With human-centric design at the forefront of emerging home and city discussions, we are seeing exciting initiatives arising to deliver a higher quality of life, improve environmental impact, inclusion and equality, and efficiency gains.
As the Australian population grows, housing has evolved away from sprawling lots with huge backyards towards higher density city living. This is overlayed with the increasingly unaffordable inner-city prices and a trend towards prioritising lifestyle and family over time spent in the car or on public transport. With Sydney’s inner suburbs calling for purchasers to invest in upwards of $2-3 million to secure a small home with minimal living space, people are realising that they can achieve a higher standard of living by turning their attention to beachside havens, such as Terrigal on the Central Coast.
The challenges now lie with town planners, governments, local councils and communities to look at how they can create initiatives to ensure that our towns adapt to the changing environment. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a human-centric town. It should be an extension of its inhabitants, seamlessly meeting their needs and enhancing their lifestyle. Such a town should understand the citizens of that area and their needs.
The best human centric cities consider these things:
Access to Nature
The ability to connect with nature is essential to our mental health and wellbeing. In inner cities, people are working to carve out green space in the form of indoor plants, community gardens and nature strip vegetable patches.
But for many, this isn’t enough, hence the ongoing trend for people to move away from capital cities and towards coastal towns. In a regional area, people can afford to buy closer to the water and in many areas also have easy access to national parks. The accessibility and usability are far better in Terrigal or Avoca in NSW’s Central Coast than in Bondi or Manly, and local coworking spaces allow people to work remotely, commuting to Sydney only when strictly necessary.
Local businesses and services
Smart businesses are looking at how they can deliver seamless customer experiences. The recent Rotary Park upgrade in Terrigal is an excellent example of how understanding the way the locals live can lead to thoughtful development.
The playground is a fenced space, making it a safer environment for children to run around and explore. Parents and grandparents can get a single origin coffee and healthy meal from the small kiosk within the area, and picnic blankets are available to spread out on the grass. The kiosk will even deliver food, coffee and picnic rug to your car if bub is sleeping or if you are road tripping with no time to stop. This business model provides a seamless and enjoyable experience for the whole family.
Bike Paths and Walking Tracks
Neighbourhoods, where you can ditch the car, are healthier and encourage more walking and bike riding. Taking a human-centric approach to town planning considers both recreational and daily commuting walking and cycling paths enable more physical lifestyles rather than sedentary commutes sitting behind the steering wheel.
To ensure that the paths are safe and easy to navigate, good lighting is critical. A smart city initiative in Cairns is implementing Integrated Multifunctional Smart Lampposts which use LED technology with sensors to avoid wasted energy and minimise impact to local animals and their environment. They also include CCTV cameras, an emergency button, sensors to measure air quality and public WiFi.
The key to a seamless city living is to combine advances in technology with human-centric thinking, to ensure that our “smart cities” integrate cohesively with our lifestyle.