high rise apartment
Photo: Simon Goetz

Last week the City of Sydney revealed a program to improve connection amongst its high-rise residents, following a survey that showed half weren’t satisfied with the sense of community, and about the same percentage didn’t think they could reach out to neighbours for help.

There is some evidence to suggest high-rise living may lead to poorer social outcomes, and with a shift to apartment living in full swing and unlikely to change, ways to mitigate any negative effects are much needed.

A new study by Landcom and the universities of Sydney, NSW and Technology announced this week is hoping to find planning measures to address concerns about health – both mental and physical – in high-density environments.

Landcom managing director and chief executive John Brogden said the study, Translating Evidence to Support Planning Strategies for Healthier, Higher Density Living, would help close the significant knowledge gaps in planning for more liveable high density precincts.

“As Sydney’s population grows, the way we live is changing,” Mr Brogden said.

“There is a lack of research in Australia and around the world on what is needed to ensure people can live healthy, sustainable lives in an increasingly urbanised environment. There are a lot of questions we don’t have the answers to.”

Research will be led by UNSW’s professor Susan Thompson, University of Sydney’s Dr Jennifer Kent and UTS’s associate professor Jason Prior.

Professor Thompson said the study came at a “pivotal point” for the city.

“As apartment living becomes the norm for more and more of us, it is critical that planners and designers know how to make such developments supportive of healthy lifestyles,” she said.

“The more we can incorporate being active and socially connected into the environments we encounter and use every day, we reduce our risk for chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and depression. This research will help to generate the evidence policymakers, planners and urban designers need to make this happen.”

Dr Kent said you only needed to look at the number of cranes in the sky to understand “high-density dwelling construction is at an all-time high”.

“We need to ensure these developments promote our health and wellbeing, now and into the future.”

She said research had already shown the green open space, walking and cycling paths, and community spaces were integral to health and happiness.

“This study will help reveal the extent to which these elements are preserved in higher density development.”

The study will examine two of Landcom’s high-density developments at Green Square and Victoria Park as well as appraise existing research.

“This collaboration provides a unique opportunity to understand how urban planning and design principles can be applied to high-density developments within cities like Sydney to improve population health, and reduce their environmental impacts,” associate professor Prior said.

“The research findings will help policymakers and industry identify and implement proven health and wellbeing principles into their planning for urban developments.”

The project is expected to take two-and-a-half years to complete.

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  1. I don’t want to socialise with my neighbours. I don’t want them getting in my business or invading my discrete life.

    A block of units is not the fundamental group unit in society, the household is. I do not have a positive duty of care to my neighbours, rather a passive one not to interfere with their rights.

    Policy makers and overseas developers do not have the right to design my life and tell me who I have to socialise with.

    Shifting the costs of looking after the mentally ill and elderly to neighbours will negatively impact women. Who will be expected to provide. Added duties for free.