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Building a Shared Community

By Julia Bell

Nightingale Housing

Co-housing as a response to housing affordability – Building a shared community

Melbourne’s median house price has broken the $700,000 barrier, with median rental prices also hitting $400 per week. The housing affordability crisis facing Melburnians is made even more challenging by the lack of wage growth, with growth hitting a record low of just 1.9 per cent over the past year.

It is becoming apparent that we must find more innovative ways to respond to this housing crisis if we are to ensure Melbourne retains its ‘most liveable’ title in the coming decades.

As the composition of our households continues to change, so too does the housing typology needed. Our population is aging, and just over 30% of households will be single person households by 2026. Social isolation is a serious emerging issue. As lifestyles change, a new, sharing economy is emerging, consisting of new, more collaborative paradigms of urban living.

Co-housing, though not a new initiative, is emerging more frequently in medium-high density housing models as a way of entering the property market which enables sharing of bills, cars and household goods, as well as trading services like babysitting and care for the elderly.

Co-housing is defined as an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space. Each attached or single family home has traditional amenities, including a private kitchen. Shared spaces typically feature a common house, which may include a large kitchen and dining area, laundry and recreational spaces. Common characteristics are described below:

  • Neighbours commit to being part of a community for everyone’s mutual benefit.
  • Cohousing cultivates a culture of sharing and caring.
  • Design features and neighbourhood size (typically 20-40 homes) promote frequent interaction and close relationships.
Balancing Privacy and Community
  • Cohousing neighbourhoods are designed for privacy as well as community.
  • Residents balance privacy and community by choosing their own level of engagement.
  • Decision making is participatory and often based on consensus.
  • Self-management empowers residents, builds community, and saves money.
Shared Values
  • Cohousing communities support residents in actualizing shared values.
  • Cohousing communities typically adopt green approaches to living.
Recent examples of co-housing at a high density include the Nightingale and The Commons apartment developments in Brunswick. The Commons was developed on the ideas of both achieving material reductionism and the positive social impacts of share facilities. 15% of the property is devoted to communal facilities, including a shared roof garden and laundry room. The communal spaces encourage interaction with neighbours.

Nightingale was developed on a similar ethos, guided by the notion of affordability. The combination of an economical design, sustainability and reduced developers profits makes the apartments more affordable whilst also nurturing a social and community atmosphere within the development.

A lower density version of co-housing that is also emerging is single-dwelling suburban blocks being adapted to accommodate two or three smaller dwellings with some share spaces, reducing the overall physical and environmental footprint per household. It is similar in principle to granny flat development but less restrictive, allowing more varied and flexible household groupings.

So could co-housing help us towards more affordable housing? Is it a way of improving social inclusion? What ways could we incentivise co-housing through the planning scheme?

Further Reading

Jan Gehl: Key to the City

By Julia Moiso

Jan Gehl
Source: Steven Siewert

Jan Gehl (80) is a Danish architect and urban designer who founded Gehl Architects – Urban Quality Consultants, based in Copenhagen, Denmark. His work and research creatively reimagines the multiple ways in which communities utilise the city and the public realm. For Gehl, design always begins with an analysis of the spaces between buildings. Only after establishing a vision of what kind of public life is desired in a city of public space, attention can then be given to the surrounding buildings and the ways the spaces can productively interact. He is a man on a mission to transform Sydney into a walking and cycling-friendly destination, has been proudly been awarded by Lord Mayor Clover Moore, the key to the City of Sydney.

He is also the second Dane to receive a Key to the City of Sydney, following Jørn Utzon who received the honour in 1998, famously known for being the Architect behind Sydney’s legendary Opera House.

While first being commissioned by the City of Sydney in 2007, more than a decade onwards, Jan Gehl has contributed driving ideas behind Sydney’s recent transformation including plans to ‘pedestrianise’ George Street, bring inner-city laneways to life, and create a greener, more liveable and better connected city as part of the Sustainable Sydney 2030 initiative.

Presenting a symbolic key to the city is the highest honour a city can give to an individual or organisation. It recognises the recipient’s contribution to furthering the ideals of a city or an outstanding achievement at an international level. Previous individuals awarded the Key to the City of Sydney have been received by Nelson Mandela (1990), Dame Joan Sutherland (1991), Juan Antonio Samaranch (2000), Aung San Suu Kyi (2003), John Bell AO (2015), and various Australian Olympic, Paralympic and other sporting teams and personalities.

Gehl comments about his role in the city’s planning; he observed that Sydney had, for too long, put cars ahead of people. This is a trait many cities often slip into subconsciously, rather than planning for people, infrastructure is often prioritised to continuously plan for upgraded road networks, a seemingly never ending investment - currently exhibited by the NSW State Government. Gehl believes that the most successful places have in fact, outgrown the automobile. This can be seen all around the world in Copenhagen, Denmark; Halifax, Canada; Melbourne, Australia; and Times Square, New York to name a few cities who have ditched the roads for pedestrian friendly environments.

Together, Gehl Architects and the City of Sydney Council under Lord Mayor Clover Moore developed a plan to unlock Sydney’s outstanding potential by making it a city for people, with walkable streets, great public spaces and a vibrant, green heart. Lord Mayor Clover Moore has commended Gehl’s work since being commissioned a decade ago and has made extensive efforts to implement his recommendations. From simple initiatives to make the streets more liveable like upgrading functional street furniture, planting more trees and incorporating more greenery into the city, to major projects like the transformation of George Street, the light rail and the improvement of laneway life throughout the city centre.

The City continues to embrace Gehl’s vision for Sydney with continual improvements to ensure a better quality public realm is accomplished and a more sustainable future for the city is achieved for future generations.

We believe that Gehl’s work in rejuvenating the city will help create a more liveable city with a primary people centric vision. Despite the continual rise in private vehicular travel seen globally, can it be said that this approach will help revolutionise cities? Is this approach seen as a global trend for a successful city? Is this seen as an ecologically, economically and socially just and fair strategy to the contribution of revitalisation to the city?

Breaking the Bus Stigma

By Gareth Mogg

Brisbane's BRT Network
“Melbourne has great buses!” said no one ever. Sure, Melbourne has buses. They’re even clearly visible, taking up space on Lonsdale Street or roaming around the suburbs like a teenager with too much time on their hands. But more often than not they’re running entirely empty, and one begins to question the meaning and purpose of the bus as a feasible public transport option. Yet, buses are able to provide significant transit benefits and have been reimagined in recent times in cities over the world as relevant, effective and high capacity transit options. With the Victorian State Government’s recent plan to overhaul bus contracts (a current cost of $600 million to the State Government) the question emerges - can Melbourne fully ‘get on the bus’ and embrace the bus as a feasible public transportation option?

The role of the bus in Melbourne
When people think of Melbourne, one of the more ‘iconic’ images that springs to mind is the classic tram – which is hardly surprising given Melbourne’s tram network is the most extensive in the world, and is a strong part of the City’s heritage. Following trams, Melbourne’s train lines are also some of the oldest routes in the city, with many routes having been constructed in early colonial times and relied upon as the instigator for the growth of our suburbs before the advent of the private motor car. In more modern times, the upkeep of these two transit systems are high on the Victorian state government’s priority list as demonstrated by the creation of a new route (Metro Rail Project), significant route upgrades (Level Crossing Removal project) and various extensions (Route 55 and 96 tram track extensions).

Bogota's BRT System
However, both transit systems suffer from a common ailment – their monocentric nature. All routes travel into and through the city (which is fine if that is your destination) but cross-city travel is slightly more difficult. For example, if you want to take a tram or train from Brunswick to Northcote, you have to travel into the city before heading back out in effectively the same direction. Sure you could walk and cycle this route (or call an Uber), but sometimes neither of these are viable options.
Enter the bus (specifically, the 508 [if anyone is interested], which traverses from Brunswick to Northcote direct). However, this route, and many others in Melbourne, operate buses that sit largely empty in a sea of high personal car traffic. Why is this so? What benefits could an improved bus system bring? How is this being done elsewhere and what can we do?

Bus system case studies
One needs only look as far as Brisbane for a successful ‘real world’ example of an integrated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. The basic principle of the BRT is providing the necessary infrastructure and rolling stock for high frequency, direct bus services which, in the case of Brisbane currently, consists of 5 high capacity busways with buses running every 12 seconds in the busiest part of the city. International cities, such as Curitiba (Brazil) and Bogota (Colombia), have also constructed BRT systems in order to deal with growing traffic congestion and disorganised bus routes, with Bogota now having 12 BRT lines which services 2.2million trips per day (while reducing the number of buses on the road by over 7000!).
Other developed cities such as Canada’s capital Ottawa have also employed BRTs to a similar effect: quicker travel times, fewer transfers and grade separated routes from vehicle traffic.

Ottawa's BRT System
An important part of the appeal of BRTs in relation to other transit options (such as subways, trams or train lines) is that BRTs are cheap to implement. They also require less construction, can be rolled out in stages (so they are able to open up before completion and start earning a return), and generally require no expensive tunnelling. They are also adaptable; they are not limited by tracks and routes can be quickly and easily adjusted to respond to externalities (weather, accidents, and road works) and even passenger demand. Importantly, BRT’s capacity can rival that of LRT and be operational in half the time.

We know that Melbourne already has a strong integrated transport network primarily within the inner city region that caters for over train 192,000 commuters and over 43,000 tram users every day. Yet car use is still dominant, with over 1.2million people driving (or as a passenger) per day (figures as of Census day 2011). Buses currently account for just under 30,000 patron trips per day despite the fact that Melbourne actually has quite a prolific bus network capable of connecting people and places in a better, more efficient manner than both train and tram. Yet they remain Melbourne’s most unpopular mode of transport, and the notion of more of a BRT style system may be able to assist with this.

Admittedly, the notion of a BRT in Melbourne isn’t without its challenges, but perhaps there is room for Melbourne commuters to further embrace the benefits of the bus by way of further infrastructure investment and a considered ‘multi-modal’ transit strategy and investment. After all, buses are adaptable, more sustainable than personal car travel (when full), efficient and cheap. They can also provide better connectivity and be operational in a very short period of time.

And who knows? With better organised routes, separated bus lanes, and better availability of route information (in the form of readable route maps) – perhaps we could hear more people shortly proclaim that “Melbourne has great buses!”

How do you feel about Melbourne’s buses? Do they invoke feelings of joy or rage? Do you have a local bus route that serves you better than tram or train? Let us know in the comments!

Further Reading

Up Versus Out

By Gareth Mogg

In the wake of the recent gazettal of Melbourne Amendment C270 (Central City Built Form Review) - as well as the release of the State Government's final 'Better Apartment Design Standards'  - now is a good time to revisit one of Melbourne's most contentious debates... is urban consolidation an appropriate response to urban sprawl?

We’ve all seen them, those images of a sprawling metropolis. Highways weaving their way out into the distance, flanked by suburban low rise dwellings, stretching in a seemingly endless retreat away from the urban heart of the city. These ‘boomer’ strongholds have recently become more archaic in their desirability with large sought after back yards replaced with city vistas, and the proximity to small local neighbourhoods overshadowed by a need to be close to large scale urban amenity. Urban densification has become the new modern, with population numbers surging in city centres. One needs look no further than Melbourne to see this.

The vision of the city has taken many forms, from the idyllic garden settings proposed by Ebenezer Howard, to the urban revitalisation envisioned by Le Corbusier. The idea of the city has undergone a variety of 'facelifts' and has over the years, embodied a mercurial personality. Back when Melbourne city centre was an industrial hub, there was little in the way of the amenity and services enjoyed by us today. The city was for work, not for play. And so, our suburbs formed. Large backyards, plentiful space, local communities far from the smog and a safe environment were on offer for families who were not condemned to live in slums.

Our cities changed however.  Melbourne’s notorious slums were replaced with renovated, highly valued accommodation, the far reaching suburbs became the vestiges of those who were unable to live closer to the city centre and urban populations grew alarmingly. City skylines are no longer dominated solely by office buildings and hotels, but with high rise apartments. These trends are seen from Vancouver to Melbourne and from London to Berlin.  Densification has grown in place of the economic agglomeration of residences and business along stretching highway and rail corridors. Postcode 3000 is now desirable. 

The topic of urban consolidation versus sprawl has been hotly contested in Melbourne. While it is acknowledged that sprawl is an inherently poor response to city growth (for matters ranging from sustainability and car use, to equitability and housing stress), urban densification has also been lambasted with arguments around its impact on population numbers, internal and external amenity for residents and resulting in less interaction with neighbours. 

So what solution is there if both sprawl and consolidation are considered inadequate responses? The arguments for and against both are quite convincing, yet our population must go somewhere and the provision of accommodation close to services, amenity and connectivity seems a much more positive response than pushing residents to under serviced, far flung corners of our cities. The new Better Apartment Guidelines demonstrate a way within which Melbourne is adapting to this growth and demonstrating management protocols to best facilitate this trend.

There has been a degree of flirtation in European and North American countries with the notion of satellite cities, working in a polycentric manner, instead of focusing growth in one location. Melbourne’s nearest urban centres are Geelong and Bendigo, which are too far away to serve as Melbourne’s second city centre. While there are areas of Melbourne, such as Box Hill, which are emerging as places of employment and accommodation, there is still a predominant ‘single city’ idea prevalent in Melbourne. With Melbourne’s population increasing, simply providing higher rise apartments will not necessarily alleviate the issues of congestion which comes with the mass grouping of people.

What are your thoughts? Is it time for Melbourne, as well as many other cities around the globe, to embrace the multi-city ideas of the past? How can cities combat sprawl yet control densification?

Car Free Futures?

By Gareth Mogg

Cars are becoming a thing of the past! Well, at least in a handful of city centres. No, we aren’t experiencing the first in a wave of hover vehicles, nor am I talking about the rise of the self-driving autonomous automobile. Instead, some places are reverting back to traditional means of transportation … our feet.

This is at least the case in Europe, which is currently seeing a rise in car free commercial centres, or in the case of Paris, the recent possibility of a city wide ban on cars  . The Paris Mayor has recently talked of the bold plan to pedestrianise the city centre of Paris, with the intention to remove half of all private motor vehicle usage across the city. This is the biggest example of a pattern emerging across Europe of cities, such as Copenhagen, Oslo and Brussels, making a move away from car-centric planning and towards more pedestrian friendly urban environments.

The impetus for this can probably be found in our growing awareness of climate change and the increase of carbon emissions and pollution levels in major cities (no longer just an issue in developing super cities, but also in London and Sydney). Another instigator can be found in rapidly growing urban centres and levels of car ownership leading to increased city centre congestion issues. Although car ownership levels are dropping as a percentage, the actual number of people who own a car in urban areas has been growing.

Paris may be leading the way in terms of completely eradicating cars from its city centre, but what about the rest of the world?
Car free days are already celebrated in numerous cities across the world. September 22nd marks the day when World Car Free Day is celebrated (although this is similar to winning the World Series … hard to justify the title when the entire world doesn’t take part). It is growing steadily and promotes any alternative to using a car. This trend has already grown beyond European borders and has made an appearance in Jakarta, and Bogota as well as in North American, where Vancouver has several annual car free event as well as Portland.

So what about Australia? Car ownership levels are high in Australia, which is unsurprising given how the majority of Australian cities have sprawling suburbs. There is certainly room within Australian planning to incorporate more walkable elements into our city centres. Melbourne currently has Bourke Street Mall, Adelaide has Rundle Mall and Sydney has Pitt Street. These areas are always full of activity, including shoppers, diners and buskers. Melbourne has also recently pedestrianised the Acland Street activity centre in St Kilda in a move that has been met with both praise and criticism. They normally serve as a focal point for the city and form the backdrop in numerous city advertising campaigns to showcase the city’s vibrant nature. Yet, there are relatively few urban areas solely dedicated to pedestrian traffic in Australia and the notion of a car free centre, weekend, or even a day, has yet to take hold.

With the rest of the world moving (albeit slowly) towards less reliance on cars, there is the potential for Australian cities to consider alternatives to the car in the city centre and to alleviate congestion in activity centres.  Sure, there will always be a need for a car (at least in the immediate future) in order to travel between suburbs or other cities, or even to pick up weekly groceries. Yet the benefits of encouraging more pedestrian activity and removing cars in activity centres cannot be ignored.

Fewer cars means safer streets, a cleaner environment, more diverse and enjoyable public spaces … plus we all get a little work out!

Planning for Feng Shui

By Vincent Pham

The Bank of China, designed by architect I.M Pei, had its façade modified multiple times during its construction after a Feng Shui expert noticed that building design featured primarily of crosses, which would bring bad luck to the bank owners and its customers. Consequentially, the façade was modified and retrofitted to become a pattern of “diamonds,” where previously crosses.
Melbourne’s urban growth has ignited many discussions on all aspects of the city from the macro to the micro. Large scale projects - such as the new Melbourne Metro Rail line, for example - create a conversation around how their locational and physical attributes “value capture” the benefits of the project. Location and placement are key aspects of successful city planning and - regardless of whether the issue is large in scale or small - carefully considered design is a central and functional component of planning. Feng Shui is inherently concerned with location and placement and with the upcoming 2017 Lunar New Year approaching, the concepts of city planning within Melbourne could also be viewed through an alternative light: the practice of Feng Shui.

Feng Shui is a philosophical system of channelling positive and negative energies within the environment. It is concerned with placement of certain objects or structures within certain locations to influence health, well-being and luck for inhabitants and has been around in the orient for many millennia. Although, Feng Shui is normally practiced domestically within Asian households, it has permeated building design and city planning within oriental cities such as Hong Kong and Shanghai. 

It can essentially be broken up into 15 core principles, as briefly described by Howard Choy:

  • An integrated and Holistic System: our environment is considered to be an integral system as a whole…each individual system does not stand-alone; they are mutually connected.
  •  Being suitable and appropriate to the restriction of limitation of the site: every site has its limitation and advantages….there is a need a determine what site is best suitable for…and not forced out of balance with its neighbour.
  •  Bound by Mountains and Near Water: culturally, the Chinese prefer a landscape strategy that is hidden nature and is part of it rather than being exposed and set oneself above nature.
  •  Carry the Yin and Embrace the Yang: A Feng Shui house should be protected from the cold wind and facing the warm sun …if no protection nearby, then the wind will penetrate the bones, and bring the owners increasing defeat.
  •  Observe the Form and Examine the Configuration: …so observation and investigation of the land to locate the correct form…is one of the core principles of Feng Shui … this allows the designer to have a comprehensive appreciation of what he or she is dealing with.
  • Examine the Geology of the land: place where tin is produced is not suitable for agriculture, there the inhabitants are usually poor and has to emigrate to survive.
  •  Analyze the Quality of Water: the quality of water (especially drinking water) often determines the quality of ife because plants need to be watered and humans need to drink constantly.
  • Determine the Amount and the Standard: “Feng Shui has an affinity with sustainable development; a guideline we can adhere to so the resource can keep up with the population growth … we should not waste the land or the resource, nor should we allow an insufficient land size to create unnecessary pressure.
  • Take Advantage of the Sheng Qi: Sheng Qi is the life force makes things grows…Sheng Qi can be cultivated by adjusting the Yin and Yang balance of a situation so they are in harmony and mutually supports each other.
  • Suitability Located in the Middle and Residing in the Middle: the reason why historical capitals in China were never located in the coastal cities like Guangzhou or Shanghai because a capital needs to be centrally located… urban business centre is always located in the middle of a modern city.
  •  Aesthetic Appreciation: with our five senses and our mind, an aesthetic appreciation of a built form in its environment become important part of Feng Shui.
  • Greening the Environment: the amount of trees and wood can give an indication of the quality of the Feng Shui of a site.
  • Feng Shui can be Transformed and Improved: the Feng Shui of a place can be remoulded to improve its quality…in the process of enhancement, the natural environment should be respected at all times.
  • Yin Yang Dialectics to Achieve Harmony; in practice, when we observe and analyse a situation, we can contrast and find the extremes…we can find an appropriate solution lying somewhere within the bound of the two poles.
  • Being Timely and Affectionate; …Feng Shui, in essence, examines and contemplates this intimate relationship between humans and nature.

These core principles are still relevant to planning urban settlements today and continue to align with the objectives of 21st century planning, despite having been around for long times in oriental culture. The core principles are explored greater by Howard Choy at this website.   

Indeed, not all principles can be immediately applied in the blink of an eye, but whatever time, place or culture, we continue to work towards one goal – to create safe, vibrant and happy urban environments for all. So, as even more discussions within the industry continue emerge, is there possibility for such ideas to influence the future of the Melbourne?

Big Problems / Small Solutions

By Brodie Blades

A tiny house parked in the backstreets of Vancouver, BC (author's own photo)

There’s an interesting dichotomy at play between town planning and the free market in major Australia cities. On the one hand, it makes complete sense to encourage housing intensification in well-serviced locations such as inner-city areas, but - on the other hand - the price of property in such locations is prohibitive for the bulk of younger home buyers. Add to this the unprecedented exposure of potential purchasers to new ideas and concepts (as well as the emerging generational awareness that material possessions and ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ does not necessarily bring happiness) and it is easy to understand why the ‘tiny house movement’ (that is, the notion of living in extremely small movable dwellings) is gaining popularity and traction as a legitimate lifestyle option.

But where does this fit in an Australia planning context?

Originating in North America, the basic premise of the tiny house movement is that keeping a small house ‘mobile’ by attaching them to a trailer base bypasses local planning and building requirements. After all, you don't need planning approval to park your caravan but you may to build a house. In Australia, the legitimacy of this approach was recently tested when a Brisbane-based couple won approval through the Queensland Building and Development Dispute Resolution Committee to keep their 18m2 tiny house parked within their inner-city backyard after Brisbane City Council previously ruled that structural approvals were required. Whilst the ‘rules’ around tiny houses in SEQ differs from municipality to municipality (they are prohibited outright on the Gold Coast but permissible on the Sunshine Coast with conditions), the Lord Mayor of Brisbane has indicated that the regulations around tiny houses in Australia’s most populous LGA will be revised shortly for greater clarity.

Closer to home, the Victorian Planning Provisions already make allowance for a form of tiny housing through the ‘dependent persons unit’ (DPU) land use definition within Clause 74 (ie. a movable building on the same lot as an existing dwelling and used to provide accommodation for a person dependent on a resident of the existing dwelling). DPUs are rarely Section 3 (prohibited) land uses within residential zones, but of course there may still be permit requirements for buildings and works and actual building permits. This use definition also invokes the need to prove the ‘dependency’ of the occupant of the DPU on the resident of the primary dwelling, so it is not a ‘true’ reflection of the purpose of the tiny house. But if a tiny house in a backyard is deemed legally acceptable for a dependent, why not then for a non-dependent too?

It is important to note that we have recently witnessed a deliberate ‘shift’ away from mandating minimum apartment and dwellings sizes in Victoria under the Victorian State Government’s ‘Better Apartment Design Standards’. This supports a view that ‘good design’ is inherently preferable to prescribing minimum dwelling dimensions, although it is also important to note that discretionary minimum living room and bedroom dimension standards have been outlined. Regardless, the discretionary approach to the new guidelines does leave the door ajar for further consideration of smaller housing typologies such as tiny houses and perhaps the time has come for a comprehensive planning review in Victoria to ascertain how we can make alternate dwelling options such as tiny houses easier and more attractive as a legitimate lifestyle option.

What do you think? Could you live in an 18m2 house?

Further reading:


By Jessica Guirand

On 1 June 2016 the Seine River overflowed. After days of intense rainfall, the river invaded the streets to finally culminate at 6.18 metres above the normal level.

Image Source: Pierre Terdjman for The New York Times
Image source: Pierre Terdjman for The New York Times
There was fear among the population, with authorities and experts stating that the record flooding level of 1910 would be reached. Back then, the Seine rose to 8.62 metres above the standard levels, paralysing the capital city for over seven weeks and causing significant damages. This time, the river rose to 6.18 metres – the same level as the last 1982 flood episode.

Image source: Wikimedia

In 2014, the Institute of Urban Planning (Institut d’Aménagement et d’Urbanisme) directed 3D films illustrating the consequences of a major rise in the water level in flood prone areas including Paris. Coincidentally, the Institute ran a two week flood simulation in March this year for the Parisian Region (Ile-de-France) to test the emergency-flood protection plans, encourage effective collaboration between the various stakeholders and inform the population.

The stakes are high. The rise of water level has dreadful impacts but so does the decrease in flood level. In this case, it took nearly two weeks for the water to recede to normal levels. The toll includes death, population displacement, economic loss, damage to the public ream, cultural institutions, and public and private real estate.

Risk management of natural disaster is surrounded by incertitude. For example, predictions are based on previous natural events and experts concede to a lack of knowledge on underground runoff. This risk is also aggravated by the locations of major networks (electricity, water, internet, transport etc.)
7 to 8 levels below the natural ground level. Needless to say that urbanisation of flood prone areas is adding to the pressure. In this context, there’s an urgent need to make cities resilient and raise risk and prevention awareness, and particularly in urban renewal areas.

Despite the prevention measures in place, modelling and simulation, the rise in water levels that occurred earlier this month were faster than anticipated by the authorities. The lessons learnt from the simulation help to significantly reduce the impact of the flood.

Image source: Markus Schreiber/Associated Press


TIMBER... skyscraper for London?

By Brad Foletta
Image source: Inhabitat
London’s first timber skyscraper is a step closer to reality with conceptual plans presented by PLP Architecture and Cambridge University. The plans are for an 80-storey, 300 metre tall wooden building which it plans to incorporate within the Barbican Estate.

If built, the wooden structure would be the tallest of its kind in the world and the second tallest building in London after the Shard. In addition to the use of renewable materials, the skyscraper’s timber frame could also lock in 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide — equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of 5,000 Londoners.

The proposed one-million-square-foot mixed-use skyscraper and mid-rise terraces would create over 1,000 new residential units.

The use of timber as a structural material in tall buildings is an area of emerging interest for its variety of potential benefits; the most obvious being that it is a renewable resource, unlike prevailing construction methods which use concrete and steel. The research is also investigating other potential benefits, such as reduced costs and improved construction timescales, increased fire resistance, and significant reduction in the overall weight of buildings.

The world's tallest wooden building to date is a 14-storey apartment block in Bergen, Norway, but there are several more in the pipeline.

For more on this article, click below:

Also, check out this article on wooden skyscrapers from the Urban Developer.

You are never too old

By Kathryn Cuddihy

Playgrounds are for kids... or are they?

Image source: Guardian
Image source: Guardian

As our population's age, cities need to adapt to meet the needs of all users, including the elderly.
Open spaces, recreation facilities and neighbourhoods need to ensure they are catering for the wellbeing and general fitness of all users. One novel concept that seems to be used worldwide is the creation of play areas and outdoor gyms for the elderly. Not only does it encourage social integration, it is also a great way to keep the population active and healthy.

Below are a series of images that show how parks and outdoor gyms have adapted play equipment to suit a plethora of ages.

Image source: Guardian

Image source: Guardian

Image source: Guardian

You are never too old to play!

Check out the full story here or to read about 'Active Design' click here.