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Theme Report May 2023- Eco Cities- Sustainable Urbanisation

by Aaditya Singh | 07-06-2023 05:50 recommendations 0

Eco Cities- Sustainable Urbanisation


The principle of 'Form follows function' coined by Architect Louis Sullivan requires an update in today's context: 'Form and function follow sustainability.' With more than half of the world's population residing in urban areas, the need for Eco-cities has become paramount. Eco-cities aim to offer residents a high quality of life while minimizing their environmental impact and ensuring the needs of future generations are met. Achieving this involves skillfully integrating architecture, landscape design, and city planning to create functional, aesthetically pleasing, and comfortable urban spaces. Sustainable landscape design, which plays a significant role in enhancing the quality of life, also helps reduce human impact on the environment, making it crucial for the success of Eco-cities (1).

Eco-cities come in various forms. Western cities predominantly involve retrofitting existing structures with basic modifications, while developing countries are constructing new cities tailored to their current requirements (2).

To ensure that urban areas do not become concrete jungles, various approaches are being employed. In developed nations, there is a growing use of solar-powered landscape lighting to harness renewable solar energy, although installation costs can be a deterrent. Urban farming, incorporating green roofs and vertical landscaping, not only enables rainwater harvesting but also provides natural insulation, combats air pollution, and reduces urban temperatures. These practices yield positive results and save resources in the long run, despite the initial investment often posing a challenge. While composting organic waste for use as fertilizer is common in rural areas, its adoption is limited in urban settings due to space constraints. Urban planners frequently propose "bridge links" to reduce congestion and minimize soil disruption by connecting buildings through elevated walkways and utility lines, but these solutions can be expensive (3) (4).

In terms of urban development methods, 'Landscape Urbanism' has been a prevalent approach, prioritizing landscape over architecture and minimizing the encroachment on green spaces. However, this approach can limit architectural possibilities (5). 'New Urbanism,' on the other hand, focuses on creating walkable communities, planned growth, and traditional neighborhood designs, promoting community living, housing options, and employment opportunities (6). Although Eco-cities are still evolving, they now integrate social and economic uplift alongside environmental considerations (2). By blending traditional techniques with modern methods and integrating natural topography with built structures, 'New Urban' cities can transform into smarter Eco-cities.

In UAE, where I have lived for long before moving to Austria, we have the notable example of Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, which draws inspiration from New Urbanism to create an Eco-city from scratch in a desert environment. It features landscaped and walkable mixed-use communities with interconnected neighborhoods. Linear parks running through the city leverage prevailing winds to reduce humidity and enhance thermal comfort during high summer temperatures (7).

Dubai's Sustainable City showcases streets adorned with indigenous date palms and urban farms that produce a variety of herbs. The city also utilizes greywater for irrigation (8).

These two cities demonstrate how traditional practices combined with technological innovation can create sustainable and productive landscape elements. It is evident that landscape elements in Eco-cities should be designed with considerations of eco-friendliness, functionality, cost efficiency, ease of maintenance, and visual appeal (9).

Drawing inspiration from nature, I recognize the harmonious functioning of various organ systems within a healthy human body (10). This intricate balance, which has sustained life for centuries, can serve as a model for Eco-city landscapes, functioning as the city's respiratory system, replacing carbon dioxide with oxygen. However, for a truly sustainable future, landscaping must harmonize with other aspects such as transportation, waste management, and telecommunication.

In addition to the methods mentioned earlier, integrating forest reserves within cities can help preserve natural ecosystems and biodiversity while mitigating pollution. Wetlands integrated into urban landscapes serve as effective waste filters. Community parks can be created using reclaimed materials such as soil, concrete rubble, wood, glass, steel, and recycled tires, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Permeable paving materials can minimize stormwater runoff and recharge groundwater reserves (11).

Eco-cities can reclaim land from toxic brownfields, abandoned industrial areas, and wastelands, thereby expanding the available space for outdoor facilities. Landscape elements can be designed to promote active living, ensuring safety and attractiveness through wide sidewalks, bicycle lanes, exercise equipment, and walking tracks (13). Innovative designs can even transform outdoor exercise equipment into electricity generators, converting calories into watts and fostering fitness and green energy through collective workouts (14).

Moreover, neglected areas like highway underpasses can be effectively integrated into landscape designs, creating valuable green spaces that connect neighborhoods. These public areas encourage human interaction by providing functional spaces for games, sand pits, water features, gardens with tree canopies, and winding walkways, fostering community engagement (13).

Taking the concept further, communities can connect private properties with public areas to establish networks of biodiversity-friendly neighborhoods that benefit both people and the flora and fauna. This approach helps create self-sustaining landscapes that bring nature closer to our doorstep. Large-scale tree canopies contribute to improved air quality and combat urban heat islands. Energy-efficient landscape designs provide insulation and shade in summers while acting as windbreaks in winter. The foliage also facilitates evaporative cooling (13).

Community networking and cooperation can enhance rooftop or balcony gardening and street landscaping. Urban agriculture can utilize rooftops and vertical walls of large stores, reducing food miles by selling produce directly where it is grown. Choosing native plant varieties adapted to local climate conditions and practicing xeriscaping—grouping plants with similar water needs and using drought-resistant species—can create vibrant landscapes with minimal water usage (11).

Lastly, I envision the integration of community farms into urban and suburban residential areas. These farms would be owned, operated, and enjoyed by the community itself. Residents would care for them and reap the benefits of fresh produce, while the farms would also serve as composting hubs, effectively managing organic waste from households. This approach provides a free source of organic material for nourishing and replenishing the farms, while also minimizing the generation of methane from organic waste in landfills.

As urbanization continues to expand globally and climate change poses significant challenges, landscaping elements can play a vital role in helping Eco-cities combat these issues and contribute to the sustainable growth of urban areas, offering abundant commercial and residential opportunities."

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  • Austria Youth Aaditya Singh
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Yewon Mentor

  • Yewon Mentor says :
    Hello Aaditya! This is your mentor Yewon.

    Before I start, I want to apologize for the late comment.

    You have written a great report about eco-cities for May thematic report! Examples of cities in UAE, Madagascar city, and Dubai are very interesting in terms of their successful urbanization! I have visited Dubai before, and I thought the balance between fascinating buildings and nature was awesome! I think this is the point that many cities should pursue for sustainable urbanization!

    Thank you for your meaningful report! Great job!
    Posted 03-07-2023 17:08

James Mentor

  • James Mentor says :
    Hello Aaditya! This is your mentor James.

    What a fascinating report regarding eco-friendly urbanization technologies, supplemented with real-life examples and experiences! A heap of sustainable urban development can be seen in this report such as green architecture, renewable energy transition, urban agriculture, and etc. Among your suggestions, I would like to emphasize in the importance of green architecture! There are numerous benefits regarding green design in building such as creating a healthy indoor environment and being energy-efficient. Thus, green architecture is surely an important technology for sustainable urban development.

    Thank you for your fantastic work! Let's keep it up with your next report as well.
    Posted 28-06-2023 15:04

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