Bahrain deploys e-paper displays to increase sustainability

Bahrain deploys e-paper displays to increase sustainability

Planet Smart City acquires architectural and engineering business

Planet Smart City acquires architectural and engineering business

Planet Smart City acquires architectural and engineering business
Planet Smart City announces plans for more than 50 smart projects in three years
Planet Smart City collaboration to help create 15,000 housing units in India
Planet Smart City’s ‘operating system’ vision for affordable housing
Investing in creative talent for innovative ‘smart cities’

Investing in creative talent for innovative ‘smart cities’

Investing in creative talent for innovative ‘smart cities’ as explained by Dr B K Mukhopadhyay and Dr Boidurjo Rick Mukhopadhyay in The Sentinel is a simple and easy way out of the current difficult conjecture of human-induced deterioration of planet earth’s natural potentialities. Masdar City pictured above is a good example of what is put forward here.

Investing in creative talent for innovative ‘smart cities’

”If man and machine work side by side, which one will make the decisions?” Smart cities essentially combine data and digital technology aiming to make faster and better decisions to improve the quality of life. Well-rounded, comprehensive, real-time data open up the opportunity to observe, plan, and project events as they unfold while understanding how demand patterns and behavioural changes occur; and, finally to respond speedily with low-risk and lower-cost solutions.

Smart city plans are now part of core discussions when it comes to planning, forecasting, and resource allocation by municipal leaders globally. It is interesting that after almost two decades of awareness and recognition of the concept of smart cities, there is less misunderstanding around the fact that smartness is beyond simply installing digital interfaces in existing infrastructure or streamlining city operations. Once again, the purpose of smart cities is to be able to make better decisions using a wide range of information and improve quality of life and well-being.

By 2050, projections show that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas while the number of megacities will double. In other words, about 7 of 9.8 billion people are projected to live in urban areas by 2050. For India, studies show that the projection would be 52.84% while it’s 80% for China. There are some disagreements between the UN and other researchers in regards to different projected numbers for Africa.

When MDGs (millennium development goals) were quite the buzz alike our SDGs (sustainable development goals) today, Governments in Africa and Asia started a more strategic plan for rapid urbanization to reduce the risk of harming the prospects of hundreds of millions of their citizen. This had a global knock-on effect. More than a decade ago, studies show that Brazil failed in the past to plan for rapid urban growth which exacerbated poverty and also created new environmental problems and long-term costs that could have been avoided.

A) Urbanization and Smart Cities

Some of the benefits of urbanization are a high density of economic activity, shorter trade links, utilization of human capital, and shared infrastructure. Urbanization is not a curse in as much as the same creates huge wealth and opportunities, enables better use of assets and creates new ones. Urbanization – being a continuous and spontaneous process – in most developing countries is bringing about enormous changes in the spatial distribution of people and resources and the use and consumption of land.

However, such a process is strongly linked to development [social, technological and economic], and many countries lack the appropriate policies and frameworks that can leverage it for increased development gains thereby channelising it towards larger sustainable patterns. In a word, these are not harnessed for development and de facto urbanization’s challenges often seem to outpace the development gains.

On the other hand, the idea is also to double the number of smart cities, and also ‘mega cities’ in this period. The concept of a smart city refers to the initiatives that use digital/ICT (information, communication, technology)- based innovation to improve the efficiency of urban services and generate new economic opportunities in cities. The OECD defines smart cities as “initiatives or approaches that effectively leverage digitalization to boost citizen well-being and deliver more efficient, sustainable and inclusive urban services and environments as part of a collaborative, multi-stakeholder process”.

Since every city has its specific characteristics in size, built environment, and fiscal resources- these differences affect the capacity of cities to manage smart technologies and attract smart city investment. The variation in physical characteristics may also affect the degree of applicability of specific digital technologies. Many studies on smart cities tend to focus on large cities which makes it difficult to transfer their experience to smaller cities. A study by Frost & Sullivan projects that spending on smart city technology is expected to reach US$327 billion by 2025, up from US$96 billion in 2019.

B) How does a smart city work?

Three layers make this concept work in practice. First – is the choice of selected and interconnected technology base, second – is the customised applications (or simply, apps) that allow translation, organization, and interpreting raw rate for generating alerts, insights, analytics, and determining the right tools for solving problems. Third – is the interdependent use of the above two layers by the public, private, and people on an ongoing and sharing basis. Most apps would be effective when more users sign up to it and start sharing user and usage data during work hours, off-hours, driving, and while using utilities (energy, water, internet) at different times of the data. This data could also be used by healthcare and security systems as much as local councils.

It is important to recognise that a Smart City should be able to attract and retain high-tech and creative talent. As traditional jobs disappear and workplaces go highly digitalized, talent is required to be the catalyst in a process that creates new businesses and new jobs. The megacities of the world are therefore competing for this talent.

A study by McKinsey project the following benefits coming from innovation in smart cities, A) smart-city technologies can make daily commutes faster and less frustrating, B) Cities can be catalysts for better health, C) Smart cities can deliver a cleaner and more sustainable environment, D) Smart cities can create a new type of digital urban commons and enhance social connectedness. Above all, a smart city is not simply a light-switch strategy for job creation, but smart solutions are meant to make local labour markets more efficient and lower the cost of living while improving well-being.

C) Smart cities and toward the future

Economic growth will increasingly come from the strength and diversity of innovative activities instead of factor accumulation as in the past. Recent researches also suggest that such innovative activities are concentrated in high–tech clusters in globally–linked cities. Over time as the share of the rural sector in GDP goes down, urban activities take the lead in the very growth process, ably backed by the service activities – major components of the urban service activities include business and creative industries with high value-added. Globalization and the emergence of the tertiary economy have raised the profile of cities in development, especially as innovation and foreign investment are attracted by the agglomeration economies offered by well managed large cities – e.g. telecommunication, broadcasting, energy, tourism; and major urban infrastructure services – water supply, transportation, and education.

Globalization and urbanization together? could bring significant challenges as well as opportunities to both developed and developing countries. A study shows that development is likely to be polarized in a limited number of urban regions, which shows and indicates that while the convergence of production and income may happen across countries, divergence is likely to occur within each country as globalization will bring a concentration of activity to a few sites. The emergence of mega-urban regions with the development of world cities and links amongst them is a strong possibility – the formation of transborder regions, the development of international corridors, and the significance of international networking, among others.

Looking at the writings on the wall

Following Mila Freire, World Bank, it may be located that the main challenges include (a) The need to keep urban planning and management flexible and ready to adapt to new developments on the economic or social front; (b) Getting the best possible technical analysis; (c) Pushing the agenda of excellence; (d) thinking big and long–term; (e) Looking at the big picture – overall competitiveness, labour market, environmental quality, and standing as regards capital and human capital; (f) engaging the private sector; (g) understanding and discussion with community leaders of how much limited–resource local governments can offer; (h) establishing contracts vertically with the central government and horizontally with other municipalities. Equally importantly, policies can also empower local authorities to work more closely with the national government. The importance of developing national urban policies as levers for sustainable development remains beyond any shade of doubt.

  • Dr B K Mukhopadhyay (the author is a Professor of Management and Economics, formerly at IIBM (RBI) Guwahati. He can be contacted at
  • Dr. Boidurjo Rick Mukhopadhyay (author, international award-winning development and management economist, formerly a Gold Medalist in Economics at Gauhati University)


‘Smarter’ Cities Can Mitigate Climate Change

‘Smarter’ Cities Can Mitigate Climate Change

Per 2 imminent academics of Yale School of the Environment, who say that ‘Smarter’ Cities Can Mitigate Climate Change.

Latest IPCC Report Highlights How ‘Smarter’ Cities Can Mitigate Climate Change

‘Smarter’ Cities Can Mitigate Climate Change
Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salam

Providing some hope in the push for climate action, the IPCC report’s chapter on urban mitigation, led by Yale School of the Environment Professor Karen Seto, outlines how cities have an opportunity to increase resource efficiency and significantly reduce GHG emissions through smarter design and greener infrastructure.

The second portion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 6th Assessment report released last month painted the starkest picture yet of our rapidly changing climate and the ever-increasing threats posed to people and ecosystems if urgent action is not taken

Yet, the third part of the IPCC report, released April 4, provides some hope in the push for climate action, focusing on progress in climate mitigation, equity and justice, and urban mitigation.

Karen C. Seto
Karen C. SetoFrederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science

“The exciting message with cities is that it’s not too late to do something,” says Karen Seto, Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science at YSE and one of two coordinating authors of the urban mitigation chapter of the report. “We’re going to be adding 2.5 billion more people to urban areas by 2050 — and a lot of those cities have not been built yet. The world is adding a new city of 1 million every 10 days, the pace of development is very high, but there’s still a lot that can be done.”

While the last climate report published in 2014 investigated how the spatial aspects of cities can mitigate global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, Seto says this report focused on a systems approach to designing and building cities and how cities affect regions beyond urban areas. She added that this report looked not only at existing cities, but looked more closely at smaller cities and towns, as well as new and rapidly growing cities. 

This broader look toward the future, Seto says, shows “there is a lot of future emissions we can actually avoid if we design, build and operate our cities differently.”

The report states that the global share of emissions from urban areas increased between 5% to 10% between 2015 and 2020. That concentration of people and activity, however, presents an opportunity to increase resource efficiency and significantly reduce GHG emissions through better design and greener infrastructure — centered around people — that would result in beneficial cascading effects across numerous supply chains and sectors, particularly energy.

“There are a number of strategies that could be deployed that change our demand for energy, but we need to have an enabling policy environment and to rethink how we design and build infrastructure,” Seto says.

Narasimha Rao
Narasimha RaoAssociate Professor of Energy Systems

Another positive takeaway, Seto says, is that cities are “much nimbler” than national governments in responding to climate change. City leaders not only oversee smaller land areas and have smaller constituencies to whom they respond, she explains, but they are more likely to experience and understand the climate challenges that cities face.

For the first time, this IPCC report also highlighted “demand side management,” or the drivers of consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. More specifically, the report touched on strategies that can enable and encourage consumers to modify their electricity usage in an effort to lower demand. These interventions, the report states, can potentially reduce energy demand by supporting the shift to more energy efficient modes of transportation; projections show that limiting warming to the 1.5 degrees Celsius benchmark would drop transport-related emissions by roughly 60 %.

Narasimha Rao, associate professor of energy systems at YSE and a contributing author on the demand side chapter, focused specifically on basic well-being and its relation to climate mitigation. It’s critical, Rao says, to understand the evolving synergies between these two fundamental goals.

“The big finding in this chapter is that improving living standards in an effort to eradicate poverty does not pose a significant challenge to climate mitigation,” says Rao, whose research examines the relationship between energy systems, human development, and climate change. He also explained that scenario analyses within the report show demand-side measures aimed at climate mitigation can reduce energy demand while not compromising living standards.

With urban populations on the rise, Rao sees several ways that demand-side management can be integrated to reduce energy demand — including improvements in public transportation, residential construction, and smart technologies — but few large-scale efforts have been attempted to date. In fact, Rao says, current urban patterns “are not promising.” Concentrated wealth within cities creates more consumption and more emissions, and migration from rural to urban areas is creating further inequities in access to energy services.

“More work needs to be done to investigate how cities are going to move forward, particularly in the global South where we’re seeing considerable urban growth,” he says. “Sustainable development, like greening urban areas, improving public transportation, making energy services more accessible — they can all have benefits for well-being and for the climate.”

Future cities could be 3D printed

Future cities could be 3D printed

Future cities could be 3D printed – using concrete made with recycled glass

By Seyed Ghaffar, Brunel University London; Mehdi Chougan, Brunel University London, and Pawel Sikora

The featured image above is credit to Matjazz/Shutterstock

3D printed concrete may lead to a shift in architecture and construction. Because it can be used to produce new shapes and forms that current technologies struggle with, it may change the centuries-old processes and procedures that are still used to construct buildings, resulting in lower costs and saved time.

However, concrete has a significant environmental impact. Vast quantities of natural sand are currently used to meet the world’s insatiable appetite for concrete, at great cost to the environment. In general, the construction industry struggles with sustainability. It creates around 35% of all landfill waste globally.

Our new research suggests a way to curb this impact. We have trialled using recycled glass as a component of concrete for 3D printing.

Concrete is made of a mix of cement, water, and aggregates such as sand. We trialled replacing up to 100% of the aggregate in the mix with glass. Simply put, glass is produced from sand, is easy to recycle, and can be used to make concrete without any complex processing.

Demand from the construction industry could also help ensure glass is recycled. In 2018 in the US only a quarter of glass was recycled, with more than half going to landfill.

Building better

We used brown soda-lime beverage glass obtained from a local recycling company. The glass bottles were first crushed using a crushing machine and then the crushed pieces were washed, dried, milled, and sieved. The resulting particles were smaller than a millimetre square.

The crushed glass was then used to make concrete in the same way that sand would be. We used this concrete to 3D print wall elements and prefabricated building blocks that could be fitted together to make a whole building.

Grey concrete structure
A building envelope prefabricated using the 3D printing process. Mehdi Chougan, Author provided

If used in this way, waste glass can find a new life as part of a construction material.

The presence of glass does not only solve the problem of waste but also contributes to the development of a concrete with superior properties than that containing natural sand.

The thermal conductivity of soda-lime glass – the most common type of glass, which you find in windows and bottles – is more than three times lower than that of quartz aggregate, which is used extensively in concrete. This means that concrete containing recycled glass has better insulation properties. They could substantially decrease the costs required for cooling or heating during summer or winter.

Improving sustainability

We also made other changes to the concrete mixture in order to make it more sustainable as a building material, including replacing some of the Portland cement with limestone powder.

Portland cement is a key component of concrete, used to bind the other ingredients together into a mix that will harden. However, the production of ordinary Portland cement leads to the release of significant amounts of carbon dioxide as well as other greenhouse gases. The cement production industry accounts for around 8% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the environment.

Limestone is less hazardous and has less environmental impact during the its production process than Portland cement. It can be used instead of ordinary Portland cement in concrete for 3D printing without a reduction in the quality of the printing mixture.

3D printed layers of a wall element. Mehdi Chougan, Author provided

We also added lightweight fillers, made from tiny hollow thermoplastic spheres, to reduce the density of the concrete. This changed the thermal conductivity of the concrete, reducing it by up to 40% when compared with other concrete used for 3D printing. This further improved the insulation properties of the concrete, and reduced the amount of raw material required.

Using 3D printing technology, we can simply develop a wall structure on a computer, convert it to simple code and send it to a 3D printer to be constructed. 3D printers can operate for 24 hours a day, decrease the amount of waste produced, as well as increase the safety of construction workers.

Our research shows that an ultra-lightweight, well insulated 3D building is possible – something that could be a vital step on our mission towards net zero.

Seyed Ghaffar, Associate Professor in Civil Engineering and Environmental Materials, Brunel University London; Mehdi Chougan, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow, Brunel University London, and Pawel Sikora, Associate professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin

Read the original article.