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Posts Tagged ‘density’

Made for Walking (and other essential ingredients for a successful urban neighbourhood)

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 16th, 2013

From Made For Walking_Julia Campoli
Image from Made for Walking

From Not All Density Is Created Equal by Kaid Benfield:

“I just finished a very good – no, make that fantastic – book by Julie Campoli called Made for Walking, published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.  … Made for Walking isn’t so much about urban density as about the other things that we need in city neighborhoods – in addition to a level of density – to make city living attractive and sustainable. …

The heart of the book – comprising nearly a hundred pages – is a systematic review of twelve walkable neighborhoods in Denver, Columbus, Vancouver, Miami Beach, Toronto, Alexandria (Virginia), Albuquerque, Portland, Brooklyn, San Diego, Cambridge (Massachusetts), and Pasadena. …

For each, Campoli provides a context map, site maps illustrating neighborhood form and intersection density – the most statistically significant measure of how walkable a neighborhood is – multiple photos of the streetscape and neighborhood assets, measurements of neighborhood size, density and driving rates, and a discussion of what is going on in the neighborhood that adds to or limits its function for walking and sustainability. She likes them all, as do I.

For example, discussing Portland’s Pearl District, Campoli points out that the city has a goal of evolving a demographically mixed neighborhood, including families with children. This requires, she notes, investment in larger-unit, family-friendly homes; access to public amenities such as schools and nature; proximity to cultural resources such as libraries; and buffering from land uses that might be harmful to children. People in my environmental-group and smart-growth circles talk about this kind of thing, well, never. And yet it’s critical to a sustainable future, which is why I know about 50 people who need to read this book.”

Read the full article – there’s much more including sketches and photos – by Kaid Benfield on the Atlantic Cities site.

Density for healthier, resilient communities: Montreal

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on November 2nd, 2012

Photo BY Lloyd Alter CC 2.0

Check out Lloyd Alter’s commentary on Montreal as a model for more dense cities.

Of particular interest are the points he makes about using external staircases to release internal space for residential areas, and using moderate building heights to keep things walkable or, as Alter puts it, “resilient”, during power failures.

From the article:

…dense enough to support vibrant main streets with retail and services for local needs, but not too high that people can’t take the stairs in a pinch. Dense enough to support bike and transit infrastructure, but not so dense to need subways and huge underground parking garages. Dense enough to build a sense of community, but not so dense as to have everyone slip into anonymity.

>>Read the full article on Treehugger.

Small Smart Infill: Secondary Dwellings

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on September 13th, 2011

Via Sustainable Cities Collective

Photo by Pembleton via flickr CC

From “How garage & basement apartments help people, neighborhoods and the environment” by Kaid Benfield:

One of the best ways to accommodate growth (as we must) without either exacerbating sprawl or disturbing the character of existing communities is by using so-called “accessory units” – secondary dwellings attached to a main home, such as garage and basement apartments. Sometimes these are called “granny flats” or “in-law suites” because of their usefulness to house extended family members while giving them the privacy that comes with having their own, separate entarnces and homes. For the primary homeowner, it can also be an excellent source of income to help pay for the mortgage or other needs. For the neighborhood, it brings in a mixture of housing types and price points, adding variety and affordability while preserving architectural character. It also helps people “age in place” as their housing needs shrink without having to leave their neighborhoods. Municipal planners are taking note: Vancouver, for example, promotes “laneway housing” facing alleys as part of its “EcoDensity” program; Seattle encourages “backyard cottages.”


Read the full article by Kaid Benfield for more on this, a related article in USA Today, and info about a new book called In-Laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats.

Hong Kong Urban Intensity: Public Lectures

Posted in Events, Research by Kate Archdeacon on September 7th, 2011

Photo by Mike Behnken via flickr CC

The Melbourne School of Design presents a series of free public lectures by Professor Tom Kvan celebrating the book launch of The Making of Hong Kong: From Vertical to Volumetric.

These lectures examine one of the most intense cities in the world. Hong Kong’s irregular coastline and steep terrain has resulted in built-up areas that are compact, rich in spatial experience, all parts close to hills and water and connected by an exceptional public transport system. The lectures will present how the authors see value in these conditions: a metropolis with a small urban footprint, 90 per cent use of public transport for vehicular journeys and proximity to nature which has arisen from a culturally and topographic specific condition.

This fascinating book, with over 200 original illustrations, adds to the current urban debate around high density compact cities and interconnected public transport systems as one means of reducing urban energy use and carbon emissions. The lecture will explore why urban intensity is vital for more than ecological reasons and presents propositions based on these observations.

This lecture and book launch is part of a national tour. A reception will follow each lecture. Please register on the Melbourne School of Design website.

  • Sydney Monday 19 September
  • Adelaide, Tuesday 20 September
  • Perth, Thursday 22 September
  • Brisbane, Friday 23 September
  • Launceston, Friday 30 September

City Density Arguments: Wicked Problems

Posted in Movements, Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on May 25th, 2011

Image: Beraldo Leal via flickr CC

“… a lot of what makes cities great is not just their efficiency, but the inefficiencies that also make them attractive and livable.”

The densification of cities and the ways to do so is an ongoing topic of interest here at Sustainable Cities Net.  This article, “The man who thinks Manhattan isn’t dense enough” by Kaid Benfield via Sustainable Cities Collective caught our attention because it shows the complexity of the issue, even among “experts”.

Here are some extracts from the article:

New York County, which comprises all of Manhattan, is the densest county in America, at 71,166 people per square mile. It is twice as dense as number-two Brooklyn (which, incidentally, is followed by two more New York City counties, Bronx and Queens, at numbers three and four, respectively). Manhattan is over four times as dense as number-five San Francisco.

This makes me wonder about Ed Glaeser, a libertarian economist who is the latest hero of some of my new urbanist friends, who have been promoting the heck out of his upcoming speech at their annual meeting. Glaeser thinks Manhattan could be so much better if, you know, we just got rid of some of those pesky rules that get in the way of building still more density. I’m not exaggerating, and I’ll give some examples in a minute.

[…] Glaeser’s current book is called The Triumph of the City. It has received a lot of attention and praise, not least because its author is an intellectual who does his homework and packs a lot of detail into his writing.

[…] He previewed the book in The Atlantic, in an article called “How Skyscrapers Can Save the City.” Here’s Glaeser’s pro-density argument in a nutshell: “The magic of cities comes from their people, but those people must be well served by the bricks and mortar that surround them. Cities need roads and buildings that enable people to live well and to connect easily with one another . . . in the most desirable cities, whether they’re on the Hudson River or the Arabian Sea, height is the best way to keep prices affordable and living standards high.”

It’s basically about efficient use of land, and I agree with much of it, though personally I think there is a lot of room for more density in most American cities and suburbs without making it all about skyscrapers. I also agree, to an extent, with other points Glaeser makes in that article and in the book about overzealous NIMBYs and over-prescriptive zoning.  But here’s the rub: a lot of what makes cities great is not just their efficiency, but the inefficiencies that also make them attractive and livable.

[…] Before leaving the topic, I want to return to a point I made earlier, because it’s important: Glaeser is right in his central points about cities and density. They are good for both the environment and the economy, so part of me is glad that his views are getting attention. My issue is with the lack of nuance and the failure to give enough credit to the benefits of preservation and environmental protection, both of which enrich our well-being and that of cities.

Read the full article by Kaid Benfield on Sustainable Cities Collective.

Urban Planning in Developing Countries: Innovative Design

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on May 19th, 2010

“…a flexible building design that would allow residents to expand their homes upwards by up to three floors – as and when their families grow – and create socially and economically successful communities that are as dense as, or even denser, than buildings that are up to six floors high.”

From “Innovative design could transform urban planning in developing countries“:

A new vision of urban planning that will positively transform the way cities grow across the developing world in the 21st Century was presented in a study issued today {18/03/2010}.  The vision involves a flexible building design that would allow residents to expand their homes upwards by up to three floors – as and when their families grow – and create socially and economically successful communities that are as dense as, or even denser, than buildings that are up to six floors high.  The new design, which promises a brighter future for millions of the world’s poorest urban citizens, is detailed in a study and multimedia collection funded by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. Its launch today coincides with the opening of the United Nations Fifth World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, where thousands of delegates from governments, academia and nongovernmental organisations will discuss solutions to the challenges of urbanization.

Among those challenges is the question of how best to increase urban population densities as populations grow and land prices rise, especially when large informal settlements of the urban poor occupy prime centrally located land. In many cities in Asia and elsewhere, governments are keen to force these poor communities into high-rise apartments so that the land they currently occupy can be developed into condominiums and iconic buildings to attract foreign investment.  “In promoting such a vision of a modern world-class city, international financial institutions and city planners are failing the poorest communities and ensuring that those who are meant to gain the most are instead the biggest losers,” says architect Arif Hasan, a visiting fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development and lead author of the new study.

Read the rest of this entry »

1970s 2-bedroom flat: Medium-density retrofit

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on March 23rd, 2010

Source: Ecovation via The Ecologist

From “Eco-renovation of a 1970’s 2-bed flat“:

“Our 1970’s flat in North Oxford had had very little work done to it since it had been built. We bought it a year ago and have undertaken an eco-renovation, learning as we went along. This was made slightly more challenging by living in it while all the work was done but at least we knew what was going on!  Our intention was to create a light, low energy, low-water usage, low-carbon, healthy living space for ourselves. Where it has not been possible to reuse, we have tried to use products that are natural, have low embodied energy, use minimal energy, are from an ethical source and that have minimal toxicity. We are hoping to demonstrate to our neighbours and others that one does not need a huge house in the country and pots of money to “go green”.”

The rest of this excellent article goes into detail about problems, solutions, materials, products and suppliers.  The decisions and compromises that the occupants made are carefully outlined.  This article is a rare insight into retro-fitting (or “eco-renovating”) a flat rather than a house.  -KA