Our new ‘norm’: creating climate resilient, healthier cities
Everyone has been grappling with the enormous public health crisis wrought by Covid-19. We have however now started to take tentative steps to think beyond the high human cost and peak impact on our health service. The situation has prompted fundamental questions about what our future lifestyles and society could be like and to consider and debate what type of society are we now confronted with?
We have choices as we emerge from the health to the wealth crisis. Awakening our economy from a medically prudent self-induced coma will call for a range of stimulus directed by Government policy and funding. This presents the opportunity to recalibrate the economy in a direction that allows us to prioritise climate responsible policies and investment strategies. We have witnessed over the course of the last five weeks a glimpse of what this urban environment might look like.
With lock down restrictions, people have been exploring their neighbourhoods without their cars or the threat of other people’s cars. They have been discovering and enjoying their local area in a way never previously considered. This safer, cleaner environment (coinciding with some fantastic weather) leads to the imagining of what these streets and spaces could be if, without cars, parks and public spaces could be seamlessly interconnected by a network of streets with widened pavements and threaded with fronds of green and blue infrastructure. A landscape of rain gardens, swales and trees that reached all the way up to your front door. Well, it’s certainly possible and we should explore how we can turn these behaviours into life-long habits whilst ensuring a positive impact on health and wellbeing and on the environment.
This week, we published Our Climate Charter. Climate sensitivity and its protection has been a founding feature of our Practice since its inception and it is embedded in the sustainable design agenda we actively pursue. Over the past few months we have seen our industry and its professional institutions make public declarations regarding the Climate Emergency and the actions that should be taken for us to tackle it. All these declarations have inspired us to reflect on how we talk about our behaviour and approach which is why we have developed our charter. It sets out the principles that we rely on to inform our work, principles that we have been evolving and testing over decades. We fully intend to evolve them further. We clearly cannot do this on our own, we are truly collaborative. We need and want to work with others, many others, especially when considered at city scale.
We are privileged to be invited into communities to help them reshape their built environment. We want to take these opportunities beyond the brief, but within their budget, to maximise their value and deliver meaningful positive change for the benefit of the people who experience these places and showcase the natural environment that lies hidden below.
The 20-minute neighbourhood concept offers a real opportunity to create more prosperous towns and cities, and enable us all to lead happier, healthier lives.