Tag Archives: community resilience

Is This the Future of City Design?

Now THIS is something interesting… an online platform that is allowing the community to help plan the future of New York City, through a combination of online gaming, social media and research. Whilst this system is in Beta mode, it shows some extraordinary potential in how city planners might better engage with their communities, generating some usable outputs in the process.

 nyc manahatta

The M2409 (Mannahatta 2409) project is an online platform a little like ‘Sim City’ [don’t pretend you don’t know what that is] that allows us to create an account then start designing our own future section of New York City using a palette of materials and attributes.

M2409 allows you to create your own vision for a piece of the city, making it private or ‘public’ meaning anyone in the world can log in and see your idea. One key element of this system is that it provides us with a number of future climate change scenarios to work with, e.g. ‘future climate in 2050’ or ‘severe storm in 2080’, so the very premise of this scheme is that we’re designing for future city resilience. If we choose to we can also recognise the original pre-European condition of Mannahatta (if we choose to).

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Eric Sanderson’s scheme for 14th St.

The more I consider this one the more potential I can see… a new avenue for improving city resilience by ‘design from the people’? A new channel to see what voters and rate payers want for their neighbourhood? Might ‘big data’ eventually connect with a platform like this to give us real-time data to design from?

I came across this via the Nature of Cities web site – great write-up on this by Eric Sanderson. Check it out here.

Want one of these for your own city? Personally I’m thinking ‘no’ for mine… I can see myself becoming completely absorbed in this at the expense of all else: it’s got city resilience, design, urban planning, place making, maps… far too many distractions!

Is it Time to Dig Up the Golf Course?

You’ve probably played on one or visited at least one in your lifetime. A select few will even own a house on one. Some know I’ve thrown a few clubs on one. Golf course estates – privately held or strata-held housing surrounding a manicured golf course. But a new model is emerging that offers something quite different (and arguably less frustrating)…

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Golf Course estates are typically devoid of ecological or productive value, lock up valuable topsoil and land, and alienate the rest of us.

Enter the Development Supported Agriculture (DSA) model. You could effectively picture the golf course being replaced with a highly diverse and productive farm, accessible to residents and neighbours. The residential development then includes shared community facilities based around food production and education.

East-Lake-Farmer

East Lake Commons, Decatur, Georgia US

Development Supported Agriculture is where the initial developer provides all of the farm infrastructure along with their residential estate products, and a ‘real’ farmer then works the farm, selling produce to the resident market – without the normal transport impacts or costs etc.

There are 5 core principles of DSA (from Wieler) :

  1. Preservation of farmland through limited development and continuity of previous farming uses.
  2. Agreements between developers and farmers (development provides farm infrastructure, farmers provide farm products to residents and the local community).
  3. Low-impact development techniques, sustainable architecture, and careful ecological/environmental planning.
  4. Establishment of wildlife corridors and animal habitats, promotion of native plant species, and protection of water quality.
  5. Utilization of an open-source development model that provides a framework for master-planned farm communities and integrated local food systems.

Residents are able to either work their own share of the land or lease it to the farmer in exchange for produce. Most of the DSA developments around the world are also all or mostly organic farms, feeding our growing demand for clean, safe, organic food that is locally produced.

Lots of good resources around on this topic; check this one out for planning code inserts that have been prepared for local Councils, to facilitate Community Supported Agriculture developments during the planning stages.

CSA

This is a really exciting model of value-added residential community design with enhanced food security and resilience. There are at least 1,000 of these registered in the US alone, and I’m excited to see where the first of these will arise (or have arisen) in Australia.

Give me this over a golf course in my neighbourhood any day.

Sustainable Vs Resilient: The Supermarket Test

So what’s the difference between ‘sustainability’ and this new-fangled word ‘resilience’? I get hooked on words because they carry so much meaning, even when we don’t mean them to, so here’s an example of how different ‘sustainability’ and ‘resilience’ can be.

I’m going to use a supermarket as an example. I don’t have anything specifically against supermarkets – I loathe any type of retail environment in equal measure… but the typical mega-chain supermarket [and I’m specifically not naming names here] has, over time, stealthily burdened us with a swathe of community ‘fails’ that have significantly undermined our community resilience.

panda sup

A supermarket could be labelled as highly ‘sustainable’ because it has some attributes that are recognised as ‘green building’ elements. Let’s take some of those sustainability attributes and see what we can tweak in order to make them more resilient;

  • Solar panels on roof: becomes solar panels owned or leased by the local community, with income stream for the supermarket and reduced energy costs and improved reliability for the local residents;
  • Organic waste diverted from landfill: becomes on-site or local composting of green waste, with by-product used for local soil conditioning and urban agriculture;
  • Organic produce: becomes locally grown organic seasonal produce from multiple small scale growers, home owners and community gardens, providing better food security and local economy – in reality the supermarket no longer plays a role in fresh food production, but let’s be nice;
  • Reduced or even neutral carbon footprint through energy efficiency, renewables and offsets; becomes locally redeemed offsets through community street planting, home and business energy renovations and community renewables schemes;
  • Energy efficient refrigeration; becomes reduced refrigeration thanks to increased local food growing and ‘field-to-table’ supply chain, meaning the need for refrigerating fresh produce is vastly reduced;
  • Biodegradable or Recyclable packaging; becomes reduced packaging, again thanks to local food production and the removal of the need for freight transport of goods;

Of course the list can go on. The point is, Resilience is something like Sustainability but with community wellbeing, health and prosperity included. In some senses a supermarket might be ‘sustainable’ but a local farmer’s market is more resilient – and in my opinion much more fun : )

If you know of any supermarket chains anywhere in the world where they are trending back towards community resilience I’d love to hear about it.

Pop Up Retail – Greener Than You Think?

How often have you been asked to spend time in your job removing something rather than adding? It’s actually really challenging and many people fail miserably at simplifying a complex issue.

But a trend is emerging where city Councils work to remove bureaucratic obstacles such as high license fees and onerous operating requirements, and allow small operators, start ups, artists and students to open their own retail store or shopfront in a temporary location, even if it’s just for a few days or a week.

pop up box

There are many smaller operators who just need temporary space in order to promote their wares, refine their products or pitch, and get out there into the marketplace. Pop-up stores, whether they be stand alone prefabricated stores or simply empty space in a tenancy that hasn’t been let, offer a great opportunity for emerging businesses to get started.

What I’m loving about this trend is the range of benefits for community resilience. Here are just a few examples;

  •  activation of failed spaces; they bring new crowds and interest into urban places that have not worked;
  • diverse street life; changing pop-ups over weeks or months add a new dynamic to the street – you never know what you’ll encounter;
  • utilisation of idle floor space; much better for an empty shop to be used for something rather than nothing – it’s a subtle way of making the city more efficient;
  • sparking local economy; some councils and even developers are offering low or no rent periods for pop-ups in order to help an area reach a critical mass of activity and visitors;
  • they allow an agile demand and supply relationship to be maintained – if the market quickly decides it wants something else, the pop-up approach can rapidly evolve to cater for this, thereby making the local economy more robust;
  • they tend to be more design / art focussed, further adding to the character and interest of a place;
  • they are a low cost way to test retail or business configurations to see what works best in a location.

You might find it tenuous to link retail with sustainable cities, but the notion of a thriving, robust and diverse local economy is absolutely vital in making local communities more resilient, and this trend towards a more dynamic retail model is evolving our old sense of shop-based retail into something more like a community event.

There are even Council-led or privately developed programs that help build on this momentum, including free Apps that tell you  what’s happening and where on any given day. Splash Adelaide is worth checking out to see how a Council might support  this culture through digital platforms and social media – an enticing glimpse into a treasure-hunt future? I’m hoping that my next visit there will coincide with a fleet of mobile food vendors in the city : )

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Explore Melbourne’s Urban Forest

One of if not the best way to tackle urban heat island effect is to go nuts with trees… and not just nut trees; fruit trees, natives, exotics, you name it – the menu needs to be as broad and diverse as possible.

The term ‘urban forest’ seems to be used fairly loosely – sometimes it refers to comprehensive ecological pockets within cities, other times it means streetscape planting or even ‘orchards on the commons’. Lots of interesting concepts around this but the one I wanted to share this time is Melbourne City Council’s ‘Urban Forest’ web site.

melb urban forest

Have a surf through this site (which I highly recommend – heaps of good ideas to ‘borrow’ : ) and something new jumps out relatively quickly – Melbourne City Council are treating their urban forest as a city asset, not only for its heat island mitigation benefits, but also as city amenity, stormwater filter etc. In fact they value their current 70,000 street trees at $650M!

urban forest infographic

The Council, through their Urban Forest Strategy 2012-2032, are aiming for a 40% tree canopy by 2032.

“The City of Melbourne’s urban forest will be resilient, healthy and diverse. It will contribute to the health and wellbeing of the community and to the creation of a liveable city.”

melb urban forest strategy

You may also have come across ‘1 million trees’ programs in now many of the world’s major cities – NYC, London, Sydney etc. Well, Melbourne is aiming for 1.5 million in the metropolitan area plus another half a million regionally. Beat that.

If we were to overlay this urban forest agenda with our ‘hot suburbs’ maps from the previous post, we’d generate some pretty interesting opportunities for urban forestry and green streets upgrades. Take the time to explore this web site – a great read and clearly the result of some very smart and collaborative work.