Thursday, June 21, 2012

Towards a Sustainable Urban Form in Chiang Mai

By Brenda Scheer

This chapter reports on the traditional and new urban forms of Chiang Mai, Thailand. The research was conducted over a six-week period in July and August of 1998. The purpose of the study is to compare the traditional urban settlement form of the city with the newer patterns that are now being built in response to its rapid growth. In particular, we are interested in their comparative sustainability.
Fast growing cities are particularly vulnerable to non-sustainable building practices: overtaxing of the infrastructure; construction of new buildings that require excessive resources to build and maintain; building in distant areas that are difficult to access and may destroy farmland or habitat; and destruction of traditional cultural settings (e.g. neighborhood coffee shops) that support a particular quality of life. Thus, a sustainable urban form is one that can adapt well to the requirements of growth and change without destroying natural resources and traditional culture in the process.
That different urban forms can have very different degrees of sustainability is well-established (Frey 1999, Jenks 1996). It is also established that there is not a single model of sustainable urban form that is applicable in all situations (Guy and Marvin, 2000). In fact, there is some controversy regarding even the simplest assumptions about sustainable form, however, there are some widely accepted principles of sustainable urban form that might serve as criteria for evaluating particular urban form alternatives:
1) Create and preserve higher density, compact forms. Up to a point, greater density and compactness allows more efficient provision of urban services, increases the potential for walking and public transportation, and creates community cohesiveness and sense of place. (Frey 1999, Newton 2000, Buxton 2000)
2) Preserve the urban region’s agricultural land, water systems, recreational areas, and fragile ecologies. This suggests an overall limit of urban development or clustered development that avoids sensitive land (Newton 2000).
3) Provide a mix of land uses. Segregated land uses require more frequent and longer trips, isolate people without vehicles, create inefficient “day” and “night” districts, and inhibit the formation of complex neighborhoods that promote integration, social cohesiveness and attachment to place (Masnavi, 2000)
4) Preserve the existing built form. The preservation of infrastructure and of buildings is more efficient than wholesale urban renewal and restructuring. It also preserves the sense of place and cultural continuity that is important for quality of life. (Falk 1993, Heath 2000)
5) Provide open spaces. Parks and green spaces promote clean air, exercise and recreation, animal habitat, and urban cohesiveness; they help moderate local climate, and encourage the preservation of natural areas such as rivers and forests. (Alberti, 2000)
6) Encourage moderate parcel sizes. Moderate parcel sizes impel small-scale changes that are less expensive, easier to implement, and require less disruption to the physical environment and social fabric than large scale change; (Frey 1999, Cuff 2000). There is more inherent flexibility and adaptability of parcels that are a moderate scale. (Scheer and Ferdelman, 2001)
7) Limit buildings to a moderate size. Although significant environmental technology (e.g. solar panels) and specialized design can mitigate these effects, relatively large buildings are usually less energy efficient, create urban temperature sinks, require more sophisticated technology to operate, and are built from of materials that require high energy in manufacturing and transport. (McCarthy and Battle, 2001)
8) Provide a mix of building types, sizes and ages. A mix increases land-use adaptability, moderates social and economic stratification, and provides for economic flexibility. (Jacobs, 1961).

Tuk Tuk View, Chiang MaiChiang Mai (3) Chiang Mai street Chiang Mai, Thailand
more about urban Thailand:

Planning a Deep Island: introducing Space Syntax to an urban planning process for Phuket, Thailand

Bangkok’s city development plan to include six provinces in 2011



Urban Ecology in Bangkok, Thailand: Community Participation, Urban Agriculture and Forestry

Energy Access in Urban Slums: A Case of Khon Kaen, Thailand

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