The Garden Cities of tomorrow

The Garden City is an urban planning concept invented at the turn of the 20th century as a way to relieve the overcrowding of large cities. A number of Garden Cities were built in the following decades, but they failed to deliver on a number of promises, especially about affordability.

With a mounting shortage of homes, the Garden City idea is now returning. But this time it has to be affordable, and for that reason new Garden Cities must be built differently to the old ones.

In order to provide green living space between buildings, Garden Cities were planned with a low density of 30 detached, semi-detached or terraced homes per hectare. This pushes up the cost of land per home, especially in areas where land is scarce as is invariably the case close to big cities.

It follows that better land utilisation would reduce the cost of homes, but how is this done without creating the dreaded “sink estates” of the 1960s and 70s where people were dumped in inhumane high-rise cityscapes and left to their own devices?

That requires careful planning and inspired leadership with vision and courage to take on both conventional wisdom and some sacred cows, but the technology to do it is here.

This bPod vision based on the buildAbillionHomes concept shows (in green) a 25-hectare section of Welwyn Garden City north of London with a total of 700 homes, which is close to 30 per hectare as planned.

On top of the photo are shown the footprints of eight bPod 4 to 10 storey low-rise blocks, each with 250 homes in a mix of one, two and three bedrooms. This is a total of 2,000 homes, or three times the number of terraced homes on the same land, yet it leaves considerably more room for green spaces, both within each block and between blocks.

This means we only need a third of the land for a given number of homes, and financially it cuts the cost of land per home to a third. With the bPod offsite building process saving a further 30 to 50% on construction costs, that puts within reach the high volumes of modern, affordable quality homes so desperately needed.

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