Ride with me

Are car drivers more stressed than those who commute using other means of transportation?

Smog-fighting urban sculptures

Urban sculptures with the ability suck in polluted air and output clean air

Together Forever?

Do Councils achieve efficiency and cost effectiveness through amalgamation?

Aladdin City - A Reality

Dreamed of living in a genie lamp? Now you can...

Together Forever?

By Brodie Blades

Image Source: Fit for the Future

What comes to mind when you think of the word ‘Council’? Are you transported to a dynamic world of smiling faces capable of efficient decision-making, logicality and world-class customer service? Or the complete opposite? If you are in the latter category, it may surprise you that today’s typical Australian local government is an organisation that is becoming increasingly cognizant of the importance of efficiency and service delivery – even so far as progressing towards a more neo-Liberal ‘business model’ operation in which the achievement of self-sufficient, financially viable organisations is of paramount importance. One method of achieving enhanced viability, cost-effectiveness and efficiency in the local government sector is through Council amalgamations. 

The NSW State Government is currently exploring this issue under the Fit for the Future program of local government amalgamations, in which NSW’s 152 Local Government Areas (LGAs) have recently been required to submit their blueprints for change in a top-down State shake-up that could see many Councils merge or close. 

The NSW State Government argues that change is necessary, as more than one-third of the state’s Councils are either financially unviable or simply unable to provide the planning and regulatory capacity required to deal with unprecedented housing and infrastructure demand. Although a number of NSW’s Councils are receptive to the idea of amalgamation, most have indicated that they are opposed to the idea due to a range of issues such as an actual and perceived loss of local identity, employment opportunities and community services. This begs a key question: do Council amalgamations always result in positive outcomes, particularly for the communities that they serve?

The residents of Queensland’s Douglas, Livingston, Mareeba and Noosa Shires would certainly argue not. Although the Sunshine State is no stranger to the notion of a ‘mega-Council’ (Brisbane City Council is the largest Council area in Australia, providing municipal services to over 1 million residents), these Shires recently ‘de-amalgamated’ from their parent municipalities created by the Queensland State Government’s forced Council amalgamations in 2008. These amalgamations – which resulted in the slashing of LGAs in Queensland from 157 to 73 - led to the emergence of grassroots community movements such as the ‘Free Noosa’ movement and the ‘Capricorn Coast Independence Movement’, which ultimately escalated to form an election platform for the opposition Liberal government who promised to give Councils an opportunity to plead their case for de-amalgamation if elected. Having won government, responses were sought from affected Councils in which nineteen submissions were received and four were deemed to be financially viable. The issue was put to a referendum of local residents in each of the successful municipalities, in which the majority voted for de-amalgamation in all four instances. The Shires of Douglas, Livingston, Mareeba and Noosa were officially de-amalgamated from their parent municipalities and officially recognised as de-amalgamated, independent LGAs on 1 January 2014.

Similarly, in the wake of the Kennett Government’s 1994 Victorian Local Government amalgamations, residents in the Shire of Delatite successfully sought the de-amalgamation of the LGA into the Shires of Mansfield and Benalla after eight years of amalgamated operations. The story of Delatite’s de-amalgamation is often cited as a successful case study of bottom up resistance to forced government amalgamations, and – until the recent Queensland experience – was one of the few examples of successful municipal de-amalgamation within Australia. In more recent times, the ‘Sunbury Out of Hume’ movement is a further example of de-amalgamation that could potentially occur in Victoria in the coming months.

No doubt the experiences of the recent local government amalgamations in both Queensland and Victoria would be weighing on the minds of NSW’s communities, Councils and State Government as the State moves closer to resolution of the ‘Fit for Future’ amalgamation package. Perhaps the key lesson from the Victorian and Queensland experience is that the galvanised willpower of local communities to determine how they will be governed at the local level should be the primary guiding factor when it comes to local government in Australia. After all – regardless of efficiencies or cost-effectiveness – is community not the fundamental purpose of local government?

What have your experiences been? Have you lived or worked in a Council that was forced to amalgamate with a neighbour? What effect did it have on service delivery and efficiency? How was it received by the community?

Further reading:
Fit for the Future Council Amalgamations (NSW State Government) - http://www.fitforthefuture.nsw.gov.au
Queensland De-Amalgamations (Local Government Association Queensland) - https://lgaq.asn.au/de-amalgamation

Smog-fighting urban sculptures

By Kathryn Cuddihy

Air pollution is a problem that effects cities all over the world. With populations expected to keep increasing in urban areas, the problems associated with smog and poor air pollution will have consequences for years to come.
Image source: Studio Roosegaarde

The Dutch city of Rotterdam is the first in the world to produce an urban sculpture that has the ability to suck in polluted air and produce an output of clean air.

Image source: Studio Roosegaarde

The structure acts as a giant ‘vacuum cleaner’ with the ability to clean 30,000 cubic metres of air in one hour. They are environmentally friendly as they run off wind power and also give back to communities as they output clean air into the atmosphere. The first was built using crowd funding at a price of $177,910. 

The structure itself has the ability to suck in polluted air, remove particles and blow out fresh air out of vents on the structure. The remaining particles are then turned into cufflinks or rings; each piece of jewelry is the equivalent of 1000 cubic metres of clean air and are sold.

Image source: Studio Roosegaarde

Urban art creates not only increases the beauty of a place, it can also create discussion and when the bi-products can be used to make products, why wouldn't we adopt these. Cities like Beijing and Mumbai could already use these to assist in reducing smog levels. Perhaps we could adopt these on freeways or in built up urban areas to beautify them as well as reduce pollution to allow those living in surrounding area the cleaner air they deserve.

To read more about these structures, visit:

Ride with me

By Sean Hua

Car drivers are apparently significantly more stressed on their commute than those that use other means of transport, as observed in this study in Montreal. Having to budget more time for their commute and the unpleasantness of the journey contributed to unhappy commuters. Have drivers have been conditioned to believe driving is the best way to get to work, and more importantly, do they have no other choice but to get to work by car? Would commuting drivers switch to public transport if they had better access to it?

Another study in Denver, Colorado, looked at the travel patterns of commuters, to see what impact accessibility to a station played on a person’s desire to use public transport. They assessed whether home or a workplace’s proximity to a station provided bigger impetus to use public transport. The results indicated three significant conclusions:
  1.  People are more likely than average to take public transport to work, if only their workplace was close to a station.
  2. People are more likely than average to drive if their workplace was far from a station, even if they have a station close to home.
  3. People are much more likely to take public transport if both ends of their commute are close to stations.
In Melbourne, both the road and rail networks appear to be near capacity. Frequent jams on the freeways and packed trains on the morning commute are symptomatic of this. Simultaneously, the polls during the recent leadership spill indicate the general public consensus is for Australia to act more on climate change. One important means to do so would be to use more efficient sustainable mass transport than a private car and its associated road infrastructure. The proposed Melbourne Metro Rail Project could be a step in the right direction, even if completion will be far into the future. Why? Read on.

This body of research suggests that the better penetration of the Melbourne CBD and inner suburbs by the Melbourne Metro Rail Project could significantly increase ridership. This is due to the CBD and the inner suburbs being areas with a high concentration of businesses, significantly higher than the middle and outer suburbs which are predominantly residential. As the evidence suggests, proximity to workplaces are a greater attractor for transit use than closeness to home.

However, increased connections around the CBD only focus on one end of the commute journey. Simultaneous residential development close to the stations and activity centres would allow both ends of a commute trip to be attractors. If the uptake of public transport occurs faster than the growth of population, it stands to reason that roads themselves would be more free of congestion, and that emissions would be reduced.

Both hard and soft incentives should be deployed to keep the now-excess road space from inducing driving demand and to promote public transport. With cleaner air, less noise, less stress and less lost-time, what more could you want?

Of course, combating climate change has many more facets than just switching from cars to trains, but for this at least… I’m all for it. Just one question though: if and when this change occurs, what do we do with all the roads?

To read more please see here.

For the studies, please see here and here. Please note, you will need to purchase the studies to view them.

Smart Cities = Smart Governance

Will larger Council areas accomplish better planning decisions? Food for thought.

Possibly the most controversial topic in NSW Planning reform is the amalgamation of Sydney Councils. Will the proposed Council amalgamations result in improved governance and allow for better planning decisions? Or will larger council areas result in decision making losing touch with the local area?

Local Governments had until the end of June to submit their ‘Fit for the Future’ responses and prove they have ‘sufficient scale and capacity’ to cope with future demands, or they face a merge with a neighbouring Council.

Figure 1: NSW Governments ‘Fit For the Future’ program to reduce the number of Sydney councils from 42 to about 15. Image source: Sydney Morning Herald (SMH)

Councils are being evaluated based on four criteria: scale and capacity; sustainability; infrastructure and service management and efficiency. In regard to scale and capacity, Councils have been set a population target over 100,000, which at the time of the 2011 Census, was only achieved by 18 of the 42 Sydney Councils.

The main argument in favour of bigger councils is that it increases strategic capacity of Councils, however this is met by a strong opposition that argues that amalgamations will lead to a diminishing representation of local communities. 'Local councils should remain local' is a popular slogan found in many Council Customer Service Centres across Sydney.

Councils' stances on proposed amalgamations are as follows:

Hunters Hill, Ryde, Lane Cove, Ku-Ring-Gai, Manly, Pittwater, Auburn, Holroyd, Botany Bay, Leichhardt, Strathfield, Ashfield, Canada Bay, Burwood, Hurstville, Marrickville, Woollahra, Mosman, Fairfield, North Sydney, Kogarah, Randwick, City of Sydney, Liverpool, Canterbury

Hornsby, Warringah

Willoughby (still consulting), Rockdale (still doing consultation), Parramatta (still consulting), Waverley (preparing report on consultation for council)

No merger required:
Bankstown, Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Camden, Campbelltown, Hawkesbury, The Hills, Penrith, Sutherland, Wollondilly

Councils which are resisting mergers most loudly are ones with a long history and a strong local identity. Among the most vocal opponents are council areas where the borders give a certain cachet to their residents, such as Mosman or Hunters Hill. Others have long histories such as the City of Ryde, which traces its history back to 1841. Under the new plan Ryde would be cut in two.

UDIA NSW Chief Executive Stephen Albin has said that although NSW as a whole does not support the amalgamations, they will undeniably create efficiencies in the NSW Planning System. “Forty three Councils in Sydney, each with their own set of planning processes, makes the job of delivering development incredibly difficult, especially when a project crosses one or even two Council boundaries,” he said.

Further Reading:



Who's in the right

A couple of months ago I was headed to work from Domain Interchange. While crossing the road, some volunteers dressed up in City of Melbourne gear handed me a small card that turned out to be part of Council's 'Share Our Streets' campaign. I had a quick scan of it but didn't really pay much attention if I'm being honest. That was, at least, until last week when I hopped on a tram and picked up one of their flyers that also covered road safety. A quick comparison of their language and scope reveals what appear to be vastly different priorities.

Firstly, I had a deeper look at Share Our Streets. City of Melbourne aims their message at pedestrians and cyclists. For example, they have instructions on how to ride your bicycle 'at a slow speed', how to walk 'stay left', and how to cross the street 'remember to look up and around you'. All pretty self-explanatory, and, one would expect, common knowledge for most functioning adults. Crucially though, only one component targets car drivers: Tips to avoid car-dooring 'Always use your mirrors'. There is no suggestion that city driving could be made safer by, perhaps, respecting speed limits, or not texting while driving, or always indicating and checking blind spots when changing lanes. These rules are often flaunted and lead to critical incidences. What I take from this is the following: Everyone watch out for cars; cars, carry on as usual except when you're parked.

Conversely, Yarra Trams adopts a more rounded view. Their instructional flyer considers the safety of alighting passengers (cars don't always slow down), how cars can consider them (please slow down!), and how both should consider the stopping distances of lorries and trams when pulling sudden movements. The overall impression I get is: Everybody, be nice to one another and the city will just work a little bit smoother, a little bit better, and most importantly, a little bit safer.

Source: City of Melbourne

Perhaps City of Melbourne considers driver education to be the responsibility of VicRoads (which it is), and enforcement of road rules to be the responsibility of the police (which it is). Cars and car drivers are least at risk from other kinds of traffic in the city, and yet they have the potential to cause some of the most damaging collisions. Should the responsibility of safely sharing roads be shouldered by those most at risk, as suggested by the City of Melbourne? Or should all of us be more careful like Yarra Trams suggests?

I know which one I'd pick.

By Sean Hua – Urban Designer/Urban Graphics

Life in the text lane...

Who reading this article is guilty of using their phone whilst walking and in particular crossing busy roads? GUILTY. Though we claim that our lives are getting busier and busier, we still find time to mindlessly check facebook and instragram numerous times a day.  In fact, recent studies have shown that people check their phones up to 150 times a day (Woollaston, 2013). And as we are so time poor, many people carry out the unsafe habit of texting whilst on the move. This is leading to a rise in the amount of unnecessary injuries due to distracted people walking into trams, cars, bikes and other pedestrians. In 2013, a study at the Ohio State University found that distracted walking injuries in the US are rising fast, with, 1506 recorded in the US emergency rooms in 2010, up from 256 in 2005 (Benedictus, 2014).

To combat this issue, Washington DC undertook a social experiment trialling a ‘phone lane’, which involved dividing the footpath into lanes marked 'no cellphone' on the left and 'cellphones: walk in this lane at your own risk' on the right (AFP, 2013). Unfortunately, the social experiment failed, with mobile phone users walking where they liked. And if they did notice the line markings, taking a selfie with it. The idea was also implemented in Chongqing City, China, however, it was reported that people didn’t particularly pay attention to the signage and were walking freely into traffic on the road.

In Melbourne, there have been several accidents where distracted phone users have been hit by trams or cyclists. So what is the solution? As a social experiment the ‘phone lane’ failed. But lets be honest, how is a lane without barriers going to stop a distracted person on their smart phone from walking into danger.

Perhaps it is a matter of redesigning the street to be more like a bowling alley with the bumper bars up, so like the bowling ball, people can’t stray off course.  Perhaps we could put electric fences up along the kerb so that people get a zap before they step out across the road.

On a more serious note, perhaps there should be a fine introduced for people texting whilst crossing roads. The Utah Transit Authority has introduced a $50 fine for distracted walking in the vicinity of trains (Benedictus, 2014).

Or, perhaps an app needs to be invented that warns you of danger ahead, vibrating when you’re about to hit something (Benedictus, 2014). Genius. What do you think?

To read the complete story head to the following links:

By Julia Bell, Senior Urban Designer

'Aladdin City' - A Reality

Ever dreamed of living in Genie’s lamp? Dubai provides an opportunity to experience this. The Dubai Municipality (DM) is officially starting the design of ‘Aladdin City’. The project will comprise almost 111,480 square metres of commercial and hotel space and 900 parking spots. It is expected to begin construction by next year and aims to increase tourism and boost the economy by the 2020 World Expo.

The project will be spread across 4000 acres and will include three main towers shaped like the genie lamps. The towers will be 25, 26 and 34 storeys high and will be connected by 450 metres moving walkways like the magic carpet of Aladdin.

As much as the proposal sounds funky and exciting, it seems to be another one of Dubai’s projects that will have high environmental impacts and offcourse this issue is not spoken about. The complex will spread over a distance of 450 metres on the historic Dubai Creek. The site will sit outside the area that is currently bidding to become a UNESCO world heritage site. Even though the towers are proposed to be built on the Dubai Creek there doesn’t seem to be any physical connection to the water body, like the walkways are elevated from the water and lose the opportunity to connect with the creek.

Dubai in past has already built artificial islands like Palm Jumeirah, The World and Palm Deria in the Persian Gulf. These islands have affected the marine life of Dubai and the region has lost almost 70 per cent of its coral reefs since 2001. Such developments do a lot of damage during and after the construction process. For example, almost 94 million cubic metres of sediments was dredged during the construction of Palm Jumeirah Island.

It looks like Dubai has not learned from its past and intends to start impacting the water quality of Dubai Creek now. It will be interesting to see how this proposal will respond to the environmental and heritage concerns related to the project are addressed.

To read complete story of ‘Aladdin City’ follow the link below:


By Amruta Purohit, Urban Designer

Real 'Green' Highrise Living

New apartment buildings in Sydney could see a huge reduction in real environmental impacts if actions outlined in a draft residential sustainability plan put together by the City of Sydney is implemented into legislation. This coincides with a shift to make apartment building design ‘greener’, for example, One Central Park which includes a 116 metre high vertical garden.

With approximately 90 per cent of new homes in the city to be high rise apartments by 2030, the City of Sydney Council plans to make apartment living more environmentally friendly in line with the Sustainable Sydney 2030 goals.

Key targets for Sydney apartments:
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030
  • Reduce water consumption by 7 per cent by 2030
  •  Divert 70 per cent of waste from landfill by 2021

At the moment, apartments account for about 10 per cent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.
BASIX targets currently require detached and semi-detached dwellings to emit 40 per cent less greenhouse gas than the NSW per capita benchmark, whereas the figure for high-rise apartments is only 20 per cent.

The draft residential sustainability plan is based on data that was collected in the Smart Green Apartments program run by the City of Sydney, and include reviewing and advocating higher BASIX targets to create buildings that not only appear 'green' but perform well environmentally.

The draft residential sustainability plan will be on exhibition until 11 June 2015, and a final plan will go before the council towards the end of 2015.

By Tim Cooper - Planner Sydney

Link to original article:

One Central Park by Ateliers Jean Nouvel and PTW Architects. Image: Simon Wood

David Boyle Architect’s Polychrome project was shortlisted for the 2015 NSW Architecture Awards for Residential Architecture – Multiple Housing and Sustainable Architecture. Image: Brigid Arnott

Power to the People

By Brodie Blades – Senior Planner

The votes are in and being tallied for Vancouver’s recent transit referendum. Citizens of the west-coast Canadian city were asked whether they supported a 0.5 per cent  increase to the existing state sales tax for the funding of transit infrastructure.

If successful, the increase will fund a range of transit infrastructure investments across metropolitan Vancouver, including bridge replacements, new subway lines, a new light rail system, enhanced bus services and frequency as well as enhanced ferry services. This would effectively be the biggest investment in public transportation infrastructure in the city since the 2010 Winter Olympics!

Melbourne and Vancouver have long been considered comparable in many facets (not least of all ‘liveability’), which in itself begs an important question: given the comparability of Melbourne and Vancouver – and the similarities in growing populations and transit infrastructure needs – should the concept of transit referendums and tax increases be considered here?

Transit referendums and sales tax increases for transit investment are not new concepts in North America. For example, in 2010 the residents of San Francisco voted ‘yes’ (51 per cent  to 49 per cent) to support an additional $10 a year on the fee for vehicle registrations. This translated into an additional $5 million a year for street repairs, upgrades to reliability and mobility, and enhanced pedestrian safety. Similarly, 54 per cent of the residents of Oklahoma voted ‘yes’ in 2009 for a 1 per cent sales tax increase over seven years, which raised $777 million for a new light rail system, commuter lines, transit hubs, sidewalks and bicycle/walking trails.

Perhaps the most interesting is the 2008 case of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Agency (LACMTA) ‘Measure R’, which similarly proposed a 0.5 per cent sales tax increase on each dollar of taxable sales within Los Angeles County for thirty years in order to pay for transportation projects and improvements. 67.22 per cent of Los Angelenos said yes to the proposal, which seeks to reverse the trend of car-dependency within the county through transit infrastructure projects such as a LAX rail connection, new subway lines (including the ‘Subway to the Sea’ and new Green Line), freeway widening and implementation of carpool lanes.

In Melbourne, recent discourse on transit infrastructure investment has been closely entwined with political agendas as evidenced by the recent proposal for the East-West Link. The fallout from this argument has resulted in a dichotomy between public transport advocates (Doncaster Rail, new rolling stock, airport connectivity etc.) and road infrastructure supporters.

Whichever view you take, the question at large always returns to value for money and foresight - as the East-West Link’s estimated project cost of $6-$8 billion equals could equally be applied to other transit projects across our region. Perhaps it is time to remove the politics from transit investment in Melbourne and adopt a bottom-up approach that returns power to the people through a referendum/plebiscite on the issue.

Although unprecedented in Australia, Vancouver’s recent transit referendum and sales tax increase begs the question of whether the same could work here. What do you think? Would you support an increase in tax if it meant both having a direct say in transit investment as well as facilitating tangible transit infrastructure provision?

Further reading:

·         Moving a Livable Region – Metro Vancouver’s Transit Referendum: http://www.movinginalivableregion.ca/
·         LACMTA Measure R: http://www.metro.net/projects/measurer/

Mapping Your City's Smells

At the University of Cambridge scientists have been collecting data on how urban smells can influence urban life.

An urban smell dictionary has been created that comprehensively covers unpleasant or 'emission' odours to pleasant smelling or 'nature' odours.

After gathering data for a number of cities researchers focussed on London and Barcelona. Through social media they were able to detect where 'emission' smells and 'nature' smells were concentrated.

Check out the results below.



Poor air quality seemed to be concentrated around main throughfares (darker red), while 'nature' words (identified in green) were concentrated around the cities major parks.

Maybe use of smell can allow monitoring of pollution levels and lead to future planning decisions to reduce sections of a city being unpleasant on the nose. Or as the author states - create a wayfinding app to give users the most pleasant-smelling route to their destination.

Read the full article here.

Image source: Quercia, Schifanella, Aiello and McLean

Will they stay or will they go

Image credit: Gareth Williams
Young professionals starting families are increasingly choosing the suburbs to raise a family.

With decent schools, good services, lower crime and affordable housing, the prospect of moving to the suburbs is attractive to those with small children and as priorities change. Previously, these young professionals tended to live in walkable urban areas.

A panel discussion on this topic was hosted by the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C. One of the panellists states, "If you build a city filled with efficiencies and one-bedrooms you are pushing people out at exactly the time that they are starting to put down roots and spend money."

By building housing stock to cater to singles, couples and the ‘childless’ you exclude an entire demographic from setting up roots. Should cities look at ways to accommodate families before they depart? Do you think that they do enough? And does it make economic sense to keep families in cities?

The recently released discussion paper ‘Better apartments’ raises similar questions in relation to housing diversity. It notes that ‘only 5% of apartments being constructed or marketed include three or more bedrooms. This could mean that very few apartments are suited to the long-term needs of household with children who tend to prefer more than two bedrooms’.

For more on the story visit http://www.planetizen.com/node/76831 or http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/digger/wp/2015/05/08/millennials-moved-to-the-city-whether-they-stay-might-depend-on-what-happens-to-the-kids/?sdfsdf

Have you say or make a submission:

Glass bridges

China has done it again. 

Image credit: haimdotan.com
If you are suffer a fear of heights this may not be for you. But if you are an adrenaline junkie, conquering the highest bungee jump in the world could be right up your alley.

The world’s highest and longest skywalk is due to open in China in July.

The skywalk at the Grand Canyon of Zhangjiagie spans two cliffs and stretches 430 metre, is six metres wide and has a drop of 300 metres! That sounds okay right?! Add to this that the skywalk is glass and you can see straight down. No thank you!

Capable of holding 800 tourists at a time, the plus side is you will be able to view the stunning national park (inspiration for the movie Avatar). 

Five million catch ‘the G’

Since its launch in July 2014, the Gold Coast light rail system, dubbed ‘the G’ has had more than five million paid trips. The equivalent of each person in Queensland making a trip.

The Gold Coast light rail project is one of the biggest public transport projects in the country, and the biggest transport infrastructure project ever undertaken on the Gold Coast.

Image credit @thebridegene
Patronage across the tram and bus system have increased by 22.6 per cent in the first 8 months since the G and bus network changes were implemented.

TransLink's Deputy Director-General Stephen Banaghan said "What the Gold Coast trams have created is a measurable and real global increase in commuters using both trams and buses across the whole network."

It seems the students from Griffith University are making use of the network. Many of the 20,000 students are getting on board. When the semester started there was a 34.1 per cent increase at use of the Griffith University Hospital campus stop.

Read more about ‘the G’ in the links below.



Smart Lighting

Image credit @EDIFICIO AYASHA, Arq. Jose Orrego, Bogota – Colombia

Expanding urbanisation and expected population growth in cities is placing pressure on finite resources. There needs to be smarter thinking around how energy resources are used as urban areas expand. What technologies can be adopted and implemented by cities to improve resident’s lives as well as be more energy efficient.

A report entitled Lighting the Clean Revolution: the rise of LED and what it means for cities was developed by Philips and the Climate Group in 2012 to look into the application of LED (light-emitting diode) lighting in cities.

Harry Verhaar from Philips states that lighting accounts for 19 per cent of the world’s total electricity consumption. He advocates the use of smart lighting such as LED lighting at street level to bring about electricity savings of 50-70 per cent.

Cities including Sydney have implemented a program to roll out LED lights. So far they have installed more than 5,545 lights in parks and at street level. The city has already saved almost $370,000 and reduced energy use more than 46% since March 2012. There are plans to replace about 6,500 conventional lights with LEDs over the next 3 years. It is the first of its kind in Australia.

Producing a brighter light than a traditional street light, LED lights makes a huge difference to a community’s sense of safety, as well as improve the look and feel of a city. Often lighting can be overlooked, however, other cities such as New York, London and Hong Kong have joined Sydney to trial LED lights. This was arranged by the international environment collective, the Climate Group.

To read more about how innovative urban lighting is catching on follow the links below:


http://www.newcitiesfoundation.org/how-will-smart-lighting-impact-the-future-city/ http://www.theclimategroup.org/what-we-do/publications/lighting-the-clean-revolution-the-rise-of-leds-and-what-it-means-for-cities/
'Tower of Ring' (LED light design)Image credit: Eastern Design Tianjin (China) - inhabitat.com

Image Source (Banner): http://www.newcitiesfoundation.org/how-will-smart-lighting-impact-the-future-city/http://www.newcitiesfoundation.org/how-will-smart-lighting-impact-the-future-city/

Aging in a Dense Urban Environment – Putting the Oldies to Work

Could urban farming in dense built form environments help manage the needs of the aging population?

The 2015 Intergeneration Report – Australia in 2055 projects that the number of Australians aged 65 and over will more than double by 2055 compared with today. As part of this trend, it is expected that the labour force may decline, resulting in a smaller tax base therefore less ability to deliver services at the standards expected by the community (Australian Government, 2015). Providing flexible and suitable work opportunities to allow those over 65 to continue in the workforce will reduce the impact the aging population has on the economy.

The aging population trend is not just affecting Australia. Across Asia, the population is aging at a rapid rate.

“The number of people aged 65 and above in Asia is expected to grow 314% from 207 million in 2000 to 857 million in 2050” (SPARK Architects, 2015)

Singapore is no exception with its age distribution shifting significantly (SPARK Architects, 2015). To respond to this, the Singapore Government has established the Ministerial Committee on Aging (MCA), which has developed a vision for what is titled “Successful Aging”. Successful Aging is described as the “enhancement of participation, health, and security for seniors” (SPARK Architects, 2015).

Not only does Singapore have an aging population, it also faces food security issues due to its reliance on imports. Singapore has no hinterland for farming, therefore, 90% of its food source is imported (SPARK, 2015). To address both the aging demographic and food scarcity, SPARK Architects has come up with a conceptual idea for high density affordable retirement housing combined with urban farming. “The proposal titled “Home Farm”, integrates vertical aquaponic farming and rooftop soil planting with high-density housing designed for seniors that provides residents with a desirable garden environment and opportunities for post-retirement employment” (SPARK Architects, 2015).

The concept is described as offering multi-dimensional benefits related to economics, food security and quality, social engagement, health, sustainability, place making and healthcare provision (SPARK Architects, 2015).

Image credit: archdaily.com
The high density design includes a range of unit sizes to respond to different preferences for living arrangements and financial situations. SPARK director Stephen Pimbley says that “it has potential to be implemented anywhere that has the climate to support leafy green vegetables on building facades and rooftops” (SPARK, 2015).

Source: Archidaily.com 
 One of the key objectives of Home Farm is the delivery of jobs for seniors where they live. Job opportunities stemming from this proposal include planting, harvesting, sorting, packing, tours, sales on site, delivery, cleaning, and so on (SPARK Architects. 2015). The work completed can then be remunerated through a salary, contribution to bills or free produce contributing to the health of the elderly residents.

With Australia facing similar issues with regards to an aging population, how we design our cities and housing will need to adapt to these changing conditions, ensuring the aging population has access to a diverse range of affordable housing in highly accessible locations. Perhaps the Home Farm model could work in Australia. The implementation of frameworks like Home Farm could provide the aging population a salary to supplement their super/ pension, along with free healthy produce and an outlet to get involved in social activities.
 What do you think? Could we remodel the retirement village template to a higher density outcome with the incorporation of urban farming? Could this model be built into how we undertake urban renewal developments into the future?

You can read more about the proposal here