Building More Sustainable Cities

Rapid levels of urbanisation, population growth, climate change and mobility are just some of the big issues affecting many of the world’s most iconic cities. But how well equipped are our cities to meet these challenges both today and in the future? And how do we create more sustainable cities?

By EC Harris

 
Rapid levels of urbanisation, population growth, climate change and mobility are just some of the big issues affecting many of the world’s most iconic cities. But how well equipped are our cities to meet these challenges both today and in the future? And how do we create more sustainable cities?
 
In seeking to address these important questions a city must respond to three competing priorities of ‘People, ‘Planet & Profit.’ In other words, a city must balance the demands of generating strong financial returns, being an attractive place for people to live and work, while also limiting any negative environmental impact.
 

A Singapore success story

 

Only 50 years after achieving full independence, recent industry research* shows that the picture for Singapore is very positive, with the city finishing in the top 10 globally and third in Asia Pacific. Singapore also scored higher than any other Asian city in the Planet sub-index. This reflects the city’s commitment to green urbanisation and to ensuring that sustainability is at the heart of all future designs and masterplans.
 
With an ambitious goal to make at least 80% of all buildings ‘green’ by 2030 as part of a concerted push to create a vibrant and high-quality living environment that is resilient, and which supports the broader climate change agenda, this is an area where Singapore will continue to lead the way.
 
From a People and Profit perspective, Singapore also scored consistently high although, like many other major cities in Asia, a culture of long working hours, expensive property and high cost of doing business were three areas where it scored lower than some cities in other regions.
 
However, these areas do not deter from Singapore’s many attributes. The city today stands as one of the world’s biggest financial centres, a global transportation hub, and the location of choice for many multinational organisations looking to set up their regional headquarters in Asia. A large part of its success has been built upon having a masterplan that links city planning with business and social requirements.
 
Looking ahead, a number of strategic initiatives are currently underway, which should see the city do even better in the coming years. For example, with the population continuing to grow, the government has committed significant investments over the next decade to improving mobility and connectivity within the city.
 
This includes two new underground lines, extensions to four existing MRT lines, a new terminal and runway at Changi Airport, a high-speed rail link between Singapore and Malaysia, and the relocation of the container port. Similarly, with a significant proportion of the population expected to be aged 65 or over by 2030, there’s also a major push to develop new social infrastructure, including community care homes, specialist hospitals and nursing homes.
 

Ushering in the age of the sustainable city

 
Building a city that’s truly sustainable is a bit like assembling an enormous threedimensional jigsaw puzzle. You can build as high or as wide as you like, but if you don’t get the pieces in the right place, it won’t look right, it won’t feel right and, ultimately, it just won’t work. As with any puzzle, to be successful, you need to understand precisely where you are and what challenges lie ahead.
 
As our planet evolves and people continue to flock to busy urban centres, we’re at a crossroads. Love them or loathe them, cities are the future of our civilisation, and we need to look after them in a more balanced and sustainable way. Cities can thrive as an economic engine and be the most stimulating and exciting place on Earth to live, but if that’s at the expense of the planet and its natural resources, it won’t remain that way for long. Today is unquestionably the Age of the City, but tomorrow must become the Age of the Sustainable City.
 
* The research refers to the recent ARCADIS Sustainable Cities Index. For more information, please visit http://www.sustainablecitiesindex.com.
 
 
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