Two sustainable neighbourhoods

02 April 2019

Long read.

by Shepard Barnes 

Sustainably developed neighbourhoods in large cities are growing to become a popular trend worldwide. These neighbourhoods are designed with specific goals in mind: implement more green space, provide sustainable means for transportation including walking and biking paths, improve connection to public transportation, reduce use of natural resources and encourage people to socialize and engage with events taking place in the region. Two regions that have impressively developed to incorporate these aspects include Navy Yard in Washington DC, USA and Wynyard Quarter in Auckland, New Zealand.

Navy Yard is a neighbourhood in Washington DC located directly beside the Anacostia River. The waterfront was originally a busy industrial region for shipbuilding, but it experienced a decline in use during the 1900s. A series of revitalization projects have attempted to create walkable areas next to the river which increase human engagement with the local environment. The area is now one of the most popular locations in DC for entertainment and housing and is certified gold under the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program.

A notable feature in Navy Yard is Yards Park. Yards Park is a large public green space beside the river with a wading pool and waterfall where children can play. After crossing a bridge and boardwalk beside the park, restaurants and shops are available for visitors to enjoy while staying riverside.

During the development process, Navy Yard was outfitted with a number of advanced rainwater management systems including a graywater system, flow thru planter boxes, and vertical recharge shafts. Sidewalks in Navy Yard are lined with rainwater bioretention areas to improve the absorption of water back into the earth. Tree boxes, designated planters for trees that have the capacity to store water, limit the amount of water dumped into the nearby sewage system. Soil used in this process also helps biofiltration occur.

Navy Yard: This large pool area allows rainwater to be collected sustainably. Children enjoy swimming in the pool when the temperature is moderate.

Another smaller park located away from the river has a small green space and attached rain garden. The rain garden is used to improve water retention and circulation in the neighbourhood. Small fountains are embedded in the ground nearby to entertain visitors with a water show of sustainably sourced water.

Navy Yard will likely see massive growth in the coming years due to its proximity to public transportation. The underground metro has stops directly beside Navy Yard, so accessibility to surrounding areas in D.C. is entirely possible without a car. Additionally, bike racks are a common feature throughout the region to encourage cycling rather than automobile use.

Wynyard Quarter in Auckland, New Zealand has features that are strikingly similar to those seen in Navy Yard. The area is a popular location for tourists and residents alike to walk, eat and be entertained. Much like Navy Yard, Wynyard Quarter was also previously an industrial region that reached its peak use in the 1900s.After experiencing a decline, much of the land surrounding the region became free for development. In 2011, revitalization projects planned to introduce a park, public event spaces, and pedestrian bridge into the area.

The vision for this region is to have a space that mixes residential, retail and commercial development whilst developing sustainably and creating a safe and comfortable environment for those who visit. In accordance with the Sustainable Development Framework, (a detailed explanation of key environmental goals for Waterfront Auckland) Wynyard Quarter aims to improve accessibility, incorporate more Green Star certified projects, and increase social engagement. Green Star certified projects are easily located throughout the area. Green Star certified buildings have improved water and material management, energy usage, indoor environmental quality, and emission control. A key feature of Wynyard Quarter is the Wynyard Crossing, a walking and cycling bridge that lifts to allow boats to navigate through the small channel. Pedestrians and cyclists can appreciate the waterfront while not interrupting activities occurring in the waterways. Restaurants and bars line the sidewalk leading up to the bridge which allows visitors to enjoy a meal while overlooking the water.

Case Study: This 2014 case study takes a closer look into how Wynyard Quarter implemented sustainable designs.

The Jellicoe Street Rain Gardens (located on page 48/78) treat storm water, provide passive irrigation, and reduce sediment discharge to the sea all while ensuring the rain from over 9000 square meters is properly contained within the system to minimize storm water peaks.

In order to improve human interactions within the area, art and entertainment events are common in areas around Silo Park (a subsection of Wynyard Quarter). Silo 6 is an art gallery space that utilizes old silos to display art exhibits. Just a stone’s throw away, another silo with surrounding green space is used to have projected movies play publicly on the weekends.

Wynyard Quarter: This overhead view of Wynyard Quarter shows bit of the walkway and connected boardwalk in Silo Park, the water retaining pool area, and green space for entertainment.

Both Navy Yard and Wynyard Quarter have demonstrated exceptional growth in sustainable development not just environmentally, but also socially, culturally and economically. Humans interacting in the green spaces and public spaces is increasing the region’s ability to provide a safe and comfortable living environment. Through positive social interactions and engagement with the environment, societies will further propel individuals to prosper in proper balance with the Earth and its available resources.

Sustainably developed neighbourhoods are increasingly popular around the world. Frameworks supporting the careful management of neighbourhoods through the development, implementation and use phases are readily available. Green Star Communities such a framework that empowers developers to achieve sustainable development. It can be tailored to suit any combination of industrial, residential, community,or commercial neighbourhood projects. Find out more about Green Star Communities here.