Planning, Designing, and Delivering Sustainable Communities

The increasing population in our cities is a major challenge. It is estimated that by 2050, 89% of our population will live in urban areas, up from 64% in 1950. This will place an incredible strain on our cities. Delivering sustainable urban housing can contribute to quality of life and social inclusion, producing better economic, health, and social outcomes, and reducing the risk of crime and poverty.

In the design and development of sustainable urban architecture, when increasing our housing stock we must consider demographic, socio-economic, and environmental concerns. 

We have an aging population, and there is a widening economic divide between the ‘haves and have-nots’. We must construct housing that provides for our vulnerable people, helps to improve our communities, and equalizes economic opportunities. Further, our housing must overcome the environmental challenges we face, delivering environmental positives and energy efficiency.

Creating sustainable communities

The sustainability of our cities must be considered with an approach that integrates economic, social, and environmental issues and solutions. 

It is crucial that we create communities that are sustainable, both socially and economically. People should be able to afford homes in healthy neighborhoods, where they can experience social fulfillment. The challenge is to do this while also creating housing that considers environmental issues.

A multi-faceted approach to sustainable urban housing

Housing plays a pivotal role in people’s lives. It should deliver our fundamental human rights, while also providing access to employment, retail, and recreation. 

It must also add value to existing communities, and deliver to the changing needs of our society. For example, households are getting smaller, people are living longer, and work patterns are shifting.

We, therefore, see four distinct project sectors which are crucial to address:

  1. Housing for low-income people

We must provide affordable quality housing for those on low incomes. This does not mean cheap. We must focus on designing and delivering low-cost housing solutions for sustainable living and social housing that provides people not simply with a roof over their heads, but a home in which they can live comfortably and thrive.

  1. Housing for vulnerable groups

There are many sectors of society that are considered vulnerable, and all deserve suitable housing. Indeed, it is our moral obligation to ensure that we do not leave these people behind.

Such vulnerable groups include refugees and migrants, victims of natural disasters, the elderly and infirm, and the disabled.

  1. Integration of housing with municipal infrastructure

Housing and sustainable urban development must work together. Housing cannot be sustainable unless there is an urban infrastructure to support those who live there.

The sustainability of a community depends upon the provision of adequate and suitable amenities and facilities. Therefore, when designing our urban housing projects, we must also design for:

  • Urban transport

  • Industrial and business zones

  • Retail, recreation, and urban green spaces

  • Education and schools

  • Health infrastructure

  • Energy, water, and other utility needs

  1. ‘Green housing’

Green housing is sustainable housing that reduces energy consumption using energy from renewable sources, is constructed from eco-friendly materials using eco-friendly building methods, and benefits from integration with municipal infrastructure.

7 Attributes of sustainable urban housing

People who live in sustainable housing enjoy the benefits of reduced environmental impact, improved quality of life, and increased economic opportunities. To deliver this, sustainable housing should conform to seven key qualities:

  1. Location

Not constructed in locations that are environmentally sensitive. We should make better use of existing derelict locations and brownfield sites, and provide smart mobility and transport options to reduce the use of private cars.

  1. Site sustainability

Before, during, and after construction, we should ensure that we maintain existing ecology, retain natural habitats, reduce pollution, and incorporate green space to encourage interaction with nature.

  1. Energy efficiency

The energy consumption of households should be reduced by intelligent use of energy-efficient housing construction, energy-efficient appliances, and the use of renewable energy sources, including community renewable energy projects.

  1. Water efficiency

We should incorporate innovative water capture and reuse models into building design, and minimize our use of water during the construction phase.

  1. Internal environmental quality

Intelligent design should deliver higher-quality internal environments for residents. Where possible, we should provide shared facilities. We should also construct buildings to benefit from natural light, fresher air, reduced need for artificial heating and cooling, and reduced noise pollution.

  1. Materials

The quality of housing and sustainable development starts in the design and planning and includes construction. We should utilize recycled and reclaimed materials where possible, employ recycling systems to reduce waste, and source our materials and labor resources locally where it is possible to do so.

  1. Be innovative with housing models

Innovative, affordable housing models can bring the benefits of sustainable housing to renters, homeowners, and communities.

The Role of Urban Planning in Sustainable Cities

In the past few decades, the world has experienced a rapid urbanization process. This process is expected to continue. As a result, the demand for housing and infrastructure has increased drastically.

This has led to many major challenges in urban planning and sustainable development. Urban planners must provide sustainable housing for growing populations, and do so by taking many concerns into consideration. They must deliver the infrastructure that allows architects and constructors to develop housing that meets all the criteria of sustainability.

In short, urban planning has a huge effect on sustainable housing. It can determine the location of affordable housing units and how they are designed. It also plays a significant role in the construction of new buildings and public spaces.

Sustainable urban infrastructure should be designed in a way that is environmentally friendly, economically feasible, and socially acceptable for all inhabitants. When we get this right, our urban environments will deliver all the benefits promised by sustainable housing projects.

At ACB Consulting, we are committed to helping improve the communities in which we live, work, and play – including how they are conceived, designed, and created. To leverage our experience in sustainable design and construction, contact ACB Consulting.

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