Monday, 13 May 2013

Higher Density or Urban Sprawl?

Where do you want to live?

Most people will answer this question by naming suburbs, or life-styles. "I want to live in Norwood" or "I want to live by the beach," or "I want a 1/4 acre block." Live the Australian dream!

The problem is that to fuel this Australian obsession with the 1/4 acre block, the city of Adelaide has to keep expanding. Urban sprawl happens because everyone wants their own little patch, and fair enough. If you can afford it, why shouldn't you have your own place?

There seems to be a resistance to living in high-rise apartments, or even in medium-density housing. Or is there? Given how much high-rise is worth near Adelaide, I think that it would be more popular than people think. I would leap at the chance to live closer to the city, and I don't have any particular objection to living in a nice apartment in town.

In an article "Urban sprawl is killing us, but there's another way" The Age writer Frank Reale proffers an unusual solution. My default quick-fix to urban sprawl is higher-density housing along sustainable infrastructure corridors. Reale suggests a focus on 'Smaller planned cities.' He notes that a lot of the energy released by burning coal or gas is actually lost as heat, and suggests that small cities built around power plants might be able to dramatically improve the efficiency of that process.

I don't agree. Firstly, where are we going to get the land to do that? Most of the areas within an easy drive from Adelaide are already populated, or else dedicated to other essential industry and agriculture. Next, most of the power plants are located a long way away from cities... deliberately. People don't want to live next to a coal station.

Finally, the most efficient use of space is vertical. Why not simply dedicate areas for construction of high-rise office space, above which is residential space? It is much cheaper to build the infrastructure for one massive building, than for 1000 smaller ones.

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