Planning Savvy, Sustainable City Environs – Being Eco-Smart

Big City

Planning savvy, sustainable city environs – being eco-smart is an urgent challenge not just of the future, but in the here, and right now.

Delivering sustainable communities has become big business, one that will only grow bigger in the next few decades.

We need to fast-track informed, intelligent decisions and solutions for managing natural, urban and virtual environments to contribute to balancing our own, and the planet’s resources.

businesswoman in officeA lot will depend on creatively connecting communities globally as well as computing the right answers. The future is about finding and implementing intelligent strategies for the difficulties the world faces.

Being part of the Green Movement world wide has already become essential for companies involved in industries that contribute to providing materials, technology or labour to create the type of infrastructure cities need to remain sustainable, healthy, savvy and just plain eco-smart.

Brainy ManWe all have intelligence, but mostly we need to be empowered and emboldened to choose to use it.

Most initiatives for the growth of green issues have historically been through the efforts of a group of local people, whose ideas become catching. Today they are seen as global issues. It’s about climate change, growth of populations, depletion of natural resources, destruction of forests and pollution of the waters on land and sea.

Forward planning is now one of the single biggest issues to be dealt with. How can we motivate people to protect their environment, but allow it to advance at the same time.

Fostering connections between green industries and communities around the world will help to integrate knowledge. To thrive these networks will constantly need a fresh supply of youthful energy combined with a constant source of wisdom, the sort that comes from a wealth of experience.

Commonsense parenting of the future will be all about encouraging a forward looking positive attitude for those who want their children to achieve health, wellbeing and success in life.

Wind-MillsMany people have an innate instinct to protect what has gone before, often to their detriment. Wind farms, while considered an environmental necessity by many, have often displaced people from their homes, who then rail against the environmentalists campaigning for their use.

Somehow we must quickly learn how to collaborate and co-operate on a scale never been known before to arrive at smart and savvy solutions that will allow us to know where we should build and about how we can protect the very best of what we have left.

How can we design future city environments as centres of both social and cultural life, while ensuring they are viable human habitats? The d_city network is about ‘developing new data sets and software tools for planning, designing, building and managing cities … across specialist disciplines and industry sectors’.

I first heard about the d_city network when working to help establish the RSA at London as a separate entity in Australia back in 2005/2006. The d_city network (data cities) was first founded to connect global research and intelligence with dynamic data to produce eco-smart solutions.

Its aims are ‘to co-ordinate and support world-wide developers, governments and academic research to ensure that the governments of eco-intelligent cities are all on the same page’.

Their organisational diagram boldly identifies four main sectors for participants. Researchers, governments, commercial enterprises and, the citizens of the earth who need to be involved in delivering an information revolution in planning, designing and f0r managing cities of the future. Davina Jackson, Associate Professor Multi Disciplinary Design at University of New South Wales and the ‘Catalyst’ for d_city reported recently ‘the project has evolved quite a lot in the last few years.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has announced it is setting up a ‘global technology network to accelerate climate change solutions’.  d_city itself is also evolving as a brand name for publications to evangelize and catalyze this new UN network. The biggest idea for the network is to build a complete simulation of the dynamic and complex behaviours of the whole planet … a Digital Earth. For Australia, the big idea currently being developed is a Virtual Australia project, which would break down into grassroots mapping capers in various AU cities and regional communities’.

One of the support projects Davina is involved with is planning a TV series called Space Cadets. This would involve youngsters living in difficult, often run down areas of a city, being allowed to use spatial data and imaging technologies to help to find solutions for their community problems. Frost Huang, Manager of the Australian Trade Commissioner Hangzhou Office said of Davina ‘She is so knowledge-able about Australian architecture, the leading practices, and where Australia stands in the world of architecture’.

Large Hadron Collidor photographed by Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Large Hadron Collidor photographed by Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

It was in the early 19th century that philosopher Charles Babbage proposed a type of ‘difference engine’, one that would calculate and print data about the sea and the sky. With the aid of science and physics during the early 20th century, computing data gradually went from being a vision to becoming a reality.

Since the world-wide web became a global information space from about 1990, after the idea had been initially presented to the CERN European particle physics laboratory by Tim Berner-s Lee in 1989, digital technologies became powerful networks operating dynamically around the planet.

For the moment anyway for those who have embraced technology have huge amounts of information in their hands quite literally. The Internet is an incredible source of information able to be accessed by a majority easily.

However some countries limit their citizens from being able to view all that is available, wanting to control the flow of information. Freedom on all levels it seems is still only an ideal or state of mind for many rather than a reality, virtual or otherwise.

Sustainability requires big bucks to deliver. By being green companies gain business bargaining leverage, important business alliances and an edge over their competitors. Sein-Way Tan, Chairman and Group CEO of Green World City based in Sydney, Australia says “We believe cities should have air and water that is clean, power that comes from renewable sources, transport that does not pollute, effective digital connection and efficient management of resources. Global human talent should be effectively utilised to provide viable long-term solutions, help improve our environment and to build an economy that is sustainable and vibrant” . GWC is supported by many other ‘Green’ organisations, including the United Nations.

Architecture Design AwardWhen producing any sort of structure property developer’s world-wide and their architects will constantly need to consider and address social issues of isolation and access to essential goods and services for their clients so they can contribute to building community resilience.

Using design in innovative and clever ways will increase and aid resourcefulness of both people and communities. To achieve this street smart property developers are already working with government regulatory bodies and seeking the opinions of academics studying what’s happening to our urban environment, why, and what actions need to be taken to deliver and sustain a healthier future for all.

However it will be not enough just to speak to people at or near the top of the pyramid of power any more in a hope information gradually filters down. Changing things from the bottom up is the new way forward, and that means involving and empowering everyone through knowledge.

Melbourne Design WeekEndeavouring to understand the consequences for the environment and humanity is important for everyone in any community.  Property and virtual developers need to share information with all their workers because it is an intelligent thing to do.

We don’t want just high income people living in major cities in the future while lower income earners are forced to move to outlying urban and rural areas and then face hours and hours of travel back to the cities to provide services city people require?

This would not make sense. The future will need to be about creating a multi layered support system of people so that any city style area, be it rural or coastal, can sustain itself as cost effectively as possible.

green and red healthy foodIt has been proven that most households are already not consuming the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables to sustain good health. They are substituting staples like rice and bread because of cost.

Fresh food and its cost and distribution will become a major issue, as it becomes more difficult for the average consumer to access.

It could become almost post World War II like, when a whole generation existed on bread, rice, sugar and milk to sustain them. This affected their long-term wellbeing, especially in general, mental and dental health producing a welfare cost that has been a major burden to many economies for over thirty + years.  Everything has a price.

blurred Large crowd of peopleIn July 2011 at Noosa in Queensland policy makers, politicians, senior public servants, city governance personnel, public health administrators, academics, waste management professionals, national resources administrators, planning professionals, environmental groups, engineers, urban designers, consultants, social planners, disaster management groups, elected representatives, mayors, non-government agencies, community and industry groups, students, coastal resource managers, place makers and sustainability practitioners gathered at a conference about making cities liveable.

Hopefully some attendees came away inspired, motivated and moved to kick start some new programs for Australian cities that will help towards making them sustainable.  We need people who will turn words into action.

The CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, who is much admired for his wisdom and insight said in a talk on All Things D that “he was very concerned that as the internet becomes more controversial as the lack of harmony between different laws etc., the privacy, publicity, access to information… I am very concerned we will end up with only an internet per country”.  That was alarming.

Am sure he would want to be proved wrong so let us hope the organisations we have mentioned, working with the United Nations and other natural, urban and virtual environmental bodies, are successful at connecting with other communities and countries to keep the free flow of information going.

Big CityWe need knowledge + freedom + energy + output + wisdom if we want to = intelligent eco smart, sustainable savvy cities in the future.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2011 and 2012 – 2019

1 Comment

  • Koen says:

    At first I thought the designers had left out designing for the bicycle once again- until I saw that last image with the bike. The streetscape doesn’t suggest bicycle infrastructure though (lanes, paths,roads, sheds, parking).anyone ever thought of that?

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