When one imagines a future city, we often tend to imagine a scene from some sci-fi movie wherein technology has the reins to the world, robots steer the economy and we completely rely on gadgets. While all this is a probability that might come true, the predominant concept that needs to be adopted in the future is of a smart yet sustainable city.
The popular lingo of “natural”, “organic”, “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” design must be implemented in the future; it is the need of the hour.
People change with the changing times, and while we have witnessed some surface-level changes, this is just the beginning. We can expect sustainably developed cities across the globe, cities that look like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
With a paradigm shift in the thought-process of the world, we are now emphasizing protecting the environment at all costs. This can be achieved only by ensuring optimal use of resources and minimizing energy loss. Being environmentally responsible now will help us to sustain ourselves in the future. So, a future sustainable city is a key to all our problems, be it physical waste accumulation or excessive energy consumption.
Need for the Future Sustainable Model
While small nations face problems like weak governance, poor economies, and declining population, big rich nations have adversities like overpopulation, aging infrastructure, traffic congestion, and global competition. The main philosophy of city design is built on the principle of encompassing all the urban challenges faced and offering solutions for the same. This can be done with a holistic approach towards urban development with the help of integrated environment technologies.
Therefore, an important feature of future sustainable cities is to overcome some major concerns while also keeping their impact on the ecosystem in mind. The future cities must also be adaptive and responsive to future risks and events.
Principles of city design
Designing of future sustainable cities should be based on a broad range of disciplines – sustainability solutions should be focused on habits, lifestyles, cultures, and values of the society. Thus involving the political, economic, and educational activities and systems.
10 principles to keep in mind to design a future sustainable city are:
- Water supply, and conservation and drainage,
- Waste, and its management,
- Energy supply, distribution and efficiency,
- Sustainable agriculture and Food practices,
- Easy, efficient, affordable and sustainable Mobility,
- Preservation of historic heritage and celebration of Culture and Art,
- More Livability,
- Green and advanced Infrastructure, and
- Economic policies that safeguard ecological sustainability.
The Future Sustainable City Models
The amalgamation of 3 city design models will help us arrive at the features of a sustainable futuristic city. These 3 city models are as follows:
- The Compact City: More energy-efficient, less commute, more interaction, and community spirit, heterogeneous zoning, less dependence on automobiles.
- The Eco-city: Self-contained local neighborhood, use of renewable energy, minimum input (resources) and output (waste), urban environmental system, locally obtained resources, zero-waste system, carbon neutrality, public transportation, urban and local farming, etc.
- The Data-Driven City: Data-driven city operations center, real-time data streams for decision making and problem-solving purposes, urban operations composed and monitored by ICT, etc.
These models help us in choosing different solutions and features based on the environment of the city.
Features of the Future Sustainable City
1. Green Infrastructure
Green Infrastructure includes a strategically planned network of natural, semi-natural areas with other features of the design – manages together to provide a vast number of ecosystem services. These include green roofs, green buildings, urban farms, ecological planning, etc. It improves the living conditions and quality of life, helps in promoting a green economy and thus sustainability.
2. Carbon Neutrality
Using low carbon energy materials instead of concrete and steel – such as bamboo, recycled plastic bricks, adobe, straw bales, mycelium, cross-laminated timber, etc., minimizing waste and creating carbon sinks using landscaping and water bodies to offset the carbon footprint.
Creating carbon net-zero designs by significantly reducing energy consumption and incorporating natural systems and environmentally friendly energy sources is the way forward—for creating sustainable infrastructure.
3. Resilience and Adaptability
The City’s design must be such that it can adapt and cope with natural and man-made disasters such as floods and earthquakes. This can be done by creating smart and adaptive infrastructure that recovers aftershocks and stresses. The city design must also incorporate special pathways and ramps for the disabled. It should be able to adapt for all the citizens.
4. Self-contained Social Neighbourhoods
This is also called compacting of a city or densification. In self-contained social neighborhoods, the main aim is to cut down transportation costs and infrastructure. This is done by making the neighborhood self-sufficient – mixed building designs, working spaces at proximity, shared spaces and amenities, increased human interaction, sustainable urban agriculture, etc.
This reduces the daily transport needs and urban sprawls and in turn helping the environment and ecosystems thrive.
5. Zero-Emission Transportation
Constant transportation contributes the maximum to carbon emissions than any other sector. Thus, reducing emissions and bringing it down to net-zero is a focus today. Making public transportation safer, more affordable, and highly efficient will reduce dependence on private vehicles, thus reducing the carbon footprint of transport.
The connectivity between various modes of transport, such as local rail, bus lines, airports, high speed trains, waterways should be smooth and hassle-free.
6. Making Space for Nature
Nature should be able to thrive even in our cities – this will improve local air quality, improve well-being and biodiversity and reduce the heat-island effect. More biodiversity will help in maintaining urban gardens and farms. This will also slow down habitat destruction as cities expand.
This can be done by various means such as wetland restorations, strategic landscaping (eg: xeriscaping), underground (soil-free hydroponic farms) farming, rooftop farming, vertical farming, green roofs, sky gardens, solar walls, and windows, etc.
7. Energy Innovations of the Future
Using energy efficient designs for housing, commerce, and public lighting and using sustainable materials in service grids to facilitate long-term, and cost-effective performance of the cities. Using smart grids and smart meters and network monitoring to help users better manage their energy consumption behaviors. This will also support longer asset lifetimes and lower maintenance.
Better quality management can be done through energy storage (thermal and electrical). This will lead to greener and more efficient energy systems. Green streets, intergenerational housing, small wind turbines on rooftops are examples.
8. Energy Conscious Construction
Energy conservation as a criterion must be considered while designing the building itself and not later adding it like an add-on. This can be done by working more with natural lighting and airflow rather than depending on artificial lighting and air conditioners. The structures will automatically consume less energy making them eco-friendly.
Adding technology and smart connectivity to these structures won’t need as much electricity as for its structural needs. Low-rise buildings, modular interiors (multipurpose), and flexible buildings (can be used for other purposes) are examples. Glow
9. Drainage and Waste Management
Responsible consumption and usage right from designing the city and building it increases the sustainability significantly. For example, using plastic bricks for construction (reusing plastic), creating pits for converting organic waste to electricity (anaerobic digestion), etc. this reduces the waste and the need for landfills.
Reduce, reuse and recycle awareness amongst the residents and creating infrastructure that causes responsible consumption allows for minimal waste. Rainwater cleansing by creating absorbent rain gardens and percolating streets (improves groundwater levels) and pools to collect rainwater and reuse it.
10. Biomorphic Urbanism
Biomorphism is derived from ‘bio’ meaning life and ‘morph’ meaning form. Therefore, it means cities formed by life. It is similar to the biophilic design which is an approach to architecture and urban planning that merges natural and man-made elements. In Biomorphic urbanism, anthropogenic systems should be complementary to ecological systems.
Shaping systems based on ecological systems instead of the dominant anthropogenic systems is now needed. The unique ecologies and cultures of the city should be expressed through the city’s architecture, form, and planning.
All of these features and solutions have been developed over a long span of architectural trials and errors over the years. Thus, the base to an environmentally friendly future that lasts for many future generations, is to adopt maximum possible sustainable features in city designs. Population rise, environment protection, and sustainable material use will dictate future architectural designs.
Only time will tell what techniques will continue to be in use and what won’t be in use, but designing and building smart will never go out of trend. All of these new methods and technologies will completely change the way our neighborhoods look and feel and how fast they are built. They will redefine the term “concrete jungle” – becoming more literal than symbolic. The future of architecture looks fascinating and enthralling!