‘New urbanism’: Building communities for people, not cars
Amid the worsening traffic situation in bustling metropolis, developing countries like the Philippines should start employing a pedestrian-friendly and “people-centric” urban design that fosters sustainable communities and encourages people to walk from point to point instead of taking their cars, according to real estate executives.
This is possible through new urbanism, an international planning movement that focuses on environment-friendly practices, which “reforms the design of the built environment and raises the quality of life and standard of living by creating better places to live.”
Rafa Fernandez de Mesa, First Vice President of Operations of the Cebu-bred AboitizLand, said new urbanism takes inspiration from traditional neighborhoods where civic spaces like parks and churches were very accessible by foot from one’s home. This design movement, he said, promotes walkability, connectivity, mixed and diverse types of housing, quality of design, increased density, and sustainability.
“What’s interesting about that is this group of architects and planners, they were tired of sprawl and design that’s just about getting as many houses as you can in a certain area. These guys, they looked back at history on what makes a community flourish and it goes down really on how you plan a place, and taking inspiration from the past, they incorporated new technology and best practices,” De Mesa said during the launch of AboitizLand’s Seafront Residences in Taguig.
While saying that the movement can be a complicated concept that is still new to the Philippine market, AboitizLand spokesperson John Amon noted that its main idea was to basically build thriving communities or real estates around the needs of people and not for cars and other automotive.
This was done in Seafront Residences, a 43-hectare residential development in San Juan, Batangas, by prioritizing shared spaces like parks instead of wide parkways in front of houses.
“What new urbanism tells us is that, communities or real estate should not be planned around cars. It should be planned around people, and that’s one of the biggest flaws of developing countries like ours,” Amon told INQUIRER.net in an interview.
“We call it the urban sprawl, like everyone just builds a mall in the main highway and we expect people to drive their cars during sale periods and at the same time drive home from work. What do you have? You have six-hour traffic jams that really just destroys the quality of life of people,” he added.
Amon said modern Filipino homes should be immediately part of a community where kids will enjoy growing up and where retirees are not afraid to grow old alone.
“What new urbanism tells us is you build communities not around cars but around the pedestrian concept. People have to be empowered to walk from one point to the next within five to ten minutes, whether it’s from their house to a retail area, their house to a transportation hub. This encourages people to live healthier, happier, and more meaningful lives and not spend half of their day in their cars. That’s something we feel strongly about,” Amon added.
In Seafront Residences, De Mesa said each naturally-lit house with green landscapes would be five- to ten-minute walk from an amenity and pens up to a diamond-shaped park where families can spend time together. “Taken together, we are also managing the environmental impact, energy-efficiency, and eco-friendliness of the community,” he said.
Athlete Charo Soriano of Beach Volleyball Republic (BVR), an AboitizLand partner, highlighted the importance of a neighborhood or community in promoting a healthy lifestyle among its residents. Family life, sports, career, and recreation can be incorporated in one circle, she said.
“BVR is actually an organization of people who believe so much in what Aboitiz believes in—the quality of living and healthy lifestyle. In beach volleyball we’re focused in building this community which envelopes this sport. It’s very much exciting for us to be in partners with Aboitiz and Seafront Residences in their mission to provide a healthier lifestyle and a shared community in Batangas,” Soriano said.
“It’s really about empowerment and we’re talking about the shared community of the people, people are able to live quality lives and healthy lifestyle. That’s something that we believe in and push to the Filipino community,” she added. IDL
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