Melbourne’s YarraBend has been marked as the world’s most liveable suburb, but what makes it so? We hear from Glenvill’s strategic director, Ashley Bramich, as well as the forecaster who made the claim, Martin Raymond of The Future Laboratory.
June 27th, 2018
Melbourne is no stranger to the title of World’s Most Liveable City. It has topped various liveability surveys year after year. But with the population increasing and infrastructure feeling strained, the city will need to continue to innovate if it wants to stay on top of its perch.
There is a brand new suburb, however, that is already at the forefront, and that is YarraBend. We get the insights into this new suburb to find out why a digitally-driven, wellness-focused suburb has potential to claim the title.
Martin Raymond: For the YarraBend research project, The Future Laboratory developed a Future Liveable City Index that measures quality of life across aspirational metrics relevant to the way people increasingly live their lives in the 21st century. These metrics include clean energy, Wi-Fi penetration, active green spaces, chief wellbeing indicators, cultural districts, sustainability quotient and co-working spaces.
We considered YarraBend’s offer, both now and in 2025, in the context of the six key pillars that developer Glenvill is focusing on, in order to help define the future liveability of advanced ‘digi-burbs’, such as YarraBend.
These liveability pillars are already embedded into the first phase of the development and through our research we are forecasting, they will become the future ‘silicon standards’ for the rest of us to emulate: knowledge, sustainability, food and entertainment, art and design, technology and health and wellness.
Just look at some key examples of these pillars, that are already in play: YarraBend will fully integrate food into the foundation of its offering, with 2,000 square metres of new retail space dedicated to cafés, providores, gourmet grocers, restaurants and bars. The new artisanal food district will be curated by one of Melbourne’s most renowned chefs, Scott Pickett.
Technology has played the most decisive role in YarraBend’s development. In our fast-changing digitally-driven lives, Glenvill wanted to incorporate a suite of future-facing technology from day one. For example, a resident app connecting the community with their environment and with a Technogym app plug-in that uses data-capture to measure resident activity, enabling them to track and optimise their evolving workout and healthcare.
YarraBend has been built with a sustainability-first set of guidelines, to ensure a clean energy environment from the ground up. Residents will feel this is all around them, from the Scandinavian road design, where cars, bikes and pedestrians get an equal share of the road, ultimately encouraging a change of attitude through safe roads for active transport.
We need to look at how cities and the technology they use can better serve people. With this in mind, we are predicting YarraBend will be considered a more liveable suburb because it has ‘smart city’ attributes. Consumer mindsets around democratised data are changing – the mood is more positive when people understand the value of data-tracking and open-source data platforms that exist to enhance their lives, from physical health optimisation to on-demand transport, YarraBend promotes the power of friendly data for an optimised lifestyle.
Data-sharing in the right way – if it is used to improve our overall health, wellness and how we engage with our environment/neighbourhoods – will become a key way to demonstrate our social and civic values in the suburbs of tomorrow. Better access to community data enables us to have connected cities and to focus on more dynamic social interaction in buildings and the cities and suburbs in which they are located.
For example, via the YarraBend app, residents will be able to monitor their electricity usage and compare bills with their neighbour – in years to come this open-source data-sharing activity will enable the YarraBend community to set their own liveability index, simply by gathering data sets. By collecting and sharing more data, cities will automatically be more community-focused and will become better functioning cities.
Smart-city attributes will play an increasingly important role in redefining the liveability of our future cities and ‘digi-burbs’. Access to residents’ behavioural data – such as via the YarraBend app – will help inform planning and design in the future. But we need to know what that data is being used for, by whom and why.
Is it to improve traffic flow? To make our carpool usage more effective? To improve our ability to feed energy back to the grid? To make our bodies healthier and our neighbourhoods safer? If the answer to these questions is yes, then people will sign up. And the precinct-based apps such as those being developed for YarraBend will become the kind of connected neighbourhood tools that we can benefit from using.
In order to provide future-proof planning models for suburbs we need to look to the YarraBend example of how to create an optimised community, through data-sharing schemes that encourage people to: generate energy and track energy usage to foster an accountable mindset; develop locations for co-working spaces and innovation hubs that incorporate a new start-up mentality and reflect the new flexi-workforce; provide access to shared transit-data to inform planning and enable better traffic flow and reduce congestion; embrace the notion of connected neighbourhoods – rather than accepting the continuous creep of owner-driven cars into our neighbourhoods, planning for suburbs will need to use smart technology to enable residents to move throughout a city without cars.
We hope there will be an overarching YarraBend influence on other municipalities, and any liveability learnings will stem from the six key pillars.
For example: everywhere technology to drive communities and their acceptance of open-shared data via free, high speed Wi-Fi in public places where people gather; a sustainability-first mindset achieved through more open spaces, parks and focus on wellbeing activities; future generations’ knowledge provision via increased shared co-working spaces for collaboration and innovation; gastronomy as entertainment via increased access to culinary offerings; reputation for culture through increased focus on connecting the community, either via technology or via events.
Ashley Bramich: In order to measure YarraBend’s liveability credentials, The Future Laboratory took a future-facing view of what constitutes liveability over the next few years. In the process of analysing YarraBend’s liveability, The Future Laboratory looked at a top 20 list of the most renowned global liveable city indices and cross-referenced these with measures that their research suggests will become increasingly important over the next decade.
Against the more traditional measures of liveability, like education or infrastructure, as well as the emerging demands like wellbeing, connectivity and technology, The Future Laboratory identified YarraBend as a leader of liveability based on what is planned. Suburbs like Carlton, South Yarra, St Kilda, Fitzroy and East Melbourne rank highly for 40 per cent plus of the traditional measures, but when you take into account sustainability, a high focus on design, culture, food, wellness and innovation, a place like YarraBend, which is still being developed and thus is more flexible, has an advantage.
YarraBend is a unique development because it has a mix of dwellings included in the masterplan, including houses, townhouses, lofts and apartments. To ensure visual diversity, we engaged a variety of leading Australian architects, including DKO Architecture and Technē. The site is split into six precincts that will each have their own unique style while staying true to the rich industrial heritage.
One main focus for the masterplan design was to create a suburb that included lots of outdoor, shared spaces that residents can enjoy, encouraging socialisation, connectedness and wellbeing through an expanse of landscaped greenery.
Health and wellness have become a major factor influencing where people live, which is why it’s a foundation pillar for YarraBend.
YarraBend is centred on a ‘build well to live well’ mantra, which means it’s designed to encourage an active lifestyle. YarraBend will offer residents over 38,500 square meters of fitness and recreational activity with a state-of-the-art gym inclusive of Technogym equipment and posture corrective mirrors, premium personal trainers, a spin and yoga room, a massage room, sauna, steam room, 25-metre lane pool and spa. Residents also have access to the Technogym app via our Resident app that uses data-capture to measure physical activity, enabling them to track and optimise their evolving workout and healthcare.
The key is not only providing a plethora of wellness amenities and a design that promotes active lifestyles, but it’s also the way you integrate technology to enhance wellbeing and make things more convenient.
Research forecasts that future algorithms and technologies will be able to use data-capture to track behavioural analytics and pre-empt illness and mental breakdowns.
Catch our interview with Glenvill’s Len Warson, the brains behind YarraBend.
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