What if everything you ever needed was only 15 minutes away? The idea of having everything within 15 minutes (by foot or by bike) is possible with a decentralized city design. Decentralized urban living styles are not only convenient, but also environmentally friendly. It's no wonder why this concept has started to become popular, especially as the opportunity to rebuild has been presented with the pandemic.
The idea of the 15-minute city has increasingly gained popularity as a possible post-pandemic design for some urban areas. COVID presented new opportunities for cities to revamp and they are capitalizing on these openings; cities are rebuilding themselves post-pandemic for the better.
Walkability and the availability of amenities have always been a major attraction of cities. The 15-minute design concept takes that to a whole new level.
To make this concept a reality, the design focuses on clustering smaller neighborhoods/communities together. The 15-minute concept is built from a series of 5-minute neighborhoods/communities with a de-infrastructured approach, especially around transportation systems. Rather than just having large, complex networks in place (such as highways), 15-minute cities seek to implement local systems meant for shorter distances to favor walking or biking. These systems would complement the larger ones.
By decentralizing the infrastructure (de-infrastructuring) people have to rely less on public transport, but have easy access to everyday places such as grocery stores and restaurants. All human needs would be within reach by foot or bike in under 15 minutes.
It's everything you need and nothing you don't (for day to day use anyway) within a short radius!
For other systems such as water and energy, decentralization means breaking down large scale structures into smaller frameworks that appear more frequently; the frameworks must not compromise output even though they are smaller. For water, de-infrastructure relies more on rainwater and decentralized treatment options to maintain distribution within the given radius. For electricity, think microgrids closer to consumers to keep up with demand.
With a decentralized model, the city is not reliant on a single plant. If one were to break down, others in the area are less likely to be affected.
Some long term benefits to decentralizing cities include
Lower life cycle costs
Lower carbon emissions
Increased reliability of infrastructure
Community benefits (that could even lead to financial benefits)
As good as it sounds, it will likely be difficult to bring this idea into fruition due to the current structure of US cities. Cities have been focusing on drivability rather than walkability since the industrial revolution. The shift from the 15-minute city's design surrounding people and not cars will likely make it difficult to translate the concept into reality.
While the world (and CRE) recovers from COVID, it will be interesting to see the aftermath of the pandemic — which trends will stay and which ideas will become reality. It is evident that the commercial real estate industry can be flexible, so there is hope that this trend toward sustainability continues.