Sustainable Cities

November 11, 2008

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Self-sufficient, carbon-neutral cities are already underway as the following environmentally progressive urban initiatives demonstrate.

Imagine a world that is carbon-neutral, where waste is but a distant memory and driver-less and emission-free taxicabs zip down the street. While it may sound far-fetched, some of these developments are already in full-swing in several cities in China, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Here are four cities designed to show that being carbon-neutral is possible.

Dongtan CGI image of aerial view of Dongtan.jpg

At the mouth of the Yangtze River, 14 miles from Shanghai, lies eco-city Dongtan. Arup, the U.K.-based design and engineering firm hired to oversee Dongtan's development, aims to build this city to be as close to carbon neutral as possible.

Although still in its early stages of construction, up to 5,000 people are expected to live there by 2010 and up to 500,000 residents by 2050. The city will produce all its own energy through wind, solar, biofuel and recycled city waste technology. Hydrogen fuel cells will power public transport, and a network of cycle and footpaths will further cut vehicle emissions.

Dongtan also addresses the water crisis in China, where major rivers such as the Yangtze are heavily polluted. The city is designed to consume 43 percent less water by using green roofs to capture and filter rainwater. Sewage water and other wastes will be recycled to fertilize and irrigate the city's farm.

Madsar City 0801_masdar.jpg

Madsar is slated to be the first zero-carbon, zero-waste and car-free city. Ironically, it will be located in the United Arab Emirates — the third-largest crude oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for 2007.

This walled-in sustainable metropolis near Abu Dhabi will be approximately 2.5 square miles. Developers Foster + Partners have set a goal of sustaining 1,500 businesses and 55,000 residents and visitors by 2013. Development is already in full swing; construction began in the first quarter of 2008. The first section of the two-phase project is set to open next, and the entire city is expected to be completed and fully functioning by 2015.

Instead of cars, Masdar will have 83 stations for its small, driver-less electric vehicles that are controlled by magnets embedded in the road. Plus, there are two electric rail systems that will connect Masdar to the outside world.

Masdar will be powered by photovoltaic panels, wind and waste-to-energy technologies. Water will be provided through a solar-powered desalination plant, and the landscaping and crops will be irrigated by gray water and treated waste water.

As for solid waste, Masdar City has an initiative to have 99 percent of waste diverted from landfills through waste reduction methods, re-use of waste, recycling, composting and waste-to-energy technology.

Ziggurat Project ziggurat_pyramid_Dubai_04.jpg

Also in the UAE, this time in Dubai, is the Ziggurat Project. Named after the temple towers of the ancient Mesopotamian valley, this pyramid city could reportedly support one million people. Environmental design company Timelinks exhibited Ziggurat at the Cityscape Dubai event last month.

The 2.3 square-kilometer pyramid is designed to employ wind turbines and steam to generate electricity. Timelinks proposes that whole cities, if built like Ziggurat, will take up less than 10 percent of the original land surface. Like Masdar, cars will not be used. Rather, people will be transported throughout the complex via an integrated 360-degree network that moves vertically and horizontally.

Timelinks has patented the Ziggurat design and technology and has applied to the European Union for a grant for technical projects.

Gallions Park Gallions park.jpg

London produces about 8 percent of the U.K.'s total carbon emissions with 70 percent of the city's emissions coming from domestic housing. In response to that, former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone proposed the London Energy Strategy which calls for one zero carbon development in each of London's 32 boroughs by 2010.

Gallions Park will be the prototype community. This 3-acre brownfield site was formerly used for industry and is located at the eastern end of the Royal Albert Dock. Construction for the 233-residential-unit community is set to begin by early 2009.

The housing is designed to reduce energy by 40 percent and will be built using local, recycled, reclaimed and low embodied energy construction materials. There will be opportunities for on-site food growing with irrigation coming from harvested rainwater, and recycling and composting will be done at on-site waste segregation and composting facilities.

Another notable aspect of Gallions Park is its biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant that uses tree surgery waste woodchips for generating electricity and hot water. Building-mounted wind turbines and photovoltaic panels will provide additional renewable energy and electricity.


Abu Dhabi's Masdar Initiative Breaks Ground on Carbon-Neutral City of the Future Masdar Initiative, Feb. 9, 2008

World's first zero carbon, zero waste city in Abu Dhabi Foster + Partners, Aug. 5, 2007

Dubai's Latest Offering is a Carbon-Neutral 'Pyramid' City by Laura Salmi World Architecture News, Aug. 19, 2008

Zero Carbon Design Proposals for Gallions Park London Development Agency

Dongtan Eco-city Arup, Aug. 23, 2005

Beneath Booming Cities, China's Future Is Drying Up by Jim Yardley The New York Times, Sept. 28, 2007

How — and Where — Will We Live in 2015? by Andrew Grant, Julianne Pepitone and Stephen Cass Discovery Magazine, Oct. 8, 2008

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