Author Archives: Liveable Cities Editor

Liveable cities mean healthier, happier residents. But policymakers must keep pace with development to make sure good urban planning leads to better overall health and wellbeing, writes Billie Giles-Corti.

The co-benefits of urban liveability for the economy, social inclusion, environmental and social sustainability, and public health are now well recognised by all levels of government in Australia and internationally.What Makes a City More Liveable?

But what does “liveability” really mean? While it may make headlines, this apparently simple question has no easy answer.

For more than 20 years, I and a multi-disciplinary team of researchers have been studying the impact of the built environment on health and wellbeing.

Our research shows that comprehensive city planning is beneficial to community health. The elements many of us look for in our neighbourhood are proving time and again to be good for our wellbeing.

Take walking for example. Whether or not an area is walkable, with access to shops, service and public transport, with trees and parks nearby affects residents in many ways. This includes whether they walk locally, how safe they feel when walking the streets, how mentally well they feel in general and whether they have connections with neighbours.

Our longitudinal study – the Residential Environments Projects (RESIDE) – evaluated the Western Australian government’s Liveable Neighbourhoods (LN) guidelines. This policy aimed to create more pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods while RESIDE examined the impact of urban design on health factors such as walking, cycling, public transport use and sense of community.

We found that implementing and enforcing the planning rules directly affected the community’s overall health. Importantly, the better compliance with the policy, the better outcomes for the community.

Then University of Western Australia PhD student, Paula Hooper, found that for every 10 per cent increase in overall Liveable Neighbourhoods policy compliance, participants were 53 per cent more likely to walk within their neighbourhood. They were also 40 per cent less likely to feel unsafe from crime and 11 per cent more likely to have better mental health.

This was originally published by Australia and the Pacific Policy Society.

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Achieving an economically and socially sustainable framework for the provision of social housing is vital. To meet this challenge, many innovative models are being explored both in Australia and internationally, including partnerships and financing arrangements involving a mix of public, private and not for profit agencies.

Dr Judy Kraatz: Valuing Social Housing

Dr Judy Kraatz

The key aim of our Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre (SBEnrc) Valuing Social Housing project is to build an evidence base to support investment across both housing and non-housing outcomes which addresses the return on investment from a broader economic, social and individual perspective.

Our partners in this research are the Western Australian Department of Housing, the Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works, the NSW Land and Housing Corporation, Griffith University, Curtin University and the National Affordable Housing Consortium.

A central element of the approach is productivity, for both the individual and for society more broadly. The research identified a broad range of housing and non-housing outcomes which can be attributed to having safe and stable housing, for example, improved resident well-being, better employment outcomes, stronger community ties and a sense of safety within a neighbourhood.

This has benefits across stakeholders and agencies, from the tenant to the housing provider, and to local, state and the commonwealth government.

Our project has delivered a Strategic Evaluation Framework to help build the evidence base for justifying further investment in social (and affordable) housing, including:

  • Domain Tables – across nine domains[1] including 53 outcomes and over 180 indicators: detailing over 60 academic references in support of the links between housing and non-housing outcomes; return on investment information across social return on investment (SROI), well-being valuation analysis (WVA) and life-stories; and details of over 40 relevant Australian datasets.
  • The Composite Return on Investment (CROI) approach for addressing the broad based potential for return on investment when building the case for investment.

More details are available in our project reports and YouTube video.

Watch our latest YouTube video here.

[1] The nine domains established in the previous Rethinking Social Housing project are: community, economy, education, employment, environment, health and well-being, housing, social and urban amenity

This article was kindly provided by Dr Judy Kraatz, Senior Research Fellow, Cities Research Centre, Griffith University.

Liveability reflects the wellbeing of a community. It also considers the many characteristics that make a place where people want to live now — and in the future.

Enhancing life and liveability – growing the social fabric of Melbourne

Before at WIlliams Landing

A liveable city or region meets the basic social, environmental and economic needs of its people. It also addresses community values and preferences for amenity, wellbeing and a sense of place.

For many decades Melbourne Water has looked after the health of our community by providing safe and secure drinking water, reliable sanitation and effective flood management.  Within our region we manage approximately 8,400 kilometres of rivers and creeks and over 33,000 hectares of land as part of these services.

We are now identifying opportunities to open our land and waterways for more community benefit, transform Melbourne’s landscape, enhance contemporary public health, and address wellbeing issues. This is the future direction of the business and is reflected in our vision of “enhancing life and liveability”.

We are planning for multiple outcomes on our waterways and land, and master planning for liveability services at key Melbourne Water sites. This includes collaborating with Councils and other agencies on new projects such as active transport links along our waterways to connect outer suburbs to the inner city.

Enhancing life and liveability – growing the social fabric of Melbourne

After at Williams Landing

Other projects include exploring alternative water sources, water sensitive urban design and green infrastructure to provide urban cooling and deliver creative, productive landscapes. We’ve also created an online data portal Our Space Your Place showing where our land is available for community use.

These approaches are realised in Greening the Pipeline, an innovative project that aims to transform a decommissioned sewer reserve into a linear parkland. This takes a more holistic approach to water management by activating a community sense of place, enhancing active transport and green links, and creating resilient open spaces.

Greening the Pipeline is a collaborative project with Wyndham City Council, VicRoads and City West Water, which successfully launched its first community park at Williams Landing in Melbourne’s west on the 29th April this year. The Williams Landing park was part-funded by a grant from the Victorian Government.

Around 300 people came along to the launch event to enjoy the new green open space, which is irrigated with captured stormwater.

This article was kindly provided by Melbourne Water, and is a follow-up to the original paper titled ‘Enhancing life and liveability – growing the social fabric of Melbourne’, submitted for the 2016 Liveable Cities Conference.



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.

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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.