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article imageSnapshot of a Design Future: Eco-Mall, Well, More or Less

By Paul Wallis     Feb 17, 2008 in Lifestyle
A compulsive shopper could tell you that the most convenient way to shop is to live at the mall. In this case, the mall is a town, designed for environmental factors. Encouragingly, it’s one of the first water-sane commercial developments in Australia.
The place is called the Rouse Hill Town Centre. It’s an ex-golf course. Rouse Hill, in western Sydney, used to be a place you passed through while whinging about the traffic.
It’s a corporate design, but the use of space is interesting in a city where "development" is a curse word.
As the Daily Telegraph reports: “It only took 18 months for developer GPT to turn a golf course into the futuristic micro city that Rouse Hill residents can work, play and live in.
Within 12 years there will be 1800 homes, more than 3000 jobs and the Northwest Rail Link at the front door.
The town centre was built with recycled materials, uses water captured from the site in a 150,000 litre rainwater tank for toilets, gardens and washing and has a filtered drainage system to help rejuvenate nearby Caddies Creek.
Passive solar design is utilised to warm and light buildings and streets.
This slashes water use by 60 per cent and energy use by 40 per cent.
There are 1,800 on-site homes. The site is designed to serve a trade area of 307,900 people according to the developer, GPT, one of the major property trusts in Australia. Western Sydney is a high growth area, so this development could set a few benchmarks in Sydney’s murderously competitive commercial property market.
As a matter of fact, it used 130,000 tons of recycled materials, which may be some sort of record. The Rouse Hill Town Center website says tongue in cheek that’s the equivalent of 65,000 Toyota Land Cruisers.
There’s been a move to finally acknowledging that this is Australia, not Europe, and some of the energy measures spring from “drought proofing”, after the big water scare in the recent, still lingering, drought of the last seven years.
It hasn’t been done as part of a corporate design before, though. There’s even a car park that shows you where the free spaces are.
It may also be where all those Land Cruisers went…
The really significant thing about this site is that it deals with a reality that the New Economy is creating; services no longer need to be centralized.
In future, people won’t “go to work”. It will come to them. The old supply systems are hopelessly overloaded, and would actually work far better if everything wasn’t funneling mindlessly through the same infrastructure. It’s no longer cost effective to pile everything into huge cities.
Commercial overheads are enormous, lifestyle is virtually neutered by the compulsions of urban existence, and the standard of living is atrocious. What now costs millions in a city would have been called a pigeon loft, for unsanitary pigeons, a generation or so ago.
Reducing cost pressure on business is one of the better ways of creating a viable economic system, and the last 20 years has shown how far out of proportion cost of living can get.
Cities were originally created as defensive and trade centres. If trade changes, the cities have to change.
Wouldn't it be ironic, if the suburbs, redesigned into something other than commuter graveyards, turned out to be a saving grace of civilization?
Urbanization needs to reverse itself, and ironically the “village” motif is better design, and gives more flexible use of precious space.
Rouse Hill Town Centre may not be a second Garden of Eden, but it’s much less of a commercial hellhole. These big developments usually turn out to be horrors, adding traffic problems, and congestion.
It’s also a standalone, not grafted on to an urban area, and it's big enough to service a large population.
(To give some idea, Sydney has about 4.5 million people. Fifteen of these things, theoretically, could serve the whole city.)
I'll believe it when I see it, but this looks like a glimpse.
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