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  • Writer's pictureLilla Schottner

Sustainable, Green City Design

Updated: May 13, 2022

Would it not be nice for all cities to look like the one in the picture?

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 worldwide account for about 71 to 76 percent of global carbon emissions.

Designing a sustainable green city is very important. Still, first, we must understand sustainability. "Sustainable development is a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising future generations to meet their own needs" (Brundtland report, 1987). To design sustainable cities, we must consider the three pillars of sustainability: environment, equity, and economy. To promote sustainable green living, we must use green building technologies, optimize resources, use renewable energy, and make the urban environments people-friendly. As humans are changing the climate, one of the essential mitigation strategies is planting and maintaining 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 can sequestrate air pollutants such as CO2 and other particulate matter from the air while releasing oxygen. And water vapor through evapotranspiration. The results are cleaner air, cooler climate, more extensive diversity, and happier and healthier people.

For a sustainable city design, city planners, urban designers, botanists, engineers, and architects must work together to create:

· Parks, Vertical gardens, Green and blue corridors

· Green roofs, Edible vertical gardens

· Aquaponics, Hydroponics systems

· Water management, natural wastewater treatments, rain gardens

and use renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal

· rethink transportation and municipal waste.

Parks, Vertical gardens, Green and Blue corridors

Urban planners and park designers, to reduce the city Urban heat island (UHI) effect, must plan vertical gardens, green corridors, and parks in cities and around. Parks are proven to mitigate heat, air pollution, and climate change. Research shows us that urban park planners must design extensive, round gardens with many different trees to increase the parks’ cool island effect (Nowak, 2017). Green and blue corridors also provide connectivity for wildlife! They enhance biodiversity and water quality and improve resilience.

Biophilia Design

Botanists and green architects could use Biophilia, which translates to "love of life," in their designs. Biophilia has been shown to reduce stress, improve cognitive performance 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 significant contributors to climate change. Agriculture is responsible for 30-35 percent of greenhouse gases emitted globally. Sources are transportation and soil degradation, releasing carbon and emissions from fertilized soils.

Growing food in a local environment, such as green roof gardens, hydroponics, and aquaponics, is an example of how an urban environment with a minimal negative impact can combat food insecurity and climate change.

Besides growing local, fresh vegetables, roof gardens have many other positive environmental impacts, such as carbon sinks, lowering the UHI effect through evapotranspiration, conserving energy, reducing runoffs, and creating 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 modern vertical hydroponics garden inventor. His designs are not just esthetically beautiful, but they also considerably reduce the UHI effect.

Building aquaponics and hydroponics systems, such as those at my university (UDC), reduce food insecurity and mitigates climate change.

Water management, natural wastewater treatments, rain gardens

Water scarcity will be a problem for future generations; therefore, we must preserve our freshwater. Designing cities with permeable pavement (first picture), installing rain gardens (second picture), and rainwater cisterns (third picture) is essential to capture rainwater, preventing floods and runoffs. The photos below 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. We must design solar panels which can be used on office buildings and private house, or mixing solar panels with green roofs.

Geothermal energy is another renewable source, using Earth’s heat. Hungary, where I was born, has plenty of this resource.


We must design cities with reduced automobile traffic and more public transport, cycling, and pedestrian walkways (like the free general public transportation implemented in Luxembourg on March 01. 2020), promoting public health and well-being. Renewable energy sources should power public transport. 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 excellent solution for a link to the future!

Municipal Waste

An average person in the US throws away almost five pounds of solid waste every day, which creates a major environmental problem. Most of this waste ends up in landfills or incinerators emitting GHG, heating the planet, and poisoning the land, air, and waterways. The city government's highest priority has to be waste prevention and reduction and must move towards a circular economy. Household composting should be mandatory.

What kind of future for humanity and its role in the Ecosphere would you like to see?

What future do you think we will see in 50 years, 100 years, 1000 years! Are you an optimist, realist, pessimist? What are some of the significant issues that you think will need to be addressed by human society in the future?

I am cautiously optimistic, hoping 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 and more green cities and places in the future. And perhaps, we should move beyond that! I love 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, developments, destructions of wetlands, forests, and mangroves, and lack of respect for our nature in general!


Living architecture

Anacostia Indoor Aquaponics System

Biophilic Design

Urban Forest Sustainability

Air Quality Effects of Urban Trees and Parks

EPA Geothermal Heating and Cooling Technologies

Geothermal-energy in Hungary

Blue and Green Corridors

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