Notes for keynote at UK Green Building Council Annual City Summit, Birmingham.
1. Spatial planning & human behaviour implications of sustainability – reduction of transport carbon through shift towards walking, cycling & public transport
2. A massive shift needed in transport + land use planning, urban + landscape design, architecture. Professional inertia. Turning the supertanker.
3. A massive opportunity. Reason to turn.
4. Lessons from the past eg Pompeii, Brindley Place.
5. Examples from the present eg Darwin, London SkyCycle, Birmingham Charette.
6. UK government: Smart & Future cities agenda is a sustainability agenda.
7. Social inequalities dimension of sustainability.
8. Need to act at all scales simultaneously ie there’s work for all of us to do.
9. Challenge for modelling.
10. Challenge for research.
11. Challenge for practice: design, development & real estate investment.
12. Already being acted on. The supertanker is turning.
Cities planning their future are increasingly turning to the production of Integrated Urban Models. These are tools that bring together various datasets on different asoects of urban performance, from the behaviour of people to the flows of energy, water and other utilities. The aim is to better predict the future of cities by better understanding how they are currently working.
This is a nascent but rapidly developing field in which knowledge is emerging and evolving at a pace. Given the complexity of cities it is a good idea to involve many specialists in different subjects, led by an Urban Modelling Advisory Panel (UrbanMAP). Continue reading Building a Smart City modelling team
First, by seeing the purpose of Transport as the facilitation of human transaction and not only as the movement of people/goods and the construction of roads, rails and runways.
Second, that the economic benefits of transport investments are measured not as savings in time but as the creation of opportunities.
Third, that when you say transport, people think walk and cycle as well as drive and ride.
Fourth, that digital transportation if considered alongside physical transportation by the same people working within the same teams/departments.
Fifth, that the accuracy of transport forecasts is improved – too many initiatives don’t work the way they were meant to and, of these, many create unintended negative consequences such as traffic congestion, illness and social isolation.
Yesterday’s launch by think tank Policy Exchange of a report calling for the removal of inner-city high rise estates and their replacement with streets is a welcome contribution to discussions about the design of future cities. The report, authored by Create Streets, concludes that high rise estates are unsafe, antisocial and economically substandard. By proposing to replace estates with streets, the authors claim they are responding to residents’ concerns. They also say that well designed streets can provide just as much housing as sprawling estates.
The argument for street-based living appears to be straightforward: people like streets and they deliver economically. Yet it isn’t as simple as this and the report quite rightly references research by Savills, Space Syntax and the Brookings Institute that shows the importance of street layout. There are better, well-connected, well used streets and less good, disconnected, poorly used streets. Continue reading Are streets the answer – yes, but…
The everyday actions of architects and urban planners influence the everyday physical activity of people by creating the networks of streets and public spaces through which people move. Similarly, inside buildings, the layout of space influences the degree to which people move around.
The precise mechanisms through which spatial patterns influence behaviour patterns are increasingly well understood by the academic community. Physical connections are key: well-located pedestrian crossings, cycle lanes, bridges over rivers and canals, simple and direct routes through housing areas and town centres. Well-located shops and public buildings are key: within walking and cycling distance. Good quality paving matters, as does good lighting.
Nevertheless, this scientific knowledge is not yet part of everyday practice. Some of these findings run counter to accepted planning practice, not least transport planning practice. Nor is the connection between planning/design on one hand and physical civility/health on the other embedded in practice. The world of architectural and urban planning practice is heavily silo-ed. Health outcomes are not a priority for architects and planners.
Continue reading Life by a thousand connections