Tag Archives: sustainable communities

Green Retail – There’s a Drone at Your door

For some of us the entire process of heading out to the shops can be a chore that gives us that Sunday-afternoon-before-work feeling in the stomach. But those days could soon be gone.

Here we look at another futures trend around ‘green retail’ that could fundamentally change the face of the shop;

Green Retail Trend #2 – Delivery Drones

You’ve probably already heard of Amazon’s ventures into delivery drones, with their service called ‘Prime Air’, aiming to get packages delivered into customers’ hands within 30 minutes of the online purchase. Only last month the US FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) ruled out the use of these drones, however most would be inclined to write this off as an expected red-tape hitch that will eventually be overcome.

prime air

Once this technology reaches commercial scale it’s difficult to imagine much that couldn’t be delivered by drone, even large things in smaller parts… again the environmental benefits could be extensive, particularly through cutting out the majority of the transport logistics and road-based travel. Drones will be battery powered, fuelled by clean solar energy. No need for shops to carry as much inventory – an online purchase will often bypass retail outlets altogether, with most orders going direct to the distribution centre then into the drone.

If we can simply order goods via drone, or even send our own drone out to collect an online purchase, it’s highly likely we’ll fall into a habit of on-demand purchasing. Give the drone a fresh groceries order for tonight’s dinner, and 30 minutes later it returns with its kill : )

santa drones

Whether or not delivery drones are set to undermine the high street remains to be seen though… the drones may simply become another delivery channel for retailers. I’d expect the make-up of the retail shops to change but the main street itself will likely survive – after all, the main street has been around for a few thousand years. Robo-copter is unlikely to be the thing that puts an end to it.

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).

nature of cities snippet

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)…

11-PrivateClubAlaquaCountryClub

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.

Jobs of the Future: Urban Farmer

Position Description; Urban Farmer sought for Smith Street Community. Must have extensive knowledge in horticulture, aquaponics and bee keeping. The role includes providing support and teaching to the community who wish to increase their food security, enhance community resilience and mutual reliance, and re-connect their families and children with organic, seasonal and healthy food.

The majority of homes and street verges are under-productive and require the establishment of new street orchards, planted verges and diverse seasonal produce crops on individual Lots, with the intention to swap produce through a weekly urban orchard program. An additional pilot program underway in conjunction with local Council includes returning sections of street parking to vegetated and edible rain gardens.

large-UrbanFarmer

what would an urban farmer post be without Michael Mobbs?

 

The Forester must have a strong understanding of organic horticulture, natural soil production and local climatic conditions. Understanding of local soil conditions an advantage. Strong engagement skills and familiarity with working with local Councils is desirable, and the Forester will be collaborating with the local Council in managing the assignment of their annual Community Resilience funding.

Ability to craft hand-made beer will be considered an added advantage by the community’s enthusiastic annual home brewing contestants.

Remuneration will be subject to performance, diversity and quality of product, and community feedback. Payment sources shall be the following;

  • Nominal part cash payment comprised of monthly contributions from the community;
  • Part payment from Council Community Resilience program funding;
  • Part payment from Community members’ health insurance providers [for providing healthy organic food and supporting community involvement];
  • Part payment from the State Health Department [for reducing demand on healthcare provision through providing healthy food and enhanced social capital];
  • Part payment as share of produce.

If you don’t mind a little hard work, a lot of socialising and garden chats, herding ducks and farming fish, dodging children’s toys, teaching adults and children, mucking with compost, stealing from bees and chickens, and beer tasting, then give us a call – we’d love to hear from you.

… We already get health insurer subsidies for gym membership and physiotherapy, and it’s only a matter of time before we get the same for consuming healthier food, joining community groups and for making our neighbourhoods more resilient. This job would be a great gig.

BB2014-PCA-vote

 

 

Green Wave for Cyclists – Would it Work in Your City?

Does it  make your blood boil when you’re driving and you see cyclists running red lights? This topic is a terrific conversation starter and friendship-ender and not many people sit on the fence.

Whilst I can see things from both points of view, the issue of ‘safety’ makes it a bit of a no-brainer – running red lights in any mode just isn’t safe. But having to stop at up to a dozen or more red lights when cycling through the city also defeats the purpose somewhat. So, what’s the solution? [because there always is one]

The Danes, being such a suave and design-focussed lot, have come up with a way to get rid of red lights for cyclists. And it hardly cost them a cent. They simply re-programmed the traffic lights to create a ‘green wave’ during peak periods.

rs_1_Kopenhagen__groene_golf_voor_fietsers

If cyclists are happy to cruise along at 20km/hr they’ll get a continuous run of green lights all the way into town. Throw in a bit of signage, road markings and driver awareness communications, and you’ve got an elegant solution to an inflammatory problem. Check out the official Danish web site for other cool stuff they’re doing in the ‘World’s first Bike City’. Also fun to watch this video from someone riding into Copenhagen – astounding to see how many people cycle!

copenhagen cycling 01

So right now  you’re probably saying ‘but that’s too slow for cars!’… well, the average driving speed in metropolitan Sydney [i.e. all of Sydney, not just the CBD] is around 32km/hr during peak periods. I couldn’t find CBD-specific data but from experience it’s even less than this.

Amsterdam has them. San Diego has followed suit. New York City is working on it for Prince St. Perhaps even major urban developments could be brokering this re-programming as part of improving the value  of their project?

Do you think Green Waves would work in your city?

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.