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


Urban Ecology and the Future of Cities

In June this year Helen Meikle, Research Fellow and  Hisham Elkadi,  Head of School, Architecture and Building from Deakin University presented the following paper at the 5th Making Cities Liveable Conference.

The role of ecology in a sustainable future is prominent in the media, academic writing and political decisions; as such environmental pressures, as well as economic, social and political, increasingly influence planning for the future. This paper looks at how this translates into the process for planning future cities – highlighting gaps in knowledge and issues of implementation. It draws on interdisciplinary sources to explore three main elements of the debate:  What is urban  ecology and why is it important to sustainable cities?; What gaps are there in the ecological knowledge of planners and policy makers and why are there gaps?; and How can urban ecology be integrated into the planning of future sustainable cities?.

The paper does not aim to provide a definitive answer to the problem; rather it addresses the first two areas and identifies potential directions for the third. It takes Australia, as national, Victoria, as regional and Geelong, as local, points of reference.

You can download the full paper in the Peer Reviewed Book of Proceedings from the conference website

Related articles

Urban Parks for Healthy Cities

Urban parks have an important role to play in solving the health and fitness crisis, but too many acres of parkland are not helping people become healthier. How can park systems be designed to be better-used and live up to their potential?

The Trust for Public Land has released a report, detailing numerous ways in which the park system can maximize their contributions to the health of individuals. Many urban parks make it too difficult to exercise, whether they are uninviting, confusing, or simply don’t offer enough choices for activity… more Urban Parks for Healthy Cities | Planetizen.

Healthy Cities Conference heads to Geelong in 2012

Healthy Cities Conference 2012 – 6th to the 8th of June Mecure Hotel and Conference Centre, Geelong

The 5th Healthy Cities: Working Together to Achieve Liveable Cities Conference will be a platform for Government and Industry sector professionals to discuss causes, effects and solutions that relate to population health, sustainability,  natural resource management, transport, climate change, urban design, bio security and more.

Conference host Geelong, is Victoria’s second largest city and offers a diverse range of food, wine, cultural and recreation attractions and colonial history.  A waterfront city, it is also the major gateway to the Bellarine Peninsula and  Great Ocean Road.  Beautifully preserved historic buildings capture the region’s colourful past at towns such as Queenscliff, Port Fairy and Portland. There are a number of National Trust properties open to the public which offer a  fascinating insight into the early colonial days.  Geelong takes full advantage of its unique north-facing bay with fabulous waterfront eateries, landscaped Geelong beach-gardens and walking paths set against the backdrop of  Corio Bay.

Issues that will addressed at the conference include;

  • Healthy urban design
  • Food security, buying local, urban agriculture
  • Connecting people and places
  • Urban renewal – green buildings
  • Harnessing social capital
  • Education, motivation and incentives for behaviour change
  • Government and business leadership
  • Regional Cities – interconnectivity – technology – heritage
  • Population growth
  • Political cycles
  • Urban landscapes, public spaces, natural resource management
  • Working with climate change, energy consumption, generation and other challenges
  • Innovation, process Vs people
  • Urban planning and social equity

The Conference will examine public policy and social/community outcomes and consider what actions we can take to positively influence the ongoing debate.

There will be over 80 Keynote Presentations, Concurrent Sessions, Case Studies, Regional Study Tours and Posters.

Mayor Cr Mitchell

“This is a fantastic opportunity for professionals in the public and  private sector,” said Mayor Cr John Mitchell.    

“Everyone from social planners and urban designers to waste  management professionals and environmental groups will benefit  from attending this conference,” he said.

 “The conference will feature a variety of presentations and  workshops that will trigger plenty of new ideas and solutions for the future development of our region.”

“I look forward to listening to some of the speakers and seeing the innovations and strategies that come out of this national conference,” said Mayor Cr Mitchell

Who Should Attend

Policy Makers, Politicians, Senior Public Servants, City Governance Personnel, Public Health Administrators, Academics, Waste Management Professionals, National Resources Administrators, Planning Professionals, Environmental Groups,  Engineers, Urban Designers, Consultants, Social Planners, Disaster Management Groups, Elected Representatives, Mayors, Non-Government Agencies, Community and Industry Groups, Students, Coastal Resource Managers, Place Makers,  Sustainability Practitioners

Committee 2012

  • Philip D. Allsopp, RIBA, FRSA Co-founder of Transpolis Global, Arizona USA
  • Cr Debbie Blumel, Sunshine Coast Regional Council Qld , Chair of Regional Development Australia Sunshine Coast and represents Queensland local governments on the National Sea Change Taskforce
  • Ms Elaine Carbines, Chief Executive Office, Geelong Region Alliance, Vic
  • Dr Kate Kerkin, Director K2 Planning, Vic
  • Stuart Ord, Director, Healthy Parks Healthy People, Vic
  • A/Prof Susan Thompson, City Futures Research Centre, University of NSW
  • Peter Sugg, CEO, Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association, Qld

National Library of Australia – Canberra

The conference papers will be included in the PANDORA Archive to provide public ccess to them in perpetuity.  The Library will take the necessary reservation action to keep the papers accessible as hardware and software  changes over time.  The Library will catalogue the papers and add the records to the National ibliographic Database (a database of catalogue records shared by over 5,200 Australian ibraries), as well as their own online catalogue. This will increase wareness of the papers/authors among researchers.

2011 Healthy Cities Conference a Success

This year’s Healthy Cities Conference in Noosa had over 70 presenters, who contributed to a range of session streams including,

– Physical Environments in our Cities and Neighbourhoods
– Green Principles – Green Design. The Future of Viable Healthy Cities
– Healthy People – Healthy Places
– Disaster Management – The Impacts on Population Health

During the closing forum delegates were asked to raise, with a panel of keynotes the major issues affecting healthy cities.  The 2012 Conference in Geelong will follow up some of the excellent contributions by the delegates in the forum.

Robert Prestipino the Directoror Vital Places spoke about “Local Ecommerce and Sustainable Towns – Will our Regional towns and communities be saved by digital highways?

Robert said “The evidence is clear. Regional identity and lifestyle is in decline. This decline has been long term and gradual. The issue is what are we going to do about it? Decades of concern and initiatives have done little to strengthen the future prosperity of regional communities. To turn things around and deliver the community’s aspirations for the future of their children and grandchildren will clearly require a new approach.”

He discussed how we create great regions to live, work and play… places of opportunity & lifestyle?

Matt Coetzee the Development Manager of Community Development with Aurecon discussed Australia’s sequence of extreme weather events. Cyclone Yasi and the floods of December 2010 / January 2011 saw more than 75% of Queensland officially declared a disaster zone. The impact on infrastructure and homes was devastating but the scale of the tragedy became that much more apparent as news of human fatalities was relayed by Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh.

Matt said “Sustainable urban development is a useful concept in considering opportunities to alleviate the impact of extreme weather events, and extreme floods in particular. Sustainable urban development provides a framework focused on creating urban communities where both the current and future needs of residents are met. There are two important principles—resilience and connectivity—that underpin sustainable urban development.

By defining the risks associated with potential extreme events and translating those risks into planning and design solutions urban planners attempt to increase an urban feature’s capacity to absorb change. This capacity, otherwise known as its resilience, allows it to persist in the face of the change and thereby improves its sustainability”.

The positive delegate feedback was overwhelming. Lisa Wood, Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Centre for the Built Environment and Health, School of Population Health said “A good mix of speakers, topics and participants overall. Indeed the diversity of participants greatly contributed to the informal sharing and learning that went on outside of sessions and it was good to see the intermingling of varied sectors and fields.”

The 2012 Conference will be in Geelong, Victoria from the 6th – 8th June 2012. Call for papers will open on the conference website soon,

“Sustainable Growth ???”

Is there such a process as “sustainable growth”? The term appears frequently in government reports and in company strategic plans. “Sustainable growth” holds out the tantalising prospect that a society can achieve the holy grail of sustainability – the modern term for alignment with environmental imperatives – without forgoing the benefits of economic expansion. These benefits include rising standards of living, full employment, increasing opportunities for investment or professional development – and generally rising wealth for all. 

 “Sustainability” implies a steady-state condition, not one built upon expansion or increasing throughput of material resources, but if it is based upon utilisation of renewable resources, then the steady-state condition may be satisfied. “Growth” is commonly used as a shorthand term for “economic growth” which relies upon geometrically expanding extraction and throughput of material resources, which is unsustainable in a finite planet, but there are forms of community advancement other than “growth” in this material sense.

We need to address related questions such as: Is there any way of decoupling a rise in living standards from throughput of biophysical resources? Is it possible to have rising real wealth other than by accumulating more physical goods which means more demands upon the earth’s resources? Is it possible to slow down economic expansion without risking plunging the economy into recession? The paper is particularly relevant to healthy cities because most expositions of what “healthy” means include an economic dimension. Is there such a thing as a healthy economy other than one that is actively expanding and so placing growing demands upon the resources of the biophysical environment?

Dr Geoff Edwards, Adjunct Research Fellow, Centre for Governance and Public Policy

4th Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference. The Outrigger Resort and Spa,  Little Hastings St, Noosa – 27-29 July 2011

Green designs – How do you make your Green building GREEN?

Due to the increased urban density there is a definite demand in the current built environment to incorporate more positive urban design and increased green space into smaller areas. Greenwalls and Greenroofs are being incorporated into more and more buildings throughout Australia, but how do we reach the full potential of the environmental benefits that can be achieved from this technology?

 Join Jonathon Grealy from PlantUP  at the 4th Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference for an interesting look at the secrets of a successful Greenwall and learn what designers can do to make them more than just a bit of side dressing.