Sustainable, Green City Design
Updated: Sep 16
For my Environmental Science course I had to design a futuristic, sustainable city.
Here is my exploration. @ the University of the District of Columbia. April, 27. 2020
Sustainable, green city design.
I will explore the idea of how to design sustainable, green cities. By 2050, there will be about 9.5 billion people living on this planet and most of them will be living in big cities. Cities across the world account for about 71 to 76 percent of global carbon emissions.
Designing a sustainable green city is therefore very important, but first, we must understand what is “Sustainable development”? “It is a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising future generations to meet their own needs “(Brundtland report, 1987). In order to design sustainable cites, we must consider the three pillars of sustainability: environment, equity, and economy. In order to promote sustainable green living, we must use green building technologies, optimize the use of resources, use renewable energy, and make the urban environments people-friendly. As humans are changing the climate, one of the most important mitigation strategies is to plant and maintain trees and green spaces. Urban trees, other than having esthetic values, can provide us with ecosystem services. Urban tree canopies, green spaces, green roofs, green walls, biophilic designs, and diverse vegetation have the ability to sequestrate CO2 and other particulate matter from the air, releasing oxygen and water vapor through evapotranspiration. The results are cleaner air, cooler climate, bigger diversity, happier and healthier people.
For my green urbanism project, I would gather and work with city planners, urban designers, botanists, ecological engineers, architects to create green infrastructure, living architecture, green and blue corridors, and wetlands, such as:
· Parks, Vertical gardens, Green and blue corridors
· Biophilia Design
· Green roofs, Edible vertical gardens
· Aquaponics, Hydroponics systems
· Water management, natural waste water treatments, rain gardens
· Using renewable energy sources, such as: solar, wind, geothermal
· Municipal waste
Parks, Vertical gardens, Green and Blue corridors
Urban planners and park designers, in order to reduce the cities ‘Urban heat island” effect, must plan vertical gardens, green corridors and parks within the city and around the city. Parks are proven to mitigate heat, air pollution and climate change. Research is showing us that urban park planners must design large, round parks with substantial number of different species of trees in order to increase the parks’ cool island effect (Nowak, 2017). Green corridors also provide connectivity for wild-life! Blue corridors provide more astethic, living and working environment. They enhance biodiversity, water quality and improve resilence.
Botanist and green architects could use Biophilia, which translates to “love of life”. This design is shown to reduce stress, improve cognitive performances and support positive emotions; therefore, a biophilic office design like the ones below will improve office performance!
Green roofs & Edible vertical gardens
Food systems are major contributors to climate change. Agriculture is responsible for 30-35 percent of greenhouse gases emitted globally. Sources are: transportation, soil degradation which releases carbon and emissions from fertilized soils.
Growing food in a local environment, such as green roof gardens, hydroponics and aquaponics are examples of how urban environment with a minimal negative impact can combat food insecurity and climate change.
Other than growing local, fresh vegetables, roof gardens have many other positive environmental impacts such as carbon sinks, lowering the UHI effect through evapotranspiration, conserve energy, reduce runoffs and create ecosystems for the pollinators, such as honey bees and birds.
Green architects and botanists must also incorporate edible vertical gardens into building designs. They create shade, reduce energy consumption, air and noise pollution, mitigate CO2 and produce fresh, local food.
My favorite French botanist, Patrick Blanc, is the inventor of the modern vertical hydroponics garden. His designs are not just esthetically beautiful, but they also reduce considerably the UHI effect.
Engineers can create Aquaponics, hydroponics systems, such as the ones we have at my university (UDC). This is a great way to reduce food insecurity and mitigate climate change.
Water management, natural waste water treatments, rain gardens designed by ecological engineers and city planners.
Water scarcity will be a problem for future generations, therefore we must preserve our fresh water. Designing cities with permeable pavement (first picture), installing rain gardens (second picture), and rain water cisterns (3rd picture) is essential to capture rain water, preventing floods and runoffs. The pictures bellow were taken at my university.
Renewable energy sources: solar, wind, geothermal
We need cities with good energy policies, based on energy saving, efficient technologies and renewable energy sources. Solar energy engineers can design special solar panels which can be used on office buildings and private houses. Another great idea is mixing up solar power with green roofs.
Geothermal energy is another renewable source, using Earth’s heat. Hungary has plenty of this resource.
Engineers could and should design cities with reduced automobile traffic and more public transport, cycling and pedestrian walk-ways (like the free general public transportation implemented in Luxembourg on March 01. 2020). This would promote public health and well-being. Public transport, for example tram systems, should be powered by renewable energy source. We can also find ways to repurpose or recycle our waste such as plastic, using recycled, single-use plastic for pavement. Building solar roadways would be another great solution for making the link to the future!
An average person in the US throws away almost five pounds of solid waste every day. This is a major environmental problem because most of it ends up in landfills or incinerators emitting GHG, heating the planet and poisoning the land, air and water ways. City governments highest priority has to be waste prevention, reduction and must move towards circular economy. Household composting should be mandatory.
What is the kind of future for humanity and its role in the Ecosphere that you would like to see?
What is the future that you think we will see in 50 years, 100 years, 1000 years! Are you an optimist, realist, pessimist? What are some of the major issues that you think will need to be addressed by human society in the future?
I am cautiously optimistic, hoping to see that humanity will start to take good care of our environment and respect nature and other species. I would like to see more sustainable developments, more green cities and places in the future. And perhaps, we should move beyond that (my favorite: the movie “Avatar”, how they live, love and respect nature!)
Major issues: Climate change, plastic pollution, fossil fuel companies, over-consumption and over-use of synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, over-construction, destructions of wetlands, forests, mangroves, lack of respect to our nature in general!