Voices From The Industry - Greengage Environmental15/05/18
Rob Miller, Associate, Greengage Environmental
Putting people at the centre of urban regeneration
Sustainable design is no longer just about the individual building, it’s about the development, the town, the city and beyond. More importantly, it’s about the people who live, work and play in these developments and the impact these developments have on their health and wellbeing.
The introduction of the WELL building standard has provided a benchmarking system with a move toward focussing on the building occupants as the priority for building design. This assessment methodology uses primary research data to inform design interventions that promote improvements in health, wellbeing and productivity, principally within commercial buildings. Improvements in the health and wellbeing of commercial building occupants can have significant value for businesses through factors including but not limited to: increased talent attraction and staff retention; reduced staff absenteeism and improved productivity.
While the benefits of building design on the health and wellbeing of occupants in commercial buildings are now being considered on many development schemes, Greengage have been working with clients to explore further benefits to health and wellbeing that can be realised on proposed mixed use and residential led schemes. We are doing this by expanding the scope beyond just the building(s) to also consider as a key element how the spaces between the buildings are designed, and importantly how the building(s) fit within these spaces. Getting the spaces between the buildings right is a critical requirement to ensure we produce developments that promote healthy and socially cohesive communities, and not just sustainable buildings. This requires a ‘People first’ approach to be taken and involves integrating a far wider scope of sustainability considerations such as green infrastructure, active design opportunities, local food production and sustainable transport methods into the design and at an early stage.
The principles of good design are already well understood by the design community, however, what Greengage propose is to develop a framework within which sustainable design can be implemented. This encourages development that is most appropriate, and most beneficial, to the scheme and its surroundings. Consideration of project context, industry best practice, the local policy framework and relevant stakeholders provide the basis for identifying the key demands of the site. This will include a variety of Environmental, Social and Economic factors and is likely to cover issues such as pollution prevention, social inclusivity, safety and security or play space provision. Dependent upon the context, this should also start to encourage the consideration of issues that are now better understood such as design interventions for those with mental health conditions or design features to promote activity within the community.
Tools such as the Sport England Active Design Checklist provide guidance for ensuring the inclusion of features that promote active lifestyles within the design of the built environment. This includes issues such as promoting walkable communities, providing well-connected spaces for cycling and walking and incorporating a range of multi-functional spaces. Facts such as that 25% of British adults now walk less than 9 minutes a day[i] emphasises this importance. The effective design of spaces has proven cardiovascular and associated mental health benefits and furthermore, with an aging population, spaces need to be designed considerately and incorporate appropriate infrastructure to allow all residents to utilise them.
The scope of works and scale of development at the Clapham Park regeneration is an excellent example of where the ‘People first’ approach was taken, putting people at the heart of the design. The landscape design, led by PRP, strongly reflects the specific needs of the community. A significant community consultation exercise, championed by the client Metropolitan from the outset, was undertaken. This resulted in key issues such as the promotion of pedestrian and cycle networks, control of vehicular access and a range of flexible amenity spaces. Such spaces included fitness trails, food growing opportunities, play space, and a variety of seating and dining areas integrated within well designed and ecologically valuable green infrastructure.
As the development moves forward, the opportunity to determine the success of the design interventions and identify any lessons learnt will offer significant value for the design community to determine the most effective approach to ensuring the community are at the heart of successful masterplan design.
[i] Sport England Active Design – Planning for health and wellbeing through sport and physical activity