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Town Planning - how important are backyards?

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#1 *LucyE*

Posted 23 February 2013 - 08:14 AM

I was reading this article this morning and it made me think.

‘‘If you look at any new Australian suburb. It is dramatic. It jumps out at you. Up until the 1980s it is all one thing - it is all trees,’’ he said.
‘‘By the end of the 1990s, it is all roof to roof.’’
He said any city needed backyards and Brisbane was no different.
‘‘Firstly, green space around buildings and housing is very important, it has a definite function,’’ Professor Hall said.
He said backyards absorbed stormwater, cooled homes and increased biodiversity.
‘‘So it has a very important role for the community as a whole and that is all in addition to all the recreational advantages and also the outlook from houses.’’
The solution was residents must ask local councils to demand that small blocks of land were not ‘‘covered’’ by large homes, he argued.
Professor Hall said only 50 per cent of a block should be covered by a house and the people of Brisbane should be debating the issue.

I live regionally on acreage so I love having my space and gardening. I can understand others who don't enjoy or have time to garden would prefer to have less yard maintenance. I can understand them wanting a freehold block rather than a unit as well.

I think it is too rigid to make a blanket rule about the percentage of land that must not be built upon. Times do change, populations grow and lifestyles evolve. It's important to have green space but that can be created as shared public areas. It doesn't have to be private space that causes anxiety for home owners and excludes others from using it.

What do you think?

Edited by *LucyE*, 23 February 2013 - 08:15 AM.

#2 BetteBoop

Posted 23 February 2013 - 08:44 AM

I would prefer high density living confined to a particular geographical area than the relentless urban sprawl which is destroying more and more of the natural landscape every year.

Regardless, trees serve a genuine purpose in suburbia. Most importantly, they give us cleaner air.

Developers are short sighted and incredibly greedy though. If they squeeze another house in there, they will and councils allow it because developers and local councils are often the same people.

We continue to wreak total destruction on the natural environment until it's inhospitable to any life other than human, and even that's debatable. It's incredibly depressing.

#3 kpingitquiet

Posted 23 February 2013 - 09:00 AM

I think it depends. Backyards are very important if there are crappy community greenspaces and recreational areas. Less so if you have fantastic parks, good public transit (less need for space to park/service cars), lots of recreational activities.

Living in suburban ADL, I'd go flipping nuts without a decent backyard. We spend half our life in that yard. Living in NYC I was fine with only a balcony to call my own because I had the vast and awesome Prospect Park only 2 avenues away and could walk to a zillion other activities.

I think Aussies need to embrace multi-story living. Same (if not more) living space with a much smaller footprint, allowing for more greenspace.

San Francisco is probably my ideal design for urban dwellings. Multi-story, high-density, no front yards but serviceable backyards (at least big enough for bbqs, paddling pools, small veggie patches, and a doggy bathroom), fantastic public transit, and TONS of public nature/recreation space. Similar setups work well in many US and European cities without everyone trading in private homes for apartments.

#4 Sentient Puddle

Posted 23 February 2013 - 09:11 AM

We live on close to 1000 square metres in suburbia - but all the older homes not renovated are being demolished to put up multi density occupancies.  Some of these are 3 stories (housing up to 11 units) and have no backyards.  They are also getting rid of most of the existing trees, which is the feature of the suburb - which is a great shame!  However we are on a couple of train lines, close to a transport and shopping hub, close to both private and public hospitals and many, many schools.  It is a much better place to be housing people than out in the scrub - increasing urban sprawl, where no amenities exist and building McMansions with touching rooflines.  

I also think that the pp's are correct - we can live without backyards but we need our urban environment set up in such a way so we can access parks and shared community spaces.  We also need things like footpaths and bus routes/cycle paths in order to get to such shared spaces.  Not many developments that I know in Aus are embracing such principles.

#5 ~Supernova~

Posted 23 February 2013 - 09:15 AM

I'd go nuts without a decent sized backyard. Both of my kids spend the majority of the day outside. I'm also happy to live in a smaller house to attain this.

High density living, with no backyard, and living in your neighbours lap, does not appeal to me on any level.

#6 Squeekums Da Feral

Posted 23 February 2013 - 09:18 AM

Link wouldnt work on my phone, so basing answe on quoted part.

While I dont think it should be a blanket rule on how much is left as land and house size, I personally could never live in a house with no yard.
I hate these new houses where they squeeze 3 houses on what was a 1 house with yard property.
Concrete Shoebox comes to mind. They look alike, no yard, blerg
My idea of hell is apartments and smell my sh*t closeness in houses.

#7 kpingitquiet

Posted 23 February 2013 - 09:24 AM

I should clarify, by embracing multi-story living, I don't mean apartments, necessarily. Rather 2-3 story single family homes offering 200+ sqm of living space with 67-100sqm footprint, vs sprawling 200+sqm footprint single-story homes.

#8 poppy_star

Posted 23 February 2013 - 10:49 AM

He said backyards absorbed stormwater, cooled homes and increased biodiversity.

This pretty much sums up why houses need yards, doesn't really have much to do whether people want to garden etc.  Yes I firmly believe that dwellings should restricted to a percentage footprint.  I hate houses that cover more than 75% of a block, they are nasty blight on the landscape.

Edited by poppy_star, 23 February 2013 - 10:50 AM.

#9 HRH Countrymel

Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:02 AM

QUOTE (kpingitquiet @ 23/02/2013, 10:24 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I should clarify, by embracing multi-story living, I don't mean apartments, necessarily. Rather 2-3 story single family homes offering 200+ sqm of living space with 67-100sqm footprint, vs sprawling 200+sqm footprint single-story homes.

Yes.  I lived in London for several years and the Georgian terraces were great.  

Small back yard, but still big enough for some trees and a BBQ - but with large communal parks everywhere.

I live out in the sticks on acreage - but in my former life as a city dweller I lived in the inner city - soulless suburbs with cheek by jowl McMansions taking up the entire block is my idea of hell - and a social disaster.

#10 kpingitquiet

Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:17 AM

Exactly, countrymel. The London, Georgetown, NYC (brownstones), San Fran style of urban housing can be stunning and very good for high-density living.

I get that in previous eras it wasn't wise to have a 2nd story in much of Australia due to the physics of heat and a lack of cooling, but new homes almost all have ducted cooling in our area so it really shouldn't be an issue anymore.

#11 Guest_bottle~rocket_*

Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:17 AM

I agree with the author.

Suburbs full of large houses with tiny backyards are awful, apart from  the environmental problems associated with them.  Human beings need green spaces to thrive.

We can't all live in single story houses on quarter acre blocks as we did in the past, but Mcmansions are not the solution.  Good urban design is very important.  Medium density housing near urban centres with good transport links and plenty of shared open space is the way to go.

#12 GenWhy

Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:21 AM

I love Perth and especially the older suburbs where they have huge back yards and Jacaranda trees. I dislike the new suburbs and practice of knocking down all the old houses to put a giant house on it basically touching the fence lines. I'm all for progress and agree that a lot of the old homes with big yards do need to be demolished for safety/structural reasons. But it annoys me that instead of a new house going on the block, the council allows it to be subdivided. Most of these blocks now have zero backyard as there's a triplex apartment built on what used to be a 3x1 homesite.

Especially in the far northern suburbs (eg Burns Beach, Jindalee, Butler) and some of the brand new ones south side (eg Yangebup) I find it very depressing to see entire suburbs of exactly the same house with roof tops almost touching. It's heading the same way in the far north of the state with new land releases in Karratha etc all on tiny little blocks.

I believe it's greed pure and simple. The government needs to release land that's divided into bigger sizes - trying to find anything bigger than a 450-500sqm lot is exceedingly difficult here. Considering it used to be the norm to have a 700-1200sqm lot, with a smaller house on it, that's a big difference.

The other thing to consider is the impact of migrants. A lot of people I've spoken to about my hatred of no backyards and tiny lots have looked at me like I'm mad. Perth has a very high number of immigrants from the UK and the Sudan, Somalia etc. The blocks/houses seem normal or big to them.

Another thing to consider is caveats on certain areas stating no second stories can be added. This sometime leaves little choice but to put a 4x2 on a small block leaving virtually no yard.

We are currently living in the country and have an average house with virtually no yard. All the other houses in town have yards I truly envy. Mine is far too small for kids to play in and it's too hot up here for the kids to be down at the park during the day. Another example of new housing being released without taking family needs into consideration.

I'd LOVE for the bigger blocks to come back!

#13 cinnabubble

Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:23 AM

I'd rather high density living with lots of amenities than those drive-in-drive-out suburbs where you can't even walk to the corner shop for milk or to the bus stop. Acreage is like my worst nightmare.

#14 LynnyP

Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:25 AM

Greenspace is important, for sure.  But it doesn't need to be broken into small chunks and used only by the people with a key to that front door.  Sure often I would like a backyard so I could send her out without being involved but within 100m from my front door I have a beach, two big recreational spaces with playgrounds and a bit of "bush".  Within 500m I have a massive lake surrounded by park with playgrounds and bike paths and paying space as well as another big park with tennis courts, cricket pitch, cricket nets, basketball/netball hoops.

Edited by LynnyP, 23 February 2013 - 11:26 AM.

#15 girltribe4

Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:31 AM

We did pretty much fill our block but we are in a very strict council area where a 2 storey house would never have got approval , as it was our 5 bed had to look like a 2 bed cottage with add ons rolleyes.gif
We have a huge oval across the road , are surrounded by parks and the beach a short tram ride away .
The girls don't use our ''garden'' atm as its still mainly full of building rubble , but one day I am hoping it will lovely .

#16 Ruf~Feral~es

Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:40 AM

I think to make high density housing work for families, many of us will need to change our parenting styles, to reduce the helicopter parenting that is taking over.

I grew up in a street of 1/4 acre blocks.  "Normal" suburbia in Sydney.  We backed on to bushland, there was a big park and more bushland a few streets away.  From the ages of 6 or 7, we were out on our bikes, roaming the bush, making cubbies etc.  And when we were not, we could play cricket in the backyard, swim, etc etc etc.

None of the kids around our area today are allowed out to the park without a parent until they seem to be 10 or older.  We see families out on bike rides (which is great), but kids can't just jump on their bikes and ride to a friends house around the corner.

Yes, there is more traffic, I suppose.  But I don't know that the horrors of what might happen at the park are as real as the parents seem to think.  I would let my DD go over with some friends, but none of her friends are allowed.

The reality when you have several kids is that you cannot spend the whole day supervising them in public spaces. A few hours - fine.  But for them to get out for the whole day just isn't possible, the way it was when I was growing up. So they either need more space in their gardens to play, or we need to try to relax and let them go enjoy the open spaces on their own..... at least a little bit more than we do now.

#17 poppy_star

Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:41 AM

I believe the article is talking specifically about a certain type of zoned residential suburbs.  Not whether developments high medium or low density.  The point being made is, new suburbs of low density living allow huge houses to be built on small blocks, leaving very little yard.  So many people buying 400 sm blocks and squeezing on a biggest house possible. This is what he is telling us we should be challenging.

#18 FleaFork

Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:42 AM

QUOTE (poppy_star @ 23/02/2013, 11:49 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
This pretty much sums up why houses need yards, doesn't really have much to do whether people want to garden etc.  Yes I firmly believe that dwellings should restricted to a percentage footprint.  I hate houses that cover more than 75% of a block, they are nasty blight on the landscape.

I agree. Backyards are important to prevent flooding. Many people don't realise this in their quest to build their McMansion.

#19 I'm Batman

Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:57 AM

Did you know children in london in the 50's were getting rickkets from not enough exposure to natural light.

Yes I think it should be limited. Yes I think the land should be used more efficantly. Yes I think apartments should have verandas and use the space better.

There is a new suburb, I drive past, Jordan Springs, you can literally jump from roof to roof, the houses are a about 1m from the back fence. I fail to see how they would have any natural light. Its not normal natural or healthy.

I would much prefer if houses were architect designed with natural lightwells and backyard space. Its abnormal to live shoved up against your fence.

#20 babatjie

Posted 23 February 2013 - 12:11 PM

First world problem. Have you seen how close shacks are too eaxh other, with no real windows?

I think us on small blocks in newer developments will survive, and so will the enviroment. Australia is massive. All new developments I have seen replace plus extra trees that are removed, create water areas for native animals and birds, and have large green areas. Also, all homes need to be built five to eight stars for energy rating, have a rainwater tank that is plumbed back to the house, tinted windows etc. Much smarter building tecniques that were used in the older suburbs, where Northern hemispere, cold area technques were used. Most blocks are divided to be North/South facing where possible.

#21 LynnyP

Posted 23 February 2013 - 12:20 PM

I'm sitting in my apartment in front of my floor to ceiling sliding doors and half height many windows, flooded with natural light, contemplating my unnatural state.  If it wasn't raining we would have spent a couple of hours at the huge complex playing tee ball, then spent some time at the beach or at the lake.

Greenspace doesn't have to be sequestered!  Living in an apartment or a medium/high density dwelling doesn't mean a dark box shared only with rats and potato peelings!

#22 ComradeBob

Posted 23 February 2013 - 12:20 PM

QUOTE (kpingitquiet @ 23/02/2013, 10:24 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I should clarify, by embracing multi-story living, I don't mean apartments, necessarily. Rather 2-3 story single family homes offering 200+ sqm of living space with 67-100sqm footprint, vs sprawling 200+sqm footprint single-story homes.

Absolutely. Terrace housing has been sadly overlooked in this country and it really is a very economical and worthwhile form of housing when it's properly planned. It can also give surprisingly high densities while still allowing greater privacy and access to the outdoors than high rise apartments.

I firmly believe that it is better to have a good amount of public green space that is overlooked and shared among a number of houses. One of the best examples of this I have seen was in Ireland, where one housing development of terrace style housing was sited around a green area. Each house had a small private area, that opened up to the larger communal area. Because the back fences were only 3 feet high you could see what was going on without leaving the house, and kids had a contained area in which to play.

Communal open space has other benefits as well, in that by forcing people out of the house , you have a greater chance to meet your neighbours and develop a community.

#23 *LucyE*

Posted 23 February 2013 - 12:42 PM

He said backyards absorbed stormwater, cooled homes and increased biodiversity.

This pretty much sums up why houses need yards, doesn't really have much to do whether people want to garden etc. Yes I firmly believe that dwellings should restricted to a percentage footprint. I hate houses that cover more than 75% of a block, they are nasty blight on the landscape.

But these environmental concerns can still be incorporated into public green spaces.  They don't have to be in tiny, segmented tiny backyards.

I do believe more thought has to be put into public green spaces though.  A patch of grass on land that won't sell doesn't cut it.

I like the idea of more medium density housing with more public green space and amenities rather than mindless urban sprawl.

#24 ComradeBob

Posted 23 February 2013 - 01:01 PM

QUOTE (*LucyE* @ 23/02/2013, 01:42 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I do believe more thought has to be put into public green spaces though.  A patch of grass on land that won't sell doesn't cut it.

I like the idea of more medium density housing with more public green space and amenities rather than mindless urban sprawl.

No, open space must be designed as part of the subdivision so that it can be easily accessed without crossing roads, or with road crossing that are safe for pedestrians. It needs to be overlooked by a number of houses, to provide passive surveillance and reduce the possibility of anti social behaviour. Most importantly, it needs to cater for all sections of the community, not just primary school aged children. We hve some fantastic playgrounds in this country, but they are by and large only designed for primary school aged kids. There are few spaces that have been designed with teenagers in mind, which means that they become alienated from their surrounds. And we need to design for the elderly as well, with places to walk and sit.

Not every park needs to do this, but at least some of these elements should be present in smaller parks and all of them in larger district parks. It's hardly rocket science, but it does mean a big shift towards putting green spaces at the heart of subdivision design, instead of being thought about only after the housing.

#25 I'm Batman

Posted 23 February 2013 - 01:08 PM

Living in a city with greenspace is different to living in a far flung suburb where parks are a meeting point for anti social behaviour.

some parks are just open grass, thats it. filled with rubbish. It doesnt offer much,

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