RM Journal

A community-based approach to public space design for carbon-zero: a Masters in Landscape Architecture research project


Author: Pippa Sommerville, recipient of the 2021 RMLA Scholarship

This paper addresses our need to shift to a zero-carbon lifestyle. It begins by considering how public space can contribute to this and what other cities are doing about it. A case is then made for a community-scale participatory approach, as it will empower people within the process of climate change mitigation.

Results from participant surveys in the chosen study area of Rānui, an outer suburb of Auckland, followed by consultation workshops with community members are presented, the results and outcomes from which are now informing the researchby- design stage of this project. This reflects a key shift in public space design as we shift to reduce emissions to zero by 2050.

Climate change is bringing extreme weather conditions such as drought, heat waves, heavy rain, floods and landslides to the world. A rapidly changing climate will result in rising sea levels, ocean acidification and loss of global biodiversity.

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change has advised that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is essential to reduce the extremity of weather events and avoid a collapse of essential ecosystems. To achieve that, being carbon neutral by the mid-21st century is essential (European Parliament News “What is carbon-neutrality and how can it be achieved by 2050?” (10 March 2019, updated 24 June 2021) European Parliament.

Urban public space provides multiple and diverse functions in a city and public space contributes to the preservation of biodiversity, the reconciliation of people and nature and promotes the health and well-being of the population (Ana Júlia Pinto and Antoni Remesar “Thinking Public Spaces for Low Carbon Cities” (paper presented to 45th ISOCARP Congress, October 2009) at 1–11).

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