Sustainable Living in Community (SLIC)

A paper was presented at Urban Design Conference in November 2016 hosted in Canberra. A presentation was made regarding sustainability at the Conference which focused on urban sprawl and its impact on society. Further work has been carried out in this regards in New Zealand and the outcomes are encouraging.

Small groups of societies and specially education sector has started investing in the concept and trying to embed the thoughts in the younger generation. The aim of SLIC has always been about communities and making them self-sustainable. Let’s take look at some of the result yielding activities in New Zealand.

A community garden project has been initiated which has converted spare land into productive food supply source. Small patches have been allocated to community groups who take ownership of the patch and are responsible for management, maintenance and upkeep of that patch. The concept of recycle, reuse and reduce is used extensively. There is help provided with seeds, manure and organic growth technology to the patch owners.

Sustainable activity like rain water harvesting is actively promoted and supported through the area. One of the major advantage of these activities has been the involvement of DHB in this, along with community boards! DHB’s interest lies in the fact that gardening has proven to be a health benefit for physical and mental wellbeing. Change in behaviour as well as health has been observed in the active participants.

SLIC will take this further by introducing healthy living, healthy eating principles by lecture, demonstrations about food, cooking styles and its medicinal impact.

An educational institute has provided land for creating an urban jungle. Families can take advantage of the free land for growing their choice of vegetables. One of the important aspect has been to impart the knowledge and know-how of gardening and getting the interest of young children. This will create a long-term interest and future for sustainability. SLIC will encourage the participation and availability of such patches as these will provide not only fresh fruit and veggies but also create green patches across the urban sprawl.

Finally, we would also like to compliment the schools which are encouraging sustainability as a part of living and have taken pains to provide infrastructure and create interest among the young. One of the hardest part is involvement of the society and understanding the benefits of physical activity and its relationship to well-being. It is not all about cheaper alternatives at supermarkets but the ability to self-sustain and live in a harmonious society.

This article was kindly provided by Varsha Belwalkar, Consultant at Nirvana Consultancy Ltd

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Urban Megatrends and Green Cities in 2050

Secure your seat for the 10th International Urban Design Conference, held in Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa this November.

Mr David Cowan, Urban Renewal & Strategic Planning Leader for Conrad Gargett will be joining us this year to discuss “Urban megatrends and green cities in 2050”.

By 2050, cities will be home to 70% of the world’s population and the effects of climate change and resource scarcity will become very real. As the forces of globalisation and the need for sustainability converge in our urban communities the role of urban design will become more pronounced.

David Cowan

Bold aspirations of the past will confront a future of low economic growth, deteriorating climate and increased global migration. Meanwhile, rapid advancements in mobile, renewable and transport technologies will offer new opportunities for cities to harness.

As technology and sustainability merge with our daily lives, our homes and our workplaces, the design of buildings will evolve accordingly. Today’s green buildings will become the fax machines of tomorrow, as market forces drive more sustainable and advanced architecture. With population growth increasing the pressure on transport and open spaces, our public realm will need to perform better as well, providing for the movement and recreation of more people and a greater resilience from extreme weather.

By 2050, prestige green buildings and vehicles will be commonplace; however the performance of the public realm, public transport and more affordable buildings seems less certain. How can urban designers, planners and architects help deliver sustainable urbanism for all? And what are the learnings from pre-war cities that evolved before the arrival of motor cars and cheap energy?

The 2017 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.

Find out more here.

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

How urban bushland improves our health and why planners need to listen

Urban bushland has health benefits beyond being a great place to go for a walk. It filters our air and water, helps cities avoid extremes in temperatures, and is linked to lower rates of chronic disease.

But these and other health benefits are virtually never accounted for in local and state land development processes.

Urban planners need to consider these health benefits when making decisions about the future of our cities.

Urban bushland, like this in the Western Australian city of Joondalup, provides health benefits to locals who access it and the wider population. Author provided

What do we mean by urban bushland?

Urban bushland ranges from a bush park of native trees, to wetlands – in fact any native vegetation characteristic of the local region. With its undisturbed soils and associated wildlife, urban bushland is more diverse than other types of green spaces in our cities, like parks. So it adds significantly to neighbourhood biodiversity.

The more unfragmented the landscape, or unaltered the bushland, the more likely it will be to retain its biodiversity. Hills, watercourses and gullies, or a mixed forest, have greater biodiversity than flat land or a plantation of trees. Landscapes that change by the season add to that diversity.

The health benefits of green spaces (and urban bushland) partly comes from this biodiversity.

In cities, health benefits work at two levels. Not only do local residents receive health benefits when they use urban green spaces, the wider urban population also feels the health effects.

Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.

Higher-density cities need greening to stay healthy and liveable

Access to high-quality public open space is a key ingredient of healthy, liveable cities. This has long been recognised in government planning policy, based on a large body of academic research showing that accessible green spaces lead to better health outcomes.

However, cities are home to more than just people. We also need to accommodate the critters and plants who live in them. This includes the species who called our cities home before we did.

Greening cities that are becoming denser is a major challenge. Green spaces and density are both good for health outcomes when designed well. However, higher-density development can place added pressure on green space if not well planned and managed.

The South Australian government is leading the way in the design of public green spaces in denser cities by bringing together the multiple actors needed to create change. This includes the Heart Foundation, Departments of Health and Ageing, Environment Water and Natural Resources, Office for Recreation and Sport, the South Australian Local Government Association and the Office of the Chief Architect, as well as researchers from RMIT University and the University of Melbourne.

This is the new shift required for urban greening practice – led by practitioners with support from research evidence provided by (and in collaboration with) academics.

In Victoria, Planning Minister Richard Wynne has called for the suburban backyard to be maintained in the refreshed Plan Melbourne 2017-2050. This policy recognises the importance of private green space by establishing minimum garden areas in new developments.

Another major challenge is increasing urban heat and climate change. Some tree species we know and love will no longer be viable in cities that are several degrees warmer than they were.

Suitable species for future climates need to be selected, as the City of Melbourne has recently demonstrated. Increasing temperatures and the resulting loss of old trees will have adverse consequences for public health, ecology and biodiversity.

Understanding how best to achieve these benefits, and the trade-offs involved in delivering them, is particularly important today. Our cities are growing rapidly. We are seeing increasing populations, greater housing density, rising temperatures, growing rates of obesity, diabetes, stress and depression, and declining native biodiversity.

Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.