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How To Ensure You Live In A Sustainable Neighbourhood

A sustainable neighbourhood meets your needs while protecting the environment. Homes in a sustainable neighbourhood are located near shops, schools, recreation, work and other daily destinations. This helps reduce driving costs and allows residents enjoy the health benefits of walking. This article explains what it means to live in a sustainable neighbourhood.

A sustainable neighbourhood is a place where people want to live now, and in the future. It is a neighbourhood that is socially, environmentally and economically healthy; a place that is safe, well planned and built to last. Sustainable neighbourhoods are socially cohesive and diverse, with a mix of housing types and employment opportunities

In a sustainable neighbourhood, land and services, like roads, are used efficiently. Sustainable neighbourhoods also feature a choice of homes that are affordable.

Here are some determinants that prove you live in a sustainable neighbourhood

1. Location

The sustainable neighbourhood is usually located within existing cities, and is an urban area that works with the complexity and disorder of existing urban areas

2. High density

A compact built environment increases the sustainability of a neighbourhood. For example, influential research suggests that the higher the density of an area, the lower the energy uses for transport purposes. The key to increasing the amount of walking, cycling/biking and public transport use is compactness: if housing is built near to existing facilities then travel time is reduced, and sustainable methods of transport are encouraged.

3. Rich mix of uses

The accommodation of different uses in proximity to each other encourages people to walk and possibly bike or walk to school, work, and the shops. Whilst, horizontal mixed-use is more common, small-scale development that mixes uses vertically within the building, with an active commercial ground floor and residential flats and apartments above, creates the high streets and secondary streets that form the heart of a neighbourhood.


4. Permeability

This refers to the ease with which people, not cars, can move through an urban area by a choice of routes. It relies on a framework of streets, where each street leads to another street which leads to another, and avoiding long stretches with no junctions. This means all parts of the neighbourhood are accessible, with an emphasis on nodes of activity like shopping centres, adding to its pedestrian-friendliness and urban character. However, the urban street has a dual role as a route and a high street, and through-traffic is important to the commercial vitality of an area. Designing streets that accommodate traffic without affecting pedestrian life is crucial to maintaining permeability for both.

5. Walkability

Reducing car use is a profound influence on future development forms. The internal permeability of a sustainable neighbourhood is key to creating a pedestrian-friendly area where walking  is the most convenient mode of transport for all trips. Also significant is legibility, which refers to how easy it is to read an urban area and understand its structure. Landmarks, variation in buildings and traditional street layouts of grids or where main routes lead to the centre, all improve the legibility of a neighbourhood.

In view of the aforementioned, in your search for a sustainable neighbourhood, here are some questions to ask:

  • Easy transportation
    • Are stores, schools, recreation facilities, restaurants, and health services within walking or cycling distance? Will your children need to take a bus to school? Can they walk to the bus park? Can you do most of your shopping without a car?
    • Are there nearby bus stops and motor roads? How long is the bus ride to work, or school? Can you safely bike?
  • House size and features
    • Are the homes compact ?
    • Are homes reasonably sized with lots requiring less upkeep?
    • Are there different dwelling types (such as single-detached, semi-detached, townhouse and apartments) in the neighbourhood?
    • Are the lots modestly sized? Roadways narrow? Driveways/parking areas small? Do natural drain ways lead to streams or park lands? Is there native vegetation and streams with woodland edges?
  • Look and feel
    • Do the buildings have a friendly face to the street? Are the community centres, shops and meeting places welcoming?
    • Are there trees lining the street? Do you find the homes interesting to look at?  Do the building sizes feel comfortable to you? Are the roads easy to walk along or cross?
  • Safety
    • Do the homes have “eyes on the street”? (In other words, are there people around who might watch out for you? Is there somewhere to go in an emergency?)
    • Is there adequate street lighting?
    • Are there safe places for children to play?
    • Are the streets safe for motorists and pedestrians?
    • Is traffic slow moving and light?

If your answers to most of the questions aforementioned are positive then you might just have found yourself a sustainable environment.

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