Architects and urban planners are facing one of their greatest and most imminent challenges. While sustainable building has been an industry focus in light of the world’s depleting natural resources and associated climate change issues, an increasing issue is sneaking up on our cities. As with resource conservation, this issue cannot be ignored.
Our population has ballooned to over 7 billion people, with majorities clumped into cities. Not surprisingly, there is an increasing correlation between highly liveable cities and high population density. While it may make sense, its means that in Australia, with some of the most liveable cities on the planet – including the most liveable city of Melbourne – are in for a population boom. Cities are seeing massive population growth, influxes of people who will need to be catered to in terms of housing, infrastructure and public space access; areas that are for the most part, already in short supply.
That this is an issue has been identified and accepted. With that in mind, what can be done on an industry level, to deal with the monumental task of making room for a growing populace?
More and more, architects are adopting a sky-high vision.
New South Wales is facing a major density crisis, with the need for an added 6.8 million square metres of commercial space to cater to a growing population by 2031, according to the Australian.
Instead of falling back onto the traditional urban sprawl planning type, architects in the state are looking into the use of ‘air rights’ in order to build on top of buildings already in use. Air space development, as it has been coined, is set to take off in NSW, with a focus on Sydney, where spaces above infrastructure facilities, especially train stations, are expected be used as development areas.
Finding success in Melbourne, through the Melbourne Central remodel, Sydney is now following suit, implementing the strategy on three separate railway lines at St Leonards, Chatswood and North Sydney.
The mixed-use commercial spaces allow for the positive use of otherwise unused, arguably wasted space. The urban planning strategy holds so much potential for the state, the government is now offering its support and looking for new avenues in the residential sector to implement air space development strategies in order to bridge the gap between Sydney-siders and public transport.
This new strategy could mean a major turnaround for the city of Sydney and NSW as a whole. In order for new developments to rely on original infrastructure, that infrastructure needs to be in premium running condition– something Sydney public transport is not known for. If the government plans to capitalise on planning developments that rely on railways and promote their use, it needs to make sure what it is relying on is up to par. Only then can this truly clever planning strategy become effective.