Urban Wellbeing News
Designing walkable neighbourhoods
18 October 2019: Having a neighbourhood where the residents are free to walk has wide-ranging benefits for the community and the individual - from the health benefits of physical activity; reducing the use of cars, which can contribute to reducing both noise and environmental pollution; enhancing stronger social connections, as a result of pedestrian encounters; to reducing social exclusion by enabling neighbourhood access for those without private transport.
A Building Better Urban Wellbeing team, Patricia Austin, Jacquelyn Collins, Kate Scanlen, and Polly Smith, have been researching what makes a great walkable neighbourhood, including whether those neighbourhoods allow for a diverse range of pedestrians.
Are suburban neighbourhoods meeting the needs of children for independent mobility and access to play?
Green infrastructure in water-sensitive urban design fundamental
27 September 2019: Urban areas typically alter landscapes from vegetated ground, which is able to absorb water, to a series of interconnected hard surfaces that result in large quantities of storm-water runoff scouring our waterways. In addition, this run-off can be polluted with contaminants such as metals, motor oil, garden pesticides, litter, and sediment.
This run-off requires management, but the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) team says this isn’t just a matter of guttering in the right place and piping the excess straight to waterways, but also aesthetically pleasing urban lay-outs that promote water re-use and enhance urban liveability and human wellbeing.
Team leader Robyn Simcock, from Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research, says they’ve found that Green Infrastructure (GI), the use of a network of natural systems involving soil and vegetation, used in WSUD is fundamental to achieving wellbeing – rather than just being ‘nice to have’.
An alternative functioning piped system, Wanaka. Photo: Robyn Simcock, Landcare Research.
Cultural Ambassador - The Built Environment
11 September 2019: Dr Rebecca Kiddle, from Victoria University's School of Architecture, discusses the concept of the ‘third place’ on Radio New Zealand's Night show. Suburbanites are increasingly seeking greater opportunities for place attachment, community cohesion and identity, often despite the lack of any public or visible community space to facilitate these actions.
Without this public urban provision, the community has flourished in unexpected spaces. So, where do we dance?
Rebecca and her colleague Chantal Mawer, from Victoria University's School of Geography, Environment and Earth Science, have had their research on suburban shopping malls as spaces for community health and wellbeing published online this month (ahead of print) by the Journal of Urban Design. Click the link below for a PDF copy.
Where do we dance? Photo: Rebecca Kiddle.
Dr Amanda Yates Lead Researcher Mauri Ora and Urban Wellbeing Project
26 August 2019: Waatea News interviews Dr Amanda Yates about her research for Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities (BBHTC) Ko Nga wa Kainga hei Whakamahorahora National Science Challenge. New Zealand could be positioned to lead the world by developing a first-ever Mauri ora or "all-of-life" urban wellbeing data tool and framework, according to Amanda's recently published research.
For more radio interviews and podcasts check out our podcasts and audio page.
Radical rethink of our cities will improve urban wellbeing
15 August 2019: New Zealand could be positioned to lead the world by developing a first-ever Mauri ora or “all-of-life” urban wellbeing data tool and framework, according to the latest findings from Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities (BBHTC) Ko Ngā wā Kāinga hei Whakamāhorahora National Science Challenge.
As high energy users and generators of planet-warming carbon emissions, cities are well-placed to take a lead in strategising for and implementing zero-carbon transitions that utilise existing technologies.
“For Māori, ora is wellbeing and Mauri is the integrative life force that connects it all - the rocks, rivers, trees, people, etc. We need to develop our cities in ways where humans are viewed as part of the environment - one where climate, biodiversity, transport, and housing infrastructure are all working in harmony to take care of ecological wellbeing," explains lead researcher of the Mauri ora and urban wellbeing project, Dr Amanda Yates from Auckland University of Technology (AUT).
A crowd gathers to examine E Amio Haere Ana te Ao I Te Ra | Circling The Sun – Revolution Cycle installation part of Te Mana o Te Ra | The Power of the Sun solar-power, zero-carbon energy workshops and installation at the Auckland City Library, Ngā Pātaka Kōrero o Tāmaki Makaurau. Photo: Amanda Yates.
Understanding Place: Red Zone Stories
15 August 2019: Everyone has a different story to tell about the Red Zone surrounding the Ōtākaro Avon River. Building Better researchers from the Understanding Place research project invite you to share your stories using "Red Zone Stories", a website and app designed at the University of Canterbury.
Red Zones Stories is a space for you to record and share your stories, memories, and hopes for the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor, whether you grew up here, have a family connection, or have ideas about how places here should look in the future.
The Red Zone Stories App is downloadable from Google Play and The App Store. With the app, a user can record their stories via text, photograph, video, etc. for an interactive map on the redzonestories.nz website. There are already many photos and videos available on the map, showing what the red zone now means to people. This information helps researchers record the different ways local residents and manawhenua respond to this place. It will also help urban planners understand what parts of the red zone are important to people and why. The research is independent from Regenerate Christchurch, but has been developed in consultation with them.
Jenny and Sam in the Red Zone. Photo: Red Zone Stories/ University of Canterbury.
Hobsonville Point: Living at higher density
26 July 2019: How do the residents of Auckland's Hobsonville Point – New Zealand’s largest master-planned residential development, feel about living at higher density? That's the focus of a new report recently released by Building Better's Shaping Places: Future Neighbourhoods research team.
Living at higher density now has a number of drivers that includes urban planning for compact development, the efficient use of land, and achieving more sustainable urban forms. In Auckland, there is an increasing proportion of higher density attached housing being delivered: over half of residential development in Auckland now involves attached housing types such as terraces and apartments. Does this change towards New Zealanders living at higher density lead to necessary housing satisfaction on the part of residents, and deliver wellbeing? This is particularly of interest where living in lower density suburban housing in the past has been the norm.
Hobsonville Point. Photo: Errol Haarhoff
Better places to live: community and housing
15 July 2019: Lead researcher Dr Rebecca Kiddle is mentioned in this Talk Wellington article for her research "investigating (amongst other things) the extent to which modern Ao-NZ urban form systemically prioritises private space in our suburbs, cities and towns. Turns out we do this a lot, and to the detriment of the public realm and common spaces."
The article says, "This is bad news for us collectively because it’s common and public spaces, third places that let us connect with other humans outside our household, 'bumping into' spaces where you can have regular, low-stakes interactions with people. 'Bumping into' spaces in modern towns let us quietly expand our 'circle of empathy' to others beyond those we select to invite to our private space (who are inevitably A Lot Like Me)."
Dr Rebecca Kiddle. Photo: Desna Whaanga-Schollum.
Where do we dance? Planning social spaces in the suburbs
9 July 2019: The UK has its pubs. In China, people go out at dusk to exercise in the streets. So, where do Kiwis go to socialise in the suburbs?
In this NZ Local Government Magazine article by Building Better researcher Rebecca Kiddle from Victoria University of Wellington, she writes that research shows a significant gap in planning for neutral ‘bumping spaces’. She presented her findings to date at the recent NZPI Conference in Napier.
"Aotearoa New Zealand suburbs are seemingly the spatial underdog of our towns and cities. As part of the research programme Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities I am leading a project called Where Do We Dance? with dance being the metaphor for socialising, making friends and building community. The project asks where, physically, community happens in this country and how might we improve the way we design and plan our built environments to better serve the making of communities."
Where do we dance? A street mural in Naenae, Lower Hutt. Photo: Rebecca Kiddle.
Urban design can’t come from the top down
9 July 2019: In this Ideasroom feature on Newsroom, Building Better researchers Marc Aurel Schnabel and Shuva Chowdhury from Victoria University of Wellington write about their BBHTC research project on using virtual reality tools for user collaboration in urban design, using a public-space development in Karori, Wellington, as a test case.
"Designing an urban environment involves confronting complex physical and social issues such as cultural contexts, economic situations, regulatory systems and personal and community preference.
"The design process should take these issues into account, but most of the design methods currently used by urban design professionals are ‘top down’ approaches where the designer, rather than users, dictates the process and outcomes."
One of the obstacles preventing a better relationship between designers and citizens is the lack of tools available to visualise the space through the planning process. Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Newsroom.
Field days in 'meanwhile spaces'
10 June 2019: From 1 March to 31 May 2019, the Building Better Mauriora and Urban Wellbeing team led a South Auckland-based wellbeing-focused co-design project with AUT sustainability students, local communities, The Southern Initiative, Healthy Families, Panuku, and the Auckland Teaching Gardens at the Papatoetoe Food Hub ‘meanwhile space’. The project was projects aligned with the Papatoetoe Food Hub principles of manaakitanga (hospitality, kindness) and whanaungatanga (making of relationships, connection). They employed a range of tactics to improve local mauri - the integrated wellbeing of people and place - through innovative engagement with under-utilised ‘meanwhile spaces'.
A field day for primary children designed by the Mauri ora and Urban Wellbeing research team: An AUT Sustainability Studio co-design, holistic wellbeing, project with local communities, the Southern Initiative, Healthy Families, Panuku, Auckland Teaching Gardens, and AUT sustainability students at the Papatoetoe Food Hub ‘meanwhile space’. Diagram: Angelica Wong, Dione Tay, Ken Tong, Poppy Schubert, and Tegan Jade Martin.
Biodiversity can enhance urban wellbeing
28 May 2019: The Building Better Mauriora and Urban Wellbeing team were at Auckland’s Ōtara Library over the Easter school holidays presenting urban wellbeing research news, leading biodiversity activations, and discussing how a more biodiverse Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland could enhance urban wellbeing.
Te Mauri o te Kererū ko te Mauri o nga Tāngata
A wellbeing activation called Te Mauri o te Kererū ko te Mauri o nga Tāngata (The Wellbeing of the Kereru is the Wellbeing of People) brought together children’s art workshops with three works exploring how birds, trees, and human lives are connected together and interdependent.
Participants in the sound workshop at Auckland’s Ōtara Library answer the question "What sound does a kererū make?".
Mauriora and Urban Wellbeing
Solar-power, zero-carbon energy workshops
23 May 2019: The Building Better Mauriora and Urban Wellbeing team were at Auckland Library over the Easter school holidays presenting urban wellbeing research news, leading solar-power activations, and discussing how we might transform Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland to a zero-carbon city.
Their solar-power drawing machine Amio I Te Ra drew attention to the power of the Sun - with each solar-powered revolution it draws a circle in black carbon. Accompanying workshops used the Sun’s energy to draw with photo-sensitive paper and power solar cameras.
E Amio Haere Ana te Ao I Te Ra | Circling the Sun [Revolution Cycle] installation: Dr Amanda Yates.
Te Mana o Te Ra workshops: Dr Kathy Waghorn.
A crowd gathers to examine E Amio Haere Ana te Ao I Te Ra | Circling The Sun – Revolution Cycle installation during Te Mana o Te Ra | The Power of the Sun solar-power, zero-carbon energy workshops and installation at the Auckland City Library, Ngā Pātaka Kōrero o Tāmaki Makaurau, on 27 and 28 April.
Child’s play: Involving kids in the design of public spaces
21 May 2019: Cities are generally designed for adults and cars. Their built form and safety concerns constrain children’s play and mobility, and a default planning position largely confines children’s use of the public realm to places such as playgrounds, skate parks and sports grounds. If children’s well being is compromised through restricted outdoor play and mobility opportunities, the social sustainability of our towns and cities is in question.
A Building Better project is researching the best ways to engage children in the co-design of public spaces so that our towns and cities become more child-friendly. Read all about it in Architecture Now.
A neighbourhood drawing of the Puhinui Stream regeneration project from one of the Wiri Central School’s student co-designers.
Waimahia Inlet affordable housing study
11 March 2019: A new study, Developing community: Following the Waimahia Inlet affordable housing initiative, by Building Better researchers Karen Witten, Simon Opit, Emma Ferguson, and Robin Kearns, is now available on the BBHTC website.
The Waimahia Inlet is a 295-dwelling greenfield development over 16 hectares in Weymouth, on the edge of Manukau Harbour. The Waimahia Inlet development is a partnership between the Crown, The Tāmaki Collective, and three community housing providers – Te Tumu Kāinga, The New Zealand Housing Foundation, and the Community of Refuge Trust (CORT) Community Housing. This consortium of Māori organisations and community housing providers (CHPs) shared a mission to provide affordable, good-quality housing, with a focus on meeting the housing needs of Māori and Pasifika families.
Virtual environments in urban design
4 February 2019: Designing an urban environment involves complex physical and social issues. The design decision-making process should be configured to deal with these complex issues, but most of the design methods used by urban professionals are top-down approaches, where the scope for involving laypeople in the design process is poor.
A lack of visual information and tools in the design process doesn’t allow end users to speculate on new design ideas before they are built. In addition, to address construction and the post-occupancy period details, design processes can become cumbersome. This level of detail seldom helps people to understand design ideas.
A new study by Building Better’s Shaping Places: Future Neighbourhoods team members Professor Marc Aurel Schnabel and Shuva Chowdhury, Victoria University of Wellington, develops a design discussion platform to produce urban forms by employing virtual tools.
Cultural landscape approach to design at ICOMOS
31 October 2018: Integrating Kaupapa Māori and Te Aranga design principles into design processes was the theme of a paper presented by Building Better researchers Jacqueline Paul and Jade Kake at the ICOMOS 2018 conference in Suva, Fiji earlier this month. The aim of the conference was to share knowledge, celebrate the rich culture of the Pacific, and discuss common issues of heritage conservation across the region.
Jade reflected on her experiences of the conference, finding some presentations troubling, while others were uplifting.
Virtual reality for urban design decisions
1 October 2018: A new study by Building Better Shaping Places: Future Neighbourhoods research team members Prof. Marc Aurel Schnabel and Shuva Chowdhury investigates using virtual reality (VR) to create user-friendly interfaces to generate and visualise urban form. Typically, current urban design processes can’t visualise urban form in real time during the decision-making stage. Virtual environment design instruments offer a realm to generate, visualise and analyse urban form. The researchers believe that engaging stakeholders using a VR design platform can reduce the gap between design intent and design outcomes leading to a more favourable design process.
Concepts of Neighbourhood: A Review of the Literature
27 September 2018: The Shaping places: Future Neighbourhoods research programme is focused on researching liveable and well-designed neighbourhoods, including houses, which contribute to successful towns and cities. It is seeking to develop our understanding of the principles and processes that create more successful neighbourhoods. This includes both the physical and social structure of neighbourhoods. Within this context, researcher Dr Natalie Allen has developed a literature review. This working paper is designed to offer a frame of reference for subsequent research into New Zealand’s neighbourhood context and to provide an overview of why considering the concept of neighbourhood is important.
Te Aranga Māori Design Principles
18 September 2018: Landscape architect graduate Jacqueline Paul (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa), from the Shaping Places: Future Neighbourhoods team, and landscape architect William Hatton (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongomaiwahine, Rangitāne, Ngāti Raukawa, Muaūpoko) write on Te Aranga Māori Design Principles developed by the Auckland Council in conjunction with mana whenua to provide practical guidance for designers shaping the city’s built environment.
Hape - Protect Ihumatao. Photo: Yamen Jawish
NZ 'not geared for affordable housing'
5 July 2018: Smaller housing developers are being locked out by bureaucracy costs, and experts say the government must connect people with expertise so affordable housing, particularly for Māori, can be built. Listen to Building Better researcher Ella Henry from the Shaping Places: Future Neighbourhoods team talking Māori affordable housing this week on Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme.
Photo: RNZ, Claire Eastham-Farrelly.
Hobsonville Point high-density development
31 May 2018: Shaping Places: Future Neighbourhoods Principal Investigator Errol Haarhoff is interviewed about the impact of high density living on well-being and housing satisfaction at Hobsonville Point.
The suburb is unique in that it's the first of its kind: a greenfield built from scratch and founded on the principle of high density living, says Errol. And it seems to be working well.
The call of home for new graduate
28 May 2018: Jacqueline Paul, from the Building Better Homes, Towns & Cities Shaping Places: Future Neighbourhoods Māori Research team, features in this month's Landscape Architecture Aotearoa. Now that she’s finished Unitec the 24-year-old has just reached out to her local trust up North. Her next 10-year plan is to return to the Takou Bay area (where her father is from and grandparents are buried) to support her whānau plan their papakāinga (housing development on ancestral land) and marae development.
Jackie Paul at Te Ngaere Marae near Matauri Bay in Northland. Photo: Landscape Architecture
Jacqueline Paul - delegate at the UN 2018 Winter Youth Assembly
19 February 2018: Jacqueline Paul (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāpuhi, Kahungunu) is part of the Building Better Homes, Towns & Cities Shaping Places: Future Neighbourhoods Māori Research team. She was a delegate at the UN 2018 Winter Youth Assembly from 14 to 16 February in New York. This Youth Assembly is a platform to elevate the voices of young people in international dialogues, empower youth to advocate for future generations, and mobilize youth as agents of impactful change. Jacqueline's participation in this assembly was supported by the Challenge.
Can higher density enhance liveability?
July 2017: Higher-density housing requires quality urban development to deliver liveable, walkable communities. A National Science Challenge funded survey in Auckland showed this is what people want from where they live.