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Cities As Gardens: Sustainable Urbanism & LEED’s Role – Part Four

Part Four: Benefits of Appropriate Neighbourhood Pattern & Design

The neighbourhood pattern and design credit category aims to improve the internal design of the neighbourhood, as opposed to smart linkage which tries to place the neighbourhood in an appropriate external context. It advocates diverse – in use and population – dense, and walkable streets. These measures increase the liveliness of the neighbourhood by keep more people on streets and out of their cars.

The three concepts of walkability, density and diversity are intrinsically linked. Increasing density will bring out an increase in the uses of the area which in turn will bring more people on the streets increasing walkability. Shorter, tree-line and well lit city blocks will also encourage walking as it provides a more local feel to the area. A variety of functions, ranging across the economic spectrum, will make sure people are on the streets throughout the day: cafes, banks and clinics in the morning, eateries and shops in the afternoon, and bars and restaurants at the night. Other facilities such as public transit, urban agriculture, community centres and schools will also increase the community health by increasing diversity in age and socio-economic groups. If majority of one’s uses are within the neighbourhood, people will utilize cars less for day to day activities. We will no longer have to drive for 20 minutes to access the bank, grocery store, clinic or restaurant if they are only a walk away.

 

A dense, walkable street in Barcelona, Spain.

 

People tend to attract towards cities due to crowds: may it be their economic or intellectual benefit. Keeping people within their neighbourhoods crowds the streets, making them safer and more enjoyable than empty ones. Crowds’s synergistic value in successful neighbourhoods provide overall positive emotions to the user of the space. By keeping people on the streets by taking them out of their cars, not only do more people enjoy the space but the environment benefits from reduced transport usage.

 

Cities As Gardens: Sustainable Urbanism & LEED’s Role – Part Three

Part Three: Smart Location & Linkage and its Benefits for Modern Cities

Smart Location is application of mere common sense but , observing current cities, it is a principle avoided at an alarming rate. Cities of our age are exemplars of sprawl-based dwellings. The dependence on cars – and its precursor, the chase for a big home and a backyard – have led to cities moving further and further outwards with complete disregard of the dimensions of space and the environment; for some, including me, this phenomenon borderlines the absurd.

Concerning site choice, Smart Location & Linkage entails both the preservation and restoration of the natural ecosystem and proximity to mass-transit networks to reduce dependence on cars. If sites, be it for neighbourhoods or buildings, are chosen according to these principles their footprint will be drastically reduced without a single brick laid. It is about appropriateness of our project and not blatant disregard of its context.

This image shows how certain sites are more favourble due to their proximity to mass-transit and distance from pure eco-systems

This image shows how certain sites, in Seattle, WA, are favourble due to                                                                                                        their proximity to mass-transit and distance from pure eco-systems.

I paint a bleak image for their do exist fantastic examples of Smart Location. Toronto does have a positive history, though it parallely develops outwards, in building along the Yonge subway line; this should be an encouraging sign for policy makers and developers to lobby for better public transit, it boosts other industries. To further reduce car dependance, Smart Location also calls for better bicycle infrastructure – such as bike racks, proximity to lanes, in-house showers and even public bicycle networks such as BIXI.

Map showing BIXI’s – Toronto’s public bike network – locations around Downtown.

Furthermore, it outlines the development of sites near areas that have a wide range of services to reduce commute times- similar to development proposed by New Urbanism and Jane Jacobs.

The second half of Smart Location outlines conserving sensitive ecosystems and managing them as to not hamper their processes. Brownfield development – on a previously used site – is highly encouraged. Designs are encourage to conserve  wetlands – which are highly sensitive – and to manage water. It is encouraged to postulate a long term plan to manage and restore sensitive ecosystems – including wildlife and agricultural land.

Overall Smart Location has shown economic benefits too. Environment-mindedness and proximity to public transit do encourage more users of that neighbourhood. It is an achievable goal – that will prevent many long term issues – that most new neighbourhoods should adopt.

Part Four: Benefits of Appropriate Neighbourhood Pattern & Design