Tall Cities = Green Cities?

Richard Fuller is a post-doc researcher at the University of Sheffield, working in the ecological sustainability of cities. He has written an interesting comment piece for the BBC where he talks about the implications of what the UK Government see as the future of housing. More than half the population now live in cities, and they have grown rapidly in recent years. Because urban areas have tended to sprawl, many areas are now car-dependant - miles from anywhere and with a lack of decent public transport. The Government want new housing to be compact, and tightly spaced, 30 to 50 houses per hectare in fact. This would allow people to live near work, make bicycle and car trips more easily, and reduce the amount of land that we swallow up for redevelopment. Sounds like a good plan, but Fuller sees some problems.

"This will pack a lot more people into the same space than we currently do. It is perhaps the single most important piece of housing legislation for decades, yet it is not well known and the potential consequences of it have not been widely debated."

One problem that Fuller sees is that we will all have less access to green spaces, which is important for our well being, "Green spaces, including our own domestic gardens, are important even to the most hardened city slickers among us. They are places to sit and contemplate, meet with friends, walk the dog, go for a run, feed the ducks, for children to play." How will communities alter, once nature is effectively removed from the equation?It's not just humans that are dependant upon these inner-city oases; a lot of wildlife needs them too. Some species are now more common in urban areas than outside, and squeezing houses tightly together will force them out. "Work at the University of Sheffield has recently shown that building at the kinds of densities required by the UK Government will likely reduce the populations of even those birds that are well adapted to city living."

There are other issues to take into account as well. Green spaces store carbon, for instance. Also, large areas covered entirely in non-natural material will create a lot of heat, causing the area to be slightly warmer than a similar area with gardens and other spaces.

The basic problem is that huge, sprawling suburbs aren't green, but neither are tightly packed urban areas. :: BBC

See also :: Sky Farm Proposed for Downtown Toronto :: Architecture Week: How Green is Our Space?