Posts Tagged 'Ecological Footprint'

If the Italians had colonised Wanaka

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

I read in the Otago Daily Times that the Upper Clutha Environmental Society are appealing against a residential platform in Dublin Bay proposed by Annabel Langbein and Ted Hewetson.  While I applaud the efforts made by the Society to provide a check against unbridled development across the region, I do question the impact on amenity that this residence will have as there is already existing residential development and human activity is clearly etched into the landscape.  Personally I think Dublin Bay would be a great spot for further intensification into a compact village that enjoys the lakeside amenity while having little impact from other positions either around or on the Lake.

This raises the question ‘have we got the District Plan and Wanaka Structure Plan correct?’ The Structure Plan clearly defines Wanaka’s urban spread within the confines of the Clutha and Cardrona Rivers down to Hill End and up to Rippon. Any land outside of this area is zoned Rural, however residential activity in the guise of Lifestyle blocks is already peppering this landscape in a similar way that has occurred in the Wakatipu Basin. I doubt that either the Wakatipu or Upper Clutha basins will provide more than minor agricultural benefit to our communities within the next 20 years, a great loss of rich productive land.

If the Italians had settled the area they would not have allowed this to happen! They would cluster their urban centres around transport hubs such as rivers and lakes providing potable water and additional food source as well as providing amenity for social and leisure activities. Alternatively they would have settled on the foothills of the mountains, either way the land outside of these localised communities would remain productive.

A good example of this can be seen in the foothills of the Italian Alps around Lake Garda where the lake edge is dotted with clusters of communities that neither detract from the amenity of the lake nor the surrounding mountains. Other great examples can be seen throughout the coastline of Croatia, with fantastic dense communities such as Hvar and Korcula providing a beautiful social hub on the water edge and you only have to walk less than 5 minutes and you are in productive rural areas.

Lakes Wanaka and Hawea present many opportunities for clusters of communities around the waters edge that are visually separated from each other leaving a sense of openness within an natural landscape. If we intensified the original communities of Lake Hawea; Johns Creek; Hawea Flat; Alberttown; Lake Wanaka and Tarras along with new intensified communities at Dublin Bay, Glendu Bay and dare I say it Damper Bay, we could all enjoy the Lakes and Rivers, utilise the productive flat land while enjoying the rural amenity instead of living in a suburban blanket of individual landlocked plots.

If we all had a lake view and access to the waters edge within 5 minutes walk would we need to have a quarter acre private realm with green grass that requires mowing and irrigation?


SustainaBULL

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

The much used term ‘Sustainability’ has been a great driver for awareness of the resource and environmental issues that face current and future generations but I believe its misuse or overuse is starting to dilute not only what is possible but what we should all be doing.  Technically architecture (as we know it) is not a sustainable activity unless we can utilize renewable resources from within our  ‘fair earth share’ of ecological footprint, currently about 1.7 hectares per person on earth (see NZ Footprint project by Otago Polytechnic Centre for Sustainability).

This may be an impossible task but we need to seriously review how we build particularly in terms of embodied energy of materials, size of building for purpose, durability and adaptability. Sticking a solar panel on your house or marketing your existing building products under the label of ‘Future Proof Building’ does not make you sustainable.

For example; in the Houses (NZ) Winter 2011 magazine there is a feature on a new contemporary residence with a designers note that ‘’ Sustainability was also important, and the house utilizes solar hot water and rainwater recycling’’.  These are great things to do but this is for a single bedroom 200m2 house with full height glazing to about 70% of the exterior walls with air conditioning as a heat source.

Also the designers behind the new Wanaka Lakes Health Centre claim ‘sustainable design was a key consideration with approved green build materials and energy efficient services design…’  Sustainability doesn’t come into my mind when I view that the new building in effect is a large shed with a very deep floor plate (30 x 54 metres?) that relies on mechanical services and light .  There was so much scope to employ natural ventilation and lighting rather than rely on ‘energy efficient’ mechanical services; the costs in allowing openings within the plan would offset the costs for increasing the size of services to create an artificial environment and would have greatly reduced the running costs over the life of the building.

So the Sustainable banner comes out again and again but I think we need to try a little harder than this if we truly want to work within our limited resources whilst creating architecture that truely delights.