Adopting the Sustainable Development Goals is a Business Opportunity for Australia

It has been 25 years since Australia last experienced a recession. We’ve had an extraordinary period of uninterrupted economic growth – the longest in modern history – and this has greatly increased our prosperity.

Thanks to the abundance of natural resources needed to build roads, railways and skyscrapers in fast-growing cities across Asia, Australia’s economy has had a good run over the past quarter century.

But an expanding list of environmental, health and social burdens risk undermining our growth model. Business as usual is not an option. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched in 2015, are 17 goals for ending poverty, transforming health and education, improving our cities and communities, addressing gender equity and tackling urgent challenges such as climate change. Collectively, they propose a new development pathway, based on partnership between governments, civil society and business that could transform our societies.

Photo: article supplied

Take our cities, for example. Cities are the economic powerhouses of our country, especially since the end of the mining boom (our capital cities alone generate around two-thirds of our GDP). Cities matter more than ever to our future employment and prosperity, but our urban quality of life is deteriorating. We spend on average 85 minutes a day commuting, up from 50 minutes half a century ago. Congestion already costs our capital cities $16.5bn annually, and that could double by 2030. The affordability of housing nationwide has more than halved since 1980, locking many out of the Australian dream.

Our urban lifestyles have become a growing burden on our health, too. A rising set of noncommunicable diseases, such as obesity, are posing massive challenges for the health system. In 2015, almost two in three Australian adults were overweight or obese.

The labour force is changing dramatically. A report completed by AlphaBeta for the Foundation for Young Australians found that 70% of young people currently enter the workforce in jobs that will be radically affected by automation and imports over the next 10 to 15 years.

This article was originally published by The Guardian.

Click here to read the entire article.

 

Growing Food in Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure has many purposes. Among them is food production, but do we use green infrastructure for this as much as we could?

Given proper management, there is plenty of scope to make better use of rooftops, walls and water sensitive urban design assets as sites for growing edible plants. These opportunities range in scale from modern twists on traditional home vegetable gardening to behemoth commercial operations.

Rooftops

A typical city rooftop is under-used. It is wasted space, wasted light and wasted rainwater, and an obvious site for urban gardening or farming. Rooftops can be used for food production in at least three ways:

1.   Commercial rooftop farms

Many commercial rooftop farms use soilless hydroponics systems. There are impressive examples internationally, in cities such as New York, Chicago, Montreal, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Amsterdam and The Hague, and it seems to be only a matter of time before they flourish in cities such as Guangzhou. Commercial rooftop farms are yet to take off in Australia where, despite frequent discussion over the last decade, we still lack a practical understanding of what it takes to establish rooftop farms in Australian cities.

Photo: Pexels.com

2.   Rooftop community gardens

Community-style rooftop vegetable gardening has sprung up in many places, many of which feature a traditional type of container-based gardening, albeit at greater heights than most gardens. In a residential setting, a rooftop community garden is an opportunity for residents to connect with nature and to each other. In a commercial setting, it provides health and well-being benefits to staff, great marketing for the company, and direct benefits for the community if the produce is donated to charity. One of the key challenges in managing a rooftop community garden is keeping enthusiasm among the gardeners high, because their active participation is critical to success.

This article was originally published by Sourceable.net.

Click here to read the entire article.

Step outside for a moment: the value of pedestrians in healthcare precincts

Michaela Sheahan, Researcher, HASSELL

Bump space, serendipitous encounters: whatever the label, the name of the game in healthcare design is connecting people. But the focus on internal collaboration has some unintended side effects: buildings get bigger, and people spend more time inside.

External space is shrinking as large clinical and research buildings bring teams closer together via soaring atria, internal streets, and sky-bridges. Good connections are vital to a well-functioning hospital, but as public realm diminishes, so does walkability and street activity. Nothing kills a precinct quite like a deserted street.

My research shows that as these precincts grow, two indicators of pedestrian activity – Walkscore and intersection density – decrease. The bigger a precinct becomes, the more difficult it is for people to walk around.

Large buildings and impermeable blocks obstruct pedestrians, and limiting land use to only healthcare decreases small business opportunities. If every nearby building is a health facility, people won’t go outside to grab lunch or drop into the bank. In Boston’s high density Longwood precinct an internal pedestrian network is being developed in response to traffic danger and a need to connect teams across buildings and streets. In Houston’s vast Texas Medical Center, the combination of a sky-walk system, a car-dependent location, and exclusive healthcare land-use leaves the footpaths empty. The meticulously landscaped gardens and public spaces are wasted.

Designers and administrators are working to overcome the barriers to vibrant precincts; high land costs and burgeoning healthcare space requirements limit opportunities. But modest initiatives in external space can deliver large benefits.

At the Gold Coast University Hospital, courtyards provide opportunities for fresh air and quiet conversation.  The Necker Hospital in Paris is replacing obsolete buildings with a park.  In Boston, small public spaces host musical performances to coax staff outside. In Melbourne’s Parkville, public seating has come a long way since the old wooden park bench, and at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital precinct, a new vision that prioritises walkability and community integration is just beginning.

These small acknowledgements of the importance of street level activity suggest a willingness to invest in public realm projects for the good of patients, staff and the community. High quality design of the spaces between buildings plays a crucial role in inviting everyone to step outside for a moment.

This research project was funded by the National Association of Women in Construction, and Cult Design. The full report can be accessed here: http://apo.org.au/node/53548

Can Money Really Grow On Trees?

Increased leaf canopy cover is linked to a significant increase in property values, according to Green infrastructure: a vital step to brilliant Australian cities.

The report, released by infrastructure firm AECOM, compiled urban data analytics across three different suburbs in Sydney, and found that for every 10 per cent increase in the canopy coverage within the street corridor, the value of properties increased by an average of $50,000.

Annandale’s value increased to $60,761, Blacktown increased to $55,000 and Willoughby climbed to $33,152.

Report co-author and AECOM Cities Leader James Rosenwax said population growth in Sydney had placed enormous pressure on existing critical infrastructure like roads and utilities, but trees were often forgotten or undervalued.

“If we don’t put a financial value on trees there is less incentive to protect them when looking at the cost benefits of new roads, bridges or buildings,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the humble street tree is often in conflict with other forms of infrastructure and development.

“Our report found that without sufficient ‘green infrastructure’ Sydney would be hotter, more polluted and could be worth $50 billion less.”

The value a city derives from its urban trees is difficult to measure due to the disconnect between the beneficiaries and the direct costs borne by the councils, utilities and road authorities who manage them.

The report’s author and AECOM Director Roger Swinbourne said those who didn’t experience or understand a tree’s collective benefits would only perceive its costs such as potential to fall, dropping leaves across lawns, or shading of rooftop solar.

Originally Published by The Urban Developer, continue reading here.

Cities for Healthier Lives

We are sitting in worsening traffic jams, breathing in car fumes, living in isolated suburbs with no shops or services to walk or cycle to, and spending hours travelling to work because jobs are concentrated in unaffordable inner city areas.

The way we are planning our cities is causing a host of preventable health problems, from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases to diabetes and stress.

But we now have a blueprint for change. An international team of researchers, led by the University of Melbourne, have quantified for the first time the massive potential health benefits to be had if we finally just started planning our cities around the needs of humans and not cars. The researchers say it is a call for politicians to take action and set targets.

Published as three papers in The Lancet medical journal, the research was launched by the United Nations in New York on September 23, 2016, where the authors addressed a meeting of the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Planning cities around cars is damaging our health and is unsustainable. Picture Pexels.

Central to the research is the promotion of “compact cities” in which people live in higher density neighbourhoods closer to local shops, public transport, services and jobs, and complemented by increased infrastructure for walking and cycling instead of relying on cars.

If the compact city blueprint was implemented they calculate that a car-dependent city such as Melbourne would cut the burden of cardiovascular disease by 19 per cent and cut the burden of type-2 diabetes by 14 per cent. Overall the equivalent of 679 years of extra healthy life would be gained in Melbourne per 100,000 people.

The gain for Boston in the US would be 826 healthy years, in Delhi the gain is 620 healthy years, and in Sao Paulo 420 healthy years. There is no set size for a compact city – what matters is the planning and design of safe walkable local neighbourhoods.

“For the first time this research quantifies the relationship between land use, urban design, population density and transport systems, and the impact they have on our health,” says lead author Professor Mark Stevenson, epidemiologist and Professor of Urban Transport and Public Health at the University of Melbourne. “It shows that by adopting a compact cities model that places an emphasis on active transport, we can achieve a huge reduction in the burden of chronic disease.”

The compact city model is based on increasing land use density, and the mix of uses on that land, by 30 per cent, while decreasing the average distance of housing to public transport by 30 per cent and increasing the use of non-motorised transport by 10 per cent. For example, jobs and services should be accessible within 30 minutes of home by public transport. Homes should have bus and train stops nearby, within no more than 400 metres and 800 metres respectively.

Originally Published by Andrew Trounson, University of Melbourne, read the full article here.

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