Final Workshop: Principles for Achieving Green, Healthy Cities

On the final morning of the 52nd IMCL Conference, participants and speakers were invited to participate in a Workshop to draw up a concise list of the most important Principles for each of the following elements of Achieving Green, Healthy Cities. Here are their findings:

1. Public Places: Principles for designing a public realm (streets and squares) that generates healthy social life, community, and civic engagement for generations to come

  • Centrally located, available for all, and socially inclusive
  • Human scale (planned for people) with active edges; the facades belong to, and create the public realm. They are a “gift to the street”
  • Designed for interaction, and a mix of uses, creating space for events, an urban living room, and generating a feeling of belonging
  • High-quality materials, well maintained, and safe
  • Public realms need to be connected
  • Beautiful and Green 

2. Architectural Fabric: Principles for shaping the built fabric of the city using long-term sustainable building methods to support a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable city.

  • Designed at a human scale for people, not for designers (not monumental), with details that can be appreciated at walking speed and from ground level
  • Urban fabric with contiguous buildings that play well together,  (not stand-alone monuments, but foreground and background buildings)
  • Define and delineate between public and private; at the same time, create permeability (outside connected to inside)
  • Places within places (clear subdivisions)
  • Effective density (not high rise)
  • Quality of materials, sourced locally, designed locally (not imported); sustainable construction, designed for longevity
  • Fabric should reflect character of locality, culture and context
  • Mixed-use and flexibility of use; buildings should be adaptable for different uses, or future uses

3. Transportation System (Active Mobility System): Priorities for developing a balanced transportation system that uses minimum energy and is ecologically sustainable and healthy for citizens

  • Focus on mobility of people
  • Multimodal and balanced system appropriate to the needs of all users
  • Prioritize walking > biking > public transportation > driverless cars > car) and intermodal (and exploration of alternatives)
  • Integrated transportation plan connecting all modes through the city/region and
  • Coordinate compact land use and mobility planning
  • Focus on connectivity, accessibility, capillarity
  • Transit: Consider the experience (we’re not cows!) Convenient and affordable, attractive, accessible, connected, efficient, low energy, clean, easy to use, and safe, with one pass to use them all
  • Infrastructure for walking, biking, etc.: storage lockers, signage (or accurate public wifi?), toilets, water fountains
  • Consider isolated communities and individuals

4. Nature in the City: Considering all the different aspects of nature in the city (food sources, parks, gardens and green spaces, rain, rivers and lakes, air and soundscapes) identify guiding principles to sustain natural resources, and nurture human development

  • Education: raise awareness about the natural environment, our most critical resource
  • Nature (especially trees, water) should permeate the whole urban fabric (when you can grow trees, grow trees!)
  • Nature improves travel experience, cleanses air of particulates; be aware of special functions different tree species, low bushes and wall greenery can fulfill
  • Nature brings people together (consider locality)
  • Consider letting neighborhoods maintain their own green spaces
  • Spaces that encourage children and elders to make connections
  • Edible gardens, community gardens, school gardens
  • Small and big parks for recreation, high-quality, safe, etc. according to WHO guidance (within a 10 min walk especially for children and elders)
  • But don’t over plan/over design (incidental nature and wilderness)
  • Choose appropriate plants that encourage bio diversity throughout the public realm
  • Low allergenic plants and trees
  • Vegetation should have a purpose (target plants and animals)
  • Design and manage according to ecological principles and recognize the services provided by eco systems (air, water, etc.)
  • A focus on water and its importance in society
  • Build partnerships that support wildlife and green things

5. Land use and building uses: Principles for land use planning that provides long-term ecological, economic and social sustainability.

  • Density: cities should be compact, not too high, not too low
  • Mixed use and some variety (typology); a mix of old and new buildings
  • Controls on building form but infinite flexibility of usage over time
  • Participatory planning
  • Urban villages
  • Emphasize human scale
  • Integrate land use with networks of accessibility
  • Appropriate, compatible and sensitive land-use planning
  • Connectivity using defined edges and green edges between buildings and other spaces
  • Small business incubators (e.g. Brandon, FL & Poundbury, UK)
  • Maintain some control of ground-level properties

6. Children and Elders: Principles for shaping cities to support the special needs of children (healthy physical, intellectual and social development) and of elders (maintenance of social, mental and physical health).

  • Public realm must be perceived to be safe (and actually be safe)
  • Accessible to both groups, children and elders; Free-range for all, from 1 to 100
  • Acknowledge the needs of various age groups (60 is not the same as 90-year old)
  • Holistic approach to integrate the needs of all
  • Integrate social, economic and cultural groups
  • Spaces that help build memories
  • Scale is essential (the more intimate the better)
  • Contact with nature
  • Get children and elders involved with design
  • Cities must be managed on an intergenerational level; e.g. rethink schools as community centers
  • Make the city fun (for all)

7. Equity in the City: Planning and urban design principles to best promote the interests of low income residents, make the city more healthy and livable for them, and prevent accelerating inequality.

  • No more ghettos: good socio-economic integration
  • Accessibility and walkability to transportation, employments, education, recreation, services  à LIFE
  • Ongoing dialog with low-income residents
  • Foster social mobility
  • Cost-sharing schemes, e.g. in housing; land trusts
  • Stop experimenting on the poor

8. Community Participation: Principles for engaging the community in designing or renovating their neighborhoods, their city; best models and priorities.

  • Engage the whole community in creating the vision (not just business people and developers)
  • Consultation and listening (not just a façade)
  • Ongoing process (not a point in time)
  • Organized tours of good examples and best practices where possible
  • Capacity building, education
  • Outreach using different media platforms
  • Avoid bait and switch when it comes to selling a development to a community – and ask early (simplify, use an approachable language)