Essay: Is the Formation of Newly Constructed Eco-Cities the Sustainable Future?

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  • Subject area(s): Environmental studies essays
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  • Published on: July 28, 2019
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Rationale

Throughout the dissertation it is going to discuss the effects of new “eco-cities” and how they will change the world into a more sustainable place. The definition of an eco-city is;

“An Eco-city is a human settlement modelled on the self-sustaining resilient structure and function of natural ecosystems. An eco-city seeks to provide healthy abundance to its inhabitants without consuming more renewable resources than it replaces.”

(www.ecocitystandards.org/ecocity)

The study will research several different newly constructed eco-cities and see how the design aspect implements how the city is constructed and the masterplan of the city. I want to look at eco-cities and how the architect has a direct impact on how they are constructed. As well as looking at case studies of different eco-cities I will also look at many projects by Arup as they are a business that are investing a lot into sustainable buildings as well has having a direct link to works within eco-cities. I am hoping that it will create the discussion of the broader eco-city but also focussing on the infrastructure and on the buildings that will make up the city.

Is the world going to be able to survive without oil and fossil fuels to power it? It is estimated that oil resources will run out in 2050, but what will happen after this? Sustainability is used every day in architecture and on a wider basis, people are aware of it but do they know what it actually means and what is needed to make the world sustainable? Renewable energy is vastly used around the world, in some countries more than others. Norway is a prime example of how to optimise the use of renewable energy and it has set the benchmark for other countries to follow. Norway’s generating capacity of energy is 98% renewable energy, coming from hydroelectric, geothermal and wind, it only uses about 24% of that as it provides for surrounding countries as well. This huge percentage is massively different to most other countries around the world. If Norway can survive and prosper as a country depending on solely renewable energy what is saying that it is not possible for the entirely planet to use renewable energy and be 100% zero carbon?

Eco-cities are being tried and tested, I believe this is how a zero carbon world is going to be achieved and the world can re-establish its life support systems and stop depleting its natural resources. Eco-cities are the way forward and the key focus is on renewable energy. It is said that the population is going to rise to 9 billion by 2050 and now most of that are living in urban developed areas, “The year 2008 marked the first time in history that half of the population lived in urban areas. The world urban population is expected to double by 2050, increasing from 3.3 billion in 2007 to 6.4 billion in 2050” (United Nations 2008). Due to this fact I feel it is vital that these urban areas develop themselves into eco/green cities. If the renewable sources are incorporated into the expansion it will be a much cheaper way of making cities green and it would also decrease the amount of new eco-city settlements having to be formed in an ever decreasing land mass.

It is important that there is a strict plan of action for how countries all over the world are going to deal with the issue of the depletion of fossil fuels and the ways in which they are going to find new ways to power their cities and towns. It is important to test these cities around the world as different climates have different strengths, “According to the 2006 United Nations Environmental Report, an area of 640,000km squared could provide the world with all of its electricity needs (United Nations Environmental Report, 2006) and the Sahara is 9 million km squared. It would not be possible for the world to survive if fossil fuels ran out tomorrow and we need to use technology as well as the use of architects and engineers to find a way to make renewable energy the only energy. Much of the world’s population do not realise how vital the switch to renewable energy is and it needs to be made evident to everyone, architects and landscape architects can have a massive input into the continuation of techniques and methods that are already in place.

Countries all around the world are taking an interest in eco-cities as they realise the urgency in the matter but China more than anywhere are really putting a lot of investment into sustainable schemes. Realising each countries strengths is what first needs to be established so that can be their primary renewable energy supply. Although the subject of sustainable living and zero carbon living is a very broad term, by looking at the different proposals being built and planned around the world and how they are designed, I can then compare how countries tackle the task and by the end of my research I will be able to form a theory of how the world will start to create cities in the future. I will also research methods of zero carbon buildings which can make up the cities; it is possibly how a large amount of the eco cities will begin their phase plans/proposals by creating buildings with zero carbon footprint.

Literature Review

One piece of literature that I have studied is “Eco-City Planning, Policies, Practise and Design – Tai-Chee Wong”. There are a few chapters in the book that speak specifically about Eco-cites and how they will be developed and what is needed for them to be successful. There are two authors’ points on what they think makes an Eco-city. As well as giving valid explanation into why they think these are the main points about achieving an eco-city they make their arguments relevant.

It is essential for the world to live off of renewable energy and developing existing/creating new eco-cities is essential to do this, “Eco-City Planning, Policies, Practise and Design” is aware of this and gives a general overview of how the world’s population is ever growing along with this and more people moving to urban areas it requires much more fossil fuel consumption. The book points out the threats and gives good facts on the subject showing just how real and important it is that action is taken, it states that the three main problems are; “the continued growth in population, the rapid growth of resource consumption with urbanisation and climate change” (Peter Head and Debra Lam, 2011). Unfortunately we cannot really stop the growth of population of where people want to live but the factor that we can alter and try to stop is climate change and this is by producing less greenhouse gases and we can do so by switching to using renewable resources.

Throughout it raises a few main components that are believed to be what are vital for a successful eco-city and what needs to be considered; climate change, energy efficiency and water treatment. These three things are just a small number of factors that need to be resolved to a very high standard and running almost perfectly.

Two authors who have been quoted in the book made ten points which they thought made up a functional eco-city. Kentworthy believes a sustainable city is characterised by;

1. A compact, mixed urban form that protects the natural environment, biodiversity and food producing areas.
2. The natural environment permeates the city’s spaces and embraces the city, while the city and its hinterland provide a major proportion of its food needs.
3. Freeway and road infrastructure is de-emphasised in favour of transit, walking and cycling infrastructure, with a special emphasis on rail. Car and motorcycle use is minimised.
4. There is extensive use of environmental technologies for water, energy and waste management – the city’s life support systems become closed loop systems.
5. The central city and sub-centres within the city are human centres that emphasise access and circulation by modes of transport other than automobile, and absorb a high proportion of employment and residential growth.
6. The city has a high quality public culture, community, equity and good governance. The public realm includes the entire transit system and all the environments associated.
7. The physical structure and urban design of the city, especially its public environments are highly legible, permeable, robust, varied, rich, visually appropriate and personalised for human needs.
8. The economic performance of the city and employment creation is maximised through innovation, creativity and uniqueness of the local environment, culture and history, as well as the high environmental and social quality of the city’s public environments
9. Planning for the future of the city is a visionary debate and decision process, not a predict and provide computer-driven process.
10. All decision making is sustainability-based, integrating social, economic, environmental and cultural considerations as well as compact, transit-oriented urban form principles. Such decision making processes are democratic, inclusive, empowered and engendering of hope. (Kentworthy, 2006)

M.P. van Dijk also believed he had created 10 points that made up an eco-city;

1. Integrated water resource management: closing the water cycle.
2. Energy management, reducing greenhouse gases.
3. Waste minimisation and integrated solid waste management.
4. Also a different approach to sanitation.
5. Integrated transport policies.
6. A policy dealing with pollution issues.
7. Anticipation of climate change.
8. A different housing policy.
9. Objectives concerning justice, for example promoting an equal distribution of the benefits.
10. Integration in the framework of sustainable urban management, while also managing urban risks.

van Dijk says “Kentworthys principles are quite broad and come from someone with a transport background” (M.P. van Dijk 2006) but can Dijk believes an approach with more of an ecological background would be more suitable for an eco-city. By applying the points that van Dijk proposes can be used to judge the case studies in the literature review and also my further research for the dissertation and it can be distinguished if eco-cities are going to be successful or not.

Masdar

Currently throughout the globe there are several attempts of eco-cities taking place. One key example is that of Masdar in the United Arab Emirates, it was the first city that was going to be run on completely renewable energy sources and construction was started in 2006. It was proposed that there would be a fully functional city that would inspire and teach the world more on green energy and technology and hopefully encourage greater investment. People often pondered why the UAE had approached Norman Foster Architects to design a completely green city, when they were “the world’s eighth biggest oil producer” (Wired, Patrick Kingsley 2013). In terms of the UAE being known for their oil and producing such a large carbon footprint it made Masdar abnormal as well as making such an impression on the world.

Fred Moavenzadeh, the president of Masdar Institute for Science stated “Masdar is being developed to show Abu Dhabi’s commitment to clean air and technology” the city was also proposed so that it is possible to have a sustainable and energy efficient city with nearly car free access in such a harsh climate. The harsh climate is also what makes the energy efficiency possible as it is powered by a 22 hectare field which contains 87,777 solar panels as well as more on roofs of buildings of the city. One technique that the city uses which saves an outstanding amount of energy is having all the taps and lights on movement sensors which allows for no wastage, it says it saves 51% of electricity consumption and 55% of water wastage. It can be argued that having a nearly car free accessible city is insignificant when all the working population have to drive to the settlement to then park outside. With this though there is a positive objective being proposed and used, and that is of electric driverless vehicles that taxi the residents of Masdar around via a underground level of roads.

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