100 Presenters to Examine Healthy, Liveable and Sustainable Cities

Paula Drayton

Paula Drayton

Join us in Melbourne in June.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for professionals in the public and private sector to examine the challenges and solutions needed to develop the Liveable Cities of tomorrow. The Conference will also examine public policy and social/community outcomes and consider what actions we can take to positively influence the ongoing debate.

Many aspects of urban design and new approaches to city form are based on the concept of liveability. These approaches recognise that design and structure can be very influential in the life of a town or city and indeed to the building of community in and of itself. They also create novel contexts for a community to develop in a more sustainable way.

“Last year, Melbourne vaulted Vancouver to become the best city in the world to live, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Survey. What better City to host our conference.

We will be joined by the Sustainabilty in Business Association’s – Sustainable Transition Conference, offering delegates an extensive range of topics with 100 presentations over three days including Keynotes, Concurrent Sessions, Case Studies and Posters. ” Paula said.

I look forward to welcoming you to Melbourne.”
Paula Drayton – Conference Chair

6th Making Cities Liveable Conference will be held in conjunction with the Sustainability Conference “SustainableTransformation” bringing a new era of collaboration, information sharing and professional networking.

The conference is being held from the 17th – 19th June 2013 at Novotel Melbourne St Kilda.

Two Conferences! Three Days! One Location!

Is there room for nature in our cities?

By Peter Fisher, RMIT University and D Trainham, RMIT University

Welcome to the CBD. Take a look at all the glass masonry and asphalt. The streets are canyons. Apart from a tree in the footpath, or a Peregrine Falcon way overhead, there’s little nature to be seen.

Nature is absent in these landscapes, or more correctly “hardscapes”. This runs counter to the trend to put urban people, and particularly children, back in touch with the natural world. Grass, flowers, birds, butterflies and worms are increasingly rare in a world of denser development. There’s no sense of season apart from flowers in street-side stalls.

As much as five-sixths of our CBDs are buildings: asphalt dotted with street trees. The ratio of biomass to hard mass in such environments is minute.

Trees help cool environments, while buildings increase heat absorption and reflection. This suggests cities are very poorly adapted to a projected 4-6°C global warming – a world where it may prove impractical to ever again grow large trees especially in hot pavements.

Greening the city

Cities like Kobe are returning nature to the streets. Peter Fisher

Research is revealing that, although we may have left the savanna, it’s still a part of our wiring. Hospital patients who have a view of some sort of nature recover faster and need less medication.

A recent article in Nature, “City living marks the brain”, points to a far higher incidence of mental illness in urban versus rural areas. Green exercise can act as a therapeutic intervention, which is doubly important in the hyper-dense environment envisaged by outspoken developers.

However it’s not like that everywhere. In places such as Vancouver, setbacks are mandatory for high rises and view corridors have been preserved.

Elsewhere, European and American cities have undertaken benchmark projects to soften the impact of roads. Hamburg and Madrid have roofed their inner autobahn/highway to create parklands. Portland tore down its waterfront freeway to do the same, as Seattle is currently doing.

Other North American cities inspired by Michael Hough’s evocative book “Cities and Natural Processes” have returned rivers, ravines, swamps, and parkland to their natural state. Then there’s New York City’s High-Line, a greenway for walking, running or simply sitting. San Francisco has its “parklets” and sidewalk gardens.

A Melbourne model?

In Melbourne virtually no public greenspace has been created within the grid proper since City Square in 1980, and even it has succumbed to the granite treatment and been chopped in half. Hardscape is on the rise with planning applications for more than 50,000 new apartments in 200 developments in and around the CBD.

Few have recognised the “green-shift” now underway globally and recently embraced by Perth.

New York’s High Line, a place for city-dwellers to escape to a little nature. Flickr/Ed Yourdon

It’s helpful for urban designers seeking a context to immerse themselves in the pre-white settlement setting. Proto-Melbourne would be unrecognisable: wattle in bloom, kangaroo grass, kookaburras and kingfishers along the river. Above where Queens Bridge now stands were The Falls, where clear freshwater cascaded; and to the west, amid a swamp with masses of water birds, lay a shimmering blue lagoon ringed by pigface.

Each city has its own tale of what followed. Take a look at these two images of The Falls – this one at foundation and this one in 1857 – that’s an awful lot of trashing in just 22 years.

Such squandered landscapes defy replication at their original scale but we can replicate them on a small scale. It is a matter of rethinking the user experience. Roof gardens (including food crops), green walls, plant-draped atriums, water features and borrowed scenery are ways of using interiors, walls, and ceilings.

Buildings have long been in the front line of fighting climate change through “green building” rating systems. It’s time they were enlisted to reforge our linkages with a landscape that people have all but forgotten.

The opportunities are highlighted by a design for a three sided hospital in Spain – one side is a green wall; another is solar panels in the colors of a butterfly about to go regionally extinct; and the third is a vertical farm that will feed people in the hospital. It is one example of the ways our cities can become truly green.

This article written in collaboration with Dr. Peter Fisher was done as an unpaid work and is not part of any sponsored research project. Some of the ideas expressed in this article may appear in a recently published article: Naturizing outside-in: Reconnecting buildings with the natural world through a design innovation metric in the January 2013 issue of the Singapore based journal, CITYGREEN.

Peter Fisher does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Jason Roberts, Co-Founder, Better Block to speak at 2013 Liveable Cities Conference in Melbourne

Jason Roberts, Co-Founder, Better Block has been featured in the Washington Post and New York Times, and was recently awarded an American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Award. Team Better Block was showcased in the US Pavillion at the 2012 Venice Biennale (the ‘Architect’s Olympics’).

Jason has over fifteen years of experience in IT consulting and Communications. Before founding the Better Block project, Jason Roberts led multiple community non-profit organizations focused on alternative transportation including the Oak Cliff Transit Authority, and Bike Friendly Oak Cliff. In 2010, Jason spearheaded the City of Dallas’s effort in garnering a $23 Million dollar TIGER stimulus grant from the FTA to help reintroduce a modern streetcar system to the region. In the Spring of 2010, Jason organised a series of “Better Block” projects, taking blighted blocks with vacant properties in Southern Dallas and converting them into temporary walkable districts with pop-up businesses, bike lanes, cafe seating, and landscaping. The project is now being duplicated throughout the country.

You can watch Jason’s TEDx address here:

Two Conferences! Three Days! One Location in 2013

6th Making Cities Liveable Conference, in conjunction with the Sustainable Transformation Conference, is being held from the 17th – 19th June 2013 at Novotel Melbourne St Kilda. The collaboration brings together National, State and Regional delegates to explore, exchange ideas and network.

The joint conference will be a platform for Government, Industry sector professionals and Academics to discuss causes, effects and solutions. Delegates will have access to an extensive range of topics with over 90 presentations across three days including Keynotes, Concurrent Sessions, Case Studies and Posters. www.healthycities.com.au

Does the Chinese emissions ‘error’ matter?

By John ED Barker, Murdoch University

Recent analyses that China’s carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions might be 1.2 gigatonnes or 20% higher than previously estimated have generated something of a feeding frenzy in the media; and not just the daily tabloids. Even The Scientific American has jumped on the bandwagon, adding a few more factoids to increase the alarm.

It is understandable that we could be alarmed by a figure of 1.2 gigatonnes; that’s a mighty big figure. It’s equivalent to the total of Japan’s annual emissions, the SMH repeated, without providing the more useful fact for its readers that it is also about three times all of Australia’s annual emissions.

It reminds me of the caption of a famous Punch cartoon, after it was announced that the postwar census of elephants in Burma suggested that many thousands were missing: “are you sure you’ve looked everywhere?”.

Three questions come quickly to mind: Is it true? If so, why? If so, so what?

First, is it true? The original Nature article is an impressively detailed analysis, which finds the discrepancy between the aggregate (national) Chinese emissions and that of the 30 provinces. According to Guan et al, energy accounting is poor in China, particularly in the myriad of small enterprises in the provinces.

Very few people would be in a position to corroborate the analysis; however, Professor Wang Yi, director of the Climate Change Research Centre of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing has immediately counter-claimed that the official figures may be overstated by 10-20%. He claims that the authors of the Nature article have not taken into account the differing calorific content of the different grades of coal used across China.

This is understandable; the energy content of coal can vary from less than 10MJ/kg for wet brown coal (lignite) to almost 40 MJ/kg for dry, clean anthracite. Australians are very familiar with this situation when Victorian coal is compared with Queensland coal. China is a mix of all of these types. So a familiar situation is emerging; dispute between experts in the light of inadequate data.

Even if the Guan analysis is correct, does it matter? It does, to the extent that if emissions abatement is attempted in China via a carbon tax, then the figures would be skewed and there would be free-riders. But this is no different to Australia, where the Gillard government is only going to tax the top 500 (or so) carbon emitters. The whole abatement business is very approximate, so a 10-20% error is not significant.

On a global scale, the “error” of 1.2 GT or 20% of China’s emissions is not as impressive as the media announcements make it out to be. China emits about 24% of the global total, so even taking the top end estimate of a 20% “error”, China would be emitting about 28% of the total; that is, another 4% of the global total. In perspective, China’s emissions are increasing at an annual rate similar to this; possibly 5-8%. So the “error” amounts to an adjustment of perhaps several years; meaning China is emitting at a rate now that we thought that they would be emitting perhaps two years hence.

So what is the fuss about? Certainly, accurate data is always desirable, but does it change anything? China is leading the world in most areas of renewable energy manufacture and is rapidly increasing its domestic use. Its energy intensity is dropping dramatically.

I suspect that the media attention paid to the Guan et al paper is partly justified; we need to get the numbers right. But it is also partly due to what I see is a persistent inclination by the media to portray China and its achievements as lacking credibility. For example; China announces its quarterly economic outcomes quicker than the ABS and each quarter our pundits disparage their data, only to find year-on-year the data is as good as ours (is the ABS disparaged for its quarterly revisions?).

But as always, as soon as the buzz-words of “gigatonnes” and “Chinese error” are splashed across the media, the caravan moves on, leaving The Conversation to try to make some sense from it all.

John Barker has no direct connection with any organisation mentioned in this article.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

3 reasons why Copenhagen is the world leader in urban sustainability

By Chris Turner in  Mother Nature Network

The buzz from Copenhagen is all about its new ‘superhighway’ for bikes. The real secret to its pioneering urban design, though, is that it puts people first on all its streets.

Cyclists pedal past a digital sign counting biking traffic over a bridge in downtown Copenhagen

As the New York Times reported with much praise – and unprecedented levels of RTing, if my Twitter stream is any indication – the city of Copenhagen continues to set the global pace for urban sustainability, particularly as regards two-wheeled, self-propelled transportation. But as is too often the case when the Times picks up on a story I started reporting three years ago (I’m not getting rich at this gig, so at least let me humblebrag), the paper’s coverage of Copenhagen’s bike-driven transportation revolution goes for flash and novelty over substance. Allow me to explain, in listicle fashion.

Herewith, the three key reasons why Copenhagen is the global model for sustainable urban transport, in ascending order of importance:

1. Bicycle Superhighway!
This, of course, is the piece of the puzzle the Times chose to focus on, because no headline writer in the history of journalism has ever passed up an opportunity to use the term superhighway. As the Times reports, the city of Copenhagen has launched the first of 26 planned suburban commuter arteries built exclusively for bicycles: long, well-paved, carefully maintained bike paths to link its suburbs with the inner city, up to 14 miles long and requiring the cooperation of 21 separate municipal governments.

These are the numbers the Times reports. Remarkably, the story makes no mention of the extraordinary figure for cycling’s modal share in Copenhagen, so I will: fully 37 percent of Copenhagen residents — and 55 percent of downtown dwellers — use bikes as their primary mode of transportation. Which points to another key Copenhagen innovation .

Read the  full story here

Cutting cycling funding is economic non-sense

Jan Garrard, Senior Lecturer, School of Health & Social Development at Deakin University
Speaks @ The Conversation

In the current climate of economic uncertainty and fiscal restraint, governments are quick to reassure us that they are making every effort to “do more with less”. Providing mobility for citizens in Australia’s rapidly growing cities is a key public policy goal. When faced with alternative transport options, sensible governments will invest in measures that achieve maximum benefits for the least cost, right? Well, um, maybe.

In fact, governments of all persuasions in Australia have been slow to align transport policies with comprehensive assessments of the benefits and costs of alternative transport modes. A recent example of this mismatch is the Victorian Government’s decision to stop funding the VicRoads Bicycle Program. Funding for the program (which averaged $15 million a year over the last three years) has effectively been abolished.

A recent review of 16 economic valuations of transport infrastructure or policies reported a median benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of five for walking and cycling projects (that is, you get five dollars in benefits for every dollar spent). Based on this finding, reducing funding for bicycle infrastructure in Victoria from $15 million to zero means that the Victorian Government is, in all likelihood, foregoing an estimated $75 million in benefits.

To add insult to economic injury, the government plans to provide further subsidies for motor vehicle travel. In contrast to the favourable BCRs for bicycle infrastructure, many road construction projects struggle to break even. For some projects, the costs outweigh the benefits. Sir Rod Eddington’s 2008 report ‘Investing in Transport’, included an assessment of the economic benefits and costs of a proposed East-West road tunnel across inner Melbourne. The BCR for the road tunnel, which is expected to cost several billion dollars, was less than 0.7; that is, a net cost. Furthermore, the Victorian Government is now asking the Australian public (via Infrastructure Australia) for $30 million to develop a plan to construct this financial black hole.

The reasons for the large disparities in BCRs for bicycle infrastructure compared with road infrastructure are not difficult to unpack. In transport terms, it is hard to beat the efficiency of moving people by bicycle. A single-occupant car requires 20 times more space than a cyclist (see this image), and freeways cost about a hundred times more to construct (per km) than off-road bicycle paths.

Cycling is usually a faster mode of transport than car travel for trips up to about 5km in urban areas. For longer trips the travel time differences are small. In the morning peak (7.30 to 9.00 am) in Melbourne, average travel speeds in 2009/10 were 22.2km/h on inner Melbourne (approximately 10 km radius from CBD) undivided arterial roads, and 20.2km/h on arterial roads with trams. For a typical cycling speed of 20km/h, the average cycling trip to work (7.7 km) would take about 2 minutes (on undivided arterial roads) to 18 seconds (on arterial roads with trams) longer by bicycle than by car.

Read the full article at The Conversation here

Sydney’s sore point: Urban design plans for Parramatta Road stir controversy

Urban Design Parramatta Road

Parramatta Road Congestion

Ambitious plans for the urban renewal of Parramatta Road in Sydney, one of Australia’s most run-down urban corridors, are causing a stir in NSW.

The plans released by property development industry group the Urban Taskforce include the redevelopment of Parramatta Road into a new green, “liveability corridor” along the major link between the centre of Sydney and the city’s other major hub, Parramatta, to the west.

Architects, landscape architects and urban designers from nine firms are involved in the Urban Taskforce Australia plan for Parramatta Road in Sydney, currently widely regarded as an eyesore that includes as mix of car yards, run down buildings and decaying infrastructure.

The proposal was published in its magazine Urban Ideas where it identifies 12 major development sites along the corridor.

However members of the SydneyCENTRAL – the design consortium which won an international urban design competition for the Parramatta Road Corridor over a decade ago – have claimed the plans were identical to their work, labelling it “plagiarism”.

The University of technolgy, Sydney’ architecture department has published the SydneyCENTRAL – the design consortium on its website (PDF).

Heavily critical of the development plans, Sydney Morning Herald critic Elizabeth Farrelly says the chief obstacle to renewal for the strip is ”the NSW disease” – transport. She contends the best approach would be to install a tramline between Sydney’s two largest CBDs.

Read more
21 June 2012 | by David Wheeldon