Improving Environmental Standards in an Urban Area.
Urban design has seen an increase in the need for developments to give more consideration to the environment as opposed to social and economic factors being at the forefront of design (Carmona, 2009). The social, economic and environmental dimensions make up the three pillars of sustainability (Ekins, 2000). Although the aim is equality between the pillars, it is believed that ecological and environmental constraints are ‘the most fundamental measure that should be considered on sustainability’ (Modifi, Shemirani and Hodjati, 2013, pg. 290). There needs to be more emphasis on the environment, and how this is incorporated into urban design.
Firstly, it is important to introduce the features that make a development obtain a high environmental standard. Utilising the work by Carmona (2009) it is apparent that a ‘settlement is like a living organism’ (Carmona, 2009, pg. 53), it uses food, fuel and water, whilst releasing waste, solids and other pollution (Carmona, 2009). Therefore it is important to reduce the consumption of resources whilst also limiting the waste that is produced.
Resource efficiency, energy and C02 emissions can be addressed by the use of renewable energy, with various technologies available for implementation. The development of the Western Harbour in Malmo, Sweden provides a good example. Malmo introduces renewable energy sources into an urban neighbourhood. Many people believed that renewable energy, such as ‘large solar production projects, or wind energy farms, require relatively remote sites’ (Beatley, 2007, pg. 38). Whereas Malmo shows that these methods can be incorporated into urban areas.
A lot of the time people only seem to address creating green energy, however using an example from Vauban Passivehaus in Freiburg, Germany, organic household waste is allowed to ferment anaerobically with the gas being produced used for cooking gas and the excess water being treated and returned to the water cycle (Vauban, 2013). Utilising a method like this shows that some of the waste is being used energy creation, reducing the amount going to landfill.
Finally, addressing water. Sustainable urban drainage systems are being used more and more in design. They can be used for reducing the potential of flooding, but they also have advantages with regards to biodiversity and water treatment. In Ruwenbos, Netherlands, they have adopted a swale like drainage called wadis, with the two-tiered system filtering out pollutants before intercepting the water (DAC, 2014). Using this method in a design can improve the site aesthetically and ecologically whilst reducing the surface run off and filtering it at the same time.
The above provide a brief overview of three aspects that could be incorporated into a design in order to improve the environmental standard of that development. By no means are they strict and rigid design possibilities, they just give an example to the types of techniques that are being used in various places. Therefore, if a developer aims to improve the environmental standard, there are ways and means and successful precedents of this. In my opinion methods like this should be used on any development, I feel developers sometimes stray away from this idea for cost, however in the long run it is beneficial for the environment. If only some of the methods were implemented it would have a much greater effect than having non of them at all.
1) Beatley, T., 2007. Envisioning Solar Cities: Urban Futures Powered by Sustainable Energy. Journal of Urban Technology. 14(2), pp. 31-46
2) Carmona, M., 2009. Sustainable urban design: principles to practice. International Journal of Sustainable Development. 12(1), pp. 48-77.
3) DAC (Danish Architect Centre), 2014. Enshede: Rainwater as a Resource. [online] Available at: <http://www.dac.dk/en/dac-cities/sustainable-cities/all-cases/water/enschede-rainwater-as-a-resource/?bbredirect=true> [Accessed 18 March 2015]
4) Ekins, P. 2000. Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability: The Prospects for Green Growth, London: Routledge.
5) Modifi Shemirani, S.M., and Hodjati, V., 2013. Comparative evaluation of principles of urban design and sustainable development. Advances in Environmental Geography, 7(1), pp. 288-300.
6) Vauban, 2013. An Introduction to the Vauban District. [online] Available at: <http://vauban.de/en/topics/history> [Accessed 18 March 2015]
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