Densification of inner urban areas.
This post is specific to Melbourne Australia, but seems to be a common condition of western cities around the world.
Some would say that this is a no brainer. Unfortunately, not all see it that way. Where there is opportunity to build high, we should. For years various bodies have been campaigning for the increase of housing density along urban corridors defined by tram lines, infrastructure such as shopping strips, and ideally within walking distance of everything one needs to live.
There is one simple reason why this needs to happen -suburban sprawl. In Melbourne it is one of the ugliest traits of the city as a whole. Vast swathes of rural land converted to residential compounds, where the average plot ratio (amount of building covering land) is about 80%. Gone is the backyard, as everyone seems to need about 3 living rooms for various digital entertainment devices because they’ve forgotten how to let kids play outside. Just recently the state government released 6 new suburbs, land which was previously allocated as green zones to provide much needed amenity, gone at the stroke of a misinformed pen. I wont get started on the quality of houses being built there.
If this continues, we will have suburbs that reach some of the perimeter satellite cities such as Geelong and Ballarat in no time. In addition to this recent suburb release we now have previously rural towns such as Bacchus Marsh being categorised as suburban as the sprawl engulfs them. The press seems to be waking up on this issue, and pointing out rightly the socially negative aspects of this condition. Simply put – there is nothing to do out in these areas. There is nothing, no schools, no shopping centre, no parks, no space where people can go, unless they get in their car and drive for a while. Residents are travelling in excess of three hours a day by car (there is no public transport) and are not only time poor because of it, but they are also out of pocket with the increasing price of petrol. The equation of buying a house out in the suburban fringe where people can afford to buy is no longer relevant, as the prices out there are cheap, the cost (financially and to the environment) of commuting everyday is enormous to the point that families are struggling with a mortgage and an excessive use of petrol, albeit necessary to get anywhere. Yes, there is no public transport to these areas. As a greater community of Melbourne we need to address this now, as it is already too late.
With the increase of population set to grow by 1.7million people in the next 5 years, there has to be an understating amongst the community of how we need to tackle this. There are a lot of inner urban sites available for development, and it is essential that these grow tall to accommodate this growth. Where there is opportunity to build something high, that can have the advantages of proximity to the CBD, to trains and trams, so shops, where it does no overshadow residential properties, it is imperative that we take these opportunities to as a community, the size of Melbourne, we can stem the suburban sprawl. There are many sites like this, and they need to be used.
On the topic of cars, people largely believe that for a development in the inner city you will need 2 or 3 cars per family. Even though you might live next to a major tramline, multiple bus lines, and be within 15 minutes walk form your work place, you still need all these cars. That is until you actually see what happens to the people who live in the development walk to work, catch the tram, and don’t see the need to have two cars let alone use the one that they have regularly. Fortunately, the state government recently reduced the statutory requirement of car spaces down to 1 per house or unit of 2 bedrooms, and 2 for a 3 bedroom unit or house.
All in all Melbourne is like a pancake, with the inner suburbs being more like a crumpet. There are holes everywhere, but beyond it the vast expanse of single level housing as the steaming suburban pancake is not sustainable. I realise there is a large population who simply don’t care, who can’t see past their own self to consider the impacts of how it would be if nothing ever changed and we continued like this in keeping Melbourne flat, but it will change, as it is not a question of desire, it is a question of necessity.
another useful link...
check out ramblings of yours truly at www.energyefficientarchitecture.com.au
Today's article in The Age is an exciting endorsement of rain water harvesting on a mass scale that could decentralise the water system of Melbourne. Whether this happens remains to be seen but this is an exciting step towards action. Decentralising the water system of Melbourne would mean that there is flexibility in the system, and that we are not reliant on reservoirs or the desalinisation plant and its massive power consumption.
We live in hope that one day we will have a decentralised power system. Imagine, that every house had a solar array – there would be barely a necessity for a power plant. Like I said, we live in hope.
For now, have a read of this article from The Age on Mike Waller’s report to the government on water harvesting.
Worlds first Zero Energy Revamp
check out this link to the world's first zero energy building revamp.
Blog is up
Blog is up and updated as time allows. Writing and ramblings on different aspects on enrgy efficiency in buildings. We're getting there but have a way to go.
Victorian Major Projects conference was good to see in November 2011. Some exciting things are going to happen over the next few years.