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The recipe for urban decay has flopped

Written August 26th, 2015 by

Inner City SlumsNew Geography published an article: Australia’s Recipe For Urban Decay written by Clinton Stiles-Schmidt. This article is critical of Australia’s urban planning policy to establish high-density urban living in our cities. The article speculates this strategy will result in neighbourhoods that have slum-like conditions, social tension, and perpetual poverty for their residents.

The article projects property investors having a speculative investment strategy, willing to neglect their investments by not performing ongoing maintenance. This results in deterioration of their properties and the surrounding neighbourhood. This will be most prevalent in areas with high-density housing, as investors are predominatly the buyers, paying higher prices to buy units/apartments.  This forces owner occupiers and first home buyers out of that market and further erodes housing quality because investors will not perform the necessary upkeep of their properties. We disagree.

There are several things wrong with the article’s assertions.  We feel Clinton has assumed some of the characteristics that occur in the US property market also apply to the Australian market and this is not the case. Read the rest of this entry »

Time for urban farming in cities to reduce obesity

Written June 26th, 2015 by

Urban FarmingIn 2005 over 40 % of the Earth’s land was given over to agriculture. This is an area of roughly 4.6 billion hectares, about the size of South America.  A further 3.2 to 3.6 billion hectares is being used to raise livestock. By 2050 up to 80% of the earth’s population will live in urban centres. If food is to be produced and consumed in the same inefficient way as is today, we will need further arable farm land the size of Brazil to support this population.

The best farming lands are already cultivated. Further increasing the agricultural land area will come with great environmental consequences, such as: destroying valuable natural ecosystems; water pollution from nutrient run-off; and soil erosion. New agricultural models are required. These models need to use new technology to improve cropping productivity while reducing the use of water and the application of fertilizer and other potentially harmful chemicals. Read the rest of this entry »

Is the postcode dead?

Written May 25th, 2015 by

what3words sydney opera houseLondon-based start-up what3words (w3w) has devised a new addressing system.  The system divides the entire world into a grid of 3m by 3m squares — 57 trillion of them in total. Each square has been labelled with a three word sequence. Although GPS services can already accurately pinpoint any location on earth, the w3w system provides a three-word code that makes it easier to remember and communicate with people over using complicated latitude and longitude coördinates.

Standing on the steps of the Sydney Opera House? You are at “maple.help.blows”. Want to direct someone to the table you are sitting at in the Brisbane City Botanical Gardens? Tell them to proceed to “preoccupied.horn.onions”. Climb to the top of Mount Everest. That is “ablaze.newsstand.unattactive” Read the rest of this entry »

High density without occupancy

Written April 9th, 2015 by

High density apartmentsThe article High density housing’s biggest myth by Ross Elliott published on The Pulse, suggests many high-rise apartments recently constructed or being constructed contain numerous apartments that are vacant or not occupied, particularly in the inner city areas. We have observed this trend with high density residential properties when developing urban growth models.  This trend imposes the requirement for urban models to provide for properties in some locations not being fully occupied. In some cases this can be as low as 20% occupancy. These low percentages are normally seen in holiday areas such as the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast.

With the apartments in these high-rise buildings, Ross suggests “many are vacant: simply locked up and not used by their owners (often overseas buyers)”. Whilst this will be true for some apartments, other apartments are being utilised for short-term accommodation. These apartments are available as serviced apartments or short-term rentals and this type of land use should be accounted for in your urban growth modelling. Read the rest of this entry »

3D city planning

Written February 17th, 2015 by

3D Modelling

Now with the latest geospatial technology and the increased processing power of computer hardware, 3D modelling is feasible and requires much less time and effort. Directions Magazine has an article that explores a 3D modelling approach: Three-dimensional City Planning Using Photogrammetry and GIS. The article describes how photogrammetric data and GIS software tools are used to produce 3D city models.

These models enable the study of complex urban environment and find solutions for various threats and challenges involved with urbanisation. Especially in Asia, where issues such has: exponential population growth and in-migration of poor people, industrial growth, inefficient and inadequate traffic corridors, lack of services and amenities and solid waste generation, are having adverse impacts on human life in city environments.   3D modelling and visualisation systems support the decision making process allowing quick evaluation and communication of ideas, leading to better urban planning and administration outcomes.

Closer to home, Brisbane City Council has developed a spatially accurate and interactive 3D model of Brisbane City’s CBD and inner 5 kilometres.  The 3D model is known as Virtual Brisbane.  It is an important strategic planning, development assessment and community engagement tool that is use by the Council. Read the rest of this entry »

Growing cities become less dense

Written January 30th, 2015 by

Cities become less denseThere is a misbelief among those in the press and some urban analysts that as cities become larger they become more densely populated. The article World Megacities: Densities fall as they become larger published by newgeography indicates the opposite is true.

newgeography builds on the groundbreaking work (such as in Planet of Cities) performed by New York University geographer, Professor Shlomo Angel. newgeography concluded population densities were falling in each of the 34 mega cities analysed.  One example was London. Even though urban sprawl is heavily constrained by greenbelts created following World War II, “London’s density is estimated to have dropped by two-thirds”. Read the rest of this entry »

50,000 new dwellings along Parramatta Road

Written December 8th, 2014 by

New Parramatta Rd Urban RenewalThe NSW Government has released the Draft Parramatta Road Urban Renewal Strategy. The Government is aiming for 50,000 new dwellings and 50,000 jobs in the Parramatta Road corridor by 2050. With eight suburbs/precincts targeted for development and jobs growth.

I am always a bit sceptical about claims made by government when comes to population and employment projections. The high level assumptions these claims are based on tend to be very optimistic.  When you start to apply them on the ground there are constraints (such as easements, property frontages and network infrastructure capacity) that apply at a property level and restrict what growth will be achieved. Read the rest of this entry »

China builds more houses in 12 years than there are in all of the U.K.

Written October 7th, 2014 by

chinese megacitiesThe growth rates in this article published by New Republic on Chinese megacities seem quite unbelievable: In 12 Years, China Built More Houses Than There Are In All of the U.K. Take the example of Shenzhen growing to 12 million people in 30 years from a cluster of small fishing villages. This gives a compound growth rate of 20% per year, assuming a starting base of 50,000 people.

To put this into perspective, the urban growth models we are dealing with have a compound growth rate around 2% per year.  To service that low growth rate requires investment of many hundred millions of dollars in network infrastructure projects. To have a growth rate 10 times our rate requires investments into the billions of dollars and that is just for one megacity. The article suggests there are at least 6 megacities and 160 cities with populations of more than a million. That is a staggering amount of infrastructure investment required to service that population growth. Read the rest of this entry »