How Building Construction and Urban Planning can help Diffuse Potential Urban Problems

Imagine the apartment building that was designed in a way that made the residents rush to get through the door and to get it closed and locked. This is because the building was designed and situated in a way that made it easy for robbers and muggers to hide and to attack residents after they unlocked the door and before they could be safely inside.

Imagine the serpentine-street neighborhood that is impossible for a non resident to get out of without driving around for a while. Have these street designs caused more escaping criminals to run into homes where they engage in hostage standoffs or have they prevented more escaping criminals from getting to the open roadways?

Imagine the beautiful mega homes, called “McMansions”, where groups of young professionals moved in, sharing housing costs and common rooms, but bringing more parking and traffic issues to areas that were zoned and designed for single family homes?

These are all ways in which good intentions are overridden by human inventiveness and behavior. There are streets that can become traffic jam nightmares because they are the only internal conduits from one part of a city to another. Meanwhile, the parallel streets are empty, but invite high speed traffic that jeopardizes residents, foot traffic and businesses.

Building design that eliminates nooks, crannies, over sized plantings, convoluted internal passage and walkways, and vulnerable lighting fixtures is building design that can reduce the opportunistic environments for crime. When buildings are oriented so that the maximum number of residents have views of the well lighted exteriors, parking areas, entrances and common areas, then it is more likely that crimes and problems will not go unobserved or unreported. Balconies bring residents out of their homes and to places where they will observe more of what is going on outside.

Open housing area designs make it safer and easier for law enforcement to respond, to get a good view of what is going on, and to act accordingly than when there are alleyways, serpentine routes, hiding places and overgrown plants.

“Snout Houses”, where the home frontage is one huge, blank garage door are invitations for crime to go unobserved and for residents to not interact as they avoid such dreadful areas, preferring to go inside or into back yards.

Building design that incorporates more of the infrastructure for installing solar panels and green systems like rain catchers allows residents to make an easier and less expensive transition to “green” technologies.

Public transportation that is clean, safe and well managed takes an enormous number of vehicles off the road every year. It should be mandated that every new neighborhood have access to public transportation stops every two or three blocks, just as parks are mandated every two or three blocks. By using smaller vehicles, more local stops and more frequent runs, residents and workers who would normally hop into the car will practically guarantee that more people will use the transportation to local shops, schools and other businesses that are 2 to 5 miles away.

Existing roads and streets that are straightaways or conduits from one part of the city to another can have more lanes, frequent ticketing cameras and well regulated stoplights that make the traffic flow smoothly without high speeds or shutting down into traffic jams. Such streets, when constructed, could have strategically located, fenced overpasses that keep pedestrians away from vehicle traffic.

There are many complaints that build up when any large condo complex, apartment complex or new neighborhood is settled into, but continuous 3, 5 and 10 year urban and other ongoing planning simulations and analyses are brilliant ways of carrying out an ongoing mission of looking to the best possible future for the people and for the land.