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.

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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.

Biophilia in Urban Design – Patterns and Principles for Smart Australian Cities

Over thirty years ago ecologist EO Wilson proposed the Biophilia hypothesis – a powerful idea which asserts that humans have an instinctive bond with nature and that it is an essential part of our well-being.

The idea was tested over the years and in 2008 the concept of Biophilic Design was formalised and popularised by social ecologist, the late Stephen Kellert, and cohorts. It has been further developed by Peter Newman and others, particularly Tim Beatley who has written extensively about Biophilic Cities. Biophilic design has been codified for commercial acceptance, notably with the 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design, informed by empirical evidence and interdisciplinary analysis of more than 500 peer-reviewed publications and promoted by Terrapin Bright Green LLC.

There is increasing application and acceptance of the hypothesis in Australian planning and design practice, relating human biological science and nature to the design of the built environment, and biophilic patterns and principles can be identified in numerous examples of Australian urban design. However, there is little evidence of the concept being applied to the design, development and operation of smart cities.

Surprisingly, biophilic effects can be achieved with no physical or tangible link to ‘nature’ at all. Indirect experiences of ‘nature’ can generate measurable biophilic psycho-physiological responses, for instance in hospital rooms when people are exposed to images of nature such as artificial sky.

These ‘illusory’ effects may be valuable for environments that cannot readily support real biological systems – such as rooms buried deep inside large buildings. There are parts of our cities where nature struggles to survive; in such places, biophilia may be evoked by technological, rather than biological means. In research with Deakin University my colleagues and I established that places like the new underground railway system in Melbourne justified the addition of another biophilic design ‘pattern’ to describe these ‘virtual’ biophilic effects.

Biophilia enhances well-being. Part of the agenda of smart cities is to do just that. Our research suggests that cities should embed a biophilia ethos in their urban design to ameliorate the negative results of overly reductionist approaches to efficient urbanism.

Paul Downton, Architect & Researcher

Article based on a paper presented at the 9th International Urban Design Conference in Canberra by Dr Paul Downton and colleagues from Deakin University, Prof David Jones and Josh Zeunert.

Can Architecture and Smart Design Help Prevent Terrorism?

London, Paris, Stockholm, Brussels, Manchester and Nice – the list of cities hit by terrorism continues to grow by the month. While this has seen volumes of page space devoted to try and explain the reasons behind the carnage, scant attention has been given to the use of urban design as an anti-terror weapon. But what if we could use smart design and architectural innovation to help prevent this scourge? Could better urban design help in the fight against global terror?

The concept of attenuating public space to improve public safety is nothing new. Ever since ‘The Troubles’ of the 1970s and 80s, the UK has changed and redesigned parts of Belfast and Londonderry in Northern Ireland a bid to better cope with future IRA attacks.

As for the US, since September 11, 2001, America’s architects have been on a steep learning curve on how to balance between designing for aesthetics and designing for public safety.

Today this scenario has more resonance considering that since 2007, more people than ever in human history are residing in urban centres as opposed to rural ones. By 2050, it has been estimated that up to 75 percent of the global population will be classified as being urban.

This massive increase in urban habitation invariably means an increase in high-density living. The irony being of course, when it comes to public safety and social cohesion, high-rise and high-density structures rarely make the list of final designs.

can architecture and design prevent terrorism?
Photo: article provided

Minimalistic public safety designs 101

In New York City, one popular public safety feature has been the addition of bollards to many public spaces. But these were not just any old bollards – in the city’s famed financial district, these bespoke bollards are designed to be also used as street furniture and aesthetic enhancements.

However, while it’s easier to redesign (or re-engineer) a relatively simple item like a bollard – entire buildings, and for that matter, whole neighbourhoods, are a very different proposition.

Considering the need for safety usually trumps most other human needs, perhaps it’s time to consider combining the need for beauty with the need for safety especially in an era that bears the burden of the “ugliness of terrorism”.

At the same time, it should not be all bland function over beauty and form. Last year, the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Ruth Reed, highlighted RIBA’s ‘counter-terrorism design guidelines’ and noted that it was “important to remember that we are an open and inclusive society”. In terms of architectural design, she claims we shouldn’t be “driven by security measures”.

This article was originally published by Architecture and Design.

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