Towards a practical understanding of ‘urban sustainability’
The term and pursuit of urban sustainability has become a catchall for every kind of measure. Ultimately a sustainable city, within a global urban context, needs to achieve two things. First, net productivity, in terms human well-being, of energy and resources production, and of economic value creation. Second, the resilience to sustain that productivity under a widening range of unpredictable circumstances. Urban Sustainability = Net Productivity + Resilience. We can build that.
It’s time to make resilience a standard planning category
Over the decades, the planning practice has added new standard elements to master plans, precinct plans, etc. Land use, housing, transportation, services and facilities elements etc. are traditional elements in development and regeneration plans, demanding specialized methods and expertise. Many jurisdictions and planning firms have now added a ‘sustainability element’ to plans, a sort of parallel with the inclusion of sustainability strategies in the corporate sector. It’s time to add a resilience element as a standard development planning practice. We’ve illustrated what this might look like in our case study for an East Bayfront Resilience Precinct.
The concept of resilience has entered the planning repertoire with a specialized focus on climate change risk. What is really needed is a comprehensive, coordinated approach to both site, project, and operational risk—a full incorporation of comprehensive risk assessment and risk management planning into major development and capital projects.
At the heart of the next city: productivity
I’ve used these two images to illustrate the difference between the design of modern cities and of the next city. It’s a systemic difference. The modern city (left) is designed to function as an extractive system: extraction of resources from external territories (i.e., the ‘ecological footprint), of human and community capital, and of economic value. My forthcoming book, The Productive City: Unlocking the Latent Value of Urban Places and Systems, will explore why and how we are re-designing urban regions to be sources of resource productivity. The right hand image illustrates a part of this change in systemic function.