Both the natural and built environments influence these differences. A well-known example of such differences is in Sydney’s western suburbs, which are much hotter in summer than the eastern suburbs, which benefit from being close to the sea and cooling breezes. But can an unpleasant microclimate suppress impulse buys? To a certain extent, yes. The frequency of impulse buys, and ultimately the overall success of most businesses in tropical cities, may be connected to the local microclimate. For instance, the orientation of streets in relation to sun and breeze exposure can influence the microclimate. This can then determine if people stay and have a second coffee or extra ice cream after lunch, or if they avoid streets because they are too exposed and hot. Australian cities, however, are too often overzoned and planned in a sprawling pattern. By compromising walkability this represses spontaneous purchases. CBDs are also too frequently oversized with unshaded wide streets. In hot climates this makes the journey on foot unpleasant and poses health risks to young children, senior citizens and people with health conditions. This article was originally published by The Conversation. Click here to continue reading entire article.

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A City for People: Liveable, Connected and Vibrant

This article was kindly contributed by Dr Michael Cohen, Director of City People, who will be speaking at the 2018 International Urban Design Conference, held from 12-13 November at SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney. 

Place Consultancy City People, recently brought together a powerful team of collaborators to tackle a Gehl “City For People” report:  architects, artists, urban geographers, historians – even the local funeral director.

Turning cities and towns upside down

I still vividly remember the first time I went to a festival in the streets when I was growing up. It was a delicious, topsy-turvy world: neighbours had brought their lounge room furniture onto the footpaths, weird and wonderful artists took over the roads and friends and strangers danced and laughed in each other’s company. That experience really hit home and I decided my life’s pursuit would be to turn the public places of cities and towns upside down with art.

Later, I literally took my art to the street and for about twelve years toured the world.  I performed a solo physical comedy show in streets, town squares, pedestrian malls and parks of towns and cities, big and small.  Often I was invited to perform by arts festivals but I would also often arrive ‘cold’ in a town and seek out places to perform where members of the passing crowd became my customers.  (Incidentally, street performers understand many of the variables of public domain urban design intimately – that is the subject of another blog someday!).

What drove me then still inspires me:  I am interested in how the quality of people’s lives in our shared public places can be changed for the better.  For me, this is most interesting when arts and cultural projects become tools for positively affecting people’s association with places that they live and visit.  It’s now been many years since I performed on the street but creating cultural life in public spaces has always been my trade:  both with festivals and performance, and also with public art and temporary urban interventions.

The Rocks Village BIzarre : photo courtesy Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority

In Australia, many of our public places are going through systemic change.  And some of this work is directly the result of Gehl team members who have done extensive work with various local government authorities.  Sydney, the city in which I live, is currently undergoing a massive transformation of its civic heart with its core arterial roadway now being opened up to pedestrians, and its congested city centre to be unknotted with a major public square.  Similarly Melbourne’s city centre has been through a huge change for the better.  It is now a peopled city whose public places now thrive and prosper – and it’s a far cry from the sparse, narrow footpaths where I tried unsuccessfully to ply my trade in the early 1990s.   So our two major cities in Australia – that house almost half of the country’s population – have had some major liveability boosts with the help of Gehl.

Gehl concept design for Sydney’s George St

The urban innovation accelerator

So it was really exciting for me recently to have the opportunity to work with the city of Wollongong and have a hand in progressing some of the recommended changes that have come about from a City for People report that Gehl developed during 2014-16.  The report assembled hard baseline data on pedestrian behaviour in Wollongong and it set some aspirational goals for how to make the city more liveable, connected and vibrant – with some short and mid-term goals for how to get there.

One of the pitfalls I’ve noticed working with local and state government authorities is that sometimes the impetus for change in our cities stalls before implementation can ever begin.  Whether it’s due to the intricacies of public-private partnerships, the capacity of internal staff or the political whim of the day, often big picture visions can rest on the shelf until they are well out of date.  However, employees of the City of Wollongong have taken an active hand in keeping the vision and intent outlined in their City for People report alive.

City People designed an Urban Innovation Accelerator for Wollongong that used the Gehl City for People report as its mandate to create citywide activation projects.  I brought together a core team of participants to work with me for twelve days:  artists, community activists, designers, urban geographers, a composer – even a funeral director.  Our mission was to devise temporary city activation projects that would bring the vision of the City for People report to life.  We used this laboratory environment to grow ideas for Wollongong that spoke to the place:  its physical character, its communities and its histories and social memories.

Urban Innovation Accelerator concept paste-up by artist Paul Gazzola & designer Ian Tran

A series of provocateurs were invited in: the city’s planners, historians, safety officers, academics and innovation workers all created a hothouse of ideas.  The core team then worked with the opportunities that Wollongong’s cityscape presented:  the bells that are still missing from the local church, the city’s disenfranchised skateboarders, the billboard marooned high on the city skyline – these elements became the creative palette for our collaborators.  They generated a series of terrific activation concepts for Wollongong’s public places that are a real fit with the place.

I can’t spill the beans on the terrific project ideas that emerged but you can get a sneak peak at the Wollongong Urban Innovation Accelerator in this short video clip. We were able to dive deeply into the aspirations of ‘vibrant and connected’ and ask for whom are we improving the city and why?  Who are the people who are not coming into Wollongong?  How can we spend money wisely so that these communities feel at home in our civic heart?  There is a whole range of short and mid-term projects that are meaningfully connected to that city.

The City of Wollongong is now deciding which of the projects it will implement but the benefits are clear.  We have a city that has seized the intent of its City for People report produced with Gehl and it’s not waiting for all the big-ticket items and planning developments to land.  It’s ready to improve the quality of its public life – and it’s happy to turn a few things upside down in order to keep that vision alive.

 

Design crimes: How ‘hostile architecture’ is quietly hurting our cities

It would be hard to find a more blatant and unapologetic attempt to deter loiterers than the Camden Bench — a seemingly innocuous piece of brutalist urban architecture, hidden in plain sight on the streets of London.

Installed by Camden’s local council in 2012, according to UK-based artist Stuart Semple, the benches are the best example of the worst kind of urban design.

“It’s basically a big ugly concrete bench … It’s kind of like its designers are proud of the fact that it’s anti-everything,” he says.

As critic Frank Swain put it, the Camden Bench is the “perfect anti-object” — a largely featureless lump of concrete that is just curved enough, just angled enough and sufficiently solid to deter extended interaction of any kind.

These benches used in Camden are designed to prevent people from getting too comfortable.

“The Camden Bench is a concerted effort to create a non-object … a strange kind of architectural null point,” Mr Swain says.

Despite its imposing concrete brutality, the Camden Bench is in fact one of the more subtle instances of what’s known as “hostile architecture” — a kind of urban design intended to control, coerce and often prohibit interaction and social relations in public space.

Hostile architecture takes many forms, from the overt and aggressive, like metal bars on park benches and anti-homeless spikes, to the seemingly innocuous, such as benches mounted just a little too high, to make lingering uncomfortable.

But if, as urban sociologist Robert Park wrote, in making the city we make ourselves, one might wonder what collective self-conception has produced a city covered in metal spikes, illuminated by blue lights, buzzing with high-frequencies — paranoid, anxious and hostile, by design.

 With his artwork, Semple aims to break down the barriers that impede social life. His latest campaign, calling on people to photograph and share examples of what he calls “design crimes”, is an attempt to document the impact this kind of design has on our urban landscape.

“Very slowly, bus stops get perches so you can’t really sit on them, spikes appear [and] there’s a lot more sound being used now,” Semple says.

“Some councils are actually playing frequencies that are targeted at young people’s ears and it stops teenagers congregating.

“When we talk about hostile design, hostile architecture, make no mistake — there are groups of people spending time, effort and money commissioning this stuff and designing it to be as brutal as possible against human beings.”

“We know this from architecture history — if you start making things look ugly, uninviting, hostile and dangerous, those places start to become like that.”

Who has a right to the city?

The use of disciplinary architecture in public space is nothing new.

It has long been used to control, manipulate and police the ways in which public space is used and the forms of interaction and sociality that are possible within it.

Its use, however, as an instrument for urban segregation — to separate those entitled to access public space from those deemed undesirable — is a growing phenomenon.

“It’s a symptom of a deeper malaise in the way cities are used,” urban designer Malcolm Mackay says.

“Historically, defensive architecture was used to deal with the enemy without — the marauding hordes coming over the horizon, knocking at the city gates and trying to get in.”

Today, he says, that anxiety has been turned inwards.

This shift has accompanied a radical redefinition of public space, one that has seen common ownership transferred to ownership by strata companies or large corporations.

Originally Published by ABC News, continue reading here.

The Future is Prefabricated

Prefabricated construction is in its infancy but with increasing demand on tradition construction and speed and sustainability benefits of prefabrication, could this new manufacturing industry change the way Australia builds?

The collapse of Australia’s automotive manufacturing industry has been devastating, with up to 40,000 workers estimated to ultimately lose their jobs.

Yet with a rapidly growing population and cranes dotting our city skylines, a new manufacturing industry is on the cusp of a boom: prefabricated construction.

Image: article supplied

Researchers at the University of Melbourne are looking at how this burgeoning industry can provide safe, affordable and sustainable housing, while also offering the opportunity for former automotive manufacturing workers to transfer their skills.

The Melbourne School of Engineering is leading a new push to grow the prefabricated sector’s market share within the construction industry from 5 per cent to 15 per cent by 2025, contributing to around 20,000 new jobs and $30 billion of growth. They are supporting this research with large scale testing and training facilities at their recently announced new campus, to be built at Fishermans Bend.

Professor Tuan Ngo, Research Director of the Australian Research Council Training Centre for Advanced Manufacturing in Prefabricated Housing and the Asia-Pacific Research Network for Resilient and Affordable Housing, leads much of this work.

He says Australia has a lot to learn from European countries like Sweden, where prefabricated modular housing makes up 70 per cent of the construction industry.

Extreme weather, in particular long cold winters, can make building outside difficult there, so prefabricated components are created in manufacturing plants instead.

Why prefab in Australia?

Professor Ngo says supply is unable to meet increasing demand in the traditional Australian construction sector. Meanwhile, costs are rising, contributing to the housing affordability crisis affecting many Australians struggling to buy their first homes.

This was originally published by Architecture AU.

Click here to read the entire article.

How Kid-Friendly Urban Design Makes Cities Better For All

Promoting urban planning projects often relies on an inspiring narrative: what are we as a community trying to accomplish, and how do we want our neighborhoods to evolve? Few stories are as universal as building a better future for our children. But in urban design, it’s too often a tale untold.

A new research report focused on child-first urban planning, Cities Alive: Designing for Urban Childhoods, argues that designing for children can be the anchor and central theme animating a larger progressive urban agenda. Written by the international engineering, planning, and consulting firm Arup, the report offers numerous case studies, sobering statistics—such as the fact that 1 billion children live in urban settings right now—and visions for tackling what they see as the main hurdles to more youth-friendly metropolises: traffic and pollution, high-rise living and sprawl, crime, isolation and intolerance, and unequal, inadequate access to the city’s benefits.

How kid-friendly urban design makes cities better for all
Image: article supplied

Most importantly, it suggests a child-friendly lens can help leaders, planners, and designers envision a better city for everyone, one that offers a wealth of social benefits (society gains $8 in benefits for every $1 spent on early play-based education, according to a University College London study).

“Perhaps uniquely, a child‐friendly approach has the potential to unite a range of progressive agendas—including health and wellbeing, sustainability, resilience and safety—and to act as a catalyst for urban innovation,” the report notes.

Many sweeping, and optimistic, modern movements to change metro design focused on children. From the Garden City movement to the post-war suburban boom, updated living environments have often been sold with a promise of healthier living environments for our kids.

But today, urban environmental and health issues are increasingly on the rise, a crises when experts believe that by 2030, 60 percent of all city dwellers will be under the age of 18. The World Health Organization estimates that the number of overweight children globally will skyrocket to 70 million by 2025, from 41 million in 2016, and rates of childhood mental health problems, triggered by the stress of urban life, is also on the rise.

To reverse these trends, Cities Alive proposes a combination of parks, play, equitable planning, and making nature more prevalent. Cars, specifically the amount of real estate given over to roads and vehicles, presents a big problem. This infrastructure often form borders between children and freer access to playspaces, and limits other mobility options.

This was originally published by Curbed.

Click here to read the entire article.