Vertical mixed-use communities: a solution to urban sustainability? – review, audit and developer perspectives

Simon Huston, Coventry University, UK, Iderlina Mateo-Babiano, University of Melbourne, Australia

Purpose - We explore the growth patterns and development trends of vertical mixed use (VMU) developments in a variety of cities. VMUs are defined as structures with two or more revenue producing uses or land use activities on a single site. One view is that sustainable city development requires densification via VMU construction on brown field sites (within the existing inner city footprint). Design/methodology/approach - After a systematic review of the notion of VMU buildings, we conduct a macro- analytical review of across an, albeit limited, selection of European and Asian cities (Helsinki and Manila). In the micro-urban phase, we investigate VMUs within the main study location (Brisbane CBD). Specifically, we audit VMUs number, location and relative financial and non-financial performance. To evaluate VMU planning merits in the light of local codes and regulations, we adapt and apply Hoppenbrouwer and Louw's model.Findings - We found urban sustainability a complex notion without simplistic solutions. Certainly, VMU is not a 'silver bullet'. The mixed-use notion though has gained ground in some urban regeneration circles. Developers concurred that VMU communities now appeal to an emerging demographic who values accessibility and entertainment. However, developers articulated some concerns about escalating VMU construction cost caused by - Design, staging and funding complexity, and;- Unfavourable regulatory and development controls Research limitations/implications - Further operation research needed on VMU buildings in range of cities.Practical implications - Need for collaboration between developers and planners to facilitate elegant and inexpensive VMU design for streamlined planning.Social implications - If poorly conceptualised and regulated, VMU rollout will detract from not enhance sustainability and reduce not increase housing affordability.Originality/value - The project is the first systematic study of VMU in a growing Sunbelt metropolis.

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