Equipping cities with actionable insights to combat climate change

Equipping cities with actionable insights to combat climate change

There is a need to take the climate crisis more effectively to build a sustainable future. For that, local governments need to provide for equipping cities with actionable insights to combat climate change.

Environment Journal elaborates on all inherent aspect of how to go about it. In the meantime, more extensive and more significant areas in the MENA region, of which only two cities are affiliated to the referred to C40, gradually impacted by the now apparent climate alteration, still lack some comprehensive and coordinated moves to restore degraded ecosystems.

Anyway, here is a view of how to integrate the notion of environmental protection through the extensive and practical usage of the available data management infrastructure.

Equipping cities with actionable insights to combat climate change

In order to tackle the climate crisis and build a sustainable future, cities need data, writes Julia Moreno Rosino, inclusive climate action senior manager policy, data & analysis at C40, a network of the worlds megacities that are committed to addressing climate change.

As overall temperatures rise, the world is facing an increase in the frequency and intensity of forest fires, droughts, severe storms, flooding and other extreme weather events.

World leaders are trying to address these problems with regulations and initiatives concerning greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, energy transition, and adaptation to climate hazards; and municipalities around the world are taking ever bolder action in these areas.

Cities, where 56% of the global population live, are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, and are working to build a healthier and more sustainable future.

In order to do this, cities need data.

As data collection systems mature and expand around the world, they are providing an invaluable way for city officials to track their progress on a number of indicators and inform new strategies to tackle the most significant climate challenges. Tracking data alone is not enough cities must be able to use that information to produce actionable insights to foster decision-making and introduce meaningful changes as part of their climate action plans.

Data-driven knowledge sharing: benchmark results and inspire success

Climate action planning needs to include monitoring and evaluation.

Policymakers can especially benefit from continuous, real-time data to develop action plans that are fine-tuned to local considerations. For this, cities are collecting data and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate city performance on emissions, air quality, energy, climate adaptation and other key elements.

At C40 Cities, a network of 97 cities taking ambitious climate action, we have built multiple dashboards, both internal and public-facing, using the data analytics software Qlik Sense to analyse these metrics and indicators.

This allows us, and cities, to analyse specific regions or sectors, in a faster and more intuitive way than having to assess multiple, complex datasets. It allows benchmarking city performance and rapid identification of which cities are on track to meet particular targets and which might need more support.

For example, our Greenhouse Gas Emissions Dashboard hosted on C40s Knowledge Hub presents complex emissions data in an easy-to-analyse format. This dashboard can be used by cities, research organisations, or members of the general public to uncover which sectors and sub-sectors are contributing to higher emissions, such as aviation or buildings. City officials can also compare current emissions to previous years to better understand their emissions trajectory.

The Clean Construction Policy Explorer is a more niche dashboard that examines the policies cities have implemented to tackle emissions from a segment of their built environment and highlights which cities have committed to achieving low carbon and clean construction. By aggregating and surfacing this information, we hope to inspire all cities to raise their ambitions on clean construction policies while learning from the policies and progress of those who have gone first.

Our Adaptation Data Explorer allows cities to find other peers around the world that are experiencing similar climate hazards or extreme weather events. Here, city officials can obtain insights on how others are addressing a particular issue and the actions they are taking, either globally or within the same region. For example, there are many cities experiencing heat waves. Leaders from Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Barcelona, and others can learn from one another and through C40 connect to discuss what they are doing to deal with these extreme heat events. Similar groupings are forming in response to rising sea levels, wildfires, and floods.

Given that transportation accounts for an important percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, it is also important to look at how mobility is evolving both in the face of infrastructure changes and the pandemic. We are using new forms of mobility data to see how public transportation dropped sharply during the first few months of the pandemic, and at the same time than cycling increased.

This has made an impact and changed the traditional mode share of transportation of many cities. What effect is this having on city emissions? Will this steep increase in cycling stay in most cities? These are all important questions that cities should be asking, and they need data to unearth the answers.

Advance to the next phase with automated insights

C40 not only aims to give our cities the data analysis and exploration options that I have explained above, but to also provide them with useful information on where to go next, so they can advance their respective climate goals in different sectors, often in highly local ways. To achieve this, we have dashboards that we share privately with our member cities, where we provide them tailored article recommendations depending on how they are performing against specific metrics.

For example, on their private page, a city can see its current rate of waste that is being diverted from landfill and incineration and compare this to peers and targets. The dashboard on the private Knowledge Hub page will also automatically recommend specific resources depending on the data for that city. If it is not on track on this indicator, it might be offered specific articles to support landfill reduction strategies. If a city is already progressing quickly, it will be recommended insights to further raise their ambition and work towards zero waste.

Every city has different needs and is in different phases of progression within multiple sectors; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, the goal is to provide cities with the information that is most relevant to them depending on their data and queries, and ambitions.

Draw upon the expertise of others to achieve climate change goals

Data analytics and dashboards can help with this effort, providing a way for city officials to quickly explore their progress in various sectors, share knowledge and peruse proven insights. Such offerings will strengthen the network in which city officials and policymakers can draw upon the expertise of each other to achieve climate change goals. Although cities are taking big steps, we still need faster action to reduce the impact of climate change, and we hope that by helping cities to track results and performance, they will be better positioned to make meaningful changes.

Urban Growth underpinned by Livability and Sustainable Growth

Urban Growth underpinned by Livability and Sustainable Growth

The World Bank in an introduction to its recently published paper on the world urban development as it presently stands and where it could potentially be going. It covers 10,000 cities by showing how the shape of urban growth is underpinned by livability and sustainable growth. Here are some excerpts that best resume the report titled Pancakes to Pyramids : City Form to Promote Sustainable Growth.

Here is:

Urban Growth underpinned by Livability and Sustainable Growth

What drives the shape of cities, and what actions can policymakers take to guide their growth? The authors of Pancakes to Pyramids set out to find out. I am pleased to say that they have succeeded in increasing our understanding of the economic variables that drive urban expansion while challenging conventional wisdom about sprawl. Most importantly, they have opened up a field of inquiry that will be central to the World Bank’s mission of poverty reduction and sustainable and inclusive development in the years ahead as leaders strive to create green, resilient, and inclusive cities that attract people and businesses. As low- and middle-income countries urbanize in the decades ahead, this report provides new evidence for city leaders interested in managing spatial growth. It also provides a theoretical model to test assumptions about compactness and public transport that will be crucial to rein in commuting time, fuel use, and greenhouse gas emissions.


What city leaders need to know Pyramids are generally better than pancakes at meeting three key urban planning objectives: driving prosperity, ensuring livability, and respecting planetary boundaries.

Compared with a pancake city, a pyramid city will drive more growth in urban productivity and incomes because it is more economically dense and efficient—its inward and vertical expansion reduce the distances between firms, jobs, and workers.

A pyramid is also better at achieving livable urban population densities, accompanied not by crawling traffic and crowded slums but by efficient transport connections and decent formal housing.

And while a sprawling pancake is likely to impose steep burdens on the climate through unmanaged vehicle emissions, a pyramid allows leaders to plan for the city’s future population growth and spatial expansion in ways that will limit or reduce its carbon footprint. But not every pancake can become a pyramid.

When a city with low productivity and low incomes adds to its population, it cannot accommodate this growth through a costly vertical layering of built-up area. Instead, such an inadequate and economically inefficient city can absorb newcomers only by crowding them into low-built quarters and by spreading outward where land is cheapest.

Such a city will remain a pancake—and it will continue to expand in two dimensions, rather than three, as long as its economy remains sluggish and its average resident household remains poor.

As chapters 1, 2, and 3 have shown, pyramidal expansion flows from economic transformation. Based on specialization and tradables production, only agglomeration economies can be counted on to set a city’s productivity and incomes on an upward path.

And only a city that is economically on the rise will generate increasing economic demand for floor space— the prerequisite for land developers to invest in multistory construction around business districts and elevate the urban skyline. How can city leaders and decision-makers act to shift urban expansion to a pyramidal trajectory?

Read more in the full report, download it here.

Developers can shape urban environments to achieve sustainability

Developers can shape urban environments to achieve sustainability

The spaces created, the air quality and biodiversity must meet the requirements in a post-pandemic building ecosystem, says Michael Long in his article on how developers can shape urban environments to achieve sustainability. Here it is.

The picture above is for iullustration and is of Sustainable Futures

Developers can shape urban environments to achieve sustainability

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Projects like Paya Lebar Quarter ensure that the public area includes more trees, incorporates flood-resilient design elements and connects people to nature. PHOTO: LENDLEASE

With World Environment Day round the corner, there has never been a more poignant time than now amid the Covid-19 pandemic to appreciate what this means to corporates and individuals globally.

This year’s theme on ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ coincides with the launch of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. It extends from planting trees and greening cities, to plant-based diets and regenerating degraded rivers, coasts and lands.

As our cities and communities grapple with the lockdown impacts, many of us find the inherent need to reconnect with nature even as we were confined to our own homes or neighbourhoods over the last year.

The pandemic has offered a glimpse into what cities could look like if we pursued an alternative growth model – one that actively reduces waste and carbon emissions, while concurrently creating space for nature.

The UN has forecast that by 2050, over 68 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities. Combined with population growth, this could add another 2.5 billion people to these already densely populated areas.

The clock is ticking on collective action on climate change, failing which we may face more natural and man-made catastrophes that threaten human life and the economic sustainability of our communities globally.

The time is now to collectively work towards bridging the gap between nature and us.

Everyone has a part to play in making real change to the environment

The public and private sectors have the opportunity to collaborate on making transformative change.

The Singapore government recognises the need for green infrastructure and has set clear goals to address it in the Singapore Green Plan 2030 launched earlier this year, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reiterated during the recent Asia Regional Commonwealth Leaders’ Roundtable calling for regional collaboration.

The “80-80-80” plan – setting tangible goals for the greening of 80 per cent of all buildings by 2030 and 80 per cent of new buildings to be ‘Super Low Energy’ from 2030 as well as an 80 per cent energy efficiency improvement (compared with 2005) for best-in-class buildings – is a great start.

The built environment sector itself is responsible for consuming over a third of the world’s natural resources and producing around 40 per cent of global emissions.

Even a miniscule reduction in emissions and waste produced by the sector can have a multiplier effect, making it critical for industry-wide engagement in sustainable practices.

Corporates alike have to acknowledge environmental risks and take that leap of faith to arrest the degradation of our environment. This is also why at Lendlease, we have set Mission Zero to pledge ourselves to achieve net-zero emissions by 2025 and absolute-zero emissions, without offsets, by 2040.

Ultimately, it is about translating these real environmental risks into a core business strategy and operationalising this into meaningful action.

Moving the needle by building smartly through the design process

For a start, the built environment should consider undertaking detailed Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience assessments.

Over the past few years, we have combined local meteorological and geographical information to evaluate developments’ vulnerability to heatwaves, extreme weather, flooding and various climate scenarios.

These assessments are crucial in mitigating environmental risks. Across the projects we have planned and built, elements of sustainability and design go hand-in-hand in mitigating environmental risks.

At the same time, marrying these design qualities improves the wellbeing of shoppers, tenants and residents.

Precinct-wide local projects such as Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ) have made significant strides in ensuring that the public area includes over 300 per cent more trees, incorporates flood-resilient design elements to mitigate flooding and connects people to nature through natural landscapes.

Greening the supply chain through digitalisation

Incorporating sustainability through sourcing practices is also an important step as 90 per cent of a company’s impact on the environment originates from its supply chain.

On the construction front, gradually weaning off the reliance on fossil fuels will become more important than before.

While we are using biodiesel and working with construction plant and equipment manufacturers to make these options more widely available, we are also ensuring that the source of biofuel feedstock does not create unintentional environmental consequences.

Moving towards 100 per cent electrification of site-based construction activities, together with the purchasing of green power are some tactics that developers can incorporate as part of their strategy.

Doing so is a great opportunity to combine battery storage technology, digital solutions and smarter processes in constructing in a more efficient and cleaner way.

In Asia’s construction sector, 49 per cent of respondents surveyed by McKinsey shared that transparent end-to-end supply chains would help to mitigate risks in the long term.

About 11 per cent of the building and construction sectors’ global carbon emissions are associated with materials and construction processes throughout the whole building lifecycle.

Integrated supply chains can contribute to greener, more efficient supply chains translating into reduced carbon footprint, and ultimately a cleaner planet.

A multi-stakeholder approach across the supply chain is essential to transform the way materials are used, alongside cascading efforts that extend the adoption of circular economic and other waste reduction practices.

Smart building management to adapt and respond to occupants’ needs

Autonomous buildings – the sustainable buildings of the future – will represent an evolution from static physical spaces to self-aware and self-governing environments that can anticipate and adapt to human needs.

In the future, we can also look forward to autonomous cities which can leverage data insights into the needs of the urban population and carry out predictive maintenance using artificial intelligence.

As we move towards the digitalisation of the built environment sector, developers should look at utilising digital twin technology as an intelligence interface for autonomous adaptive control.

For example, PLQ utilises an Open Building System Integration (OBSI) programme to streamline all building management functionalities including air-conditioning and ventilation.

The OBSI system led to significant savings in water and costs, presenting a use case for how the construction sector can leverage technology to support smart building management.

As we commemorate World Environment Day (on June 5), we need to call attention to the important role the built environment sector plays in helping us safeguard the sustainability of our living environment.

The journey towards decarbonisation is not an easy one, and the post-pandemic world will accelerate the demand for better buildings.

The spaces that we create, the air quality that we circulate and the biodiversity that we introduced have to all work in synergy to meet the requirements in a post-pandemic building ecosystem.

Establishing a safe and trusted corridor for shoppers, tenants and residents will become the new reality in the future of city planning and everyone has a part to play as they embark in this transformation.

  • The writer is head of sustainability, Asia at Lendlease
Why Sustainability is Essential to Long Term Development

Why Sustainability is Essential to Long Term Development

Ethically, architects and engineers alike have been good at policing themselves to meet their client’s needs through the design process.
In the UAE’s design industry predominantly of South Asian architects and engineers, an elite has emerged to respond to the built environment’s strong but slightly waning demands successfully. But why sustainability is essential to long term development in the Middle East that makes it at this conjecture, climate emergency has become not only a challenge but a goal; all had to keep in mind. The said elite is rising to meet such arduous tasks, as highlighted in this article written by Payal of Prasoon Design Studio.

Why Sustainability is Essential to Long Term Development in the Middle East

May 26, 2021

Sustainability is an essential design philosophy that influences the construction sphere within the Middle East. The implementation of green energy, eco-friendly strategies, and sustainable rating measures have significantly affected the way that the region drives development long-term. In fact, sustainability and green strategies have the power to unlock close to US$3 trillion in economic development by 2030, which is why cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi are leading the way.

With rising energy demand and increased urbanisation, developers are also focusing on sustainability from a strategic perspective. Along with green materials and natural landscaping, sustainability is being driven right from the planning stage. The top architecture firms in Dubai, such as Prasoon Design, are specialising in planning the right layout, orientation, methodology, and approach to ensure long-term sustainability.

The region has historically focused on introducing new measures and guidelines to implement eco-friendlier design and construction. Using indigenous materials, new technologies, and recycled components, the Middle East’s architects are redefining the limits of sustainability. They are innovating not only on the aesthetics front but also in the longevity and ecological balance sphere as well.

Impacting Policymaking in the Region

The construction industry in the Middle East works within specific guidelines that govern its practices across residential, commercial, industrial, and infrastructure spheres. In terms of policymaking, sustainability is a key driver of the region’s long-term goals and vision. Saudi Arabia and UAE’s Vision 2030 includes plans to enhance renewable supply by 30%, with Dubai focusing on 75% clean energy by 2050.

Sustainability also shapes many of the policies around energy consumption, the use of new technologies, innovative materials, and novel construction practices. Sustainability is helping drive the industry forward by aiding in the formation of longevity-focused guidelines. The Pearl rating system is the ideal example of this, giving developers points for specific objectives that can be analysed and approved during development.

Promoting the Use of eco-friendly Measures

The construction industry is one of the few ecosystems worldwide that can radically transform the scope of sustainability within a region. With the industry accounting for 38% of carbon emissions, it is important to leverage the right construction methodologies and waste management strategies to ensure long-term sustainability. In fact, the construction industry has the potential to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 if it follows the right practices and guidelines for sustainable development.

The construction industry in the Middle East can lead the way in achieving the region’s targets of sustainability, energy consumption, and renewable energy use. Architecture firms Dubai and Abu Dhabi based are actively working with government entities, developers, and construction material suppliers, to ensure that new projects are aligned with the region’s overall sustainability vision.

Improving adaptability to new challenges

Many of the key challenges of the next few decades are going to be around sustainability and energy consumption. With the summer months accounting for 50-60% of energy use within buildings, it is important to design all future iterations of residential and construction projects to be self-sustaining. Whether through solar, wind, or an eco-friendly hybrid model, energy generation and utilisation would have to be optimised long-term.

The circular nature of construction means that developers need to focus on the entire lifecycle of the project. To implement truly impactful initiatives, such as zero waste, recycling, ecological balance, natural landscaping, zero emissions, and resource efficiency, developers need to be adaptable to new challenges. Developers that overcome challenges of the future in the present are also more likely to attract investment within the region for large-scale construction projects.

Innovative Materials Use within the Region

The construction industry is a highly innovative sphere within the Middle East, focusing on using the best materials that are sustainable, aesthetically pleasing, and durable. High-performance concrete, nanoparticles, cross-laminated timber, 3D graphene, and other innovative materials are shaping the way for the future of development. The region’s focus on leveraging these new materials is unmatched, with many new projects being designed keeping these high-insulating and low-maintenance materials in mind.

Additionally, innovative materials are easier to store, manage, and dispose of. They are highly sustainable by design and can be recycled or demolished without releasing toxic emissions or harmful compounds in the air. With C&D waste accounting for 70% of total waste generated in the UAE, it is important to use the right materials to ensure long-term sustainability within Middle Eastern countries.

Influencing design aesthetics through sustainability

Some of the most architecturally complex and aesthetically advanced projects are being designed in the Middle East owing to the region’s focus on sustainability. New geometries, shapes, layouts, and styles are being innovated to ensure that projects capture as much natural energy as possible. The balance between ecology and construction is also being promoted through sustainable architecture in the region as well.

From the exterior façade to the interior finishes, the use of innovative strategies is the key to sustainable development in the region. Both active and passive strategies are being leveraged to accomplish the goals of the construction project, with developers focusing on the right techniques to optimise energy management. Through key initiatives, such as rainwater harvesting, recycled materials, re-using of resources, solar, and water management, buildings are emerging both aesthetically superior and eco-friendlier.

Technology helps deliver sustainability agenda

Technology helps deliver sustainability agenda

A MEED EDITORIAL on Technology helps deliver a sustainability agenda or a plan for a future without the nocive industrialisation development as known today.

Thus Mohammad Saleh, head of Autodesk Middle East region, argues in MEED. Let us see how the Environmental Impact on the Built Environment could be affected amongst many other things.

Technology helps deliver sustainability agenda

24 May 2021

Digital solutions play a crucial role in helping engineers and designers to achieve environmental sustainability goals, says Autodesk’s Mohammad Saleh

The debate around sustainability has moved on from recycling plastic and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. This concept has now evolved to encompass how businesses operate.

Put simply, no matter what industry the business is in, it must have sustainability at the core of how it operates.

The impact of the pandemic has highlighted the need for greater resiliency in all fields. And sustainability will play an important role in enabling industry to adjust to the challenges ahead.

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At its heart, this means designing our businesses, infrastructure and manufacturing processes to be more resilient. Businesses must harness the power of data and insights to allow teams to collaborate closely and more effectively.

This is not a theoretical challenge. The world is faced with a race against time to meet the huge demand for new housing from an ever-growing population, estimated to hit 10 billion by 2050, according to data from the UN. This means that about 13,000 new buildings must be built every day just to keep pace with demand.

If this was not daunting enough, the fact that 30 per cent of all the world’s waste every year comes from the construction industry reveals the true complexity of the challenges ahead.

We must do more, better and with less, if we are going to be successful.

Identifying the goals

By aligning business objectives with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we can find a way through.

There are 17 SDGs in total and they include providing access to renewable energy; building resilient infrastructure; promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation; fostering innovation; making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns; and taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Climate change is a significant issue for the UAE and the wider Gulf region. According to research conducted by the Stockholm Environment Institute’s US centre in 2010, the UAE could lose up to 6 per cent of its 1,300-kilometre stretch of coastline by the end of the century because of rising sea levels. This is a significant impact when you consider that 85 per cent of the population and more than 90 per cent of the UAE’s infrastructure is within several metres of sea level in low-lying coastal areas.

Furthermore, a joint report in 2015 by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), the UAE-based Masdar Institute and the UAE Foreign Affairs Ministry’s directorate of energy and climate change found that increasing renewables to 10 per cent of the country’s total energy mix, and 25 per cent of total power generation, could generate annual savings of $1.9bn by 2030 through the avoidance of fossil-fuel consumption and lower energy costs.

Resolving these concerns and achieving targets will require new and innovative ways of doing things.

In practice, that means technology must enable customers to design and make products, buildings and even entire cities that promote healthy, resilient communities.

But what does that mean for the UAE?

Tapping into new opportunities

The UAE has a significant construction market, but like many places around the world, it is one that is faced with the challenge of tackling waste and high vehicle use. It can prepare for a new future by adapting to emerging technologies that have the potential to deliver a better life for its communities.  

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This will be done by helping designers and engineers to gain insights into the impact of everyday decisions about materials and energy use.

Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) based generative design and the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3), a tool that gives builders and designers information about the embodied carbon impact of building materials during the materials selection process, are already enabling customers to use resources more efficiently and productively, thereby saving money and reducing carbon emissions.

Technology must also be used to further enhance people’s ability to adapt, grow and prosper alongside increasing levels of automation.

The power of the cloud really came to the fore in 2020 as millions of people worked remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This technology helped school children to attend classes from home, and helped construction teams on different continents continue to collaborate in an effective and productive manner that allowed projects to be completed.

Read Cloud drives the digitalisation of Middle East construction

These factors, coupled with newer, three-dimensional (3D) design tools, make everything from products to building design far easier to create in ways that reduce waste while saving on time and cost.

Generative design, which is an iterative design process that can mimic nature’s evolutionary approach to create unique designs, is becoming increasingly prevalent within industry. Designers input their set of conditions for a project into a computer and then an algorithm will automate the process by going through many different permutations of the design to find the form that is best suited to the requirements.

There is no one technological solution to the problems we face, but by adopting a more sustainable approach that encompasses a broader range of technologies, these challenges can be overcome.