Play Now for a Green Tomorrow

1 06 2011

By Sarah Muscat

Browsing through a website, I was startled to read that SimCity is being used in educational curriculums! How can A GAME be considered as a good basis to the future of urban design and planning, even by universities?!

SCEPTIC about it, I started to search out for weak points in the game. Based on the realities of capitalist economies, surely it must be the environmental sector! I was wrong. The latest SimCity Societies is not just tackling the issue, but has worked with BP to provide realistic scenarios for the economic and environmental costs and benefits of different energy options…..to be used in THE GAME!

No wonder the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change opted for A GAME, ‘Create your MY 2050 World for the UK’, to engage people in the difficult choices that must be made for UK’s Energy Future! I DECIDED TO PLAY THE GAME! It’s fun and does highlight misconceptions and the inadequacy of certain measures to alternative options.

At the end I managed to reduce CO2 below the targeted 20%. Success means that your proposed scheme feeds into the UK’s energy debate ‘2050 Pathways Analysis’. So GO ON AND PLAY!

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/14/be-an-eco-sinner-or-saint-in-the-new-simcity/

http://my2050.decc.gov.uk/

Create your My 2050 World for the UK

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Cohesive communities & walkable neighbourhoods

31 05 2011

By Harvé Dhillon

Recently, seeming a lot of our projects have included residential design, I was reading about cohesive communities and how both architecture and urban design can contribute to the social integration of residents in a positive way. Malaysia is an ethnically diverse nation with three main races and many other ethnic minorities hence the importance of its social cohesiveness and unity of people is important in order to create a stable social and economic environment. Thus, neighbourhood design has had an important impact contributing to the racial harmony of Malaysian suburbs. The simple solution is to encourage walking, by providing local amenities within walking distance such as shops, schools, community centres, health centre the of course there is better health and furthermore reduces the need to use the car. Socially, walking will encourage the meeting and greeting with neighbours and a sense of community. Planners in Malaysia have managed to create these neighbourhoods by simple and inexpensive interventions and as a result forge communities with naturally strong ties and racial interaction and integration.

  • Make pedestrian-friendly pavements mandatory.
  • Make the planting of shady trees mandatory, too.
  • Place wakaf (small huts) and simple furniture along streets to provide resting places.
  • Place schools, libraries, mosques, temples, community centres and some shops within true walking distance of clusters of houses so people are encouraged to walk rather than drive.
  • Promote bicycling by providing proper pathways as well as bicycle parking spaces.




Stockholmsporten master plan

27 05 2011

by Akshay Varma

As I stumbled upon some master-plan examples, this particular one caught my attention. Urban Design as an academic process is restricted as I see it, majorly due to the time factor and the structure of the course being fairly a skill developing one. But it’s the professional firms that give us a leading example of creative designs, within the constraints of budget and policies.

The following is the winning entry of the ‘Stockholmsporten master plan competition’, by the Danish firm BIG. The brief was to design an inviting entrance portal into the city of stockholm at the intersection of a newly plan super-junction.

Birds Eye view of the model   

View through the approach

In order to create an interesting landscape form without majorly altering the actual topography itself, a reflective, self-sustaining hovering sphere mirrors the surrounding area, creating 180º view of the city for the drivers below. 30% of the sphere’s surface is wrapped with photovoltaic film, producing enough energy to keep it floating as well as to supply 235 residences in the neighborhood with electricity. The object serves as a visual icon and landmark that greets the entry point into Stockholm, reflecting the elements of the season and the urban life beneath it.

View of the hovering sphere from the highway

The overall plan features a slight raising of the land to reduce the noise from the center, forming a bowl-like valley between the city and the surrounding neighborhoods. To create a diverse experience when moving in and around the area, the 580 sqm design is divided into multiple pie-shaped sectors that host a variety of different landscape qualities, from pine-and oak forests to wetlands; grass lawns to hilly terrain.

View of the neighborhood

View of the change in landscape





The Localism Bill – what shall we build here?

23 05 2011

Bensham, waiting to be consulted.....

by Lowri Bond

 

While I welcome the ideology of localism I wonder how some of the changes brought through the recent bill will actually play out on the ground, especially with regards to the built environment. Aspects of the bill that effect planning law, and the new measures to lead communities through the process of gaining greater responsibility (but that might have to follow in a later post), particularly trouble me……

Whose community consultation is it anyway? The responsibility to consult communities before very large planning applications are submitted will lie with the developers themselves. This seems particularly flawed does it not? Especially given that (lets face it) very few developers approach projects with any notion of ethical, long-term outcomes for the benefit of the community. With the power and ability to buy in the services of clever image-makers, marketing specialists and consultants it doesn’t take a leap of the imagination to predict what the outcomes of these consultations will be. Surely the developer will never be able to apply the principles of independence and impartiality that are required to achieve a representative outcome, even if their intensions are good. The Localism Bill states that ‘this will give local people a chance to comment when there is still genuine scope to make changes to proposals’ but I am skeptical that it will be local people who will most benefit.

Speaking of benefits, ‘What about the community infrastructure levy?’ I hear you cry! Well the bill states that, ‘as well as being able to influence planning decisions, local people should be able to feel the benefits of new development in their neighbourhood.’ So, local authorities will be able to set the levels at which they charge developers to build, in order to raise money to support existing and new infrastructure. Now, when money is tight, in my mind it’s not difficult to imagine that this might compromise planning committees’ ability to judge applications on their design or sustainability merits, if they will ultimately help boost the dried up funding for schools, transport, and other essential public services. A big fat financial reward for saying yes to development is just the ticket for making it particularly hard for the poorest communities to say no. Watch this space……