Many people are working towards trying to make cities more sustainable. A sustainable city offers a good quality of life to current residents but doesn’t reduce the opportunities for future residents to enjoy.
Key features of a sustainable city
- Resources and services in the city are accessible to all.
- Public transport is seen as a viable alternative to cars.
- Public transport is safe and reliable.
- Walking and cycling is safe.
- Areas of open space are safe, accessible and enjoyable.
- Wherever possible, renewable resources are used instead of non-renewableresources.
- Waste is seen as a resource and is recycled wherever possible.
- New homes are energy efficient.
- There is access to affordable housing.
- Community links are strong and communities work together to deal with issues such as crime and security.
- Cultural and social amenities are accessible to all.
- Inward investment is made to the CBD.
A sustainable city will grow at a sustainable rate and use resources in a sustainable way. Think of the town or city you live in, or nearby, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Could it be more sustainable?
- Do people walk, cycle or use public transport rather than cars?
- Are there enough safe open spaces, services and cultural amenities for everyone?
- Is there enough investment in the city centre?
- Is there a strong sense of community?
- Is waste recycled?
- Is there affordable housing for everyone?
- Are homes energy-efficient?
- Do they use renewable energy?
Case study: Whitehill Bordon (Ecotown), UK
In 2009 the UK Government named four towns as ‘ecotowns’. The towns receive some government funding and are granted ecotown status on the basis of the potential for achieving a high level of sustainability. The government funding aims to provide:
- affordable housing
- sustainable living
- carbon neutral developments
- creative use of waste and high rates of recycling
- employment that is local
- locals have a say in the development
- local services and schools, so less demand for use of cars
Whitehill Bordon is one example of an ecotown and was given the status in 2009.
The development of the ecotown
- Around £10 million was given by the government. This money funded many local projects.
- MOD land (a brownfield site) will be converted into an exhibition house informing residents about how low carbon living can work. The grounds will be designed to encourage local wildlife and grow food.
- Energy-saving measures have been started in public buildings. The redeveloped fire station is to have a biomass boiler.
- Free wi-fi in the town centre will enable communities to join together.
- Free loft insulation is given to householders to help save energy.
- Over 50 green spaces around and within the town are identified to protect and enhance wildlife. A boardwalk, made from recycled materials is being built.
- Eco-grants are available to local businesses to help reduce their carbon footprint.
- The initiative hopes to create 5,500 jobs by 2028.
- There is a strong link with the community – with local consultations and representatives.
An article on the Whitehall Bordon ecotown in East Hampshire
Case study: Masdar City (a sustainably planned city), Abu Dhabi
Ariel view of proposed Masdar City masterplan Credit: Masdar City
View of the buildings at Masdar City Institute Credit: Masdar City
Masdar City aims to be one of the world’s most sustainable urban developments powered by renewable energy. It aims to do this by:
- Ensuring a low carbon footprint during and after its construction.
- Being completely powered by renewable energy.
- Reducing waste to as near to zero as possible, through encouraging changes in behaviour and regulating materials which can be present in the city.
- Leading research and education into sustainable technology.
- Designing the city streets and buildings to help create comfortable environments reducing the need for air conditioning, heating, and artificial light.
- Educating three quarters of the 40,000 residents with 5 hours of sustainability education each year.
- Leading research at its university to ensure the city retains its sustainable identification and leading knowledge in sustainable living.
- Full pedestrianisation within the city, without vehicles in the space. The transport network would be below ground.
‘Cycling City’ logo used by Bristol City council
A city can plan to make transport more sustainable. This includes:
- Discouraging the use of private transport. In London this is achieved by a congestion charge for vehicles driving through certain areas.
- Investing in public transport – improving the efficiency and safety of buses and tubes.
- Encouraging the use of bicycles. Bristol was the UK’s first cycling city. It encourages the use of bikes by having bike festivals, investing in cycle lanes and supporting projects which promote cycling.
- Promoting car sharing schemes for areas poorly served by public transport.
Case study: The BRT in Curitiba
Curitiba bendy bus. credit: Thomas Locke Hobbs
Curitiba bus system – a bus stop
Curitiba is the capital city of the Parana state in Brazil. Nearly 2 million people live there. The city has had an urban master plan since 1968. Part of the plan is the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) System.
- It was the first city in Brazil to have dedicated bus lanes.
- A bus rapid transit system operates. This is cheaper to run than a tube system. Some employers subsidise their employees who use it.
- 80 per cent of travellers use the BRT.
- The bus rapid transit system uses triple section bendy buses. It carries 2 million passengers a day.
- The bus fare is the same wherever you go.
- No one lives more than 400 metres from a bus stop.
- Urban growth is restricted to corridors of growth – along key transport routes. Tall buildings are allowed only along bus routes.