Putting Good City Design at The Centre of Urban Development

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Integrating sustainability into design

Sustainability also plays a key role in good city design and will be a key vehicle for the transformation of building design and the construction sector in order to tackle climate change through the move towards zero-carbon buildings.

According to Ms Galvin, while the COVID-19 crisis is currently at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we need to seize the opportunity to rebuild the economy post-pandemic in a way that supports both people and the planet, and creates a new, more resilient, healthy and equal society.

“Already today, buildings and their construction together account for 36 per cent of global energy use and 39 per cent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions annually, which tells us that climate change is the core driver shaping cities over the next few generations,” Ms Galvin said.

“Sustainability of the urban landscape is the sustainability of its component buildings, its transport, its amenities, and its social fabric and culture, and therefore our strategies need to encompass the whole lifecycle of planning, designing, constructing, operating and disposal of buildings.

“So we will see change in the way we teach and practice architecture, planning and construction, change in our land-use planning and urban sprawl, more prescriptive building energy codes and certification requirements, regenerative energy approaches, technological advances in materials, through to robotic fabrication that reduces waste and enables great flexibility in form and material.”

She said we will also continue to see governments legislate for change and support research and innovation in the industry.

“In March, the NSW Government released the Net 0 Plan, Stage 1: 2020–2030, which identified the intention to expand the NABERS rating scheme to other major building types, to improve the National Construction Code and BASIX, to embed sustainable building material standards and targets into NSW Government infrastructure projects, and to lead a national strategy to achieve net-zero embodied carbon in building materials.

“As built environment professionals aiming to make the circular economy a reality, we all have to advocate for and support significant and holistic regulatory change.”

The role of the infrastructure sector in improving city design

According to Ms Galvin, the infrastructure sector will play a key role in supporting improved city design.

“Everyone must have a common understanding and goal that all elements of our infrastructure ultimately need to contribute to safe, healthy, beautiful, walkable, cyclable and inspiring cities,” Ms Galvin said.

“Our cities are the densest expressions of layers of infrastructure, which sometimes works in harmony with the quality and amenity of our places, and sometimes with frustrating discord. Successful development can’t be based simply on the quantum of infrastructure growth, but on its effectiveness, its quality and what it contributes to our urban realm.”

Ms Galvin said with Australia, and NSW in particular, in the midst of an infrastructure boom, it is imperative that we correlate the development of infrastructure with the opportunity to either transform or develop towns and neighbourhoods for the better, and importantly not to ignore or destroy their unique characteristics.

“Long-term thinking and an integrated approach to infrastructure and city making between economists, planners, developers, engineers, architects, urban and landscape designers is critical. We need greater and earlier involvement of design and designers within systems and processes that are part of the infrastructure of our built environment and we need to be strategic, think spatially and work collaboratively,” Ms Galvin said.

“A hospital doesn’t just provide a critical health service, a new metro station doesn’t just enable mass transport of residents from A to B, and a new school doesn’t simply extend our education system. They are all opportunities to extend and make great places that are healthy, responsive, integrated, equitable and resilient.”

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