New postgraduate degree fosters social sustainability

02 October 2017
Jerson Valenzuela Cisternas graduates with a combined Master of Urban Planning (Professional) and Urban Design

Last week Jerson Valenzuela Cisternas became one of the first of six students to graduate with a combined Master of Urban Planning (Professional) and Urban Design degree at Spring Graduation.

The new degree combines courses from two standalone masters programmes, allowing students to complete their professionally-accredited urban planning qualification while simultaneously completing a masters degree in urban design.

Choosing this study option allowed the Chilean-born, New Zealand-based student to complete his thesis assessing the extent to which the built environment at the  Hobsonville Point development in Auckland, fosters social sustainability.

His research investigated aspects such as density, mixed-use development, block patterns and quality of sidewalks and rear lanes. Jerson’s research concluded that the block patterns of Hobsonville Point were very permeable which, in conjunction with good quality footpaths, increased the likelihood the neighbours would go out and walk.

Similarly he found all services within Hobsonville Point were within walking distance with pedsheds - the area encompassed by the walking distance from a town or neighbourhood centre - averaging from 400m to 1200m.

However, Jerson’s study concluded that the design of rear lanes could have been done in a more pedestrian-friendly manner. Also, with an average of only 17 dwellings per hectare, there was scope to fit in more homes, while still being considered a medium-density development.

But Jerson's research found that focusing on the built environment through the lens of social sustainability strengthened communities and ultimately provided for higher-quality urban neighbourhoods.

Jerson is heading off for a well-earned break in South America and Cuba before coming back to New Zealand where he will start his career in planning and urban design.