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From the Ground Up: Rebuilding Christchurch as a Sustainable City

Dr. Susan Krumdieck is an energy researcher and a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Canterbury. I met her earlier this year at the 2013 NERI Energy Conference, where she gave a spoken presentation and was listed as an author for five different posters being presented!

Susan argues that the current recovery and growth strategies for Christchurch, put in place since the earthquakes, are taking the city down the wrong path. For example, the  Land Use Recovery Plan (LURP) “is a short sighted and dangerous plan for the city in several ways: it puts the cohesion of the city at risk, pulling the people from the city center, it will be very expensive to build, and people will lose a lot of money in property that will not give a return on their investment”.

The LURP seems likely to be ratified today, although things seem to be complicated

Working with other researchers, Susan has proposed an alternate growth plan for Christchurch: “to redevelop within the city in a way that would re-energize the city, boost the economy and provide affordable housing”. In particular, the team suggested more intensive redevelopment of the Riccarton area as a way of beginning this process.

Susan has put together a couple of videos explaining her team’s proposals. The first one, below, is four minutes long and a pretty good introduction to her take on the situation.

The second one, below, is a 48 minute public seminar, and goes through the Christchurch situation and the researchers’ proposals in more detail.

Note that both videos, if you open them in Youtube rather than here on the site (click the “Youtube” button in the lower right of the video screen), have notes and comments which explain a bit more. In brief:

The ‘From the Ground Up’ project had the simple objectives of developing a plan to house 15,000 people within the urban boundary in a way that provides a rate of return on investment over 10% for developers, provides warm, low-energy sustainable housing for 20,000 people across the spectrum of income levels, which can adapt to zero oil-based transport and which can drive development of urban infrastructure like electric trams and the central city. The project used a methodology based on science, engineering, and research of best practice. The project resulted in a plan for “New Riccarton” a re-build of an old suburb into a new urban area with all the amenities.

We’ll hopefully be hearing more from Susan in the future – perhaps including some guest posts.

8 comments to From the Ground Up: Rebuilding Christchurch as a Sustainable City

  • Fred

    I blame Brownlee. What an idiot.

  • Ross Clark

    I visited Christchurch as part of a recent visit to New Zealand. What struck me was the way in which the CBD has emptied out. The jobs have shifted either to well south of Moorhouse Ave, which is the CBD’s southern boundary, or out to the airport area.

    What discussion has there been on where the jobs should be located, as distinct from where people live?

    • John Polkinghorne

      Hi Ross, in terms of jobs I’m not up to date with the latest – but as a result of those trends with the CBD, yes, there’s been significant growth in employment in suburban office parks, CBD fringe and so on. The government has made a strong commitment to the CBD, including major ‘anchor projects’, and I think they’ve done a good job with that. Some other important growth areas, including industrial-type stuff at Hornby. Generally, employment will remain more centralised than residential, giving rise to some of the potential issues which Susan talks about.

      • Hobbit

        Hi John – thanx for your reply – my concern is that, no matter how concentrated one’s residential areas might be, if jobs are dispersed, it is next to impossible for public transport to service them. So, if the jobs are concentrated as much as possible, that is still a good thing.

  • Where a dwelling is is more significant than what it is in terms of energy efficiency and therefore sustainability, or as we now say; resilience:

    http://theconversation.com/why-energy-saving-homes-often-use-more-energy-20589

    “Most new houses are built in the outer suburbs of our major cities, often with a lack of reliable public transport services, forcing householders to rely on cars for travelling long distances. This leads to a significant demand for transport-related energy, particularly petrol, especially compared to inner-city households.”

    • Greg N

      Which begs the questions, are the increased ($ and energy) costs of building a 8-9 star rated (passive energy) building ever recouped over the life of the building compared to a 6 star (standard) building in the same location? Your article in your link indicates not.

      The total 50 year energy use of both is about the same, but the 8-9 star one has 6% more embedded energy, which is the same as the %age difference in operational energy use between the 6 star and the 8-9 star building – so you in effect buy your 6% efficiency “up front” rather than pay for it as you go (in effect turning future OPEX into “todays” CAPEX to use an economic term).

      I can see why the building companies and their suppliers here (and in Aus) rub their hands with glee over such “efficiency rules”
      - they get to charge that 6% energy saving up front when the place is built rather than having it being spent with the energy companies who provide the power/energy for heating and cooling over 50 years. Which building company wouldn’t take a extra 6% increase in their sales $?

      Maybe thats the real reason why Meridian and MRP shares are tanking and Genesis float is off the table – they’re losing their previously assumed “6%” energy share to the likes of Fletchers?

      The elephant in the room with these two is the transport energy costs at 25% – the same for all 3,

      I guess the transport economists could argue that a building once built seldom gets more efficient (without more CAPEX) but over 50 years the energy used for the transport options used to get to/from said building will generally decrease, So the 25% energy use for transport should well decrease as a portion.

      But there is this point too:

      “The city apartment results in lower energy use across all categories. This is due to the smaller living space per person, meaning fewer materials and a smaller area to heat and cool.”

      It is interesting to note that while the apartment overall is more efficient in energy use, Thats mostly because its a smaller building,to start with so you’re not comparing McMansions in the burbs with McMansion apartments in the city and also the transport energy use in energy term is halved..

      However, the heating and cooling portion of the apartment “operating costs” at 29% represents a much higher energy value (1.8 times)of the next worst performer – the 6 star house,- even though the apartment is smaller. So the apartment is quite a lot less operationally energy efficient with regards “heating and cooling” than the “bad” 6 star home.

      So perhaps something needs to be done to make all those currrent and future apartments more efficient operationally as well as leverage their intrinisic transport efficiency, to make their overall energy footprint as small as possible..

  • I would like to let people know that the From the Ground Up team have been working hard over the summer to build up the base data for the University Village city street re-development near the Canterbury campus. It’s always fun to discuss and look at examples and think about what might be. But as an engineering team, we find it fun to figure out how it could happen. Watch for a launch of the From the Ground Up University Village project in March.

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