What does it take to build a sustainable community? What early investment is necessary to create a community that not only works for now but works long into the future?
When I was ten, I begged my parents for a new cricket bat. It was nearly my birthday, and in my eyes, I had been the definition of a perfect child for the whole year… well, maybe a month or two… I hadn’t broken anything that morning, anyway.
They promised nothing, but the morning of my birthday came around and the shape of the present sitting atop the kitchen table was unmistakable.
I practically shook as I ripped open the paper and held the bat into the air as though it were the sword in the stone and I was a triumphant King Arthur.
But as I jumped from my chair to take the new weapon for a test drive, I felt my father’s hand on my arm. He handed me what looked like a cricket ball attached to a mallet handle.
“Knock it in first,” he said, with a smile that did nothing to betray the kick he was getting out of the lesson he was about to teach me.
“What?” I responded, still half moving towards the door.
He explained that if I didn’t knock in my brand-new bat, I would run the serious risk of breaking or splitting it the first time I tried to smash a ball for six. I reluctantly agreed and began to knock the bat in with the cricket ball mallet.
After an hour I asked it would be ready now, and he shook his head. After two hours I asked the same, still he shook his head. Three hours, four hours, six, eight. Over two days I spent ten hours knocking the bat in until he finally said it would be ready.
The first six validated all the hours I had put into preparing the bat. It was a solid hit that sent the ball flying over the boundary with ease.
A friend of mine also received a new bat for his birthday. He went on as second batsman the same afternoon, hit an awkward Yorker and cracked the toe of the bat.
Just like that. $300 down the pan.
Sometimes it takes an investment at the early stages to create something long-lasting. Sometimes it takes hard work, dedication and commitment to achieving a great outcome and having something that will work in the present and far into the future.
Building a community is no different.
For example, Nightingale Housing has recognised a need for a meaningful change in urban societies as we move into the future. As the population increases and the need for more housing rises with it, we need to grow as a city, but not all growth is responsible or sustainable.
Nightingale has invested a great deal of time into working out how they can best achieve their goal of delivering tangible, meaningful, visitable and assessable built outcomes to communities across Australia.
The same way I sat on my porch tapping away at my cricket bat, Nightingale has tapped away at creating a model that positions themselves at the intersect of multiple sustainability goals.
Ecological sustainability is high on the list for Nightingale. The new Nightingale Fremantle project is focussing on greening the Knutsford area and rolling out renewables for example.
Neighbourhood Contribution via quality urban design is one of the earliest investments a developer can make. In the planning of a new development, designing elements that offer positive benefits for communities set those communities up from the very beginning.
Financial sustainability is also key. The economy is forever changing, so creating housing that not only comes in below market price but also minimises the ongoing costs of operating and maintaining homes means that those who can afford to move in can also afford to stay and live.
And last but not least, social sustainability is an area we know to be of vital importance. Throughout many of the projects we have worked on over the past decades, we have seen the power of investing early in community connection and management.
A development that goes up without this early investment is no different to a cricket bat that hasn’t been knocked in. It can split, and fracture, and break.
A development that takes the time to understand how to build for sustainability, not just for short-term benefits, will be far more likely to connect well and work for all who are fortunate enough to live there.
What’s even better about these kinds of developments (and what makes it different from knocking in a cricket bat as a ten-year-old) is that it isn’t a solitary journey.
The future community of an area deserves the right to have their say. To answer questions like:
- “How would you like to see your community come together?”
- “What are your aspirations for the future?”
Chances to have your say are occurring all the time. For example, Nightingale is holding an information session for their new Nightingale Fremantle community. Here’s the invite with more information. If you have never attended one of these events, then go along and see what it’s all about.
If you like it then keep your eyes open for more sessions in more areas. To create sustainable areas, towns, cities and a world we can all be proud to live in we should all be working together and sharing our ideas.
I grew out of that bat by the way. So did my little brother. But it never broke.