A Key to Controlling Emissions: More Buildings in a City’s Unused Spaces – A New York Times Article

Long Island Construction Law does not own this content. This content was created by Peter Wilson and was published to the New York Times on September 19th, 2022.

Just south of the River Thames in the heart of London, the whine and hammering of construction mingles with the laughter of children playing in a park behind Elephant and Castle, one of the city’s largest and ugliest road junctions.

This is Elephant Park, a three-acre plot of fountains, swings and slides and open space at the center of a large redevelopment which has seen the Brutalist architecture of a 1,200-home public housing estate replaced by a new neighborhood that by 2026 will hold about 2,924 apartments and townhouses.

About two thousand units are already occupied, and the residents who walk their dogs in the park or watch their children playing seem happy to chat about the normal issues surrounding regeneration projects, such as the fate of the previous residents and whether the gentrification will drive away noisy youths who still loiter in the park after dark.

One resident walking her dog complained recently that her rent is becoming unaffordable, before quickly adding that she is delighted to have a supermarket and gym in the same building as her one-bedroom apartment, with rail and Underground stations right next door and shops, bars, a yoga studio, a library and medical facilities sprinkled through the development.

But another debate is drawing extra attention to Elephant Park: the role of large scale urban renewal projects like this in fighting climate change.

“It is an absolutely exemplary example of what we need to be doing to make cities greener, and we need to be doing it quickly and all around the world,” said Kate Meyrick, a British-born urban consultant based in Brisbane, Australia, who studies urban developments.

“The developers were primarily just trying to make a great place for people to live, and they have achieved that with a really interesting mix of spaces and services,” she said. “But a byproduct is that they have also created real climate benefits.”

In April the latest report of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said one of the most effective ways to cut the carbon emissions of cities was to stop the relentless expansion of urban sprawl by promoting infill housing, the carefully planned creation of extra housing in underutilized parts of cities to reduce car dependence and improve the efficiency of infrastructure and energy use.

Ms. Meyrick is adamant that the biggest benefits of infill housing come with neighborhood-scale developments like the Elephant Park project built by developer Lendlease, rather than scattering new houses and units through backyards and other empty city spaces.

Large scale infill developments have reinvigorated cities from New York to Milan over the past two decades, Ms. Meyrick said, “but they have generally been driven by the need for housing and now they need to be much more recognized and promoted as a weapon against climate change.”

Hélène Chartier, the Paris-based director of urban planning and design at C40, a network of 96 of the world’s leading cities, agreed that the greatest climate benefits of infill housing come at neighborhood scale. She said there should be urgent public investment and revamped planning rules to support such developments.

To view the full article, written by Peter Wilson, please click here.

John Caravella Esq., is a construction attorney and formerly practicing project architect at The Law Office of John Caravella, P.C., representing architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and owners in all phases of contract preparation, litigation, and arbitration across New York and Florida. He also serves as an arbitrator to the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Panel. Mr. Caravella can be reached by email: John@LIConstructionLaw.com or (631) 608-1346.

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