Urban Update - 6 November 2017

Healthy City Design Conference Report

This was a two-day conference organised by Salus at the Royal College of Physicians, London last month

Global urbanisationpresents major health challenges but especially in developing countries. - most change is to be seen in developing countries, with challenges of producing good, liveable cities: 25% of urban residents worldwide lack access to good sanitation (WHO, 2009).

There are different practices in monitoring and communicating health and welfare effects of different types of urban development:e.g.

·         using computer modelling as a tool, including in local planning

·         quantifying financial benefits of improving health by design e.g. by reducing exposure to air pollutants

·         producing evidence of value of good design to appeal to developers and investors

Obstacles to prioritising health and ecology in design include:

·         perceived high cost of maintaining urban trees and green space.  Los Angeles’  "Hypo-Park" L.A. was given as an example of working with constraints, but with positive outcomes: though there is no greenery, a fun and energy-burning adventure park has been created on a small urban plot

·         aversion to change

·         dominance of market-driven development

The path to change is not that clear. Speakers placed emphasis on collaboration. There were some positive examples e.g. Thurrock Council's plans to tackle local problem of child obesity, and to place health as formal part of development process; Healthy Active by Design Tool in Australia

But the source of impetus for change is uncertain. Should it be central government, public appetite, or local councils?

Health Issues applying to different age groups:

·         For happiness of its 12 year olds, UK is 14th out of the 15 OECD nations (Good Childhood Report 2015)

·         designing public spaces for all users, and being aware of how spaces are used

·         obesity reduces life expectancy at age 55 by 1.4 years; and increases years lived with disability by 5.9 years (Klijs et al. 2011a)

·         the longer the period people spend in education, the lower is their risk of dementia

·         resource inequality between generations was mentioned, but without suggestions for a solution.





Landscape architect Kate Orff and urbanist Damon Rich awarded 2017 MacArthur grants


Top three winners of 2017 Australia Urban Design Award, including ex-car plant turned “innovation district

Reconciling New South Wale’s “Better Placed” design-guide with Sydney’s rapid development


12-acre plot trial of “techno-utopian” city design on Toronto quayside from Sidewalk Labs


Rural Urban Framework builds post-disaster housing in China featuring rooftop farms


September 2017 Elphinstone Bridge stampede – what can urban design do to avert crowd control tragedies?


Vending machines: Japan’s street furniture


Seoul overpass converted into pedestrian walkway with trees


Planning Authority’s concerns about old people’s isolation in nursery homes outside urban areas


Ongoing “Good Design for a Bad World” talks: designing around refugee crisis and climate change


Atlanta City Design book considering planning through a civil-rights lens

1.1-mile long greenway proposal in East Midtown, New York


Brutalist-style Stevenage town-square given listed status (had more trees in 1960s)

Greenwich Peninsula Design District – interview with Peter Besley of Assemblage

Ken Loach claims home city of Bath is being ruined by unsympathetic developments



A drier south: Europe's drought trends match climate change projections

Conservation spending predicts rise and fall of global biodiversity

Global biodiversity conservation does save species, but could be done smarter

How harmful are nano-copper and anti-fungal combinations in the waterways?

Built Environment

MIT students fortify concrete by adding recycled plastic

Energy; Climate Change

Among 'green' energy, hydropower is the most dangerous

12 major cities pledge to reduce emissions through green buses and green spaces

Humans, Health, Society

Widespread concern over urban air quality in the UK

Tax Payers Alliance report criticises spending on public health

Poll: Stress, reward & surprises among those who take care of loved ones with dementia

More than one-third of adults in China have high blood pressure

Study: Junk food almost twice as distracting as healthy food

Living close to green spaces is associated with better attention in children

Global trade entrenches poverty traps

Immigrant parents, refugees face greater mental health challenges; kids' learning at risk



3D illusion road markings from around the world

Global road-building explosion could be disastrous for people and nature, say scientists

Responsive, LED road markings trialled in South London – putting people, not vehicles, first


Politics, Philosophy, Economics

Fourth industrial revolution could unlock £445bn for UK, report reveals

Management Consultants – do they make any difference to business efficiency