Healthy Biogenic Environment and Sustainable Development

All urban design projects change the nature of the terrestrial environment in which they are located. In terms of the health of the planet many of these changes have been detrimental. Cities suffer from high levels of pollution, many rivers are filthy, and irreplaceable energy resources are being depleted. Designing for a healthy natural environment and a built world healthy for people are two sides of the same coin. Dealing with the polluting effects of human wastes, automobiles and industries is already a major topic of discussion for city planners and public policy-makers. Progress has been made in addressing them. Other environmental issues are deemed to be less important.

In building new precincts of cities, private and public projects have been imposed on many sensitive landscapes. All of the case studies included here have hardened the surface of the earth, even those such as the Potsdamer Platz district of Berlin that have roof gardens (see Figure 8.49). Some developments, such as Battery Park City, have required much landfilling. Singapore continues to reclaim land from the sea to expand the state's dimensions. The Netherlands has stopped. Parts ofJakarta and Shanghai built on reclaimed land sink into the earth centimetre-by-centimetre each year.

There is increasing pressure for attitudes towards the natural world to change and for people to be husbanders rather than consumers of the land. More specifically for urban designers, there is a need to be discerning about the actions we advocate and a need to be more diligent in applying the principles for creating sustainable cities - those in which the embodied energy consumed in building and in running and maintaining designs are, at least low, if not replaceable.

Designing with climate in mind rather than in opposition is a necessary component of the effort to reduce energy costs. Much is understood about the differences in designing for tropical, temperate and cold climate cities, but the application of the principles (except in extreme climatic conditions) has to compete for attention with aesthetic concerns and the price of land as populations swell. In tropical areas, for instance, buildings should be set apart to allow breezes to waft through them, but economic forces push land values up and denser environments result. In hot arid climates such environments are necessary but cars take up considerable space.

There are some tentative examples of urban designs that address these concerns. Amongst the case studies, Potsdamer Platz recycles water and Battery Park City has attempted to respond to a number of concerns. For better examples one has to look farther afield. Davis in California has neighbourhoods in which ecological design has played a major part (see Figure 11.9a). The Olympic Village (Newington) for the Sydney 2000 Games shows what can be done in a typical suburban development although it is at a higher density than most (see

Figure 11.9 Images of sustainable environments. (a) Village Homes, Davis, California in 1993, (b) Newington, Sydney in 2005, (c) a green Sydney and (d) Ken Yeang's proposed towers for a tropical city.

Figure 11.9b). The design of the Sydney Olympic Games site as a whole was a valiant attempt at creating a 'green' environment. There are now ideas about the whole of Sydney (see Figure 11.9c).

The efforts to reduce energy costs in the Potsdamer Platz development has shown that much can be achieved in dense urban environments. Ken Yeang (2002) is exploring issues of urban design in tropical cities (see Figure 11.9d) and scholars at the University of Waterloo in Canada are amongst those looking at Arctic cities. There has been much interest in vernacular architecture and how it accommodates and is adapted to the climate of different locales. Equally important will be harnessing the powers of nature to heal the environment. Discovering the principles of how to use built environment patterns to channel breezes to flush the pollutants from cities, of how to use vegetation to cool tropical cities and reduce heat-island effects, and of how to recycle materials and wastes will all engage urban designers in the future. The engagement may well result in generic forms of cities that neither the Modernists nor the New Urbanists have considered. They will require cultural changes everywhere.

There are more explorations of ideas than action. Designing for environmental sustainability is not a concern that the marketplace is compelled to address. There are few immediate financial rewards in doing so. The issues will have to become public policy concerns translated into design controls and guidelines before they are seriously addressed by any of the professions in project design. Access to sunlight and daylight will remain important but concerns with how to obtain water and how to recycle waste water require more attention than is being given to them at the moment. Times are, nevertheless, changing. Cities such as Tokyo, Los Angeles, Singapore and Berlin are already creating legislation to encourage designers at both the urban and building level to design 'with nature in mind'. The knowledge of how to do so is becoming available even though the science is still weak.

Water Supply and Waste Disposal

The residents and/or users of all the developments described in this book, directly and indirectly, consume much water and generate much waste. If the entire world consumed as much water per capita as in the United States, there would now be a major supply crisis. The United States and Singapore are amongst the nations that import water. How do we deal with the design of cities so that less water is needed? Few designers seem to be considering the issue directly. All the case studies presented in this book deal with water supply and waste disposal in conventional ways.

There is some concern for how we use trees and other vegetation in landscaping cities in terms of their consumption of water (and the effect of their perspiration on local climates). The broader issues of water consumption have, however, yet to be addressed. No generic urban form or design solutions aimed at reducing water consumption as yet exist. When water becomes critically in short supply as a result of drought or political threats to cut it off, restrictions on its use for washing cars and watering lawns are put in place. When the drought is over consumption returns to normal. Are there other potential solutions?

At the other end of the cycle of acquisition, processing and consumption is expulsion. 'What should we do with our wastes?' 'Do we continue to use water to flush them into rivers and the sea?' 'Or do we try to incinerate them all?' And on a very different topic, 'How do we deal with the disposal of our dead?' Cemeteries are important places to many people but land is in short supply. In places such as Hong Kong traditional ways have had to give way to new, often creating considerable heartache. Hindus cremate their dead and scatter the ashes. Is this a worldwide solution? Adopting it would involve many cultural changes.

The same questions about consumption and disposal can be extended to the use of all natural resources. Do we have to wait until societies really feel the pinch -until the marketplace perceives that there is a crisis before we do anything? Do we design cities and their precincts to be easily recyclable? How do we deal with change? Did the Archigram group have the right idea?

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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