Climate change is arguably the mainstream sociopolitical issue of our times, with the potential to impact people and communities on a global scale.
With the recent Paris Climate summit reinforcing the topic throughout mainstream news outlets, developed cities of the world are increasingly turning their focus to the sustainability and optimisation of carbon-producing transportation methods.
New disruptive technologies like the Uber ride-sharing service are antagonising traditional power structures in the transportation sector, as well as making architects reassess their assumptions of the role of vehicles in the built environment. The growing ‘sharing economy’ (of which Uber is a part) and which is predicated on the widespread availability of mobile internet services, is putting to use the amount of underutilised resources in the first-world urban environment. Social innovations like public transport and car-pooling represent only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what efficiencies can be achieved in the dynamic space of commuter transportation. Accordingly, architecture needs to respond to these changes and offer appropriate solutions that have meaningful flow-on effects.
The diversification of commuter transportation might also be partly attributed to the mainstream success of the bicycle and the trend of cycling to work. With bike paths and lanes supporting health-conscious, inner-city cyclists, many businesses have begun to attract staff though office perks that align lifestyle flexibility to amenities such as end-of-trip services, shower facilities, and high-quality European-made bike stations. If businesses want to continue to retain talented staff, issues pertaining to the commutation of workers require ever more intelligent solutions that maximise work-life balance, time with family and friends, and ultimately a healthier workforce. Lifestyle amenities such as these demonstrate an investment in the way that architecture can buttress the prosperity of the urban citizen and create measurable improvements in the way people live.
Similar thinking is evident in a recent retirement living project, where it was proving difficult to provide sufficient basement car parking for every unit. The developer was told that a proportion of the bays could be devoted to a communal pool of vehicles which residents could access when needed. This not only reduced the number of bays required, but it reduced the development cost of the project, and the amount of unused vehicles. Architects can demonstrate innovative thinking by supporting this ‘reuse’ of privately-owned resources, and create improvements in the mobility and flexibility of the urban lifestyle.
This sort of car parking solution could have similar application to student accommodation facilities, hotels and resorts, or anywhere where people in need of a car also happen to be technologically-savvy, and familiar with the functionality of internet-based sharing services. In these environments, cars could easily fulfil a more transient role than their traditional ownership structure intended.
As people continue to rethink their carbon footprint, the resources they consume, and ultimately their responsibility to the communities where they live, architects will have to be responsive to the changes that these choices affect in the environment.