The world’s population is growing at an alarming rate, and by 2050, it is estimated that there will be nine billion people living on earth. Of these, 80% will live in cities. This makes it increasingly important to design sustainable cities that can accommodate this growth, without depleting our resources or contributing to climate change.
In this article, we’ll explore the process of designing sustainable cities as well as some notable examples. We’ll also take a look at Masdar City, the world’s first sustainable city by design which is currently under construction in Abu Dhabi, at Amaravati in India, and at more examples in Brazil.
Retrofit, or design for sustainability?
When it comes to making cities more sustainable, there are two main approaches: retrofitting existing cities or designing sustainable cities from scratch. By retrofitting an existing city, the focus is on making incremental changes that can reduce its environmental impact. This includes improving energy efficiency in buildings and implementing public transport systems to reduce reliance on cars. It also involves greening areas to increase the amount of vegetation and encourage more sustainable lifestyles.
Designing a sustainable city from scratch allows for much more flexibility in terms of design, as it is easier to implement innovative technologies and approaches that wouldn’t necessarily fit with existing infrastructure. The key challenge here lies in creating cities that are socially equitable yet still efficient and energy-efficient.
Planning sustainable cities
Masdar City is a prime example of designing sustainable cities. Located in the desert near Abu Dhabi, Masdar City aims to be carbon-neutral and waste-free by utilizing renewable energy sources such as solar power and wind turbines. The city also has an intricate network of transport systems that relies heavily on electric vehicles, bicycles, and walking paths. In addition to this, the city has incorporated traditional Arabic design elements. A wind tower in combination with narrow streets provides natural ventilation and shading.
The wind tower is strategically placed to draw air from above and bring it down to ground level and is a highly effective cooling system. The narrow city streets were designed to minimize direct sunlight and channel the breeze more tightly, which intensifies the cooling effect up to 5 degrees Celsius.
The wind tower in Masdar City is a great example of how technology can be used to reduce temperatures and improve air quality. Its potential use in other cities should not be overlooked as it could bring many benefits. Further research should be done to find out how effective this technology could be in other urban areas and if it could help mitigate the effects of climate change.
Masdar is still under construction. It is a multi-phase development project and the first phase was completed in March 2010. The master plan for the entire project includes over 50 projects that will be developed in phases over several years. When it’s finished, Masdar will be an innovative, sustainable city in Abu Dhabi with a thriving economy that is based on renewable energy and technology.
Additionally, it will be a hub for research, development, and commercialization of clean technologies and sustainable solutions. The vision for the project is to create a low carbon footprint environment with minimal environmental impact.
India may be a surprise when it comes to designing sustainable cities. In recent years, the nation has made a significant effort to reduce its carbon emissions and create more efficient cities. A number of projects have been undertaken in India, with varied success rates.
One example is Amaravati, a newly planned capital city located in the western state of Andhra Pradesh. Amaravati is being designed with sustainability in mind, from the use of solar and wind energy to public transportation systems that prioritize walking and biking. The city also plans to incorporate green roofs, rainwater harvesting systems, and a network of parks and outdoor spaces for recreation.
Amaravati has been designed by Foster + Partners. It is strategically located on the banks of River Krishna, which provides an abundant supply of fresh water. The city is defined by a strong urban grid, with a green spine running through its length. At least 60% of the area is occupied by greenery or water and the latest energy-efficient technologies have been incorporated for sustainability.
A sustainable transportation system includes electric vehicles, water taxis, dedicated cycle routes, and shaded streets to encourage walking. Two key buildings have been designed as part of the project – the legislature assembly and high court complex, along with several secretariat buildings.
The vision for Amaravati is meant to be an international center of excellence, a model city that will set a new benchmark in urban development. With a focus on sustainability and the adoption of smart technologies, it is set to become one of India’s most progressive cities.
However, the development of the city was stalled for some time as a result of a change of government. Only recently it was decided to resume development.
Sustainable cities in Brazil
Brazil is another leading country when it comes to designing sustainable cities. The country has launched a variety of projects aimed at creating more efficient, eco-friendly cities that can better accommodate its growing population.
One example is Porto Maravilha (Wonderful Harbor), a project to transform the port district of Rio de Janeiro into a model of urban sustainability. The project includes the construction of new walkways, bike paths and green spaces, as well as the refurbishment of existing buildings to make them more energy efficient. Other initiatives include programs to reduce electricity consumption in public buildings, promote solar energy use and encourage the adoption of electric vehicles.
The district is at the heart of the Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Region, the second most populated urban area in Brazil, with 12 million inhabitants. Porto Maravilha is a strategically located and historically significant zone of the city.
The project aims to transform the old port district into a modern, vibrant and attractive destination for residents, businesses, investors and tourists. The project will focus on restoring and protecting the area’s cultural heritage while providing world-class infrastructure, new public spaces and facilities.
Porto Maravilha too is still a work in progress. The ambitious project has been going on since 2012 and has seen many improvements in the area. The main objective is to restore the historical importance of the old port district and make it an attractive destination for residents, businesses, investors and tourists.
The most famous example of recent city developments is Brasilia, the capital of Brazil and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Brasília is an iconic city in Brazil that emerged out of nowhere in the 1950s, with its original construction completed within four years of its inauguration in 1960. It was designed by lead architects Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, whose modernist architecture has earned both admiration and criticism from onlookers.
While Brasília is renowned for its striking design, it also has been criticized for its negative environmental impacts. To address this issue, the city is introducing green building initiatives to help ensure a more sustainable future.
The Setor Noroeste planned development project is being touted as the laboratory for sustainability in Brasília. But concerns about water supplies and a lack of affordable housing remain. It remains to be seen whether the plan will succeed in making Brasília a model for designing sustainable cities in Brazil and around the world. In any case, it’s clear Brasília is taking steps to become a more livable, greener city and its progress should be watched with interest.
Recently, it encountered another setback when iconic buildings were heavily damaged during protests against the new government.
A Saudi showcase: Neom, The Line
Saudi Arabia has recently announced a major new city project baptized the Line. This ambitious project is set to be an innovative, nature-focused urban development in Neom, in the north of the country. It combines cutting-edge technology and practices in designing sustainable cities.
Neom, The Line, will span 170 km and connect over 200 distinct neighborhoods with green public spaces, self-driving vehicles, and data-driven infrastructure. This will be the first ever city to be designed around a “people-first” concept and is estimated to cost $500 billion.
The project is expected to bring in more than 1 million jobs over the next 10 years, with many of them being technology-related positions. It will also create a platform for entrepreneurs to launch businesses and explore ideas in a creative environment. In addition, the Line is expected to significantly reduce carbon emissions over time as it shifts away from traditional energy sources and encourages efficient practices.
The project also has major implications for Saudi Arabia’s housing market and economy. It aims to create new residential areas with modern amenities and provide housing for around a million people. This will have a major impact on the country’s economy, as increased investment in housing can lead to a stronger construction sector, more jobs, and higher wages.
The Line project is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative which seeks to diversify its economy from oil dependence and boost its global competitiveness. It is a bold move towards a more sustainable future and shows the potential for technological advancement in the country. With its innovative approach, the Line could have lasting positive effects on Saudi Arabia’s economy as well as major implications for urban planning around the world.
The Line project promises to be an ambitious undertaking and is sure to have lasting impacts on the country and beyond. However, the project also has drawn criticism for its expected impact on the surrounding nature, as a mirror wall 170 km long and half a kilometer high would substantially influence temperature and light, and possibly even the local weather.
Creating sustainable cities requires a shift in thinking about how we design and build cities. It calls for innovative approaches like those seen in Masdar City, Amaravati, Porto Maravilha, and Brasilia that take into account the environment and public welfare. Spectacular developments like The Line take that to an extreme, which raises serious questions about realization. But by taking the right steps now, we can ensure that cities are both efficient and sustainable for future generations.