Mixed use and suburbs

December 9, 2007

I recommend looking at a recently published report by Savills Research for the Prince’s Foundation: Valuing Sustainable Urbanism – a study which compared a range of residential areas to see if there was added financial value to designing sustainably. In a discussion on ‘mixed use’, the authors write that in a “sustainable world there is no such thing as a single class use”: here residential property automatically becomes mixed use, since population arriving on a new site will always give rise to a “huge range of human activities”. What is striking about this comment is that we have for a long time been suggesting that such a context is likely to contribute to successful suburban town centres. Similar to Savills’ analysis, we define social and environmental sustainability in this context as a layout which affords walkable and overlapping trips so that dropping off at school will be combined with a trip to the shops, post-office and library. Such layouts not only create more potential for local walking (and the obvious environmental benefits from this), but social sustainability: more potential for encounter between different sectors of society – both local and those coming from a longer distance. And also economic sustainability: town centre shops can benefit from passing trade as well as people making special trips to the area.

We should take account of this in our analysis of the residential hinterland of our town centre cases and turn the relationship around – measure to what degree do our cases serve a residential hinterland within walking distance of their local centre and does this vary with the historical growth pattern?


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