Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Future of Cities

By 2020 over half the population of the planet will be living in high density cities, with dozens of mega-cities having populations greater than 10 million. On current estimates of access to basic services this level of population density will make them unsustainable in terms of acceptable quality of life standards.
Major cities today are already facing escalating problems of survival including transportation gridlock, critical lack of low cost public housing, massive pollution, high crime rates and ongoing disruption caused by natural disasters.

Urban planners are beginning to have some success in solving these problems. For example standards for both public and private architecture are going through a major transformation aimed at energy conservation and sustainability. At the city planning level, China is building its first ecocity- Dongtan, on an island near Shanghai in the Yangste Delta. It offers a model for sustainable cities of the future, designed to be completely self sufficient, generating its own power, zero carbon emissions and the capacity to feed its inhabitants. Similarly in Abu Dhabi, work has begun on the first zero-carbon, zero-waste city in the region at Masdar.

Building and planning codes will also seek to minimise natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, arctic storms and sea inundation, for city dwellers. Such catastrophes are now occurring more frequently and at greater intensity across the planet due to climate change, causing serious loss of life and billions of dollars of damage and disruption each year.

By 2025 the impact of global warming will dominate city planning, with water and waste recycling mandatory for all households and businesses. Buildings will be designed to conserve energy, with surfaces utilising flexible organic solar panels. In addition, high growth public gardens, green belts and mini-parks will generate cooling air-flows and most surfaces will be utilised to collect runoff water to support sustainable horticulture.
Garbage will be totally recycled, including paper, plastics, metals, chemicals and electronics, with organic waste generating significant levels of methane energy for local heating and power grid usage.

At the same time, in all major cities, planning and architecture will shift towards the design of small self-sufficient interconnected neighbourhoods, within walking or cycling distance of essential service centres. These will provide the full range of communication, education, work, health, leisure and social resources.

In addition, locally available high bandwidth web infrastructure will provide community and home-based alternatives to today's physical shopping malls and office blocks. Those facilities already built will be largely recycled over time to create community low cost living, work and leisure facilities.

Most conventional vehicle-based transport infrastructure will be replaced in favour of flexible urban public transport including rapid bus transit and automatic monorail pods operating on demand for personal use. Very high speed trains travelling up to 500kph will also replace a large percentage of cross-country aircraft travel, as is already occurring in China.

By 2035 cities will be operating primarily as complex service and knowledge hubs fostering high levels of innovation. Fully automated supply, manufacturing and distribution centres will function with near-zero carbon emissions on the outskirts of cities connected by underground automatic rail links to ports and storage centres, eliminating the bulk of truck transport congestion, damage to roads and risk of accidents.

Planning and control centres will be distributed within city neighbourhoods, with sections of the urban environment built underground to conserve energy, avoid extreme weather events and also free up more land for local sustainable city horticulture.

By 2050, cities will have evolved to become fully integrated service, supply and knowledge ecosystems, largely supported by the intelligent Web 4.0( Ref Future Web). Ongoing higher education and trade-related skills for populations will be mandatory and constantly updated to meet evolving societal requirements. Earlier problems such as traffic congestion, capacity bottlenecks and pollution within cities will have been largely eliminated. Physical and petty crime will also have been significantly reduced by automatic implementation of ubiquitous security monitoring and prevention.

In the future, the current and growing complexities and population densities of cities will be recognised as lifestyle assets to be exploited and leveraged by their populations rather than liabilities to be avoided.Future Cities

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating David! I've just discovered you, time to read more!