Suburban Canadians love their cars, but they love their homes and green spaces more, so a new "green" shift in subdivision design may be a welcome change.
Fused grid design results in a people-friendly environment that combines the quality of life associated with open spaces and safe, sociable streets with proximity to community facilities. Although this land use design is often compared to historic town layouts, like that of 18th century Savannah, Georgia, fused grid does not merely recycle old ideas, but expands on contemporary design with solid forward thinking.
Fused grid residential street pattern design derives its name from the fusion of the best features of two traditional street pattern designs:
- the conventional, curvilinear pattern of crescents and cul-de-sacs of modern suburbia
- the traditional grid pattern that evolved in North America with the Industrial Revolution
"There is a change in design direction for suburban living," said licensed professional planner Chris Pidgeon, Partner at Ontario's GSP Group Inc., who collaborated with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation , our sole federal housing agency, to introduce fused grid concepts to Canadian real estate developers, municipal planners and related professionals. "The idea is to strike a better balance between the automobile and pedestrians, and the quality of life you may hope to experience in suburbia."
In 2002, Pidgeon worked with Stratford City Council to draft a land use guide for development of almost 400 acres that were annexed to this famous Ontario town, home of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival. Developers interested in building in this area are now introduced to the benefits of a hybrid fused grid design that has been approved by municipal planners.
A Segment of the Stratford Plan that shows the shape of two neighbourhoods
Instead of subdivision road patterns that force residents to walk or cycle long blocks and zig-zag across a neighbourhood, fused grid design, based on a basic five minute walking distance of 500 meters, allows residents to short-cut on foot or by bicycle in a number of directions though a series of green space linkages. Road safety is another benefit of this design since it incorporates more of the safer T-intersections than the accident-prone X-road crossings.
"What you're getting now is curvilinear street [patterns] with long crescents and cul-de-sacs with a hierarchy of roads all oriented to automobiles -- drive, drive, drive," said Pigeon. "The [traditional] idea is to get them in -- home -- and then out of home to work, which was all about efficiency and, I suppose at one time, was about quality of life. Now, not only do we want more passive recreation, we want more quality in our home life and environment -- which means being able to go for a walk, access green space areas, even get enjoyment from being able to see open space from an automobile."
Neo-traditional designs provide wonderful street faces of porches and verandas coupled with rear lane access and parking that moves garages away from front yards. However, problems may arise for municipalities providing garbage collection and snow removal services in tight lane ways. Fused grid, a refinement of neo-traditional design, eliminates lane ways, maintains liveable streets and integrates green spaces into the community.
Diagram Showing How Fused Grid Residential and Common Space
As CMHC continues to promote the fused grid concept to developers, urban planners, designers and municipal governments, at events like May's Canadian Institute of Planners 2005 Conference, interest is growing. Aware that a few developers are already contemplating fused grid as the next step in the future of sustainable communities, Pidgeon stresses, "It is one of those few projects where everyone has a way to win."
A 3D Depiction of the Principle Elements of the Fused Grid