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18 stories is medium density – The Greens

By 7 January 2011 16

The Greens’ Caroline Le Couteur has come out swinging for the proposed vast high rise development of Woden Green.

Even more intriguingly she describes it as “a sustainable, medium-density development in a town centre“.

She does make some good arguments in its favour:

“It is in the right location for high quality infill development.”

“There are real potential environmental benefits here, including the fact that Woden Green, compared with a standard Greenfield development with the same number of dwellings, will use only 10% of the land, and have only 5% of the roads.”

“The development is next to the Woden bus interchange and has a commuter cycle path going through it, so it will have great transport connections. It is also next to Eddison Park and Woden Town Centre, and close to the Canberra Hospital and schools in Garran and Deakin.”

“The Woden Green development will provide an option for people who want to live in the town centre, close to shops and public transport, without the need for a car.”

One can’t help but wait with bated breath to see what the high density developments will look like!

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16 Responses to 18 stories is medium density – The Greens
#1
georgesgenitals1:51 pm, 07 Jan 11

Interesting. I wonder how they got to her.

#2
PM1:58 pm, 07 Jan 11

She normally knows her stuff re planning, but this is weird…

I’m in favour of high density in the middle of Woden Town Centre, but why does she call it medium?

#3
Erg02:01 pm, 07 Jan 11

Her party is the naming rights sponsor.

#4
motleychick2:13 pm, 07 Jan 11

“One can’t help but wait with bated breath to see what the high density developments will look like!”

Hopefully nothing like those ugly, UGLY Sky Plaza apartments. Ugh.

#5
johnboy2:18 pm, 07 Jan 11

by this measure sky plaza’s heading down towards low density!

#6
Braddon Boy2:19 pm, 07 Jan 11

I guess it depends on your perspective. In central Tokyo, the amount of green space and gardens this thing will have around it probably means it would be low density.

On the other hand, we are in Canberra, I’d be inclined to call it high density. Although, it’s not only height that dictates high, medium or low density, it is number of dwellings for a given area. From what I understand there will be quite a bit of green space in the development, reducing the overall density.

My opinion, for what it’s worth… I support this type of development and agree with almost everything Caroline said in the media release. I would even support the originally planned 35 storeys for that area.

#7
Rosencrantz2:21 pm, 07 Jan 11

Is it medium density overall (ie is the whole development a mix of the big unit tower and some smaller ones or townhouses), as opposed to the tower itself being medium density?

Very good idea by the way, should be more of this in every town centre. I hear Tuggeranong Community Council is worried a similar thing will be built opposite Bunnings; in my view I hope that’s exactly what is planned!

#8
housebound3:11 pm, 07 Jan 11

It all makes sense when you get to this: “There are real potential environmental benefits here, including the fact that Woden Green, compared with a standard Greenfield development with the same number of dwellings, will use only 10% of the land, and have only 5% of the roads”

It comes down the the Greens ideological hatred of new suburbs, regardless of the agricultural (or other) value of the land, or of the urban design principles underpinning new developments. Given ACT urban design lately, it may be she does have a point there…

At any rate, this development would take the same amount of land no matter where it was put – so the “10%” of land argument is rubbish. (From the comfort of her innner south detached house, surely Caroline wouldn’t be having a go at detached housing elsewhere?)

The 5% of roads is a more worthy argument, but I think she really means NEW roads. After all, roads have to be designed to meet a certain traffic load. She might be making the (possibly reasonable) assumption that people in Woden won’t buy as many cars as people in those new outer suburbs. I haven’t looked at car ownership statistics for a while to know if that is true or not.

I just hope the builders put a bit more effort into build quality on thyis project.

#9
Grail3:14 pm, 07 Jan 11

Please quote correctly. The actual text of the press release praises the location and overall design, then suggests that the 35 storey tower is not ideal for Canberra in terms of energy efficiency or aesthetics.

Is Johnboy anti-Green or just shit stirring?

#10
Francois Dillinger3:16 pm, 07 Jan 11

The local govt cant have it both ways. You cant artificially restrict land to keep UV high (to maximise rates), then restrict higher density apartments.

In the face of the grotesque joke that is Canberra’s land release policy, let ‘em reach the skies.

Never thought I’d agree with a Greens MLA…then again we’re probably both for it for different reasons.

#11
Felix4:15 pm, 07 Jan 11

I tend to agree with PM and Rosencrantz – Caroline does generally know her stuff re planning and, on balance, it’s probably not unreasonable to call this ‘medium density’ – even if it’s fairly tall.

And I think you’re spot on about density close to major town centres – the fuel-saving, money-saving and general environmental benefits are well demonstrated.

Most other Australian cities look like fried eggs from the air, but Canberra was far better designed from the outset, with fairly regularly spaced town centres. Planners refer to this form as polycentric and it’s absolutely the best shape for workable public transport systems (even if we’re not quite there yet on that score).

I think Andrew Barr and Neal Savery are being simplistic when they speak of high development in a 7.5 kilometre circle around Civic but nothing much else – this will just mimic the bad, fried-egg structure of other unsustainable cities. It’s far smarter to draw the 3 k circle around each town centre (as recommended by the best transport researchers) and, maybe, a 5 k or so circle around Civic. You could probably also allow a smaller zone around a couple of key places like the Dickson commercial centre. Within those zones you allow quite high and dense development very close to the town centre (as proposed here for Woden) then step it down fairly quickly, through three-storey medium density (best because you don’t need lifts so save energy), down to townhouse style and, ultimately, wider suburban spaces with detached houses and modest gardens for those who want them. These areas become the ‘lungs’ of the city (and maybe ultimately the veggie gardens, if things get bad), with their generous gardens.

This gives you great diversity and a range of options to suit almost everybody at almost every stage or style of their lives.

And, maybe most importantly, this is a pretty ‘green’ building, constructed on a site that didn’t have much on it already of great value, so not much embedded energy has been lost to the bulldozer.

#12
arescarti429:35 pm, 07 Jan 11

It’s far smarter to draw the 3 k circle around each town centre (as recommended by the best transport researchers) and, maybe, a 5 k or so circle around Civic. You could probably also allow a smaller zone around a couple of key places like the Dickson commercial centre. Within those zones you allow quite high and dense development very close to the town centre (as proposed here for Woden) then step it down fairly quickly, through three-storey medium density (best because you don’t need lifts so save energy), down to townhouse style and, ultimately, wider suburban spaces with detached houses and modest gardens for those who want them. These areas become the ‘lungs’ of the city (and maybe ultimately the veggie gardens, if things get bad), with their generous gardens.

This gives you great diversity and a range of options to suit almost everybody at almost every stage or style of their lives.

And, maybe most importantly, this is a pretty ‘green’ building, constructed on a site that didn’t have much on it already of great value, so not much embedded energy has been lost to the bulldozer.

I really, really, really agree with this. The town centres are already transport, shopping and employment hubs, we should be trying to focus on building up densities in the areas a short walk/bike ride around them.

I remember reading an article recently in the Canberra times that said the average (or was it median) rent on a 2 bedroom unit in Canberra is now higher than the rent on a 3 bedroom house. What this says to me is that people want to live in places like this, and will pay a premium to do so.

#13
aussielyn10:15 am, 08 Jan 11

Woden Valley Community Council does have Leighton’s 3D video on their website:
http://www.wvcc.org.au
Of course this is a marketing exercise and it is the first phase of the consultation. Like an architect’s perspective drawing the green open space is standing out, this will shrink once more detailed drawings are done. Most of the development is four stories and the video does not upset people with vertigo. The high rise towers are only background.
WVCC holds public meetings on the first wednesday of the month and this will be the hot issue. My big concern with high-rise is that the fire brigade truck can only reach 13 stories, if the road is wide enough & accessible for it. Ambos also have access problems because of the size of the lifts.

#14
Dacquiri5:48 pm, 09 Jan 11

The Can.Times of 4 Nov. 2010 carried details of this proposed development, including artist’s impression, under the headline ‘High-rise units to tower over Woden’ (‘A 35-storey, 100m-high residential tower with four neighbouring towers up to 20 storeys is proposed for Woden Town Centre’, etc., etc). In its story on 2 Dec. 2010, ‘Woden highrise may be downsized’, ABC News online noted that proponents of the scheme are ‘considering reducing the height of some of the proposed buildings’ which would involve opening negotiations with ACT Gov about expanding the project further along Callum Street.
It is important to note that the environmental credentials of such developments are highly questionable. Not only has it not been demonstrated that those who live in such developments will relinquish the use of a car, but studies have shown that high-rise apartments of 9 or more storeys emit on average 10.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide per dwelling, compared with 6.5 tonnes for low rise dwellings and 9.0 tonnes per detached dwellings, and individuals in high-rise apartments are responsible for, on average, 5.4 tonnes of emissions, compared with 3.4 tonnes for individuals in low-rise and 2.9 tonnes for individuals in detached dwellings.
The proposed density of residential accommodation at Woden Green is more than 10 times that of Wybalena Grove in Cook, which consists of a comparable area (11.5ha) but with 105 split-level townhouses, all north-facing, with substantial open space, designed with privacy and unobstructed views of the natural bush setting — and in close proximity to schools, shopping, health facilities and public transport.

#15
Felix4:48 pm, 10 Jan 11

Dacquiri makes a fair, general point here – the research from Sydney and Adelaide does, indeed, show that the most environmentally efficient form for overall emissions is the inner suburban town-house/villa/duplex style. Inner city higher-rise apartments tend to come in second (they have higher embodied and operational energy but tend to offer good savings in terms of reduced car usage). Outer suburban detached dwellings are generally the worst – again, substantially because of car usage, but in the opposite direction.

Generally, three storeys high is a kind of maximum/sweet spot, in part because you don’t need lifts. However, provided they’re well built with the most up-to-date energy efficiency standards and technology, higher-rise apartments (but probably no higher than about nine storeys) can be surprisingly good. I don’t know the details but I gather that, while Woden Green isn’t exactly state-of-the-art, it’s still pretty good – good enough to make it an acceptable option environmentally.

#16
Usermane10:30 pm, 10 Jan 11

Dacquiri said :

The proposed density of residential accommodation at Woden Green is more than 10 times that of Wybalena Grove in Cook, which consists of a comparable area (11.5ha) but with 105 split-level townhouses…

Unless I am very much mistaken, this works out to a spacious 1095 sqm per dwelling, which is a lower density than most detached housing in Canberra. It strikes me that this isn’t a very good model for fitting more people into the limited land available in an inner suburb.

Considering that the proposed development is actually in a town centre that is already a built up area with many large office buildings, it hardly seems unreasonable or out of place to build something with greater, rather than lower, density than the surrounding suburbs.

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