The 15 Minute City- A New Urban Model: Jayant Vaitha-Colliers Intl India

--ByJayant Vaitha, Director, Design Services at Colliers International India.

The current city model is one that has two places of importance for its residents- a place to work and a place to live. However, the current coronavirus crisis and a desire by urban planners to improve city dwellers' lived experience have driven many to rethink the fundamental notion of how a city is planned. The solution that many have arrived at is the novel concept of the ’15-minute city’.

First, there are several reasons why the current urban model is facing a drop in popularity. It involves inhabitants living in one location and then making an often-long commute to an entirely different place to work. This concept depends on the idea that workers need to work together to be productive in the same location. While this idea has roots in solid research, there is a growing debate on whether the productivity generated by working together in person is worth the commuting cost, especially in the age of ‘work from home’. 

Workplaces and city planners have begun to realize both the merits and limitations of workers working in person, and there is a growing consensus that a ‘hybrid model’ is the best way forward. This model involves a system where workers get together to share ideas and collaborate, but not daily. The ‘office’ concept will not die; rather, it will be repurposed as a place where workers meet in person to do only those tasks that cannot be done alone. 

In their quest to rethink a city based on ideas of the ‘hybrid model’, city planners have arrived at the solution of the 15-minute city. The concept, which was developed by Sorbonne Professor Carlos Moreno, advocates the creation of a city of neighborhoods, in which workers find everything they need in terms of work, retail, and leisure within 15 minutes of their home. In a work context, this would see offices added to neighborhoods without them so people could work closer to where they live. Local co-working hubs would enable workers to come together for meetings and to collaborate when necessary. 

In addition to the advantages of increasing productivity, the 15-minute city also has a strong appeal because it would aim to give ‘streets back to people’. Roads that are dominated by cars of commuters would now be given to residents for walking, cycling, and other green methods of transportation. In addition to their role in countering the pandemic, these urban models would also reduce vehicular air pollution and cut down on commute time, thereby improving the quality of life for all residents. 

This concept has gained widespread support in some of the largest cities in the world. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has recently endorsed reshaping Paris’ urban landscape following the ideas of the 15-minute city. Ninety-five other city representatives from the ‘C40 cities’, have also promoted this concept as a part of the Covid recovery plan. This group of cities represents over 700 million people and over one-quarter of the world economy. This emerging and radical way to reshape the urban model can be the road to permanently change the way we live for the better.

(With business operations in 68 nations, Colliers International is a real estate services and investment management organization. It was established 25 years ago and has about 15,000 employees. Its revenues were about USD 3.5 billion in 2019 with USD 33 billion of assets under management.)