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.
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?
Developers can shape urban environments to achieve sustainability
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
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.
City life is often compared to an urban jungle where people merely exist in a given space, in a given time.
But what if space and time are rediscovered with fulfilment felt by the dwellers in a community that thrives in sustainability of living? What if time and space are elements that give birth to economic advancement, environmental preservation and community progress?
The one thousand and one “what-ifs” are a thousand and one realities SMDC offers to people who deserve a thousand and one more chances of a life of quality. Not only today but also in the years – many, many years – to come.
“Making cities sustainable means creating career and business opportunities, safe and affordable housing, and building resilient societies and economies,” the United Nations has said.
Because today and tomorrow are important to SMDC, its communities are designed and run based on three sustainability pillars: economic, environmental, and social.
More than a roof over one’s head
Community building, for SMDC, is more than just providing a roof over one’s head. It is about creating a place that allows people to thrive, where all the living essentials are within striking distance – from one’s daily necessities to opportunities for commerce, for jobs and for livelihood.
Building a nation of homeowners, as envisioned by Chairman Henry Sy Jr., means providing homes that are practical – efficient in size, generous in amenities, luxurious in services and facilities.
South 2 Residences in Las Piñas City is built on the concept of 15-minute cities, where economic opportunities, everyday essentials and public services are reachable in 15 minutes or less.
Sustainability, after all, is about sharing spaces and resources, so that they become inclusive and affordable, while providing enough space for others to thrive. For people to continue to thrive, they need to be close to where the economic opportunities are, in major CBDs whose property prices are constantly skyrocketing. An SMDC home, therefore, does not just take care of today’s dwellers; it is a place where homeowners can reap good financial rewards, as a legacy that can be passed on to their children and their children’s children.
It is this idea of shared spaces that opens SMDC communities to the everyday home seeker. To be able to live in a safe community with hotel-like lobbies, resort-style amenities, 24/7 security, located in a major CBD, was a luxury available only to the rich. Now everyone can have a piece of that luxury. And by everyone, it also means individuals who may be challenged to live in vertical spaces. SMDC homes are built with accessibility provisions for seniors, children and PWDs.
More than just a breathing space
City living spaces are often viewed as concrete jungles devoid of breathing spaces. Community building by way of SMDC means creating homes where residents and guests not only enjoy vast, open spaces with lots of greenery, but also with energy efficiency as part and parcel of every design. Units are built to bring in natural light and ventilation, LED fixtures are used and a waste management system is in place.
Sands Residences brings to Manila a premium-quality waterfront home in a complete community that provides a lot of breathing space and magnificent views
Every development is built with disaster-resiliency and future-readiness in mind – from site selection to construction and beyond. SMDC’s property management personnel are trained to respond quickly to emergencies of all kinds. These trainings are made available to residents through regular workshops.
Being situated where all of life’s daily essentials are within walkable distances, not only encourages residents to walk, jog or bike, but also allows them to become stewards of the Earth by reducing their carbon footprint. SMDC’s sprawling amenities and activity areas encourage residents to spend more time outdoors, savor Nature and reduce energy consumption.
More than just existing
Sustainability is built around the concept of continued existence for people. But to continue to exist, i.e., to extend today’s lives and to continue life for the future, means being in a place where health and happiness are given primary importance. SMDC’s properties allow residents to take care of their physical, mental and emotional health through spaces designed for these activities, spaces that encourage the creation of social connections, the very concept of community building.
The Good Guys Weekend Market provides a venue for residents to continue generating income during this pandemic.
But mere spaces are not enough. There has to be a catalyst to make these connections, and community spirit, come to life. SMDC’s The Good Guys program, enables SMDC communities to come together in the spirit of conviviality, to provide for both economic and social progress for residents, and to extend this altruism beyond its communities.
Building happy, healthy, secure and thriving communities is the heart of sustainable living, as exemplified in SMDC HappyNings, 2-time Quill awardee for community relations.
There is no life in mere existing. To live is to exist sustainably.
In a given space and a given time, SMDC creates the space for people to live today and to continue to survive the challenges of time.
James Rowntree, vice president at Jacobs, asked this question in Infrastructure Intelligence blog: What does it take to be smart? It is in everybody’s mind these days.
12 March 2021
Collaboration between city leaders, asset owners, investors and the tech sector is crucial in realising the benefits of smart cities says James Rowntree of Jacobs.
The term ‘smart’ has been used for some time now to broadly describe the adoption of technology by a city or infrastructure owner. The expression has begun suffering from overuse, particularly where the public experience of the result has been anything but smart, in the literal sense.
Many cities and infrastructure owners have made technology investments over the years to automatically monitor or control things such as streetlights, water levels, utility distribution and traffic flow. However, these are relatively modest interventions when put in the context of ‘Industry 4.0’, the much-heralded fourth industrial revolution and the impact that real-time data and advanced analytics could have on how our cities and infrastructure assets operate in the future. If the hype is to be believed – and there’s good reason for it to be – then the future of smart is potentially transformational. The big challenge though is how to get there – and who pays?
The use cases for smart cities are multiple, varied and growing, as anyone who has visited any of the international smart city exhibitions will be able to testify. It’s clear that relatively benign sensors that periodically transmit data today will be replaced tomorrow by real-time interactions which will allow for advanced applications, such as connected and remote healthcare, and connected ecosystems for things like autonomous vehicles.
Whilst many of today’s use-cases will operate on current networks such as LoRaWaN and 4G, 5G is widely seen as the tipping point technology that will enable a lot of the next generation, disruptive use-cases to be realised. However, a challenge for cities and infrastructure owners is that predicting these use-cases is a little like trying to predict in the early 2000s the vast array of applications we now use on our smart phones. Creating a business case for a ‘smart’ entity is therefore not easy.
Connecting people and place
For anything to be smart it needs to be digitally connected and whilst satellite technology is developing, this invariably means hardwiring everything back to fibre. This then introduces the value of connecting people as well as things. Both local and central governments are actively encouraging reliable fibre-to-the-home connectivity for all citizens, recognising the value of closing the digital divide and giving people better access to 21st century jobs, opportunities and services.
There is now a very good body of evidence that points to the positive social and economic benefits of fast and reliable digital connectivity. Cities in particular have an opportunity to promote digital connectivity as a platform for creativity and innovation that in turn is attractive to inward investment and growth.
Unlocking the value of infrastructure
Similarly, owners of linear infrastructure assets see the opportunity to use their networks to promote the laying of fibre, unlocking not only operational use-cases and additional revenue streams for themselves but also providing a social value benefit through connecting people in harder to reach areas.
The starting point is therefore to be clear on the outcomes to be achieved. The challenge for any city or infrastructure owner is to get digital connectivity where they need it and to build use-cases around the technology they intend to adopt.
Both urban and rural communities are generally reliant on the established telecom network providers expanding their fibre and mobile networks, although the timing and geographic reach of these plans is principally driven by their own commercial considerations rather than the specific priorities of a city or infrastructure owner.
More recently, given it can be highly revenue generative, there are increasing numbers of private investors seeking to realise value from fibre ownership and governments are actively encouraging this in certain jurisdictions. The good news is that there’s a lot of cash available for investment in digital connectivity if only the right business cases can be established.
Putting forward the case for change
To be both smart and to realise the benefits of connected citizens, public authorities are highly reliant on this private investment from either established or new telecom network providers. In turn, that private investment depends upon being able to secure anchor revenues to justify an investment case.
For public authorities who can navigate state aid and public procurement regulations, they can attract this investment by either providing a future anchor tenancy commitment or encouraging others to do so. This all comes down to being able to develop their own credible business cases that clearly capture future connectivity benefits.
Defining and banking these future benefits is therefore key to being able to attract investment. Whilst technology companies are spending billions on research and development and there’s a highly impressive array of technologies on the market, cities and infrastructure owners need to understand those that will truly add value. Technology remains nothing more than an interesting idea until such a time that it becomes accessible and deployable in a way that creates tangible value for the end user.
For a city or infrastructure owner, it’s the consequences of this technology on business processes, people and training that needs to be clearly understood as part of the overall business case. These important points are often lost in the excitement of the technology but matter hugely to the ultimate buyer.
To realise the benefits of becoming truly smart – where city and infrastructure operations are a fusion of the physical and cyber worlds – is highly complex and requires the alignment of interests across the technology, telecommunications and investment sectors in collaboration with the city leadership and asset owners.
James Rowntree is vice president – telecoms and digital infrastructure – at Jacobs.
Originally posted on MENA Solidarity Network: By Anzar Atrar and David Karvala At 4 am on Saturday 21 August, Spanish authorities took Mohamed Abdellah —along with around 30 other Algerians— from the migrant custody centre in Barcelona and deported him. This was bad news for all of them, of course. But Abdellah, an Algerian anti-corruption…
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