Murray Ó Laoire Architects
“The Smoking Ban: public life, public health”
March 9th 2004 saw the introduction of a ban on the smoking of tobacco in enclosed places of work. Overnight a blanket ban came into effect on smoking inside; restaurants, bars and cafes.
In an extremely short space of time the smoking ban, has had a profound impact. Beneficial public health implications have seen a plummet in tobacco sales (15-20%) and a subsequent 80 million euro drop in tax receipts (2004 versus 2003).
The most perceptible impact of the smoking ban has been the transformation of the most ubiquitous and uniquely exportable icon of Irish culture; the Irish pub. The traditional Irish pub represents an old troglodytic and introverted indoor culture, more than just a bar; it was an Agora of sorts; a meeting place, location for political, community and family events, romantic encounters. It had many of the qualities of a great public space.
Pubs were also, smoky, dark and discreet, for hushed conversations and secrecy. Pub frontages are typically opaque, with frosted/stained glass, high level windows or even a front of house grocery store. Inside pubs were often segmented into smaller spaces by partition screens and snugs. The pub also reflected in its interiority, the prevalence of a wet climate, from which stepping indoors offered respite. With typically 150-250 rain days a years and short winter days, averaging 1-2 hours of sunshine.
Now the air has cleared, in a quantum leap from when standing outside pubs was the exotic preserve of summer festivals, the sight of people standing and sitting outside pubs has become a year round all weather occurrence.
The smoking ban has launched a new vocabulary of social engagement in public space; the word “smirting”—from the root words smoking and flirting—describes the regular encounters at the door of the pub, where romance often springs from meeting over a cigarette. It has provided a new momentum of outdoor life, new eyes on the street; surveying the public domain late into the evening and night. Outdoor life is becoming consistent and even more resistant to extremes of climate.
The new transient life on the streets has brought with it the colonisation of sidewalks; with the paraphernalia of awnings, screens and gas heaters, besides the transient architecture of tent-inspired lean-to’s and shack-like ‘smoking rooms’.
The public health policy action of the smoking ban has brought unintentional benefits. Reinforcing emerging patterns of pavement cafes and restaurants; generating new demand for pavement spaces and wider pavements and new public spaces. Commercial activities on the pavement will over time, demand a higher environmental quality for their customers and streetscapes will be seen as critical to cultivating and sustaining commercial vibrancy.
The challenge today is how best to cultivate the momentum for positive spatial and physical outcomes. To harness the potential for revenue generation through licensing and possibly Business Improvement District schemes (BIDS), to pay for real and durable improvements to the environmental quality of our towns and cities. How to manage the life outdoors, avoiding the typical nuisance and noise pitfalls of the night-time economy, and finally how to manage visually the new vocabulary of street furnishings, to regulate or not to regulate; to be the intentional city or to laissez-faire.
Dr. Rik Houthaeve
Assistant-professor, Spatial Planner
Department of Planning, Ghent University
“Territorial Governance and Sustainable Development. An inclusive planning and design project in the Ghent Maritime-Industrial Region (Flanders-Belgium)”
This paper explores the extent to which new procedures of strategic plan-making and territorial integration of policy programmes at a regional level are capable of building partnerships with local authorities and communities in order to reshape the local environment.
The focus of the research is the strategic planning process for the Ghent Maritime-Industrial Region (the ‘Ghent Canal-zone’, Flanders-Belgium). For the problems the policymakers in the ‘Ghent Maritime-Industrial Region’ wanted to counter, they could not count on the traditional planning system and procedures of decision making. Planners and decision-makers, as in many parts of Flanders, were looking for a process design which could contribute, not only to the substantiation of a new sustainable strategy for the area but also the mobilisation of social forces necessary to adopt the proposed policies.
Within the ‘Ghent Canal-zone’ policy-makers at the local and regional level collaborated in forming an integrated network organisation. This forum for discussion and deliberation was a clear answer to the challenges of a dynamic, process-focused type of organisation and a clear way to shape the interactions (consensus building) between actors (public and private) involved in the decision making process. In the paper we will look at detailed information on the approaches taken by the network organisation to enhance public participation in this particular case.
Within the plan-making for the Ghent Canal-zone the role of the landscape structure as a framework for sustainable development came to the front, in order to address problems of preservation versus development. The so-called Casco-framework, is fundamentally based upon a distinction into a low dynamic part of the spatial system (residential pattern and the cultural-historical landscape elements) and a highly dynamic one (maritime-industrial development).
Taking concepts of landscape planning into account in land-use decisions assumes respectively an understanding of the conceptual and integrative role of landscape structure in plan-making and an inclusive land-use planning process. Through an inclusive and collaborative research and design program the local communities, and not only their local representatives, were recognised as a stakeholder in the process and were given that attention. The research and design program was elaborated as a community building project. Planners and decision-makers dialogued with the local community and environmental groups. The natural and cultural-historical landscape structures, and their perception by local inhabitants as a valuable asset, were taken into account as a framework for decisions on urban and maritime-industrial development
The collaborative approach confronted the conceptual and development-oriented thinking at regional level with the sustainable and action-oriented thinking at local level. Articulation and visualisation of the landscape structure helped to understand the reasoning of the spatial layout (framing land-use decisions), both for local inhabitants and regional decision makers and planners.
In the paper we evaluate the objective performances of this approach: the articulation of the landscape structure in the strategic plan itself and the role of a collaborative design and community approach in the formulation of a regional spatial layout for the Ghent Canal Zone area. We try to understand this project as an inclusive decision-making process. Generally a more integrated style of governance on territorial development encourages a more local and participatory approach. Understanding the role of landscaping in creating environmental quality, in a very deteriorated industrial area, encourages this collaborative approach.
Naama Malis Architecture and Urban Design
“Planning for Human and Environmental Health: Menahem Quarter -Be’er-Sheva, Israel”
The Menahem Quarter master plan is a proposal for a new housing quarter at the northern fringes of the city of Be`er-Sheva, the largest desert city in Israel. The plan proposes to replace an army base with a new city quarter. of 30,000 living units, at an average density of 10 units net per 1,000 sq.m. The aim of the plan is to create quality, healthy living space continuing and strengthening the existing urban pattern.
The Planning Principles
Local identity –The plan is founded upon local natural and cultural qualities such as climate, topography, vegetation and water, specific cultural subjects such as the warm social-communal structure, the traditional building style of the area and the grid structure of ancient Be`er-Sheva, leading to a design of a quarter with a clear local identity.
Integrating with nature:
Open Spaces - The plan conserves and cultivates important existing landscape values on the site. The many valleys are utilized for inserting finger-like open areas into the built urban pattern, for creating open public spaces and parks, introduction of summer breeze and utilization of natural storm water runoff. Large sections of the area are earmarked for conservation. Special attention is given to prevention of typical desert related problems such as dust and high UV levels.
Climate – The plan is suited to the local climate at different levels: The street grid is angled according to the prevailing local winds and the course of the sun. The typical city block is based on the courtyard principle in a way that assures each apartment enjoys direct sunlight and cross ventilation, yet blocks sandstorms. The building elements are suited to the climate: balconies, solariums, shading, and patio gardens.
Community: The building pattern is a continuous grid structure of city urban axes, local streets and city blocks, suited in shape and section to local climatic, topographical, cultural and landscape considerations. These adjustments allow a hierarchal system to exist within the grid: the best quality natural site is chosen for the most important public services (open and built), and connected by the most important street, etc., thus achieving an accessible, coherent and meaningful urban fabric enabling various levels of community interaction and identity. At the same time, the grid and the high density assure minimal community involvement for those who wish. Finally, the different types and sizes of living units support a diverse community of varied socio-economic backgrounds.
Sustainable planning: the plan emphasizes solutions for: minimization of energy resources and of environmental stress and irritants – appropriate sanitation methods, solid waste removal and recycling, runoff solutions and more.
Encouraging use of public transportation and walking – the plan creates a coherent, safe and attractive environment for walking and bicycling, in which the daily needs of the residents such as school, local commerce, services (including health services), and sports activities, are within walking distance and easy access. The plan also defines urban and rural bicycle paths, and mass transportation routes which merge with the general urban system.
Dr. Geoffery I. Nwaka
Professor of Urban History
Abia State University
“The Urban Poor and Environmental Health Policy in Nigeria”
Poverty alleviation dominates the international development agenda of the 21st century, and one of the primary concerns of the Millennium Development Goals is to improve the health and living conditions of at least 100 million slum dwellers around the world by the year 2020. These slums and irregular settlement have become so pervasive in Africa that they now outnumber legally planned developments, and their social legitimacy appears to be no longer in question; but the appalling environmental conditions associated with them constitute a major threat to the health and well-being of the urban community. The urban setting has many potential health advantages because it reduces the unit cost of providing good quality water supply, sanitation, drainage and preventive and curative health care; but without these essential prerequisites, concentrating people and their wastes in crowded slums would certainly increase health risks and the spread of infectious and parasitic disease. As the World Health Organization has emphasized, it is the home not the clinic that holds the key to a better health delivery system.
The main policy challenge addressed by the paper is how to support and regulate the urban informal sector in a way to promote shelter and livelihood for the poor, and at the same time ensure a safe, healthy and socially acceptable environment; how to ensure that the struggle against urban poverty and slum dwelling does not result in a campaign against the urban poor and slum dwellers. The paper examines how urban poverty and the informal city have developed in Nigeria over the last 50 years; the extent to which government policies and programmes have helped or constrained the poor, and how these slums and irregular settlements can be upgraded and progressively integrated into the urban mainstream. It considers how housing and planning codes, standards and regulations inherited from the discriminatory policies and segregation of the colonial period have continued to inhibit the access of the poor to affordable housing and tenure security; how the inadequate provision of water, sanitation and waste management has led to the growth of a wide variety of water-borne and filth-related disease such as diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera; the various forms of ill-health associated with malarial mosquitoes and other pests and disease vectors; the problems of malnutrition and food contamination, especially in the fast growing street food and catering industry; and the high incidence of respiratory infections among women and children, caused by indoor pollution from open cooking fires and stoves.
Attention is drawn to the health disparities between the rich and poor areas of the cities, and to the equity implications of such repressive government policies as the so-called “War Against Environmental Indiscipline” under the Military in the 1980s, and the more recent forced eviction of over 300,000 inhabitants of Maroko in Lagos Island by the Lagos State Government. The paper also discusses the more pragmatic policies of the 1990s to support the poor through the establishment of the National Directorate of Employment to promote skills training and self-employment, and the setting up of Community and Peoples Banks to provide micro-credit and other forms of financial and business services. The aim is to identify the lessons that could help to promote a more positive view and policy regarding the urban poor and the informal city.
The concluding section considers the essential elements of a strategy to improve the informal sector and the conditions of the poor, paying particular attention to the roles which state and local authorities, the international development community and the urban poor themselves could play in a collaborative effort to build safer, healthier, more inclusive and more equitable cities. For this the paper explores the UN conferences of the 1990s, especially the urban dimension of Agenda 21 of the Rio Earth Summit, and the Habitat Agenda of the Istanbul City Summit which advocate the principles of enablement, decentralization and partnership as essential for improved urban governance and sustainable urban development. It also draws from such other global initiatives as the WHO’s Healthy Cities Programmes, and the Cities Alliance for Cities Without slums sponsored by the World Bank, the UN-Habitat and other development partners which propose effective ways to ensure more inclusive and equitable cities, and adequate shelter for all.
Dr. Jan C. Semenza
School of Community Health, Portland State University
Portland, Oregon, USA
Click on the title below to view the formal paper.
Healthy cities do not exist on their own rather it is the process of constant interventions that augments public health in urban settings. The process of creating healthy cities involves the political support of a wide range of governmental agencies that are willing to engage in trans-disciplinary integration and community involvement. The success of such interventions depends on the political commitment and leadership that can lead to institutional change. While these strategies are important for the long-term planning process of new urban developments, the question remains how current urban features can be retrofitted to improve public health.
A successful intervention within the city limits of Portland, Oregon has been conceived by The City Repair Project (a local not for profit organization), initiated by community members and supported by City officials. The intervention aims to retrofit the urban orthogonal grid to create public gathering places for human interactions. This approach illustrates both the importance of public participation in neighborhood design but also the relevance of urban amenities and art to improve the qualities of urbanity.
Many neighborhood conditions foster social isolation and physical inactivity. The health promoting community design intervention was implemented and evaluated. The strategy engages communities in a process of neighborhood improvements, which encourages physical activity and social interactions for a healthier lifestyle. The process constructively engaged citizens, city officials, neighborhood associations, and ecological builders in a process of creating community-designed, environmentally-beneficial neighborhood gathering places, which encourage physical activity and social interactions.
Three communities were organized to create neighborhood enhancement projects and surveyed before (N=325) and after (N=349) the intervention as part of a prospective longitudinal study. Of these respondents, 265 subjects were surveyed both before and after the intervention. All social indicators tested improved, as well as mental health (p<0.001). One of the sites expanded a previously initiated public gathering place, while two sites created novel ecological constructions in the public realm; through these interventions, subjects improved their sense of community (p=0.01), social interactions (p=0.02), and social capital (p=0.03). Based on preliminary data, we found reported offenses to decrease (p<0.001), two years prior (N=364) and two years following (N=308) the intervention, compared to two unimproved, adjacent control sites.
These data vindicate the merits of public participation in urban design with direct benefits to public health. The ecologic intervention analyzed in this study created human-scale urban landscapes that are more conducing to walking and biking by placing community art in the public realm. Such aesthetic improvements encourage residents to stroll and engage in conversations.
Manager, Watershed and Environmental Management Group
Bureau of Environmental Services
Portland, Oregon, USA
“Integrated Watershed Management in Portland, Oregon”
The City of Portland is developing an Integrated Watershed Management Plan to support a citywide effort to improve watershed functions in the urban area. This plan will address multiple state and federal regulatory requirements governing water quality and endangered species, and involve other City bureaus in a coordinated effort to improve watershed health as Portland grows.
The Watershed Management Plan builds on a scientific framework that sets watershed health goals for hydrology, physical habitat, water quality and biological communities. To date, the planning process has created detailed characterizations of conditions in the lower Willamette River, Columbia Slough, Johnson Creek and Fanno and Tryon creeks.
The plan will also contain objectives and measures to guide strategies and actions throughout the city, and a system to track implementation and measure success.
Portland’s focus is on solving human health and ecological from a watershed function perspective. It will offer opportunities for other city bureaus to help address watershed health goals in the context of other actions such as road construction and maintenance, land use planning and economic development. The city is also working closely with other human health and natural resource planning efforts in the Willamette and Lower Columbia River basins.
A major source of problems for Portland’s watersheds results from unmanaged stormwater draining from the extensive level of impervious area currently supporting urban needs. Portland’s focus is, therefore, on treating and infiltrating stormwater to improve human health and to protect and improve watershed functions and services in support of continued economic prosperity.
Portland is currently implementing a watershed management system that helps the City identify maintenance, outreach, protection, policy, revegetation, stormwater and stream enhancement actions at the subwatershed scale (drainage areas of no more than a few square miles).
The response is required because the City of Portland has a combined sewer system. The combined system mixes sanitary waste with stormwater. The result is, that when it rains, stormwater pushes sewage to the river, creating human health and environmental risks. To manage this challenge, Portland is using its watershed management system to identify innovative development and redevelopment strategies that create a net reduction in stormwater flows to the combined sewer system. This approach is important for protecting the health of current residents, and for accommodating future economic development and its resulting increases in impervious area.
Notably, the City’s watershed management efforts also create economic and livability benefits. Stormwater management improvements to streets also provide traffic calming and local aesthetic amenities; the use of swales and constructed wetlands increase adjacent property values and provide air quality benefits. In short, incorporating watershed management principles into urban planning is creating multiple benefits and reducing long-term costs.
Dr. Philip J. Vergragt
Visiting Senior Fellow
Boston, MA, USA
“Creating Scenarios for Sustainable Boston: Connecting Local with Global Sustainability”
Many cities in the U.S. and elsewhere aim to be sustainable. Often this means addressing specific local environmental, social, and/or economic problems, but rarely in an integrated way. While Portland is an admirable example of an “intentional city” in many respects, to achieve true sustainability it is necessary to take the global dimension into account as well as the local. This means, for example, that climate change mitigation requires a long-term reduction of CO2 emissions by 75-85%. Similarly, to achieve a truly sustainable and equitable footprint American cities need comparable reductions in emissions, resource use, and waste generation.
In a project supported by the U.S. EPA National Center for Environmental Research, Tellus Institute is developing sustainability scenarios aimed at reaching these goals for the greater Boston area by 2050. In this paper we will describe our approach in more detail, including development of three sets of scenarios: 1) current trends - representing business as usual, without great surprises; 2) policy reform - with credible policy incentives for the short term (e.g., incentives for green building); and 3) sustainability - which, in addition to changes in technology and policy, assumes changes in behavior, lifestyles, and culture to address the deep shifts required to achieve a sustainable future that recognizes the Boston region’s global responsibilities.
These scenarios will have qualitative and quantitative elements. First we are developing narratives that describe these three alternative futures in terms of environmental, economic, and social drivers. From these narratives, indicators are derived representing the key issues of concern. The project is using a computer-based tool called PoleStar to develop the quantitative scenarios. The PoleStar system is a flexible and easy-to-use decision support tool for sustainability studies at the local, regional, national, or global levels. A broad range of issues and sectors will be integrated in the scenarios including demographics, employment and income, economic activity, industry, land use, transportation, water quantity and quality, air quality, solid waste, energy production and use, agriculture, etc.
Based on our past experience developing long-range scenarios and reviews of other sustainability initiatives we expect to find that under both the current trends and policy scenarios the region’s activities are not sustainable from a global perspective. Such scenarios are likely to show resource depletion, environmental degradation, and failure to live within a fair CO2 budget or ecological footprint. Thus, the sustainability scenarios will reflect a deeper commitment to meeting the region’s global responsibilities and a preventative approach to environmental degradation and climate change. This will be constructed as a backcast from a desired future in 2050, identifying plausible development pathways for getting there, including the choices and actions for shaping a sustainable future. There will also be several positive features in these scenarios, including more livable communities, the absence or minimization of sprawl, and an overall improved quality of life (as indicated by greater available leisure time, for instance).
The scenario development process will be iterative and include stakeholder consultations and close coordination with an ongoing regional planning effort called MetroFuture, a project led by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Boston area’s regional planning agency. By linking our scenario results with MetroFuture’s broad stakeholder process — involving government, business, and civil society from around the region —other local and state policy initiatives, and grassroots citizens efforts, they will receive broad consideration.