What makes a city sustainable?
Cities are growing because of population growth, because they are attractive and lure rural populations, or because people are migrating across borders to get closer to the cities in the hope of building a better one.
Population forecasts estimate the world’s population at 10 billion in 2050. Pressure on the environment and resources will increase, as will the risk of increased global warming.
We, as individuals, have the opportunity to rethink our lifestyles, the way we travel, and the way we consume. Governments and/or city mayors, on the other hand, have the responsibility to think about sustainable urban planning.
What is intelligent urban planning?
Here are a few simple ideas to keep in mind to promote sustainable cities:
1 – Urban planning is essential
Each territory should have one masterplan at every scale: city, region, neighbourhood, parcel, etc. over the long term, beyond the electoral calendar of elected officials. It must reflect the general interest of society.
2 – Masterplans must integrate people’s basic needs
People’s needs for housing, food, transportation, community development, and fulfilment have not changed over the centuries. A good masterplan integrates these needs, while at the same time, preserves nature.
3 – The financing capacity should not compel to integrate the needs of the city
When the city has the means at its disposal, it develops its projects, but they are foreseen and planned upstream.
Deliberating about town planning in a rational and functional way introduces the notion of intelligence. This is in contrast to developing a project because it is sexy and you feel it in the short term.
Dr. Liu Thai Ker, the founding father of urban planning in Singapore, understood these issues as early as 1991.
In his words:
“The most important task to an urban planner is to find out the fundamental needs of human beings and incorporate these needs into the urban plan. In doing so, we may achieve the two basic goals of planning. They are: to provide a liveable environment and resilient society for the people and to create a highly functional and ecologically sustainable land. To achieve these goals, we need to give a much greater emphasis on urban planning than urban design.”
Why is it important to foster sustainable cities?
“ There’s no wind that favors a man who doesn’t know where he’s going.”
Planning with a forward-looking vision makes it possible to develop cities and anticipate economic, social, demographic and environmental issues.
If you plan, you can anticipate the development of infrastructure over the long term, and the implementation of disruptive technology that will completely change our lifestyles, for example, in transport. You can read our article on the anticipated impact of disruptive technology on transportation, to give you an idea.
Intelligent urban planning takes into consideration space requirements and their organization so that they will be used effectively. Planning helps to preserve nature and biodiversity. If it is well thought out, a city will consume fewer natural resources and emit fewer greenhouse gases. Otherwise, it is a mess and unlivable. An environment that cannot offer the possibility for decent living or satisfy basic needs is unsustainable. When this happens, the population will not be able to inhabit such a space.
Let’s take two interesting pieces of data to have a better understanding: according to PNAS, the percentage of humans among the total mass of living beings on Earth is 0.011%. IPBES records the terrestrial ecosystems modified by human activities as 75% and the marine ecosystems modified by human activities as 65%. With good planning, we can reduce the human ecological footprint in cities. It makes sense.
Planning calls for a clear sharing of responsibilities between public and private enablers. This is about governance, a key point in fostering the development of sustainable cities and territories.
Long-term urban planning is the only way to build a sustainable and liveable city and to limit global warming.
At Ergapolis, we believe it is important to foster sustainable cities. If you have any questions about what makes a city sustainable or suggestions regarding urban planning, do get in touch.
You can also visit our website to learn more about what we do.