As our cities grow, people are looking at density through a new lens. But true urban transformation demands a new approach to community engagement, says Wood & Grieve Engineers’ Darren Pesich.
Australia added an additional 1,000 citizens a week to our cities over the last decade. But population growth is just part of the urban renewal story, says Pesich, principal civil section manager with WGE, now part of Stantec.
“A host of factors are coming together to create the critical mass we need to redevelop our cities. We’re seeing a lot of land uses changing as buildings reach the end of their design life and redundant assets are reimagined,” Pesich says.
Evolutions in everything from e-commerce to energy, transport to technology are forcing radical rethinks on the way our cities function.
“We’re also seeing a change of mindset in what density could look like.”
A generational shift is underway, Pesich adds. Millennials are now the largest group of adults in Australia, and they are looking for lifestyle, location and low-maintenance amenity – characteristics delivered by urban density.
“As strategic sites become available, the industry can showcase what good density can look like. People are beginning to see that it is possible to strike the balance between activity, vibrancy and space to stretch the legs.
“We need to be brave with our vision for urban renewal, but we will never gain community acceptance if people can’t visualise the future. It is only once the vision is embraced that we can support proposals that may initially conflict with existing uses.”
WGE’s Reality Engineering service provides the “tools of the trade” to convert an urban renewal vision into reality, Pesich explains.
“3D models put a project into context. The community gets a good feel for what the future development will actually look like. People can see that a new building won’t overshadow existing dwellings or block out views, for example. Visualisation is the easiest way to give the community reassurance.”
The industry is moving towards these tools, but slowly. Pesich points to 3D holograms and virtual reality headsets that can provide immersive experiences, and QR codes on the street corner that can provide instant access to details of a proposed development.
“The technology is all there. We recently undertook a consultation with more than 2,000 people using a virtual model. Without it, I doubt residents would have accepted the project.
“Millennials make up to 80 per cent of their decisions based on their online research, so our industry’s ability to create that vision online will become paramount. Any public forums could be a waste of time if we aren’t engaging with Millennials and the next generation in ways that resonate with them.”
WGE, now part of Stantec, has a passion for creating strong and vibrant communities. With a focus on four pillars – arts, education, environment, and health and wellness – Stantec strengthens the communities it serves. Find out more.