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

This Incredible Skyscraper Is Actually A Vertical Forest

Nanjing Green Towers isn’t your average skyscraper, you see it’s actually Asia’s first vertical forest.

The idea behind a vertical forest is simple: You essentially turn a building into a giant living breathing air filter, helping to clear the air pollution that often comes hand in hand with city living.

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It’s a truly astonishing piece of architecture, you see dotted along its facades are 600 tall trees, 500 medium-sized trees while a staggering 2,500 plants and shrubs then cover a 6,000sqm area.

Not only does this increase biodiversity in the local area but it will be able to absorb some 25 tonnes of CO2 every year while producing some 60kg of oxygen every day. As our cities have grown exponentially it has become clear that new buildings have to take a different approach.

We can no longer just build boxes that contain humans, we have to build ecosystems. Designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti, Nanjing Green Towers will be the first vertical forest in Asia.  This will be the third vertical forest project by the architecture firm after they completed their first building in Milan and then a second project in Switzerland.

Originally Published by The Huffington Post, continue reading here.

Why Australia Needs Greener Cities

Higher density urban living has become a primary concern for urban planners, who grapple with issues such as infrastructure development, traffic management and housing solutions. But beyond these physical concerns, there are a number of very real human issues that also need to be addressed by planners as well as developers and architects.

For all of its benefits, city living isolates people from the natural world, and new research is finding that this isolation affects the wellbeing of urbanites. With some clever design thinking, however, we can create cities that are more sustainable and offer a higher quality of life.

As cities grow, it’s easy for green spaces to become an afterthought in the planning process. This is not just the case in public spaces, but also in the development of residential and commercial projects.

Parkroyal on Pickering, Singapore
Parkroyal on Pickering, Singapore

Many city councils now have limited regulations in place specifying how much green space a new building should deliver, but going above and beyond this will have a positive impact on the environment, wellbeing of residents, the liveability of the property and its resale value.

In the last week alone there has been a great deal of public discussion over the design of apartment buildings in Brisbane, after research by Associate Professor Rosemary Kennedy from QUT’s Design Lab found that many new developments are too hot for the city’s sub-tropical climate.

Due to the excessive heat generated from their glass facades, these building require a higher amount of air-conditioning for temperature regulation.

“One of my major concerns is that we’re not designing our buildings using good design; we’re using electricity to solve design problems,” she said in an interview with ABC News.

She believes that as buyers become aware of these design issues, resale prices will suffer and tenant turnover rates will increase.

Building our cities without any regard for climate regulation contributes to the urban heat island effect, which negatively impacts the liveability of a city. This effect occurs when building materials such as concrete, glass and bitumen absorb and hold on to heat and, as a result, increase the temperature of a city.

By incorporating plants into buildings through rooftop gardens or green walls, however, we can begin to offset this effect and cool the structure, in turn reducing the need for air-conditioning.

If we were to create enough green spaces to cool Australia’s cities by eight degrees, it is estimated that the reduced use of air-conditioning alone will lower carbon emissions by 12–15 percent each year.

One Central Park, Sydney
One Central Park, Sydney

Integrating plants into city buildings is also an effective way to absorb stormwater runoff and reduce the noise levels experienced within office and apartment buildings.

These benefits are in addition to the well-known role trees play in filtering the air by soaking pollutants. So what seems like a simple element of city design can have a big impact on sustainable living and the practicality of a building.

It’s not just the environment that benefits from the practice of biophilic design – human health and mental wellbeing improves too. A recent 2009 Dutch study found that those who live less than 1km from green space had lower incidence of 15 diseases including depression, heart disease, diabetes and asthma.

Here at home, 83 percent of Australians relate relaxation and time out with green spaces, and 73 percent see their garden as a place to improve their mental wellbeing.

It is believed that this inherently positive association with nature lowers stress and anxiety levels, contributing to improved mental and physical wellbeing. Given this association, buyers are willing to pay more for a feeling of connection with nature.

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Melbourne Lanes To Go Green

Coromandel Place, Guildford Lane, Katherine Place and Meyers Place are set to be transformed into green leafy spaces as part of the ‘Green Your Laneway’ pilot project by City of Melbourne.

Working closely with residents and businesses, City of Melbourne has developed a range of preliminary concept designs for each laneway showing a range of greening options that are being investigated for each lane.

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With over two hundred laneways in the central city, totalling nearly nine hectares, the Green Your Laneway program was established to help transform the city’s laneways into leafy, green and useable spaces with vertical gardens, new trees and new places to sit and relax. The program seeks to enhance the experience of Melbourne’s laneways further, with the opportunity to transform them into the ‘city’s back yard.’ Concepts being investigated include potential for vertical greening, trees, and places to dwell and relax.

The selected laneways are Coromandel Place, Guildford Lane, Meyers Place and Katherine Place. Initial design concepts have been developed for each with further community engagement to refine the concepts, funded by the City of Melbourne.

Invitations are open for the public to share their views on the ideas by exploring the range of greening approaches being worked on with the stakeholders in each laneway. You can also provide your feedback and sign-up for updates on each laneway page.

The City of Melbourne, through our Urban Forest Strategy, has a comprehensive plan for greening major streets and precincts, but not the smaller laneways. Across the municipality, laneways occupy a ground area of 60 hectares, with a further 150 hectares of space on the walls in these laneways.

The Green Your Laneway pilot project investigates the opportunity for lanes to be greened for the following reasons:

  • providing shading and local cooling
  • improved aesthetics and local amenity
  • ecological benefits
  • health and wellbeing flow on effects
  • increasing landscape permeability (and hence flood mitigation and passive watering)
  • creating opportunities for relaxation and recreation.

Read more.

Defence Housing Australia Launches ‘Arkadia’

Defence Housing Australia (DHA) has launched Arkadia, a $60 million residential development in Alexandria set to redefine inner city living in Sydney. The design of the new development aims to combine contemporary apartment living with lush, green spaces and distinctive resident facilities.

Located at 18 Huntley Street, Arkadia will comprise 152 modern apartments and terraces designed by architects DKO. DHA plans to retain over half of the dwellings while the remaining 71 studio, one bedroom and three bedroom configurations, measuring 42 to 110 square metres, will be offered for sale to the public. Many of the apartments will offer views with northern outlooks to the city, while the southern outlook is across Sydney Park.

arkadia

Arkadia will comprise four separate apartment blocks over six levels and parking for 124 cars, 10 motorcycles and 176 bicycles, making it one of the largest bicycle storage facilities in the area. Each block has its own unique style of patterned brickwork in the foyer and this design feature is carried through into the bathroom floors of each building’s apartments.

Extensive rooftop gardens and pocket parks feature communal vegetable patches, barbeques and covered dining pods boasting city views. There are also plans for an apiary and chicken coop on the roof. Residents can also benefit from a communal music room, and a ground floor café.

DHA Acting Managing Director Jan Mason, said the vision behind Arkadia was to bring something new to the Sydney property market, with unique architecture that blends with communal vegetable gardens, barbeques and dining pods.

Mason said Arkadia is not meant to simply be a home, but a village lifestyle for its residents. DKO aspired to create a sense of community with Arkadia. With iconic design, Arkadia’s grand brick arches facilitate the movement of people through several key pedestrian links, while scattered gardens, pocket parks and a ground floor café encourage interaction between residents and visitors alike.

All apartments feature open living areas with a spacious galley kitchen, luxurious bathrooms, walk-in laundries and ample storage. Some apartments have street-facing private courtyards and others feature outdoor terraces with spectacular views of Sydney Park and the city skyline.

DKO has designed the interiors palette to reflect understated city chic and buyers will have a choice between Cool and Warm schemes. The Cool scheme features a white kitchen and fresh, crisp tones while the Warm scheme kitchen is set in a more natural, shaded timber veneer.

Colliers International Director Ian Bennett said there was already some early market interest in Arkadia, but this was no surprise because of what it offers.

“We’re seeing a mix of young professionals, couples and families attracted to the serene location by Sydney Park,” he said.

“Buyers have been drawn to the flexible lifestyle that comes with modern apartment living and the opportunity to combine that with open green spaces so close to the Sydney CBD.

Construction is scheduled to commence next year, with completion expected by June, 2018.

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