The suburbs located on the metropolitan edges of Australian cities are popular residential locations, but concerns have been raised about social isolation in these developing communities. This paper explores residents’ lived experiences of community in an outer-suburb of Melbourne using a phenomenological approach and photo-elicited interviews.

Nine participants photographed positive and less favourable aspects of their suburb and these images were used to guide in-depth interviews. Findings indicated that participants’ views on what it meant to be a community and how they went about making social connections did not align exclusively with concepts of community saved, lost or liberated, but included broad aspirations around community building, helping and being helped by strangers and online place-based relationships.

Overall, residents’ experiences were complex suggesting researchers, government and developers alike need to pay closer attention to how residents themselves create community in new and evolving suburbs.

This abstract was provided by Fiona J. Andrews, Senior Lecturer at the School of Health & Social Development at Deakin University

This is an abstract featured in “A tapestry without instructions.” Lived experiences of community in an outer suburb of Melbourne, Australia

Fiona J. Andrews, Louise Johnson & Elyse Warner (2017): “A tapestry without instructions.” Lived experiences of community in an outer suburb of Melbourne, Australia,

Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability, DOI: 10.1080/17549175.2017.1363077

Find the entire article here.

A team of UNSW researchers is trying to find ways to cool our concrete jungles down before they eventually become uninhabitable.

Nowhere is this more important than in areas such as western Sydney, where devoid of the ocean breezes that usually cool the coastal fringe, the city’s western half suffers from the urban heat island effect, thanks to building materials absorbing more of the sun’s energy, waste heat from car engines and air conditioners all conspiring to heat up the temperature.

Photo: article supplied

And this is not just a Sydney problem – over 500 cities across the globe are currently dealing with this problem.

“Urban heat islands are the most documented phenomenon of climate change,” says UNSW Built Environment’s Professor of High Performance Architecture, Mat Santamouris, who has spent the past 15 years mapping urban heat islands in 200 cities, including a collaboration with the European Union that led to the first complete study of urban heat islands in European cities.

“If we can’t find a way to make our cities cooler, they will eventually become uninhabitable,” he says. “It’s hard to remember that kind of heat when we’re in the middle of winter, but last summer the temperature in Penrith was above 40 degrees celsius for about 20 days, reaching even 46 degrees celsius.”

A significant portion of this research involves finding heat-mitigation technologies to help cool our cities such as the use of shading, cool roofs and new-generation, pavements that absorb less solar radiation and green roofs.

“The goal now is to develop heat mitigation solutions capable of reducing urban temperatures by five degrees, and in the case of western Sydney, it needs to be by seven degrees,” he says.

This was originally published by Architecture and Design.

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The global population is growing at a rapid rate and the way we live is likely to change.

The global population is tipped to surge 24 per cent by 2050, from 7.5 billion to 9.8 billion.

According to IKEA’S latest sustainability report, People and Planet Positive 2017, the ageing population is one of the reasons for the rapid growth.

According to the report, 22 per cent of the world will be aged over 60 by 2050, up from 11 per cent recorded in 2012.

New Report Predicts How Our Lives Will Change in 2050

Photo: article supplied

It will be the first time in human history that the elderly population outnumbers the youth.

According to the report, more than 60 per cent of Australians aren’t ready for an increased population and almost 70 per cent believed Australia was not prepared as a nation.

The report made some predictions about how drastically the country will have to change to be able to cope.

There’ll be new cities

To cope with the growing population, the report said Australia would need to create a number of new cities as people will start flocking to cities from regional areas.

According to the UN, 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050.

Simon Caspersen, from future-living innovation lab SPACE10, said to handle a 9.3 billion population over the next 40 years, there’d need to be new cities established quickly.

“To put it into perspective, that’s around six new cities for six million people every month,” he said.

“With urbanisation accelerating, there will be increasing pressure on natural resources like water, air, energy and food.

“This means the built environment needs to incorporate elements like spaces to grow food, systems to recycle waste and water, natural cooling and heating mechanisms and design that facilitates all of this.”

Everyone will have housemates

IKEA sustainability manager Kate Ringvall told urbanisation was a key trend that would affect the way we lived in the future.

“A likely scenario, we believe that the future will be more about ‘co-living’ — a shared economy where we make do with less space, surrounded by more people.

“From a retail perspective, we will continue to adapt our home furnishings to suit these future spaces. We expect to see smaller spaces, with clever storage solutions, greener spaces in our environments — inside and out — and home furnishings solutions which will be better for people and the planet.

SPACE10’s Xuan Teo said in the report co-living was the way of the future.

“The rise of the so-called sharing economy, coupled with the planet’s rapidly depleting resources and fast-growing population, is forcing us to rethink the concept of ownership and sharing in our everyday lives, including in housing,” he said.

This article was originally published by

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Connected, healthy, smart and affordable: these are the four factors that emerged as the most important to making our cities liveable, according to a survey of more than 2500 residents we released this week.

Stockland’s Liveability Index, now in its sixth year, captures the experiences of more than 40 communities across 20 local government areas. It offers insights for governments as they ramp up their efforts to deliver solutions to the challenges — and opportunities — posed by the growth of metropolitan centres.

The release of this research is timely, with the federal government’s Cities References Group continuing its work in partnership with industry to ensure we get this growth right.

walkable cities

Photo: article supplied

As the chairman of that group, Assistant Minister for Cities Angus Taylor told The Australian only last month: “If we can’t measure it, we can’t improve it.”

Liveability is something we must continue to measure and improve.

Far from being an abstract concept, livability is a tangible element critical to the success of both new and established communities. This is because of the flow-on social and economic effects it has on individuals and communities.

Obesity, for example, is one of the most significant challenges in relation to the liveability of Australian cities.

Aside from the personal and community toll, PwC estimated in 2015 that obesity and its related health effects would cost the Australian economy more than $87 billion in the next decade.

Simple measures in planning, designing and encouraging activity in communities significantly lower obesity rates.

This article was originally published by The Australian.

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Australia’s recycling sector is primed for continued growth. It must in order to keep up with waste generation, which is growing at a compound annual rate of 6.2%, that is 6x population growth and 2.5x economic growth. The market is there, and it is being serviced through a combination of regulatory intervention and technological innovation.

Mike Ritchie

Regulators are creating the setting for improved recycling through two simple steps: introducing high landfill levies to make dumping waste in landfill expensive (and increasingly more expensive than recycling), and reinvesting part of the funds raised into recycling infrastructure. Those two measures are staggeringly effective in driving recycling.

Contrast NSW, the lead state in terms of levies and reinvestment, with Queensland, that lags behind. NSW has high levies at $135.70/t, which enables the state to invest $465.7m to the Waste Less, Recycle More program over its first four years. With recycling rates in 2012/13 of more than 55% for MSW, and more than 60% for C&I, NSW recycling rates are high. They are showing steadying improvement, increasing from around 50% and 55% respectively in 2010/11. Queensland has no levies, no real investment in recycling, and its recovery rates are among the worst in Australia (30% for MSW and 40% for C&I in 2014/15). NSW has a vibrant and diverse waste economy, whereas Queensland relies more and more on landfill.

Regulators play a vital role in improving the economics for recycling. High landfill levies make it in everybody’s interest to reduce waste to landfill and therefore help plant the seed for investment in new technologies. This spawns innovation, both in waste processing technology, but also in technology to reduce and recycle materials before they become waste.

Technologies for the processing of waste are becoming increasingly mature. We are seeing more and more composting plants for source separated and mixed waste, coupled with anaerobic digestion plants generating biogas from clean organic waste. It is becoming increasingly common to sort C&I through “dirty MRFs”.

At the generation side, new weighing systems enable weight based charging for skip bins. This encourages business to recycle waste, and can lead to 30-40% reductions in waste generation.

The future for recycling is bright. Recycling is a key contributor to the green economy, creating jobs and local resilience. The future for recycling is helped by the improved economics fostered by high landfill levies and reinvestment into recycling infrastructure.

For more information on this and other resource recovery related topics, please visit ‘The Tipping Point’, MRA’s blog on all things waste.

Article supplied by Mike Ritchie

MRA Consulting – Company profile

MRA Consulting is Australia’s best small consultancy in recycling, waste and carbon (Inside Waste 2013, 14, 15 and 16). MRA provides services to large and small business and all levels of government. The MRA team includes engineers, planners, economists, lawyers and scientists.


  • Is a national leader in carbon reporting, compliance, planning, approvals and project development.
  • Develops strategies for technology providers, Councils and businesses.
  • Delivers tailored commercial advice including economic modelling, market studies and market entry.
  • Provides comprehensive education and consultation services.
  • Has a comprehensive audit and waste assessment program.

MRA is based at Drummoyne in the inner west of Sydney and has offices in Melbourne and Perth.

Mike Ritchie is the Director of MRA. Contact him at

The number of Australians living in high-rise apartments doubled between 1991 and 2011 and that trend has continued since then. The quarter-acre dream is fast disappearing and larger blocks and family gardens along with it. As more people move from country areas to the city and as land to build homes near the city centre becomes scarce, we’re getting further and further away from nature. It turns out this isn’t great for our health.

The change in urban environments because of development, associated with a rapid increase in chronic disease, is a global phenomenon in developed countries. In the past children grew up running on bare soil and grass, explored backyard farms and gardens, climbed trees and were exposed to a high level of bacteria. And the diversity of the bacteriacan change if an individual is exposed to different environmental conditions.

One of these conditions is living in a high-rise apartment far away from land, soil, trees and plants. Being close to nature is linked to positive mental well-being – and people living in urban areas have been shown to have a disadvantage in processing stress. This can be at least partially attributed to increased exposure to air pollution and heat stress, and decrease in exercise and fitness through lack of access to a garden or nearby park.

apartment dwellers need indoor plants

Photo: article supplied

The less exposure to nature we have, the less diverse the bacteria in our microbiota. The microbiota is the community of bacteria, fungi and viruses that live in our gut and on our skin. We need a diverse exposure for our body to fight inflammation effectively.

Alteration in the human bacterial communities, including the disappearance of ancient microbiotic species, is thought to cause inflammation in the body. These ancient species were known to encourage development of cells that regulate the immune system (T-cells). When our immune system stays on high alert all the time, instead of resting when no threats are present, this causes inflammation, which can lead to chronic disease.

Where plants come in

The bacteria we have are similar to those of plants in that we both carry trillions of good and bad bacteria. The diversity of the microbiota is measured by how many families of bacteria are present. We know the diverse plant microbiome influences plant growth, and humans benefit by eating plant foods. An important research question remains: do we gain another benefit simply by having contact with plants?

Plants also remove volatile compounds from the air including ozone and carbon dioxide. They turn the carbon dioxide into oxygen, meaning air quality is drastically improved. Higher oxygen levels inside a small apartment mean well-being may be improved for the occupants. Viewing plants reduces stress and is pleasing to the human eye.

Nature therapy (shinrin-yoku), first invented in Japan, has proven beneficial for our health by lowering blood pressure and boosting mental health. This is done by simply going for a mindful walk in the forest.

It has also been established that plants confer positive changes in the brain’s electrical activity, muscle tension and heart activity.

This article was originally published by The Conversation.

Click here to read the entire article.

More Australians than ever are sitting in traffic, standing in queues and competing for fewer traditional jobs, increasingly disconnected from a lifestyle perhaps once taken for granted. This was inevitable, many experts will argue, because of unprecedented economic growth, the internet revolution and aspirations for global influence.

save cities

Photo: article supplied

Economics are well and good but most residents of Australia’s largest cities – Sydney and Melbourne – don’t dwell on economic growth when they choose where to live.

Above all else they value an ideal – the ‘Australian way of life’. This can mean different things but ultimately refers to comfort, space and a congenial attitude.

Yet the trajectory many cities are currently on – furiously competing, building up, overcrowding and grinding into gridlock – has eroded the ideal. It’s happened so quickly we’ve barely had time to consider the impact.

It was the great urban thinker Jane Jacobs who said cities must be designed around people, not planned with superimposed logic. She was largely concerned with the way people interacted with each other and the streets they moved along.

Perhaps Australians should be asking more questions about how their streets are used – how city life is being funnelled – before it’s too late.

What city dwellers want

In JLL’s 2016 TEDxSydney survey Is Humanity the Future Architect? respondents were asked about how they saw the future of their cities. Notably, they were unanimous in wanting more human connections and shared a desire to be closer to nature. This is a sentiment that’s familiar to many of us in the city.

Given the opportunity to start again, many respondents also said they would not replicate the existing built environment. Instead, they want multi-purpose structures (81 per cent) and like the concept of an eco-campus where people can live, work and play within one area.

Furthermore, 57 per cent of respondents would not create central business districts (CBDs) where most of our business interactions occur. In short, they want self-sufficient communities, rather than commuting.

Ending long work commutes seems integral to the future success of Australia’s biggest cities. These daily trips – often in cars – have been linked to poor health, reduced exercise and high levels of stress.

One approach to combatting the commute is better neighbourhood design because while we can’t move homes necessarily, we can rethink how and where people travel for work.

This article was originally published by Bluenotes.

Continue reading the entire article here.

Following on from the 2015 X-Section article Reimagining a City: 21st Century Landscape Architecture and the paper given by Mike Thomas at the 2015 6th Liveable Cities Conference titled Reimagining Christchurch City’s Post-Quake Public Realm: The Influence of 21st Century Landscape Architecture on the Rebuild, Mike posited that it is the work of landscape architects that will most consistently influence the appearance and social and economic success of Christchurch’s new post-quake public realm in the rebuild.  The following is a brief update on progress.

Christchurch is unique in New Zealand. Following the 2011 earthquake, it has started over. 70% of CBD buildings have needed demolition, services under the street have needed reconstruction and the city is now in a slow-but-steady state of rebuild.

A positive outlook of a city ‘beginning again’ has been the opportunity for the government to engage with the city and put in place an infrastructure rebuild using principles defined by its people. Cantabrians have asked for a green, walking, cycling city with public transport.landscape driven city

City planning has zoned the CBD into ‘Frames’ according to the activity of the district (e.g. innovation, health). A focus has been applied to developing the public realm and streetscape and so landscape architecture is playing a dominant role in shaping the character of the city centre – an evolutionary shift not a wholesale changeover.

This South Frame project consists of 20,000m2 of mid-block lanes and plazas across seven city blocks on major arterial routes in the city (Tuam/St Asaph and Madras/Antigua Streets). It’s part of a wider ‘Accessible City’ project which consists of 75,000 m2 of streetscapes containing 250 new street trees and 4,000m2 of rain gardens,   developed by a consortium of Jasmax, AECOM and LandLAB. South Frame’s construction began in 2016 and is now approximately 20% complete with work now proceeding at full pace.

A 12 metre-wide, 700 metre long, heavily planted Greenway collects, slows and treats storm water runoff with almost 3,000m2 of rain gardens. Designed as a setting for a creative new mixed-use precinct, connecting the Innovation and Health Precincts, the Greenway is a canvas for cultural expression in partnership with Ngāi Tahu; the local Māori tribe. A theme of this greenway is a “Story of Stone”, which features backlit pounamu (Jade/greenstone) pavement inlays, basalt laneways and boulders. The Greenway will be a venue for social activation and a safe movement corridor, particularly attractive to inner-city living and working.

The layout for the Greenway owes much to Canterbury’s beautiful braided rivers, pixelated to align with urban geometry. Local tree species, Kahikatea and totara, will rise above the buildings as future sentinels to help navigate the city centre. Ethno-botanical plantings with historical value to Ngāi Tahu will be planted, with identification tags.

Separated cycle-lanes and shared surfaces will enable safe cycling through the city, and connect to a regional cycleway network, the Peloton. Architecturally iconic Super Stops (for buses) are being fabricated, ready to play their part in a three-fold increase (by 2041) of public transport movements.

Construction of these projects is in full swing with a significant portion built by 2018.

By Mike Thomas, Principal, Jasmax

 The 10th Making Cities Liveable Conference will be held at Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane on Monday 10th – Tuesday 11th July 2017.

Mr Mark Casserly, Director Community Services for City of Karratha joins us this year to present “From mining town to liveable city”.

The Pilbara region in Western Australia is a place of extremes in terms of scale, climate, history, resources and beauty. With just 2.6% of the state’s population the region delivers 11.62 % of Western Australia’s Gross State Product. The per worker contribution to the economy in the Pilbara is nearly three times that of the balance of the state and nearly four times that of the nation.

Mark Casserly

Welcome to the City of Karratha, the regional capital of the Pilbara and powerhouse of the nation; a place with a ‘can do’ and ‘fair go’ attitude.

Once a series of mining towns, Karratha is now a vibrant and modern cosmopolitan city. Karratha is underpinned by a strong and diversifying economy and offers an unparalleled lifestyle in a community with a rich tapestry of character, culture and heritage.

Riding the crest of the mining boom in the mid 2000’s and weathering the global financial crisis of 2008, the state government’s Pilbara Cities Initiative injected $1.7billion into the region. Karratha has been a proud recipient of this transformative initiative and has emerged with a vision to become Australia’s most liveable regional city.

The story of Karratha’s growth and development is exciting and compelling, clearly fuelled by world-wide demand for raw resources. The rapid fire injection of essential infrastructure, community facilities and social services to a booming economy and the consequential impact of a fall in resource prices in recent years have certainly been experienced. The relentless pace of exponential growth has softened. There is a sense of normalcy emerging in community life.

Now is the time to complete the city’s transition from adolescence to maturity. It is a time for consolidation, for deepening connections and growing resilience. This presentation will share the journey to date and the plans and initiatives proposed for the future.

The 10th Making Cities Liveable Conference is a platform for government, academic and industry professionals to discuss public health, sustainability, natural resource management, transport, climate change, urban design, biosecurity and more.

Find out more here.

Australia’s poor recycling track record has an upside.

Cleanaway, Australia’s largest garbage company, has the potential to extract enough gas from rotting rubbish to produce electricity for as many as 80,000 homes, according to Chief Executive Officer Vik Bansal.

garbage to power australian homes

Photo: article supplied

“Twenty years ago, this was all going to waste,” Bansal said in an interview last week in Melbourne. The gas was getting “flared up in the environment, now it’s creating electricity,” he said.

Australia is the eighth-largest per-capita producer of municipal waste among developed economies, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. A report last year by the Australian Council of Recycling showed the nation recycled just 41 per cent of that waste, compared with Germany on 65 per cent.

That’s proving a boon for companies such as Cleanaway, which extracts gas from landfill sites to power engines, in turn generating electricity that’s sold to the national grid. It’s adding innovative, if relatively small, supplies of power as Australia debates its future energy mix and seeks to curb emissions.

Melbourne-based Cleanaway sold 145,000 megawatt-hours of electricity to the grid from 120 million cubic metres of captured landfill gas last financial year, according to its annual report. The company has 11 of its own landfills, seven of which are providing electricity, Bansal said.

The company isn’t alone in turning rubbish to power.

Suez, Veolia

Paris-based Suez generated 263,000 megawatt-hours of electricity from its Australian landfill sites in 2014, according to the company’s website. Veolia Environment says it currently captures enough gas to power 2,500 homes from a site in New South Wales state and within 10 years will power an additional 12,000 from a facility in Queensland.

Cleanaway says it has doubled capacity at its largest landfill site in Melbourne to 8.8 megawatts, which will come online by October. Within 20 years, depending on the volume of waste it collects, it could produce enough electricity nationally to power as many as 80,000 homes, Bansal said.

This article was originally published by Sydney Morning Herald.

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