A sustainable city, or eco-city (also "ecocity") is a city designed with consideration of environmental impact, inhabited by people dedicated towards minimization of required inputs of energy, water and food, and waste output of heat, air pollution - CO2, methane, and water pollution. Richard Register first coined the term "ecocity" in his 1987 book, Ecocity Berkeley: Building Cities for a Healthy Future. Other leading figures who envisioned the sustainable city are architect Paul F Downton, who later founded the company Ecopolis Pty Ltd, and authors Timothy Beatley and Steffen Lehmann, who have written extensively on the subject. The field of industrial ecology is sometimes used in planning these cities.
- Practical achievement
- Eco industrial park
- Urban farming
- Urban infill
- Walkable urbanism
- New Urbanism
- Individual buildings LEED
- Car free city
- Emphasis on proximity
- Diversity in modes of transportation
- Access to transportation
- Urban strategic planning
- Social factors of sustainable cities
- City of Greater Taree New South Wales
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States
There remains no completely agreed upon definition for what a sustainable city should be or completely agreed upon paradigm for what components should be included. Generally, developmental experts agree that a sustainable city should meet the needs of the present without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The ambiguity within this idea leads to a great deal of variation in terms of how cities carry out their attempts to become sustainable.
Ideally, a sustainable city creates an enduring way of life across the four domains of ecology, economics, politics and culture. However, minimally a sustainable city should firstly be able to feed itself with a sustainable reliance on the surrounding countryside. Secondly, it should be able to power itself with renewable sources of energy. The crux of this is to create the smallest possible ecological footprint, and to produce the lowest quantity of pollution possible, to efficiently use land; compost used materials, recycle it or convert waste-to-energy, and thus the city's overall contribution to climate change will be minimal, if such practices are adhered to.
It is estimated that over 50% of the world’s population now lives in cities and urban areas. These large communities provide both challenges and opportunities for environmentally-conscious developers, and there are distinct advantages to further defining and working towards the goals of sustainable cities. Humans are social creatures and thrive in urban spaces that foster social connections. Because of this, a shift to more dense, urban living would provide an outlet for social interaction and conditions under which humans can prosper.
Contrary to common belief, urban systems can be more environmentally sustainable than rural or suburban living. With people and resource located so close to one another it is possible to save energy for transportation and mass transit systems, and resources such as food. Finally, cities benefit the economy by locating human capital in one relatively small geographic area where ideas can be generated.
These ecological cities are achieved through various means, such as:
Buildings provide the infrastructure for a functioning city and allow for many opportunities to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. A commitment to sustainable architecture encompasses all phases of building including the planning, building, and restructuring.
The purpose of an eco-industrial park is to connect a number of firms and organizations to work together to decrease their environmental impact while simultaneously improving their economic performance. The community of businesses accomplishes this goal through collaboration in managing environmental and resource issues, such as energy, water, and materials. The components for building an eco-industrial park include natural systems, more efficient use of energy, and more efficient material and water flows Industrial parks should be built to fit into their natural settings in order to reduce environmental impacts, which can be accomplished through plant design, landscaping, and choice of materials. For instance, there is an industrial park in Michigan built by Phoenix Designs that is made almost entirely from recycled materials. The landscaping of the building will include native trees, grasses, and flowers, and the landscaping design will also act as climate shelter for the facility. In choosing the materials for building an eco-industrial park, designers must consider the life-cycle analysis of each medium that goes into the building to assess their true impact on the environment and to ensure that they are using it from one plant to another, steam connections from firms to provide heating for homes in the area, and using renewable energy such as wind and solar power. In terms of material flows, the companies in an eco-industrial park may have common waste treatment facilities, a means for transporting by-products from one plant to another, or anchoring the park around resource recovery companies that are recruited to the location or started from scratch. To create more efficient water flows in industrial parks, the processed water from one plant can be reused by another plant and the parks infrastructure can include a way to collect and reuse storm water runoff.
Urban farming is the process of growing and distributing food, as well as raising animals, in and around a city or in urban area. According to the RUAF Foundation, urban farming is different from rural agriculture because "it is integrated into the urban economic and ecological system: urban agriculture is embedded in -and interacting with- the urban ecosystem. Such linkages include the use of urban residents as labourers, use of typical urban resources (like organic waste as compost and urban wastewater for irrigation), direct links with urban consumers, direct impacts on urban ecology (positive and negative), being part of the urban food system, competing for land with other urban functions, being influenced by urban policies and plans, etc." There are many motivations behind urban agriculture, but in the context of creating a sustainable city, this method of food cultivation saves energy in food transportation and saves costs. In order for urban farming to be a successful method of sustainable food growth, cities must allot a common area for community gardens or farms, as well as a common area for a farmers market in which the foodstuffs grown within the city can be sold to the residents of the urban system. (Read more on the Urban Agriculture page)
Many cities are currently in a shift from the suburban sprawl model of development to a return to urban dense living. This shift in geographic distribution of population leads to a denser core of city residents. These residents provide a growing demand in many sectors that is reflected in the architectural fabric of the city. This new demand can be supplied by new construction or historic rehabilitation. Sustainable cities will opt for historical rehabilitation wherever possible. Having people live in higher densities not only gives economies of scale but also allows for infrastructure to be more efficient.
Walkable urbanism is a development strategy in opposition to suburban sprawl. It advocates housing for a diverse population, a full mix of uses, walkable streets, positive public space, integrated civic and commercial centers, transit orientation and accessible open space. It also advocates for density and accessibility of commercial and government activity.
The most clearly defined form of walkable urbanism is known as the Charter of New Urbanism. It is an approach for successfully reducing environmental impacts by altering the built environment to create and preserve smart cities which support sustainable transport. Residents in compact urban neighborhoods drive fewer miles, and have significantly lower environmental impacts across a range of measures, compared with those living in sprawling suburbs. The concept of Circular flow land use management has also been introduced in Europe to promote sustainable land use patterns that strive for compact cities and a reduction of greenfield land taken by urban sprawl.
In sustainable architecture the recent movement of New Classical Architecture promotes a sustainable approach towards construction, that appreciates and develops smart growth, walkability, architectural tradition and classical design. This in contrast to modernist and globally uniform architecture, as well as opposing solitary housing estates and suburban sprawl. Both trends started in the 1980s.
Individual buildings (LEED)
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green building certification system. LEED recognizes whole building sustainable design by identifying key areas of excellence including: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Locations & Linkages, Awareness and Education, Innovation in Design, Regional Priority. In order for a building to become LEED certified sustainability needs to be prioritized in design, construction, and use. One example of sustainable design would be including a certified wood like bamboo. Bamboo is fast growing and has an incredible replacement rate after being harvested. By far the most credits are rewarded for optimizing energy performance. This promotes innovative thinking about alternative forms of energy and encourages increased efficiency.
As major focus of the sustainable cities, sustainable transportation attempts to reduce a city’s reliance and use of greenhouse emitting gases by utilizing eco friendly urban planning, low environmental impact vehicles, and residential proximity to create an urban center that has greater environmental responsibility and social equity.
Due to the significant impact that transportation services have on a city’s energy consumption, the last decade has seen an increasing emphasis on sustainable transportation by developmental experts. Currently, transportation systems account for nearly a quarter of the world’s energy consumption and carbon dioxide emission. In order to reduce the environmental impact caused by transportation in metropolitan areas, sustainable transportation has three widely agreed upon pillars that it utilizes to create more healthy and productive urban centers.
The Carbon Trust states that there are three main ways cities can innovate to make transport more sustainable without increasing journey times - better land use planning, modal shift to encourage people to choose more efficient forms of transport, and making existing transport modes more efficient.
Car free city
The concept of Car free cities or a city with large pedestrian areas is often part of the design of a sustainable city. A large part of the carbon footprint of a city is generated by cars so the car free concept is often considered an integral part of the design of a sustainable city.
Emphasis on proximity
Created by eco friendly urban planning, the concept of urban proximity is an essential element of current and future sustainable transportation systems. This requires that cities be built and added onto with appropriate population and landmark density so that destinations are reached with reduced time in transit. This reduced time in transit allows for reduced fuel expenditure and also opens the door to alternative means of transportation such as bike riding and walking.
Furthermore, close proximity of residents and major landmarks allows for the creation of efficient public transportation by eliminating long sprawled out routes and reducing commute time. This in turn decreases the social cost to residents who choose to live in these cities by allowing them more time with families and friends instead by eliminating a part of their commute time.
Diversity in modes of transportation
Sustainable transportation emphasizes the use of a diversity of fuel-efficient transportation vehicles in order to reduce greenhouse emissions and diversity fuel demand. Due to the increasingly expensive and volatile cost of energy, this strategy has become very important because it allows a way for city residents to be less susceptible to varying highs and lows in various energy prices.
Among the different modes of transportation, the use alternative energy cars and widespread instillation of refueling stations has gained increasing importance, while the creation of centralized bike and walking paths remains a staple of the sustainable transportation movement.
Access to transportation
In order to maintain the aspect of social responsibility inherent within the concept of sustainable cities, implementing sustainable transportation must include access to transportation by all levels of society. Due to the fact that car and fuel cost are often too expensive for lower income urban residents, completing this aspect often revolves around efficient and accessible public transportation.
In order to make public transportation more accessible, the cost of rides must be affordable and stations must be located no more than walking distance in each part of the city. As studies have shown, this accessibility creates a great increase in social and productive opportunity for city residents. By allowing lower income residents cheap and available transportation, it allows for individuals to seek employment opportunities all over the urban center rather than simply the area in which they live. This in turn reduces unemployment and a number of associated social problems such as crime, drug use, and violence.
Urban strategic planning
Although there is not an international policy regarding sustainable cities and there are not established international standards, there is an organization, the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) that is working to establish universal urban strategic guidelines. The UCLG a democratic and decentralized structure that operates in Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Europe, Latin America, North America, Middle East, West Asian and a Metropolitan section work to promote a more sustainable society. The 60 members of the UCLG committee evaluate urban development strategies and debate theses experiences to make the best recommendations. Additionally, the UCLG accounts for differences in regional and national context. All the organizations are making a great effort to promote this concept by media and internet, and in conferences and workshops. An International conference is going to be held in Italy at Università del Salento and Università degli Studi della Basilicata called ‘Green Urbanism’ from 12–14 October 2016.
Recently, local and national governments and regional bodies such as the European Union have recognized the need for a holistic understanding of urban planning. This is instrumental to establishing an international policy that focuses on cities challenges and the role of the local authorities responses. Generally, in terms of urban planning, the responsibility of local governments are limited to land use and infrastructure provision excluding inclusive urban development strategies. The advantages of urban strategic planning include an increase in governance and cooperation that aides local governments in establishing performance based-management, clearly identifying the challenges facing local community and more effectively responding on a local level rather than national level, and finally it improves institutional responses and local decision making. Additionally, it increases dialogue between stakeholders and develops consensus-based solutions, establishing continuity between sustainability plans and change in local government; it places environmental issues as the priority for the sustainable development of cities and serves as a platform to develop concepts and new models of housing, energy and mobility.
The City Development Strategies (CDS) addresses new challenges and provides space for innovative policies that involves all stakeholders. The inequality in spatial development and socio-economic classes paired with concerns of poverty reduction and climate change are factors in achieving global sustainable cities. According to the UCLG there are differences between regional and national conditions, framework and practice that are overcome in the international commitment to communication and negotiation with other governments, communities and the private sector to continual to develop through innovative and participatory approaches in strategic decisions, building consensus and monitoring performance management and raising investment.
Social factors of sustainable cities
According to UN Habitat, around half of the world's population is concentrated in cities, which is set to rise to 60% within a couple decades. The UCLG has specifically identified 13 global challenges to establishing sustainable cities: demographic change and migration, globalisation of the job market, poverty and unmet Millennium Development Goals, segregation, spatial patterns and urban growth, metropolisation and the rise of urban regions, more political power for local authories, new actors for developing a city and providing services, decline in public funding for development, the environment and climate change, new and accessible building technologies, preparing for uncertainty and limits of growth and global communications and partnerships.
City of Greater Taree, New South Wales
The City of Greater Taree North of Sydney has developed a masterplan for Australia's first low-to-no carbon urban development.
In Adelaide, South Australia (a city of 1.3 million people) Premier Mike Rann (2002 to 2011) launched an urban forest initiative in 2003 to plant 3 million native trees and shrubs by 2014 on 300 project sites across the metro area. The projects range from large habitat restoration projects to local biodiversity projects. Thousands of Adelaide citizens have participated in community planting days. Sites include parks, reserves, transport corridors, schools, water courses and coastline. Only trees native to the local area are planted to ensure genetic integrity. Premier Rann said the project aimed to beautify and cool the city and make it more liveable; improve air and water quality and reduce Adelaide's greenhouse gas emissions by 600,000 tonnes of C02 a year. He said it was also about creating and conserving habitat for wildlife and preventing species loss.
The Rann government also launched an initiative for Adelaide to lead Australia in the take-up of solar power. In addition to Australia's first 'feed-in' tariff to stimulate the purchase of solar panels for domestic roofs, the government committed millions of dollars to place arrays of solar panels on the roofs of public buildings such as the Museum, Art Gallery, Parliament, Adelaide Airport, 200 schools and Australia's biggest rooftop array on the roof of Adelaide Showgrounds' convention hall which was registered as a power station.
South Australia went from zero wind power in 2002 to wind power making up 26% of its electricity generation by October 2011. In 5 years to 2011 there was a 15% drop in emissions, despite strong economic growth.
For Adelaide the South Australian government also embraced a Zero Waste recycling strategy, achieving a recycling rate of nearly 80% by 2011 with 4.3 million tonnes of materials diverted from landfill to recycling. On a per capita basis this was the best result in Australia, the equivalent of preventing more than a million tonnes of C02 entering the atmosphere. In the 1970s container deposit legislation was introduced. Consumers are paid a 10 cent rebate on each bottle/can/container they return to recycling. In 2009 non-reusable plastic bags used in supermarket checkouts were banned by the Rann Government preventing 400 million plastic bags per year entering the litter stream. In 2010 Zero Waste SA was commended by a UN Habitat Report entitled 'Solid Waste Management in the World Cities'.
Belo Horizonte, Brazil The city was created in 1897 and is the third largest metropolitan in Brazil with 2.4 million inhabitants. The Strategic Plan for Belo Horizonte (2010–2030) is being prepared by external consultants based on similar cities infrastructure, incorporating the role of local government, state government, city leaders and encouraging citizen participation. The need for environmental sustainable development is led by the initiative of new government following planning processes from the state government. Overall, the development of the metropolis is dependent on the land regularization and infrastructure improvement that will better support the cultural technology and economic landscape.
The GreenScore City Index studies the ecologically footprints of Canadian cities and splits them into three population categories: Large, Medium, Small. The index studies 50 cities in Canada.
Most cities in Canada have sustainability action plans which are easily searched and downloaded from city websites.
Two comprehensive studies were carried out for the whole of Denmark in 2010 (The IDA Climate Plan 2050) and 2011 (The Danish Commission on Climate Change Policy). The studies analysed the benefits and obstacles of running Denmark on 100% renewable energy from year 2050. There is also a larger, ambitious plan in action: Copenhagen 2025 Climate Plan
On a more local level, the industrial park in Kalundborg is often cited as a model for industrial ecology. However projects have been carried out in several Danish cities promoting 100% renewable energy. Examples are: Aalborg, Ballerup and Frederikshavn. Aalborg University has launched a master education on sustainable cities (Sustainable Cities @ Aalborg University Copenhagen). See also the Danish Wikipedia
The Finnish city of Turku has adopted "Carbon Neutral Turku by 2040" strategy to achieve carbon neutrality via combining the goal with circular economy.
No other country has built more eco-city projects than Germany. Freiburg im Breisgau is often referred to as a green city. It is one of the few cities with a Green mayor and is known for its strong solar energy industry. Vauban, Freiburg is a sustainable model district. All houses are built to a low energy consumption standard and the whole district is designed to be carfree. Another green district in Freiburg is Rieselfeld, where houses generate more energy than they consume. There are several other green sustainable city projects such as Kronsberg in Hannover and current developments around Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt.
The government portrays the proposed Hung Shui Kiu new town as an eco-city. The same happened with the urban development plan on the site of the former Kai Tak Airport.
Auroville was founded in 1968 with the intention of realizing human unity, and is now home to approximately 2,000 individuals from over 45 nations around the world. Its focus is its vibrant community culture and its expertise in renewable energy systems, habitat restoration, ecology skills, mindfulness practices, and holistic education.
Andhra Pradesh state New capital also coming up with a future sustainable city.
South Dublin County Council announced plans in late 2007 to develop Clonburris, a new suburb of Dublin to include up to 15,000 new homes, to be designed to achieve the highest of international standards. The plans for Clonburris include countless green innovations such as high levels of energy efficiency, mandatory renewable energy for heating and electricity, the use of recycled and sustainable building materials, a district heating system for distributing heat, the provision of allotments for growing food, and even the banning of tumble driers, with natural drying areas being provided instead.
In 2012 a energy plan was carried out by the Danish Aalborg University for the municipalities of Limerick and Clare. The project was a short-term 2020 renewable energy strategy giving a 20% reduction in CO2-emissions, while ensuring that short-term actions are beneficial to the long-term goal of 100% renewable energy.
Hacienda - Mombasa is the largest development of eco-friendly residential properties in East Africa; construction is currently ongoing, and it will eventually be one of Africa’s first self-sustaining estates.
Songdo IBD is a planned city in Incheon which has incorporated a number of eco-friendly features. These include a central park, irrigated with seawater, a subway line, bicycle lanes, rainwater catchment systems, pneumatic waste collection system, ... Finally, 75% of the waste generated by the construction of the city will be recycled.
Gwanggyo City Centre is another planned sustainable city.
As of 2014 a Low Carbon Cities programme is being piloted in Malaysia by KeTTHA, the Malaysian Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water, Malaysian Green Technology Corporation (GreenTech Malaysia) and the Carbon Trust.
Malacca has a stated ambition to become a carbon-free city, taking steps towards creating a smart electricity grid. This is being done as part of an initiative to create a Green Special Economic Zone, where it is intended that as many as 20 research and development centers will be built focusing on renewable energy and clean technology, creating up to 300,000 new green jobs.
The Federal Department of Town and Country Planning (FDTCP), Peninsular Malaysia is a focal point for the implementation of Malaysian Urban Rural National Indicators Network for Sustainable Development (MURNInets) .MURNInets which include 36 sets of compulsory indicators grouped under 21 themes under 6 dimensions. Most of the targets and standards for the selected indicators were adjusted according to hierarchy of local authorities. In MURNInets at least 3 main new features are introduced. This include the Happiness Index, an indicator under the quality of life theme to meet the current development trend that emphasizes on the well-being of community. Another feature introduced is the customer or people satisfaction level towards local authority’s services. It is through the introduction of these indicators the bottom-up approach in measuring sustainability is adopted.
The city of Waitakere, the Western part of the greater Auckland urban region, was New Zealand's first eco-city, working from the Greenprint, a guiding document that the City Council developed in the early 1990s.
Clark Freeport Zone, a former United States Air Force base in the Philippines. It is located on the northwest side of Angeles City and on the west side of Mabalacat City in the province of Pampanga. It is located about 40 miles (60 km) northwest of Metro Manila. A multi-billion project will convert the 36,000 hectare former Clark Air Force Base into a mix of industrial, commercial and institutional areas of green environment. The heart of the project is a 9,450-hectare metropolis dubbed as the “Clark Green City". Builders will use the green building system and put up environmentally-friendly structures. Its facilities will tap renewable energy such as solar and hydro power.
The organization Living PlanIT is currently constructing a city from scratch near Porto, Portugal. Buildings will be electronically connected to vehicles giving the user a very detailed sense personal eco-friendliness.