Abstracts for the AECURN ECR Presentations and Talks

On 16th February 2021, between 9am and 12pm, the AECURN Qld 2021 Symposium will bring three presentations by Associate Professor Gemma Read, Dr Lavinia Poruschi and Dr Rachael Cole-Hawthorne (bios available here). Following up these presentations, 11 Queensland-based Urban Early Career Researchers will present their work.

The full preliminary schedule is available here, and below are the abstracts of the presentations (scroll down the page or click on the titles below to read the full abstract).


10:20 – 10:27

Triaging Climate Change Adaptation for Fostering Faster Decision-Making Processes
Montannia Chabau-Gibson, Griffith University

Significant global climate change is now unavoidable with multiple effects of warming being experienced in different parts of the globe (Hill & Martinez-Diaz 2020; Dilling et al. 2019; World Meteorological Organisation 2020). Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (2018) highlights how emissions must be reduced to pre-industrial levels to avoid catastrophic events. Unlike mitigation processes, measuring adaptation successfulness remains elusive (Dilling et al. 2019). When forming decisions global political participation is required, and this can be multifaceted as people with different backgrounds can have different stances towards climate change (Morgan et al. 2019; Terblache-Greeff et al. 2018). Successful adaptation strategies often involve public input and political agendas with evidence of impacts and potential benefits of different alternative adaptations (Akerlof et al. 2020; Baladeras Torres et al. 2020). As a result, there is an increasing focus now on how much certainty and evidence is required to make global climate adaptation decisions and what decisions should be prioritised (Morgan et al. 2019; Schenk 2017). Recent events including the COVID-19 pandemic and disasters such as the Australian Bushfires, show how in some situations rapid decision making can occur where policy makers are faced with immediate pressures (Vardoulakis et al. 2020; Lehrer 2020; Schenk 2017; Kelman & Gaillard 2017). As most climate risk research focuses on management and adaptation to reduce the pressures of climate change (Kelman et al. 2017; Dilling et al. 2019), Preston & Nalau (2019) argue that climate change decision making processes should apply a triage approach given that in the future in particular resources will be highly constrained. When faced with the pressures of global climate justice, triage-based planning can assist with speeding up decision making with funds invested in assets that are the most significant priorities (Preston & Nalau 2019; Perry 2019). However, to date, the research specifically on using triage approaches is globally lacking in climate adaptation. This research will assess: (1) How has triage been applied in climate change adaptation and decision-making processes? (2) What are the decision-making processes required to make global climate adaptation decisions? (3) How can applying a triage approach highlight climate change adaptation decisions that should be prioritised? (4) How could a triage approach be applied into planning and policy practice?


10:28 – 10:35

Unifying adaptation theory and practice to improve climate change adaptation
Estefania Arteaga, Griffith University

Adaptation to climate change poses an urgent global challenge that requires multidisciplinary efforts to deliver effective, aligned, useful and sustainable outcomes. Urban areas respond to this challenge by employing guiding methodologies and tools, e.g., vulnerability and risk assessments, adaptation plans, among others. However, these approaches and tools have been slow to translate into robust action due to a lack of relevance to the real-life contexts and demands where decisions are made. This shows that much of the adaptation theory guiding the adaptation process is disconnected from practice, demonstrating that approaches developed in the past have not addressed the challenges that communities, sectors, and societies at large face. This gap was recognised through practitioner experience in the development and implementation of Mitigation and Adaptation Action Plans in 14 cities across Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, and Colombia. Therefore, by developing a better understanding of why adaptation theory does not seem to support adaptation practice, we can bridge the theory-practice gap and enable more effective adaptation planning and implementation. This research aims to understand what this theory-practice gap consists of, how it influences adaptation, and what is needed to bridge this gap. Through understanding, explaining, and framing the theory and practice gap, the research will generate principles that can guide decision-makers in the planning and implementation of CCA. This research will contribute to the identification of adaptation guidelines and tools that are in use and evaluate their robustness as decision making guides that enable on the ground planning and implementation of adaptation.


10:36 – 10:43

More adaptive NSW planning practice – how?
Ian McNicol, Griffith University

Urban and regional futures are threatened by major problems which will require new institutional solutions. Institutions being the formal sets of rules that regulate societies. Biodiversity loss, the rapidly changing climate and economic inequality all have roots in the business-as-usual of institutional systems. New rules that drive sustainability and adaptability are essential but there are problems such as inertia, the science-policy gap, complexity and uncertainty to overcome. An example of institutional system complexity is the governance of NSW which consists of almost 900 acts of parliament plus other statutory and non-statutory rules. Relatively small but still highly complex subsets of these rules combine to govern potentially adaptive practices such as local land use planning in NSW. Theory leads to local planning ‘becoming’ a more bottom-up process of community led strategic navigation towards preferred sustainable and adapted futures. For this to be effective local planners will need to ‘become’ entrepreneurial promoters of adaptive action. Ideally, planning policymaking will be reorganised as a process of ongoing experimentation. To support this ‘becoming’ role of planning, governance will need to facilitate more adaptive, anticipatory and co-evolutionary practices. These changes represent transformation of both the planning institution and practice. Planning theory doesn’t directly address researching institutional change while adaptation theory says this should be an area of focus. So how can institutional transformation for rule rule-based practices such as land use planning more be researched? Can problems such as inertia, complexity and uncertainty be managed? What specific institutional changes might make planning more adaptive? Are the changes practical? Can change be achieved without adverse or maladaptive system and social reactions? Do essential institutional changes for adaptive planning have wider systemic implications?


10:44 – 11:51

Optimized vegetation configuration to mitigate urban heat
Jiawei Fu, James Cook University

Cities are facing challenges from climate change today. Continuing temperature rise puts urban residents (50% of the world’s population) in a vulnerable position. In Australia, the record-breaking heatwaves caused social and ecological misery in the summer of 2019. As a natural solution for cooling the cities, urban greenery has received increasing attention from scholars over recent decades. Considering the cost of vegetation and the limited resources available to their organizations, it is essential to arrange vegetation in a way that brings maximum benefits to their investment costs. However, little work has been done on the vegetation configuration to mitigate urban heat. The purpose of the research is to investigate the best vegetation configuration to mitigate urban heat in Townsville and Ipswich of Queensland, Australia, and explore how the spatial distribution of vegetation influences microclimate and human thermal comfort. Results are expected to guide where to place vegetation in the different urban matrix and help decision-makers that can better plan the distribution of vegetation for cooling by providing evidence-based suggestions to the stakeholders.


10:52 – 10:59

The Barriers to building better cities – How cost-based decision-making impacts what is designed and built
Cathryn Chatburn, University of Queensland

The process of delivering urban development is complex and the delivery of sustainable urban development even more challenging within the context of the contemporary ‘short-term’ investment paradigm (Emblemsvåg, 2013). Projects take years to complete and involve diverse and divergent stakeholders who wield “significant influence on project performance, albeit a different one, according to the power and responsibility that they have in the project” (Walker, Bourne, & Shelley, 2008). This research seeks to understand the key barriers to delivering more sustainable built form in cities. It focuses on the residential property development sector in Australia, to understand the processes and decision making required to catalyse change, with a specific lens on the influence of financial or value considerations in determining what is built. The presentation will focus on the evolution of the proposed research method and the engagement phase of the project. Using qualitative methodologies, the research will draw insights from industry practitioners and residents in response to four critical factors. Values – the critical theoretical position applied to determine actions and investment (time and capital). Knowledge – the issue of industry capability and cohesion. Skill – to understand where capability is most prevalent and applied. Influence – exploring the relativity between knowledge, capability and power to understand the key influences effecting decision making. Through the research, I hope to reinforce the relevance and imperative for sustainability as a driving priority for the urban development and construction industry in the 21st Century and provide an enabling framework to instigate behavioural change.


11:00 – 11:07

Moving to another country: understanding the characteristics of the neighbourhood environment that influence the wellbeing of older Chinese immigrants
Siyao Gao, Karine Dupre and Caryl Bosman, Griffith University

The increase of the ageing population and immigration raises new challenges for urban planning and development. However, few studies explore the effects the neighbourhood environment has on the wellbeing of minority older groups. This study focuses on older Chinese immigrants who are living on the Gold Coast, Australia. In order to understand their interactions with the neighbourhood environment, this research examines older Chinese immigrants’ experiences and perceptions of the neighbourhood environment and their related wellbeing. Qualitative methods including in-depth interviews, travel diaries and mapping exercises were used to collect data. The research results confirm that older Chinese immigrants’ daily activities, interactions and perceptions of the neighbourhood environment were determined by their preferred lifestyles and accessibilities of (deemed) essential facilities. The key barriers of the neighbourhood environment encountered by participants include safety, quality of walking paths, legibility of road networks, and the availability of public transport services to destinations. Finally, this research concludes with some implications for more inclusive urban development and outlines opportunities for future research.


11:08 – 11:15

Hybridity and Safety: Lived Experiences of Market Vendors from Awagasi Market in Lae City, Papua New Guinea
Wilma Molus, Queensland University of Technology

Informal market spaces have become important avenues to support livelihoods for the majority of urban residents in developing countries. In Papua New Guinea, population growth in cities, limited formal infrastructures and employment opportunities have led to populations predominantly living in informal settlement communities participating in informal markets to support their day-day living. External perceptions of safety and informality have often focused on deficiencies of urban informal market space and have provided a limited understanding of the dynamics, resilience, resourcefulness and creativity of such informal market spaces, despite the significant contribution these informal market spaces make to social-economic advancements and growth in urban environments. Such external perceptions mainly from scholars and media outlets often do not consider the perspectives of those who work within these spaces on a daily basis. The study draws on focus group discussions and interviews with vendors at Awagasi market in Lae city in Papua New Guinea. It recognises the importance of understanding the history of these spaces from within, key features and support mechanisms of the informal market spaces. This presentation discusses the concept of hybridity in the urban market context as it relates to market spaces comprising of people from diverse cultural backgrounds who establish and maintain reciprocal relationship to support each other, economic engagements and the governance of the market space. The research uses the lens of Melanesian indigenous values of reciprocity and relationality to demonstrate how local values contribute to providing safety support for residents and vendors in an urban hybrid market setting.


11:16 – 11:23

How micromobility can transform urban travel? The prospects and challenges for post-COVID Brisbane
Abraham Leung, Griffith University

“Micromobility” refers to a new set of small, low-speed electric vehicles (such as e-scooters or e-bikes) that are re-shaping travel globally. Brisbane was the first in Australia to permit the introduction of a dockless e-scooter sharing service in 2018 under a restricted tender model. The success of e-scooters in Brisbane has drawn much national and international attention. Micromobility sharing schemes continue to proliferate globally even during the COVID-19 pandemic, as citizens look for alternatives to public transport. These new modes provide individualised transportation with lower environmental and monetary cost, and have great potential to replace car use for shorter distance travel. However, disbenefits such as accidents and disorderly parking have affected some of the cities who were early adopters. This paper sought to explore how municipal authorities can improve their strategic planning to minimise the negative effects whilst maximising the potential benefits of micro-mobility. It is notable that Brisbane as adopted some best practices as reflected in the recent Draft E-Mobility Strategy – with the proposed replacement of an existing docked bicycle sharing system with dockless e-bikes. It is evident that constant evaluation and tweaking of our policy settings will be necessary though as the micro-mobility arena evolves.


11:24 – 11:31

What do we know about Housing affordability?
Ayodeji Adeniyi, independent researcher

Housing affordability is one of the most reported issues globally. The topic is also especially prominent in Australia, where five of the most unaffordable housing markets in the world are found. However, despite the coverage that housing affordability receives in the public domain, some of its key features remain misunderstood or obfuscated. Affordability and affordable housing are often depicted as identical pairs. Housing affordability is also regularly framed as a problem that only affects low-income households. Most worryingly, the origins of the housing affordability crisis have not been clearly identified and addressed. Instead, conflicting theories have emerged, and inconsistent policies along with them. So, what do we know about housing affordability? Are there any universal truths, or is it a multi-faceted, context-specific, and dynamic problem that cannot be universally theorised or solved? The answers to these questions may lie in identifying clear definitions, underlying processes, and shared qualities.


11:32 – 11:39

Flexible house design for increased dwelling utilisation
Anna McKinlay, University of the Sunshine Coast

The low-density single-family suburban dwelling model has dominated Australian housing to the extent that it is romanticised as the Australian dream. It is a dream that is still widely pursued in the expanding perimeters of the cities. In conjunction with this trend are some striking contradictions at the heart of Australian housing: on one hand, there is an expanding housing affordability gap, while on the other there is an underutilisation of existing and new suburban houses. This research initially found that those who can afford homeownership maintain extra domestic spaces to be able to adapt to changing lifestyle circumstances without having to relocate. It is a form of social adaptation to have the flexibility to respond to inherent societal uncertainties in employment, aging, healthcare, divorce, and parenting for homeowners and their extended family. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is a reality already being faced by numerous Australians. My research is investigating how current housing designs respond to changing household needs through the provision of flexible spaces. The average floor area size of new houses is sufficient for use as a family home; a combined home and work environment; or independent dual living for unrelated singles and couples. While the size is sufficient, most existing houses do not easily allow for these household use changes without considerable expense and compromises to privacy. By collating and comparing new display home floorplans I seek to establish if new houses are catering for societal adaptation and identify what effects the social disruption from the pandemic has had on suburban housing design. Rapidly changing social circumstances may potentially redefine what constitutes a household and a dwelling which in turn has implications for suburban population densities. The purpose of my research is to identify restrictions on housing form flexibility and investigate ways to increase the sustainable utilisation of housing.


11:40 – 11:47

Shaping the future of interactive architecture design
Waldemar Jenek, Queensland University of Technology

Virtual design environment tools such as virtual reality can refine the methods and tools of existing design processes of media architecture (Dalsgaard et al., 2016; Guney, 2015). Architecture does not have to be static anymore. Architecture designs can be interactive and temporary and capable of shifting in a short time to address different problems or needs by incorporating media into architectural structures (Haeusler et al., 2012). Media architecture can be understood as materials or objects with dynamic properties, such as interactive sources of light or moving elements, which embody the physical space on an architectonic scale. Most media architecture installations allow dynamic interaction or show interactive content (Brynskov et al., 2015). Traditionally architecture is designed with static design tools such sketches, drawings and physical models (Schön, 1985). However, there is little research about how to employ design tools to capture interaction media design in an architectural context. Besides, in the higher education context virtual design environment tools are able to refine traditional teaching approaches while discovering new ways of design thinking and creating design solutions in architecture schools (Gross & Do, 1999; Salman et al., 2008). With my research, I proposed a scheme for a design course, which I implemented and evaluated in an architectural design studio setting based on a literature review of architectural education, media architecture and interaction design, and virtual design environment tools. In this presentation, I will showcase my research’s current state and explain how I taught to design interactive media architecture installations to architecture students at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia and Bochum University of Applied Sciences, Germany in 2020. I will explain the teaching approach, the employed tools and show design results. I am concluding with recommendations for teaching architecture students the use of virtual design environment tools in media architecture design and exploring how we design architecture tomorrow.


11:48 – 11:55

Urban design policy to mitigate the health risks associated with extreme heat events
Ryan McNeilly-Smith, University of the Sunshine Coast

Often referred to as a ‘silent killer’, heatwaves result in severe human health effects and are the deadliest natural disaster in Australia; their impacts are expected to increase due to climate change. This work explores urban design policy’s role in mitigating these health risks, beyond guidance-based material, like QDesign. Using a desktop policy analysis of local planning and design documents and interviews and surveys with built environmental professionals in South-East Queensland (SEQ), two aims are addressed: 1) what urban design methods can mitigate heat-health risks and 2) How can they be embedded into planning policy in SEQ. Town planners were found to have the lowest awareness of extreme heat and use of heat-mitigation techniques among built environment professionals surveyed. Further, a growing frustration was identified among professionals on two matters, 1) tension between building codes and a local government’s ability to implement heat mitigation techniques in their planning schemes and 2) a dissatisfaction among design-centric built environmental professionals at their ability to implement heat-mitigation techniques under the current framework. These findings show a disconnect between design-centric built environment professionals and planners; highlighting that greater awareness and planning system policy change is required to increase up-take of best practice heat mitigation urban design solutions in South-East Queensland.


Heading photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

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