Living on the Grid
How living on the grid is the real key to community sustainability
I’ve heard more and more lately the term “living off the Grid”. It took me a while to realize what that meant and even more, why someone would want to do that. The term off-the-grid can refer to living in a self-sufficient manner without reliance on one or more public utilities. An escape from the current hustle and bustle of the fast paced life and perhaps some escape “the Grid” when the day of Armageddon occurs. Whatever the case may be, I write today about living on the grid, and I don’t mean the utility grid, I refer to the grid pattern, a city plan that is formed by crossing streets in an organized pattern.
A philosopher in Ancient Greece named Hippodamus originated the idea of the grid, but it was Alexander the Great who instituted this franchise form whenever a new land was conquered. As you look at the bird’s eye view of ancient cities, you might see the remnants of this. Romans were the next empire to implement urban planning and pretty much every civilization until the 1920’s when new city planning and automobile transportation allowed more freedom in planning and travel. Here we have the birth of the Suburbs and the random placement of streets and separated uses. What was so great about the grid and urban planning and why are people now going back to living on the grid rather than outside it? Below are some key elements of why the grid works.
- Connection – the grid pattern offers greater connectivity and more options on getting to and from a destination. Think in terms of detours… with long stretches of roads and fewers side streets a traveler options when that line breaks down doesn’t exist. Grid patterns provide options, if a route is down, a quick left and right will allow you to navigate around the troubled route quickly and efficiently.
- Walkability – Grid patterns along with other urban principles such as orienting the building to the street offer the pedestrian a greater sense of walkabililty.
- Safer streets with more right angles – Besides just the visual appeal of walkability, the grid provides more right angles and therefore gives drivers greater hesitation to drive fast. Long stretches of roads pschycologically give a driver more comfort and confidence to drive faster. Excessive speeds, therefore, bring greater danger to not only the driver, but pedestrians as well. If you look at where the greatest number of auto accidents with pedestrians happen, it’s not where there are the most pedestrians, but instead long stretches of suburban roads
- More corners – Corner lots are proven to be a more valuable piece of property because it can be seen from a greater visual range. Grid patterns provide a greater number of corner locations thus producing greater real estate values.
- Great efficient use of land with the urban block – without going too much into Geometry, urban blocks created through the grid pattern allow more road frontage. More road frontage, especially for commercial uses is the preferred and most valuable location.
Living on the grid helps us to live a sustainable lifestyle and work toward an efficient community infrastructure where, health, finances, environment and social consciences are all balanced.