New urbanism; is it the way to go?

Tosan Omatsone

“New Urbanism is strongly influenced by urban design standards which were prominent before the rise of the automobiles.”

By Tosan Omotsone

One thing common to us all is that we wake up every day and hope for a better life, we hope for a more improved and healthy way of living, but the question is ‘what healthy way of living do we prefer?

We are in a developing nation striving to attain the level of development of the western world; little do we know that the well developed countries that we look up to are trying to get a better future and improved quality of life by going back to the way we used to live with tight community ties.

I can say that the developed nations moved from what it used to be (old urbanism) to what it is now (sub urbanism). Now the developed nations are trying to move to what it may be – new urbanism. Let me at this point remind myself that the bone of contention here is “new urbanism”.

New Urbanism is an urban design movement, which promotes walk-able neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types. It arose in the United States in the early 1980s and continues to reform many aspects of real estate development and urban planning.

Researchers have brought to light some findings about new urbanism and here are some findings.

New Urbanism promotes the creation and restoration of diverse, walkable, compact, vibrant, mixed-use communities composed of the same components as conventional development, but assembled in a more integrated fashion, in the form of complete communities.

These contain housing, work places, shops, entertainment, schools, parks, and civic facilities essential to the daily lives of the residents, all within easy walking distance of each other. New Urbanism promotes the increased use of trains and light rail (as transport from one community to another), instead of more highways and roads.

New Urbanism is strongly influenced by urban design standards which were prominent before the rise of the automobiles. It also encompasses principles such as traditional neighborhood design, TND, and transit-oriented development, TOD. It is also closely related to Regionalism and Environmentalism.

The organizing body for New Urbanism is “the Congress for the New Urbanism”, founded in 1993. Its foundational text is the Charter of the New Urbanism, which says:

“We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice”.

New urbanists support regional planning for open space, context-appropriate architecture and planning, and the balanced development of jobs and housing. They believe their strategies can reduce traffic congestion, increase the supply of affordable housing, and rein in urban sprawl.

The Charter of the New Urbanism also covers issues such as historic preservation, safe streets, green building, and the redevelopment of Brownfield land.

New urbanism can best and briefly be defined as a reaction to another term- “urban sprawl”. New urbanism is characterized by: Compact with high density, sidewalks, pedestrian ways, main streets, building close to street, parallel Street Parking, grid streets.

The concept of new urbanism promotes green transportation, and by green transportation,

I mean the use of trains. Trains are the recommended mode of transportation from one satellite new urbanized neighborhood to the other, as opposed to cars which is the most used mode of transportation in the suburbs. A comparison between these two modes of transportation is looked at below.

Trains are extremely efficient, low energy consumption per person, minimal contribution to global warming; minimal land area needed moderately priced, safe, fast, reliable enables higher productivity per person, satisfied and happy users

The benefit of the concept of “new urbanism” can be summarized as “Giving people many choices for living an urban lifestyle in sustainable, convenient and enjoyable places, while providing the solutions to peak oil, global warming, and climate change.”

New Urbanism is an urban planning trend focused on replacing sprawl with walk-able, mixed use, transit oriented communities. It is meant to save open spaces, reduce car dependence and pollution and tighten community ties.

There is a website “” which started in 1998, and has since grown to become a leading and well respected informational website promoting walk-able urbanism, transit oriented development, trains and sustainability.

Sprawling land use patterns and auto-dominated transportation choices are the largest contributor to global warming and dwindling oil supplies. Major changes to transportation and land planning are the most important solutions.

The debate about Global Warming and Peak Oil are over. All the latest reports confirm global warming is happening now, is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and urge serious and immediate action to prevent global catastrophe.

The urgent message is that we need to reduce our oil consumption by 80-90% as quickly as possible. The solutions have to be as big as the problem.

New Urbanism is an important planning movement in this century, and is about creating a better future for us all. It is an international movement to reform the design of the built environment, and is about raising our quality of life and standard of living by creating better places to live.

New Urbanism is the revival of our lost art of place-making, and is essentially a re-ordering of the built environment into the form of complete cities, towns, villages, and neighborhoods – the way communities have been built for centuries around the world. New Urbanism involves fixing and infilling cities, as well as the creation of compact new towns and villages.

Now that we know a little about new urbanism, do you think it is the way to go?

Subsequently, we will talk about the background, principles and benefits of new urbanism.

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