Where is the sustainable city?

The World Bank's GCC management team visited one of those sites to learn more: The Sustainable City in Dubai, built by Diamond Developers, a private sector real estate company that spearheads the sustainable construction movement. Imagine a place where buildings consume up to 40% less energy and water, where public spaces cool naturally and where no inhabitant is more than 200 meters from public transport. This place, designed entirely around clean technologies and renewable energy, actually exists. Called Masdar City, it is located in Abu Dhabi and is the first city in the world designed to be completely ecological and sustainable.

Cities represent 3% of the Earth's surface, but they inhabit more than 50% of the planet's population. In addition, between 60 and 80% of global energy consumption and 75% of the world's carbon emissions come from cities, making them the places where climate plans and ecological measures have the greatest impact. And, since reinventing the wheel would be a waste of time, it would be more efficient if cities could learn from each other's climate plans and see what measures work well and which don't, and get new ideas for local climate action. A good example are the green bus stops in Utrecht (The Netherlands).

This city has installed green roofs at 300 of its bus stops in recent years and has been an inspiration for cities such as Leipzig, Frankfurt and Munich. Meanwhile, Warsaw is about to complete 20 bird-friendly bus stops with Sedum roofs, and Amsterdam has been experimenting with its own version of green shelters. We hope that more cities will inspire each other and, together, create a greener and more livable world. Here are 10 inspirational examples of sustainable urban planning.

The city of Basel (Switzerland) is very clear about green roofs. Since 2002, under the Building and Construction Act, all new and modernized buildings with a flat roof must have a green roof. The results are clearly visible on satellite images. With this law, the city plans to lower temperatures, save energy and conserve local biodiversity.

In Basel, the estimated number of days with temperatures above 30°C will rise from 10.5 (1981-20) to 24.7 in 2035, so this initiative is certainly a good idea. In addition to making the city more livable during heat waves and improving local biodiversity, green roofs help reduce air pollution, greenhouse gases and floods. Inspired by other ecological projects from around the world, the Sustainable City was built with environmental, economic and social sustainability in mind. The car park and buildings have solar panels, which provide 60% of the energy required.

The waste system ensures that 100% of waste and water are recycled. The area is a car-free zone, where walking and biking are recommended. In the center of the district there is a park full of 11 biodome greenhouses with a total capacity of more than 3000 square meters for urban agriculture. One of the ways in which the social aspect is fulfilled is with the construction of Sanad Village, which is specially designed for people with the autism spectrum and their families.

Effectively, the city needs to turn into a sponge, making sure that huge amounts of rainwater do not immediately disappear into the sewer system, but stop for a while and eventually are released in the form of evaporation or controlled release. One of the ways Hamburg makes this happen is through its green roof strategy. Green roofs act as water absorbers, absorbing rainwater and slowing its release to the sewer system. Since implementing the strategy, the city has built more than 140 hectares of green roofs and is looking for at least 100 more.

At least until 2025, the city subsidizes the installation of green roofs, giving homeowners up to 100,000 euros to make their roofs greener, ensuring that the incentive stays alive. Helsingborg has been listed as the number one Swedish municipality in terms of sustainability for four consecutive years. Not surprisingly, on the eve of its urban exhibition H22 Helsingborg, together with companies, organizations and individuals from its community, it launched 200 innovative projects. One of these projects is the new three-pipe circular sewer system, which has already been implemented in 2000 homes in the recently built sustainable Oceanhamnen district in Helsingborg.

With this system, organic waste and wastewater are classified at the source, using three wastewater pipes instead of one. One pipe transports sewage from the toilet (empty), another transports gray water from the bathtub, shower and washing machine and, finally, a special pipe that collects food waste through a kitchen waste shredder. All of this waste is transported to a new waste treatment plant, where it is converted into biogas, which powers local buses, fertilizer pallets and clean water. In this way, the plant makes the most efficient use of waste and, at the same time, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50% compared to the traditional system.

This is how the new 3-pipe sewer system works in Helsingborg: source After getting rid of its bad reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the world through social improvements, Medellín (Colombia) is now striving to become an eco-friendly city. The city already uses 69 electric buses and has an established network of bicycle lanes. Another impressive sustainable measure that Medellín has taken is the 30 green corridors that are installed throughout the city. Population is one of the main factors contributing to a greener space, with only 126,100 people, allowing for regular adaptation changes.

By 2040, Reykjavik plans to eliminate its production of greenhouse gas emissions by not only promoting walking and cycling, but also the use of public transportation. One of the main contributors to Helsinki's economy is tourism, which has led to an increase in eco-friendly accommodation. In fact, about 75% of the city's hotel rooms have been certified as environmentally friendly and those that haven't demonstrated their loyalty to the cause have some kind of environmental plan that covers all aspects of the business, from food and water to waste management and energy consumption. Reports suggest that Oregon has a workforce of around 647,000 people, a number that is steadily increasing over time.

The city itself has made some notable changes to ensure that it plays its role in improving the planet and the lifestyles of those who live in the area. But how did he do it? Believe it or not, 25% of city workers travel by bicycle, carpool or public transport, which is demonstrating great benefits for the environment. Because of this, the number of vehicles damaged on roads has been reduced. In addition to this, there are an estimated 250 miles of bike trails, highlighting how easy and safe it is to get around town.

Apparently, 8% of the city's population uses bicycles as their main means of transportation. When it comes to waste in the city, Portland produces 2,434,840 tons and recovers 1,235,924 tons, amazing results for a major city. In addition to the above, the city uses 33% of renewable energy, the national average is 13% and, like San Francisco, it has banned plastic bags. Berlin is arguably ranked as one of the most famous cities in the world, with a population of more than 3.47 million, but how was it crowned fourth on our list? According to some research, many believe that it is due to a more personal story.

In addition, it increases dialogue between stakeholders and develops consensus-based solutions, establishing continuity between sustainability plans and change in local government; places environmental issues as the priority for the sustainable development of cities and serves as a platform for development concepts and new models of housing, energy and mobility. The concept of car-free cities or a city with large pedestrian areas is often part of the design of a sustainable city. In addition, the modular and hexagonal design allows the reconstruction of each island; therefore, this space also offers environmental sustainability, as well as an open space for community growth and other social opportunities. With this strategy, people in local government work closely with companies and scientists to find ways to provide sustainable and future-proof rainwater management.

The Rotterdam Recycling Park, the second largest city in the Netherlands, is an initiative presented by the Recycled Island Foundation, an organization based in the Netherlands that focuses on recycling garbage waste by creating its iconic island parks, among other sustainable projects. The 50,000-square-foot building, ready for the future, will house the SEE Institute, the sustainability research, development and training arm of Diamond Developers. Imagine what would happen if you combined these solutions and many other green ideas in your city's sustainability plan. The European Investment Bank is helping cities develop long-term strategies in fields such as renewable transport, energy efficiency, sustainable housing, education and healthcare.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system encourages and accelerates the global adoption of sustainable and green construction and development practices by creating and implementing universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria. Most cities in Canada have sustainability action plans that can be easily searched and downloaded from websites. HSBC has issued the first green mortgages in the United Arab Emirates, heralding an important moment for the country's real estate market, future homeowners and sustainable finance. There are different advantages to continuing to define and work to achieve the objectives of sustainable cities.

In support of Dubai's efforts to work for a more sustainable future, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment also presented a new environmental policy that focuses on conservation, air quality and sustainable agriculture. A sustainable city must promote economic growth and meet the basic needs of its inhabitants, while creating sustainable living conditions for all. The commitment to sustainable architecture encompasses all phases of construction, including planning, construction and restructuring. The sustainable oasis of Magdar City is closer to being an urban laboratory in which to test different renewable energies and clean technologies.

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Lewis Seltzer
Lewis Seltzer

Evil foodaholic. Friendly twitter expert. General creator. Unapologetic web practitioner. Lifelong internet advocate.