Build it and they will walk: the suburbs that foster good health

Jason Dowling  |  City Editor for The Age

If you design suburbs so walking to public transport, shops and parks is an easy option, people will walk – that is the simple and clear finding of long-term Australian research.

urban sprawl

Health and planning experts are urging governments to make health a feature of planning laws and city growth strategies.

Researchers monitored the amount of walking by more than 1400 people building homes in new developments in Perth. Readings were taken before moving in and about 12 months later.

The results, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, showed transport-related walking declined and recreational walking increased.

Read the full story here

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LIVEABLE- “Evolving the density models to address our growing pains”

Like it or not, our population is growing, and the decision makers of society continue to wrestle with the dilemma of accommodating the dreams of this next wave of new home owners. However cracks are starting to appear in the bricks and mortar as society leans on the comfort of conventional housing models.

Beneath suburban utopia’s veneer lie some dark ills that are of grave concern to the social planners and urban designers.  Family violence, youth suicide and mortgage stress have been directly linked with sprawl, and it is evident that the dream is actually unliveable.  Typically attention is turned to the opportunities of densification, however the majority of successful and vibrant higher density models tend to be CBD and inner suburban contexts, with a significantly different demographic profile and a paradigm that is receptive to alternate housing and living models.

This paper aims to better understand the impacts of urban consolidation on liveability by finding common ground between the inner Melbourne and outer suburban Casey contexts, and then articulating where the differences lie, what definitions need to be reconsidered, and how this needs to be physically manifested in the outer model. The study includes an assessment of the raft of benefits of alternate models, which extend far beyond basic higher yields, reaching into the viability of our transit networks, the efficacy of our efforts towards a sustainable city, and the physical and emotional health of our community.

Growth can be in harmony with liveability, and this has a clear built form outcome. Invariably the solutions lie not simply in built form, but in a more foundational shift in the psyche of our society. While not all questions can be answered, the paper seeks to sharpen the dialogue, elucidate the opportunities and pave the first steps for a liveable society.

Nathan Islip, Team Leader – Urban Design, City of Casey will speak at… the 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.

Two Conferences! Three Days! 90 Presenters! One Location in 2013Healthy Cities.com.au

Planning and design of master-planned communities for healthy living

Due to growing health concerns linked to inactive living, a number of new masterplanned communities in South East Queensland are creating supportive environments for physical activities. Varsity Lakes in Gold Coast is an example of such community which provides both infrastructures and programs to encourage active living. The objective of the paper is to examine the relationship between built environment and healthy communities through a review of current literature.

Synthesising these findings, a conceptual framework is developed for supporting active and healthy living in master-planned communities. The three key factors are;

1) place
2) program
3) partnership

This framework is then applied to Varsity Lakes as a case study area for validation.  The paper identifies key challenges and opportunities Varsity Lakes face in its role in promoting active and healthy living and draw implications for the planning of future master-planned communities.

Bhishna Bajracharya, Associate Professor of Urban Planning, and Linda Too, Associate Professor of Urban Development, Bond University presented at the 2012 Liveable Cities Conference, you can download the full paper, “peer reviewed”,  in the conference book of proceedings from the event website. www.healthycities.com.au

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The role of biodiversity in creating green, healthy cities and towns

Goodenia macmillanii (cultivated, labelled), R...

Goodenia macmillanii (cultivated, labelled), Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The growth of cities and towns is one of the most serious ecological problems currently facing Australia and the world.

The increase in the number of people living in cities and towns, coupled with the magnitude and intensity of human activities has resulted in significant impacts to local, regional and global environments. Understanding the impact that urbanisation has on the ecology of cities will help to identify measures that can be taken to minimise the detrimental effects to ecological patterns and processes.

There is a growing body of literature that reports on the positive contribution that can be made by incorporating plants and animals into the fabric of the urban environment.  The shift in focus towards developing more sustainable, healthy cities provides an excellent opportunity to explicitly incorporate biodiversity elements into the planning, design and construction of urban environments. By enhancing the biodiversity element in our urban environments, we can not only achieve better outcomes for plants and animals in these areas, but we can also harness opportunities for increasing the mental and physical health of the people living in cities and towns.

The synergies present in the various elements of sustainable design, including water sensitive urban design, energy efficient buildings and practices, and community health and well-being initiatives, mean that the best design practices do not necessarily require trade-offs between them. With thoughtful and innovative designs we can address all of these goals simultaneously and to achieve healthier cities with greater efficiency.

Dr Amy Hahs  (GIS Ecologist, Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne will speak at the: 5th Australian Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference 2012 The Mercure Hotel and Conference Centre, Geelong, Victoria – 6th to the 8th of June – 2012 Secretariat Tele: (61 7) 5502 2068: http://healthycities.com.au

The Full Program – Blog – Twitter – Linkedin details available on the website

Housing Regulation – the unexpected consequences in Australia

Current affairs programs repeatedly present shows that look into defects in new and repaired housing. Many of us empathise as we have expereinced what we think are defective building work and its consequnces on the victims in terms of their wealth, their health and their families. We are surprised that with all the protections that have been introduced to ensure that when our homes and homeunits are built they are built free of defects and free of risks to our health.

What most of us are not aware of the regulation and approved insurance systems that have been developed are flawed and in many cases weighted towards the interests of the builder and the home building insurer. These changes are supported by unofficial policies of government departments with the responsibility to protect the consumer from poor industry practices.

The published policies “guide” the consumer to a accept dimensional and qualitative tolerances that are less than that recommended in Australian Standards and have been shown to provide interpretations of building regulations inconsistent with their legal meaning. Similar issues exist in the Australian Standards where for example AS2870 permits cracking in buildings due to foundation failure of up to 5mm.

Sections of the legal profession and the experts who provide expert reports to the courts and tribunals are aware of this bias and take full advantage in the interests of their building clients. As a result of both the weighting of the regulations and the skill of many advocates operating in the field the decisions of the courts and tribunals are often tainted with the bias towards the industry. Who amongst us is aware of this bias and its causes if it has not affected us? Who has found the advice that they have been given that there is little that can be done logical, fair or acceptable? Who amongst us has found themselves living in a house or apartment where there are leaks, there is mould in the ceilings, cracks in plaster and the walls……………?

This paper analyses the development of the bias and, by use of example will show the how and why present day regulation has developed a bias in favour of industry and how this bias can impact detrementally on the community both as individuals and the broader community.

Mr Peter Sarlos, Architect, Chartered Surveyor (Building), Lawyer, Australian Institute of Architects; Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors will speak at the: 5th Australian Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference 2012 The Mercure Hotel and Conference Centre, Geelong, Victoria – 6th to the 8th of June – 2012 Secretariat Tele: (61 7) 5502 2068: http://healthycities.com.au

The Full Program – Blog – Twitter – Linkedin details available on the website

Darling quarter: A case study of Sydney’s urban renewal

As our cities grow larger, denser and more complex there is an increased demand for quality public space. Designers must work hard to reinvigorate existing places, create new networks, stimulate social activation through place making initiatives and achieve excellence in sustainable design. A successful outcome is measured as much on the activation of the public realm as the architecture which surrounds it.

This paper presents Darling Quarter as a case study for urban renewal that highlights the importance of place making and community activation in city fringe developments.

Darling Quarter is a major 1.5hectare place making project that has transformed the public domain of Darling Harbour, one of Australia’s most visited destinations. The new A$500million precinct integrates two large (total 57,000m2 NLA) campus-styled 6 Star Green Star (world leadership) commercial buildings within a public domain that comprises new city pedestrian connections a retail terrace, generous grassed community areas, a 300 seat children’s theatre and an innovative playground as its centre piece. The spectacular world-class 4,000sqm playground is one of the largest illuminated playgrounds in the country and a regional attractor to the city. The playground is one of Australia’s largest play areas that integrates interactive water play in an urban landscaped environment.

The precinct is activated by over 6,500 workers in the new commercial buildings and the millions of families and tourists, who come to the playground, children’s theatre, picnic on the community green or dine at the bustling retail terrace. The development has tailored the community offerings to ensure the precinct is well activated around the clock.

This project prompted a shift in thinking about the importance of public domain in the re-vitalisation of the western edge of the Sydney CBD. Darling Quarter has set a new benchmark for both Sydney’s public domain and commercial architecture. The project exemplifies design excellence, leading sustainable design initiatives to create an inclusive, free, public space activated by the community day and night.

Rod McCoy (NSW)
Executive Project Manager, Lend Lease

5th Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference 2012
The Mercure Hotel and Conference Centre,  Geelong, Victoria – 6th to the 8th of June – 2012
URL: www.healthycities.com.au

Putting the horse before the cart” A case study of the development of a public policy framework in local government – Public Health

In public health there has been an increasing shift in opinion that strategies for improving quality of life and community well being need to be focused outside of the health arena. Local Government is ideally placed to make a difference in the lives of its communities.

Health promotion goes beyond healthy lifestyles to wellbeing and The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (1986) defines it as the process of “…enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. To reach a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, an individual or group must be able to identify and to realise aspirations, to satisfy needs, and to change or cope with the environment”.

Health is a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living and is a positive concept emphasising social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities. Local Government is an important link in the chain of the social determinants of health and is in a position to make a significant impact on the well being of its communities.

In this case study the organisational and political support for this policy framework are high and this research demonstrates that involving staff and elected members in the policy development process, can have an immediate impact on participant’s perceptions of quality of life and community well being. This involvement has also given participants an opportunity to gain further insights and an improved understanding that community well being should not be driven by departments of health and that Local Government is in fact a key player in keeping people healthy.

The development of this policy has fostered strong relationships between senior staff and the elected body of this council and the developed framework has the potential to further influence both organisational culture and the decision-making process.

Ms Barbara Erichsdotter (SA)
Consultant, Health Research International

5th Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference 2012
The Mercure Hotel and Conference Centre,  Geelong, Victoria – 6th to the 8th of June – 2012
URL: www.healthycities.com.au