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by Daniel Gloade on August 26, 2013

The municipal government of Kitchener-Waterloo intends to re-zone residential areas so that multi-unit dwellings can be built.  The plan is to increase Kitchener-Waterloo’s urban density.

There are several reasons why we want Kitchener-Waterloo to have the population condensed in a relatively small area.  Capital infrastructure is less expensive.  It makes public transportation a viable option.  Consumers and businesses are more easily accessible to each other.  Both the public and private sector can be more efficient if they have economies of scale.  Finally, it is more environmentally sound.

The problem, of course, is that most people want privacy and greater personal space.  I suspect that any environmental project that runs contrary to the fundamental wishes of people will inevitably fail.

Perhaps there is a middle road.  What about medium density development?  Medium density usually refers to town houses, stacked town houses garden apartments and mid-rise apartments.  Although it may not be ideal, it might be the only path to take.   Fortunately, there may be developments that may make this option easier.

First, there are new sound-proofing building materials to help provide a greater sense of privacy.  With regard to personal space, designers have built furniture and appliances that can be stored away when not in use.  Apartment dwellers can have greater access to natural light using fibre optic cables.

With regard to green space, there are two options.  The first is for residents in the same building to share a common area.  I don’t like this option because it fails to provide adequate privacy.

One solution is to provide a green room for each unit.   A green room is, in essence, a more elaborate balcony.  They would be much larger than a regular balcony and the sides of the balconies would be covered for a greater sense of privacy.  The ground will be covered with grass and the room can be filed with creeping vines and potted plants.

If it is not practical to have a green room for each unit, perhaps they can have one large balcony for each floor.  There can be a solid wall between each apartment and the green area.  If the wall is sound-proofed, the apartment dwellers can be oblivious to the people using the yard outside.  People can access the common balcony using a common entrance.

Another solution is green-roofing.  The buildings are designed like a stairwell.  The roof of the lower building is the lawn of the building above. Although more difficult to design, it is still quite viable.

Even though people prefer their own homes there is increasing pressure to increase urban density.  Local constructors, architects and urban planners may wish to consider medium development for Kitchener-Waterloo.

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