Arthur Williamson

Suggestions from Arthur Williamson
Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Solar Power Expert

In setting out to rebuild Christchurch we have the opportunity to do many things. However to achieve the maximum we need to embark on an integrated programme. Within that we will need to satisfy many specific goals and each of us will have priorities that should be considered. Some want a rapid return to business in the CBD some want to rebuild with a modern theme, some want to retain the heritage buildings. My own interests are in the energy requirements of the city in particular the opportunity to make maximum use of the sun and the opportunity we have to move into the twenty first century in public transport. We must it seems rebuild some ten thousand houses  and possibly abandon whole areas in the eastern suburbs reverting them to open land and developing whole new housing areas elsewhere. This creates an excellent opportunity to develop new housing areas with roading and house siting designed to make maximum use of the sun. Houses can be designed to be be highly energy efficient. In an exercise a few years ago we found that houses could be built that, without any extremes of appearance would reduce their energy consumption to 40% or less of the average domestic energy consumption. Specific energy features of such houses added less than  5% to the cost of building and equipping them and in effect returned close to 10%  per annum  in reduced energy costs. This is pretty good compared with a black granite kitchen benchtop! However this is not likely to happen without appropriate regulation. Will CERA, with its wide ranging powers have the will to bring this about?

On another matter we have already demonstrated over recent years that attempts to produce a public transport system based upon the systems that are used in large high density cities don’t really work here. A couple of years ago a group of Canterbury University students devised a completely different system that was based on  roaming small passenger vehicles directed by computer and GPS and called by phone or from roadside call points. I think such a random route, random time multi passenger “Taxibus” system has considerable merit in providing convenience close to that of the private car while reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Now is the time to try something of this kind in Christchurch.

As I mentioned earlier the whole redevelopment of the city will require consideration of many more factors than I have discussed here  and will involve a high level of integrated and long term thinking.

This sends my mind back to a study tour I joined a few years ago to Curitiba in Brazil. Curitiba is often held up as an example of a city with excellent achievements in both its physical structure and its social structure. The key to planning this sustainable city was the establishment of a permanent planning “institute” working at arms length from the City council but with considerable power. This separation of planning (institute) from day-to-day operations (council) is I believe a significant factor in Curitiba’s achievement. While I would not suggest that we copy Curitiba exactly but we could benefit by copying their method

Perhaps CERA might be able to operate in this way. Perhaps we might be bold enough to see if we can get advice  and direction from Jaime Lerner, the mayor who brought about modern sustainable  Curitiba.

Posted on 15/04/2011 by Lucas Associates |