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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Higher density is more sustainable

Brisbane and the whole of Southeast Queensland is set for rapid population growth over the coming decades. Estimating how many people will arrive is difficult but it’s safe to say there will be many more people living in the region than there are today.

To deal with this growth, councils and the state government have realised that the only sustainable way to accommodate people is to increase the density and stop the urban sprawl. Provided people don’t take to living underground, that means build up…yes more storeys.

A sprawling city is disastrous. More land has to be cleared for houses – you don’t have to clear airspace when you build upwards instead of outwards. Public transport is inefficient when people are dispersed. Infrastructure such as electricity, water, sewage, telephones and internet is more expensive per person in a sprawling city. Policing is more expensive, less effective and not as visible in a sprawling metropolis. As far as environmental sustainability goes, higher density wins hands down in a well planned city.

In the past, Australians have rejected higher density living, opting for the sprawling cities we now inhabit such as Greater Sydney and Southeast Queensland. Large conurbations mimicking Los Angeles and much of California. But now we are reaching the limits. The commute from the outer suburbs to Brisbane city once took 20 – 30 minutes but now can take 60 – 75 minutes or more – to much wasted time. Prices for blocks of land in the inner suburbs are now out of reach of most people. Cheaper more efficient alternatives are needed.

The solution lies in filling in the gaps within the inner suburbs and building up.

Unfortunately the current ‘first settlers’ of these inner suburbs don’t want to see their suburb change. Objections such as ‘change the character’, or ‘spoil the skyline’ are proffered. They prefer to banish the generally younger generations to a life of constant commuting on the ethic of first come first served.

The beachside suburb of Manly is currently looking at plans to increase development heights to 5 storeys in certain areas. Small groups are rallying to object on the basis that it spoils the ambience of the village. On weekends you can see the oldies (those first settlers) signing the petitions down by the markets.

Change is a part of growth, people change as they grow up and cities will change too. As we approach the limits of resources, our attitudes towards those resources change. We begin to use them in a more sustainable way.


Anonymous said...

Nice post. I was in Varsity Lakes on the Goldy recently and there are several fairly high-density sections of development. My initial reaction was "yuck, you'd have no space" but upon thinking twice I realised just how many benefits there are to higher density development, and that my gut response was just because it's different to the sprawl I was brought up in (that, or maybe it was the rainbow pastel feature walls on display). I'm lucky enough to live within walking distance of work and it would drive me insane to have to commute!

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Nice post, like every bit of it and it is worth reading. Going to pass it to my social circle and looking forward to see more posts like this..