The Hidden Cost Revealed

Elevated Garden City

An example of how we could use what we currently waste. Courtesy of

This week we look at the REAL cost of how we live, work and play and think about ways that we could use what we currently commit to the rubbish heap; making more out of what we waste!  Meshing our community together allows us to share things in ways that previous generations did, but on a much larger, more integrated and more purposeful way.  As we look toward the rebuilding of Christchurch we need to stand up and do what we say when it comes to having a clean, green garden city that will ultimately represent and showcase New Zealand to the whole world.

The rebuilding of Christchurch is so much more important than just getting this city functional again.  In so many ways the world is looking at us – and doing so closely.  New Zealand’s 100% pure marketing campaign has been vastly successful around the world, but are we just paying lip service to this concept?  Are we prepared to really put our money where our mouths are and LIVE this rather than just talk about it?  I think, looking at the suggestions on the public forum, ReImagine Christchurch, that environmentally friendly and sustainable ideas are at the front of everyone’s minds!

Check out, for example some of the most popular suggestions:

There is no need to recreate the wheel when it comes to rebuilding Christchurch.  There are spectacular examples around the world of cities that incorporate the sustainability, environmentally responsible and aesthetically appealing aspects we all seem to be looking for.  Take, for example, high density and uniform city height of Copenhagen in Denmark! The buildings in Copenhagen are no more than 5 storeys and those buildings (cathedrals etc) that rise above this height become the landmark, iconic buildings of the city.  Let’s stop thinking about all the new things we can create and think about what we already have at our disposal (globally) and how we can recycle it in new ways for our own unique purpose!

I personally like the idea of the elevated garden city as put forward by Grant Ryan, Julian Cone and Sander Murray.  When we think of making use of waste, these innovative thinkers have taken an unseen waste space (the top of buildings) and they propose turning it into the very thing that Christchurch claims as its own; green space.  What else do we waste (often unknowingly) in a typical, traditional city layout that we can use in the new Christchurch?  Imagine, for example, if we could develop a transparent solar panel that we could use as windows in buildings.  What if we could create a roading system where the energy of vehicles travelling over the road surface was captured and available to power electric buses and cars?!  All new residential buildings in suburban Christchurch (and there are going to be a lot of them – over 12,000 residential homes are thought to have been severely damaged as a result of both earthquakes) could have rainwater collection tanks, solar panels and even small wind turbines as part of the package…there are endless possible options!

And in addition to the buildings themselves, we need to look at the infrastructure.  As I have said in previous blogs, we should consider the layout and use of our transportation systems.  Ideally we should be directing traffic to existing urban hubs but linking these hubs to the central city area creating a flow into and back out of the central city.  Think about why people congregate towards the urban malls?  They go there because it is close to where they live, they can walk, the parking is good or there are good, reliable and convenient public transport links.  They can get everything that they need in one place, they meet their friends for shopping, leisure, community!  As we look at the redesign of central Christchurch I believe we need to give people a reason to go there that is not just shopping and business.  Let’s face it – those needs are met in many other places in the city.  If that is what we are seeking to recreate in the central city we are just creating a glorified suburban mall in the middle of the city!

If we want people to live in the city we need to ensure that their daily needs are met in a sustainable manner.  Convenience, simplicity, reliability and economy – combining all these things into the products and services that feed the central city population will attract existing residents of the city; AND will attract our expats back to the city and provide a platform for our global community to choose Christchurch as a home!  Bike sharing, electric-car hire, coffices, flexible retail and business spaces – the ability to share many of the things that we identify with as part of our essential kiwi-ness.  Because if we can share these iconic things with each other, we can then share them with the rest of the world…and offer everyone a chance to know what it is to be a kiwi!

So…does anyone want to start a “rent-a-tent” business with me?

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