September Fires, Wild Winds and Subdivision Design

The weather is crazy here, there are two people dead, houses have burnt to the ground, people have been evacuated, and wild winds have whipped across the state as fifty bushfires remain burning at the end of the day. The temperature here in Newcastle was as high as 35 degrees this morning, we were in air-conditioned comfort for most of the day, but its still 28 degrees here at 7pm tonight, as we try to get the girls asleep.

Robyn quoted a news report today that said that it is predicted that this summer there will be twice as many days above 35 degrees Celsius compared to last year. This is a worrying statistic for bushfires, drought conditions, water supplies, and energy consumption for air conditioning.

We live in a hundred year old weather board house just kilometres from the coast. The house is sturdy, but not well sealed against this sort of wind, and these temperatures. Our house is typical of many in the city of Newcastle, poorly designed against increasing temperatures and severity of storm conditions that are expected with Global Warming.

Bushfires in September are rare, deaths and property loss from early bushfires are even rarer. The rural fire service planning regulations for prevention of fires are hotly contested by developers who feel that land dedicated to provide an asset protection zone against fires is land lost from sales potential.

Sit in a PARKing spot

Some cities have very little green space. The guys over a Rebar, a group of designers and activist in San Fransisco have started a day of action that you can read about here…


One of the more critical issues facing outdoor urban human habitat is the increasing paucity of space for humans to rest, relax, or just do nothing. For example, more than 70% of San Francisco’s downtown outdoor space is dedicated to the private vehicle, while only a fraction of that space is allocated to the public realm.

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Developers paying for rezoning – per block…

It seems that money hungry councils are popping up all over Australia, finding new and exciting ways to line their coffers.

AdelaideNow… $15,000 bill for land buyers:

MT BARKER Council will force housing developers to pay up to $15,000 a block to rezone land, with the cost passed on to buyers already facing an affordability crisis. In a first for South Australia, the fee would pay for capital works and services across the council area. Developers now pay for infrastructure including roads, stormwater and sewage pipes only on the estates they develop. The council said it may not rezone any more land for housing if developers refused to pay.

Cul-de-Sacs and Turning Heads

Some people love them, others hate them. Personally, I think they are useful to maximise the lot yield of terrain dependant sites, but when used to attempt to create private roads and spaces with no regard to the form of the land, Cul-de-Sacs become pretty tiring. (If you can’t access the NY Times article, there’s a pdf of it here.

Why Some Towns Place Roadblocks on Cul-de-Sacs – New York Times:

Highly popular after World War II, the cul-de-sac is essentially a dead-end residential street, often but not always ending with a large circular patch of pavement allowing vehicles to turn around. The form was initially embraced as something that promoted security, neighbourliness and efficient transportation…

Homeowners found that the cul-de-sac limited traffic, creating a sense of privacy, while encouraging ties among neighbours, who could hardly avoid one another. Developers liked the cul-de-sac because it made it possible to build on land unsuited to a grid street pattern and because home buyers were willing to pay a premium to live on one…

…while people within a cul-de-sac may know one another well, they are less likely to know people who live on other streets. “What was lost is a sense of community,” [Michael Lykoudis, dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame] said.

What I dislike more than Cul-de-Sacs are

Subtropical Cities Conference 2006

One fo the unique things about Australia is it’s diverse climate, and it’s neat to see Brisbane hosting the Subtropical Cities Conference for this year  – H.T. to Brisburbology.

Centre for Subtropical Design – Conference

Subtropical Cities 2006 conference aims to raise the level of public debate about achieving ecologically sustainable urbanism in subtropical settlements through attention to climate responsive design.

Looks like some interesting speakers with experience in countries such as Mexico, Thailand, South Africa, Brazil, and of course Australia.  It would be nice to see some of the papers that would be presented at a conference like this that has a particularly sustainable flavour to it.

Freeways for Sydney?

The Sydney Morning Herald recently ran this story about the US transportation and planning expert Wendell Cox who is arguing for more freeways in Sydney to allow for greater home ownership.  (H.T. Planetizen).

Back to the ‘burbs – the case for the car – National –

…if inadequate public transport is not the reason, why does Sydney have such transport problems? Cox says the city needs more freeways. Of 30 urban areas in the developed world with a population of more than 3 million, “Sydney ranks 29th for lane kilometres of freeway per square kilometre. Only London has fewer. Sydney is also relatively poorly served by arterial roads.”

You can read my comments on this issue, as someone who occasionally has to navigate the back streets of Sydney to get anywhere, at Planetizen, check out the other comments about Cox’s credibility too.

Newcastle Transport corridor for Sale

Imagine the headlines:

Newcastle Transport corridor for Sale

The State Rail Authority today announced the sale of the rail corridor land between Hamilton and Newcastle stations, freeing the way for Newcastle City Council and local developers to join the foreshore and the city at last. The Newcastle Rail Alliance and Hunter Rail Heritage groups have begun a joint legal challenge in the courts, but finding little support from the Novocastrians who travel into the city and harbour foreshore region for work and recreation.

Walking around on the grass

What do you get when university students aren’t even allowed to walk or sit on the grass on campus? I imagine it would be something like this…

Inhabitat Blog Archive GRASS WHEEL:

A group of students from Dalhousie School of Architecture decided to remedy this problem with a street-ready grass-lined wheel. The wheel is of simple construction – just plywood, mesh, fishing line, and sod, but it’s loaded with meaning. On one hand, it’s a playful protest to the lack of public green space in Halifax. On the other hand, using sod for their material offers a deeper critique on urban greenery. (Photo by Andre Forget – Click on the image to see more of his work).


Universities have long been a source of activism, but this