Efficiency is an environmental imperative – doing more with less: more mileage per litre, more food per acre of soil, more buildings on a piece of land and so on. It is also an economic virtue – more output for equal investment; sales per employee, health care per insurance dollar, citizen protection per taxable equity etc.
In neighbourhood and district layout, three perspectives on efficiency dominate, each from the vantage point of the actor involved – the developer, who builds them; the municipality which services them; and the resident who pays to live in them.
The three main actors:
The developer/builder sees efficiency as more product to sell, higher prices to sell at and fewer expenses on improvements; a product that meets expectations at a competitive price. Since units, prices and improvements interact and affect sales, a developer continually divines his buyers, and sharpens his pencil on infrastructure and building costs. Efficiency to a developer means survival.
The Municipality wants to be a prosperous and desirable place. Since prosperity and desirability interact through the number of residents and businesses that it attracts and keeps, and the cost each sustains to live in it, a municipality tries to maximize services per tax dollar it collects. Efficiency for a municipality is a matter of sustaining a vibrant, confident and positive outlook with minimum burden on its residents.
The residents of a neighbourhood seek the qualities they aspire to at a price they can afford. They see efficiency in getting the most value out of their investment - safe roads, good schools, neighbourliness, quiet, clean air, privacy etc. - and maintain it. Some neighbourhood attributes are not demonstrable at the time of purchase, street safety for example. Residents rely on experience and intuition to assess the “efficiency” of the product they purchase when it comes to such attributes.
None of the three actors can see certain inefficiencies inherent in a neighbourhood plan.
Will it cause disproportionate number of collisions and accidents? Will it cause congestion, delays? Will it discourage walking or reduce interaction within the neighbourhood?
Since these consequences of a layout are not easily discernible on the ground until long after the neighbourhood is built and since no one of the actors is directly paying for the “costs”, no one actor in particular watches for efficiency in these areas. Added to this uncertainty is the wide variety of layouts that are subject to trends and unpredictable designer motivations.
To attain the optimum level of efficiency in every area, one must start with a model that is as thoroughly tested as current methods of analysis permit. By following a model, a tested pattern one is assured of consistent, repeatable outcomes.
One such model is the Fused Grid. So far, it has been tested for efficiency of buildable land, optimal infrastructure, efficiency of movement, and active transportation. It has also been tested by inference on its potential to reduce collisions. More tests are planned. These tests revealed that it may possible to increase the efficiency of one attribute but invariably at the cost of another. Consequently, it in the balance between attributes that efficiencies attain and optimum level.