Health begins outside. Being outside does not use energy. Being outside means we connect with each other, the climate and our natural environment. Still, on average adults spend less than 4% of their time outdoors. We cannot force people to go outside. As urban engineers, though, we can try to make the experience outside more appealing.
Big ambitions, small plans
Heat stress, energy supply, air quality, noise, inclusiveness, mobility, climate adaptivity, biodiversity. They are some of the issues that today’s cities face. The traditional response is big ambitions and making big plans. These usually have a monodisciplinary approach: a plan that improves air quality, a separate plan for increasing biodiversity, etc. In practice, these plans usually work against each other (and themselves).
ABT believes that big ambitions are best achieved with lots of small plans. In a micro-urbanist approach, we make use of the city’s existing technical and social infrastructure.
Big plans require big (usually unrealistic) investments in the existing city. In the microscale approach, we consider the existing infrastructure as a boundary condition; new solutions have to relieve infrastructure rather than burden it.
If we take the scale level between building and area as a starting point, there are many design solutions. But they are hardly ever applied, if at all, because there is no ‘principal’ for the area.
The design toolbox for this task is well stocked; from local water and energy buffering, to urban furniture that passively or actively increases residential comfort, reduces noise or improves air quality. We can design a safe living environment without cameras, reduce heat stress without using energy, and sometimes even by generating energy.
Our micro-urbanist approach has no disciplines but only an outcome. A pleasant and healthy place in the outdoors. Which, moreover, can help manage the city’s sustainability. And hopefully encourages more people to get a breath of fresh air more often.
Image header The Natural Pavilion: © DP6 Architecten