adapting our cities and urban centres

It has been a busy week of conferences this week with a clear focus on adapting our cities for greater ecological (and human) health. The International Green Building Conference held in Singapore from the 1-3 September occurred simultaneously with the International Urban Design Conference 1-3 in Adelaide. Both conferences focused on adapting existing cities by introducing greater ecosystem services such as wetlands, forests and natural water flows that contribute to healthier urban systems.  

The billion-dollar Gardens by the Bay project is built on 101 hectares of land in Marina Bay, the heart of Singapore's Central Business District. Image: Craig Sheppard / Grant Associates
The billion-dollar Gardens by the Bay project is built on 101 hectares of land in Marina Bay, the heart of Singapore’s Central Business District. Image: Craig Sheppard / Grant Associates

British architect Andrew Grant, of Grant Associates and designer behind the Cloud Dome and Flower Dome in the 54 hectare Gardens by the Bay, spoke at the International Green Building Conference on how natural landscapes can make cities more liveable and sustainable. “A lot of efforts to green urban spaces do not go beyond cosmetic features such as vertical and skyrise greenery and planting trees on city streets. We need this, but more importantly, we need space to plant forest trees and manage water flows in a way that mitigates environmental damage while creating urban identity.”

Meanwhile Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority launched its third Green Building Masterplan, dedicating more than $100 million to research and adoption of green building practices with a new focus on occupant behaviour. Initiatives under the Masterplan would induce green growth, attract investors and profile Singapore’s services and expertise on green building solutions for the tropics on an international stage.

In Adelaide the conference stream of ‘Whole System Thinking’ placed an emphasis on urban forests, waterways and ecological planning for urban centres. An awareness of the constraints of current city planning is growing, particularly by regions experiencing large scale flooding, urban heating at significantly higher levels then peri-urban areas and the lack of cooling from tree canopies.

Ian Shears of the City of Melbourne presented on ‘Designing the Biophilic City’ and the ‘urban forest strategy’, Mr Sasha Ivanovich, AURA Urban & Regional Alliance spoke on The Australian City in the 21st Century, and Suzette Jackson, Innate Ecology spoke on ‘Growing City Resilience: Integrating urban agriculture in the urban ecology’. City planning from an ecological framework provides regulating and provisioning services such as cooling of cities, fresh water and habitat for humans and the native flora and fauna.

Both conferences contributed to the global discussion on adapting cities to regenerate natural environments and habitats for health. In particular the discussion on urban agriculture and access to nutritious healthy foods is seen globally as a critical issue with world population increases and climate change affecting the quality and quantity of food sources in future.

Suzette Jackson is a director of Innate Ecology, working in strategic development, research and urban activation in city regeneration.


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