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Green Urbanism: A Community in a City

Green Urbanism is a conceptual paradigm for zero-emission and zero-waste urban design, advocating compact energy-efficient urban growth, transforming and re-engineering existing city districts, and revitalizing the post-industrial city center. It encourages the creation of socially and environmentally sustainable urban zones.

Cities should and must become the most ecologically sustainable way to live on our planet. It is more vital than ever to rethink current cities and their infrastructure systems to create compact, mixed-use, and polycentric cities.

What is Green Urbanism?

Green urbanism, by definition, is multidisciplinary; it necessitates the collaboration of landscape architects, engineers, urban planners, ecologists, transportation planners, physicists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and other specialists, in addition to architects and urban designers. Green Urbanism makes every effort to reduce the use of energy, water, and materials at each stage of a city’s or district’s life cycle. Green urbanism includes the incorporated energy in the extraction and transportation of materials, their fabrication, assembly into buildings, and, finally, the ease and value of recycling when an individual building’s life is over.

Today, the urban and architectural design must include the use of energy in the district’s or building’s maintenance and changes in use, in addition to the primary energy used for its operation, which includes lighting, heating, and cooling.

3 Pillars of Green Urbanism

Green urbanism is centered on three integrated pillars:

3 Pillars of Green Urbanism

  • Energy and Materials,
  • Water and Biodiversity
  • Urban Planning and Transportation

These pillars are somewhat universal, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. To create more sustainable communities, urban designers must first comprehend and then apply the key principles of Green Urbanism in a methodical and tailored manner.

These concepts can be beneficial in a wide range of urban environments but they virtually always need to be tailored to the context and scale of the project as well as the limitations and potential of the site.

We must design a unique method for each site and situation, adapting the principles to the specific climatic conditions, site context, technological availability, social conditions, project scale, client brief, varied stakeholder groups, and so on. It is a method of urban design that necessitates an optimization process as well as a thorough understanding of the development’s larger context and various dimensions before the designer can deliver an efficient design conclusion.

With all of the technical advancements, we must not lose sight of the reality that a fundamental element in any society’s sustainability is more than just its carbon footprint. The future of our societies is more than just discovering more environmentally friendly energy solutions; it is a question of complete environmental & social sustainability as well as developing principles for healthy communities.

15 Guiding Principles of Green Urbanism

To enable sustainable urban growth and assure the success of eco-cities on multiple levels, all urban design components must interact and cannot be viewed independently. The principles are founded on the triple-zero (triple-bottom-line) framework of:

  • Zero use of fossil-fuel energy
  • Zero waste
  • Zero emissions

Implementing the concepts into reality and directing the available know-how to the benefit of the city necessitates a comprehensive approach. The principles outline the techniques required for eco-cities but they must be tailored to the location, context, scope, and scale of urban development.

Some of the concepts may be difficult to implement at first, but they are all significant because they have the potential to save money, achieve an early return, improve livability, and expand chances for social contact among residents.

The principles provide practical measures on the route to sustainable cities, balancing growth and resource use. The fully “carbon-neutral” metropolis has yet to be developed, but all undertakings in this direction are significant milestones toward making the vision a reality.

Guiding Principles of Green Urbanism

The Sustainability Matrix – 15 Guiding Principles of Green Urbanism consists of:

1. Climate & Context

Every site has its own distinct set of characteristics in terms of orientation, solar radiation, rain, humidity, prevailing wind direction, topography, shade, illumination, noise, air pollution, and so on. The various aspects of this principle include climatic conditions which are viewed as the primary influence for form generation in the design of any project; understanding the site and its context which is essential at the start of any sustainable design project; optimizing orientation and compactness to help reduce the city district’s heat gain or loss; and achieving a city with a minimal environmental footprint by working with the existing landscape, topography, and infrastructure.

As a goal, all urban development must be compatible with the unique qualities, diverse site elements, and benefits of each area as well as be appropriate to its societal setting and contexts (cultural, historical, social, geographical, economic, environmental, and political). In the future, all buildings will feature climate-adaptive envelope technology and fully climate-responsive facades.

2. Zero Carbon Emissions (Promoting Renewables)

The various aspects of this principle include energy supply systems and services, energy-efficient processes, promoting increased use of renewable power and possibly natural gas as a transition fuel in the energy mix, and moving quickly away from heavy fossil fuels such as coal and oil; and the transformation of the city district from an energy consumer to an energy producer, with local renewable solutions and increasing de-carbonization. The initial selection criterion for choosing energy generation is the local availability of a renewable source of energy.

In general, a well-balanced mix of energy sources can prudently ensure future supply. A necessary goal is to have a distributed energy supply via a decentralized system that uses local renewable energy sources. This would convert city districts into local power stations powered by renewable energy sources such as solar PV, solar thermal, wind (on and off-shore), biomass, geothermal power, mini-hydro energy, and other emerging technologies. Building-integrated PV, urban wind turbines, micro-CHP, and solar cooling are among the most promising technologies.

Eco-cities will need to rely on renewable energy sources that are as close to 100% as practicable. At a minimum, all urban planning should aim for at least 50% on-site renewable energy generation, where the energy mix originates from decentralized energy generation and takes into account the locally available resources, as well as the cost and availability of the technology. The principles of exchange, storage, and cascade (exergy) can be used to optimize the energy balance. It is critical for the fossil-fuel fueled energy and transportation infrastructures that currently support our cities should rapidly convert to systems powered by renewable energy sources.

Eco-cities will need to rely on renewable energy sources that are as close to 100% as practicable. All urban planning should aim for at least 50% on-site renewable energy generation where the energy mix originates from decentralized energy generation and takes into account the locally available resources as well as the cost & availability of the technology.

The principles of exchange, storage, and cascading can be used to optimize the energy balance. It is critical for the fossil-fuel-fueled energy and transportation infrastructures that currently support our cities should rapidly convert to systems powered by renewable energy sources. High building insulation, high energy-efficiency standards, and the usage of smart metering technologies are required so that if a portion of an office building is not in use, the intelligent building management system will turn off lights and ventilation.

3. Zero-Waste Cities

Turning waste into a resource is what sustainable waste management entails. Nature’s zero-waste management approach should be adopted by all cities. Zero-waste urban design entails reducing, recycling, reusing, and composting garbage to generate energy.

All material fluxes must be investigated and thoroughly understood, with special emphasis paid to industrial waste and e-waste management. We need to prepare for recycling centers, zero landfills, and “waste elimination,” as well as a better understanding of nutrient flows. Eco-cities are communities where we reuse and recycle resources, reducing the volume of solid waste and harmful chemical discharges dramatically.

All building materials, as well as the manufacturing of goods (and building components), must be healthy and entirely recyclable. Waste prevention is always preferable to waste treatment or clean-up after it has occurred. Other methods that must be implemented include routine remanufacturing of metals, glass, plastics, and paper into new products (without downgrading the product); waste-to-energy schemes for residual garbage; and an ‘extended producer responsibility’ provision for all products.

Better management of the nitrogen cycle has arisen as an essential problem in this context of waste management. This entails restoring the nitrogen cycle’s equilibrium by creating superior fertilization technologies as well as methods for capturing and recycling waste. Controlling agriculture’s impact on the global nitrogen cycle is becoming a greater issue for long-term development. Essentially, we must re-establish ourselves as a “recycling civilization,” in which 60 to 90 percent of all garbage is recycled or composted.

4. Water Management

Reduced water use, finding more effective uses for water resources, guaranteeing high water quality, and the protection of aquatic environments are all facets of this approach. By teaching the public about water efficiency, encouraging rainwater collecting, and employing wastewater recycling and stormwater harvesting techniques, the city can be used as a water catchment region (e.g., solar-powered desalination plants).

Stormwater and flood management principles, including stormwater run-offs, enhanced drainage systems, and wastewater treatment, must be implemented as part of the urban design. The eco-city must assure the delivery of safe water and sanitation as part of its adequate and inexpensive healthcare provisions. This covers things like algae and bio-filtration systems for greywater, as well as restoring the fishability and swimability of our rivers and lakes.

All design projects should have an integrated urban water cycle planning and management system that includes high-performance infrastructure for sewage recycling (grey and black water recycling), stormwater retention, and capturing significant run-off through storage. We need to collect rainwater and use it sparingly for washing, as well as construct dual-water systems and low-flush toilets on a home level. On a food production level, we need to look into developing drought-resistant crops that use less water.

Guiding Principles of Green Urbanism

5. Landscaping & Urban Biodiversity

A healthy and productive city retains and optimizes its open spaces, natural landscapes, and recreational possibilities. Inner-city gardens, urban farming/agriculture, and green roofs must all be included in the sustainable city’s urban design projects (using the city for food supply). It must increase the eco-resilience systems by creating urban landscapes that reduce the ‘urban heat island’ (UHI) effect and use plants for air purification and urban cooling.

Furthermore, road narrowing reduces traffic congestion and reduces the UHI effect, allowing for more (crucial) tree planting. An important objective is to preserve green space, gardens, and farmland, to maintain a green belt surrounding the city, and to plant trees everywhere (including golf courses), as plants absorb CO2.

Conservation of natural resources, respect for natural energy streams, restoration of stream and river banks, and maximization of species variety are all important. We need to rip up parking lots or de-pave our driveways at home. We must maintain and conserve the present ecosystem that stores carbon in all urban planning initiatives, as well as prepare for the establishment of new carbon storage sites by increasing the number of tree planting in all projects. The percentage of green space as a fraction of total city land will be increased in tandem with densification activities.

6. Sustainable Transport

It is critical to have good access to basic transportation services since it helps to reduce automotive dependency as well as the need to travel. We need integrated non-motorized transportation, such as cycling or walking, as well as bicycle/pedestrian-friendly settings, such as safe bicycle routes, free bike rental programs, and pleasant public places. It is critical to determine the best transportation mix, which includes public transportation interconnections and the integration of private and public transportation networks.

Eco-mobility concepts and smart infrastructure (electric vehicles); integrated transportation systems (bus transit, light rail, bike stations); better public space networks and connectivity; and an emphasis on transportation-oriented development (‘green TODs’) are some of the ideas presented here. Greater and wider roads do indeed result in more automobile and truck traffic and CO2 emissions, as well as allowing for expanding expansion and suburbs, which increases electricity demand and reduces green space.

The transportation sector is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (over 20 percent). To counteract this effect, we must alter our habits by using public transportation, driving less, or carpooling. Alternatively, if the city district is designed for it, we can ride our bikes or walk. Personal arrangements have the potential to minimize commuting time while also enhancing community spirit.

We want a city area that is well-connected for walkers, with streetscapes that promote a healthy, active lifestyle and residents who travel by automobile less and less. Green TODs are the way of the future since they can accommodate a variety of medium-density housing typologies while also providing a number of transit options, resulting in a balanced mix of residents and employees.

7. Local & Sustainable Materials

Advanced materials technologies, leveraging the potential for shorter supply chains, and all urban designs focusing on local resources and technological know-how, such as regional lumber in common use, are some of the features of this principle. Modular prefabrication can help to make houses more affordable. Prefabrication has come and gone in modern architecture before, but this time the focus will be on sustainability, thanks to greater collaboration with manufacturers of construction systems and building components throughout the design phase.

We must encourage innovation and be conscious of sustainable production and consumption as well as the embodied energy of materials and energy flow in closing life cycles. Green manufacturing and resource efficiency, such as process-integrated technologies that reduce waste, must be prioritized. Using lightweight buildings, enclosures, and local materials with lower embodied energy and needing less transportation is more environmentally beneficial.

Reduced material diversity in multi-component products to help facilitate the design for resource recovery, disassembly, value retention, and the possibility of reusing entire building components; improved material and system specifications, supported by research in new materials and technological innovation; and reduced material diversity in multi-component products to help facilitate the design for resource recovery, disassembly, value retention, and the possibility of reusing entire building components. Buildings will last longer, waste would be reduced, and packing will be reduced if this goal is met.

8. Densification/Intensification

Increasing sustainability through density and compactness (compact building design means developing buildings vertically rather than horizontally). This would involve promoting business opportunities around green transit-oriented developments, optimizing the relationship between urban planning and transportation systems, retrofitting, and better land-use planning would be required to lessen urban areas’ influence on agricultural land and landscapes as well as boosting urban resilience by changing city districts into more compact communities and building flexible typologies for inner-city living and working.

This will necessitate some strategic planning for the usage of brownfield and greenfield developments as well as the adaptive reuse of existing structures. People must return to downtown regions to remodel and re-energize existing city centers in order to create diverse and thriving communities. This can be accomplished through mixed-use urban infill initiatives, transforming low-density areas into higher-density neighborhoods, and reviving unused property for community benefit and affordable housing.

Every neighborhood in the compact city is sustainable and self-sufficient, and all retrofitting programs follow Energy Services Company principles for self-financing energy efficiency. Inner-city living and working typologies that are adaptable. Large urban areas and fast-growing cities require unique tactics.

9. Passive Design Principles

Low-energy, zero-emission designs, applying best practices for passive design principles to all buildings & groups of buildings, dramatically reducing building energy use, introducing compact solar architecture, and renovating & retrofitting the entire building stock are just some of the aspects of this principle.

We need to establish new design typologies at a minimal cost, and we need to build buildings that are functionally neutral and survive longer. We must use facade technology with responsive building skins for bio-climatic architecture, maximizing cross-ventilation, daylighting, and opportunities for night-flush cooling. We must focus on low resource and material consumption, including the reuse of building elements, and we must design for disassembly.

Other ideas include mixed-use concepts for compact housing archetypes, adaptive reuse projects that revitalize mature estates, solar architecture that optimizes solar gain in the winter & sun-shading technology in the summer, and catching the low winter sun to avoid too much heat gain in the summer. It is critical to revitalize the city with an energy-efficient green design, resulting in more adaptable and long-lasting structures. Buildings with more flexibility in their plans have a longer lifespan. The life cycle of technical systems and services is shorter. This entails, first and foremost, using technology assistance sparingly and maximizing all passive means available from the building fabric and natural conditions.

10. Mixed-Used Programs

The key to long-term sustainability is land use development patterns. A mixed-use (and mixed-income) city promotes social sustainability and inclusiveness while also assisting in the repopulation of the city center. Changes in demographics, such as age, are an important concern for urban planners. It is advantageous for any project to have as many users as possible.

Over the course of 24 hours, different sections of the city can play diverse functions; for example, the Central Business District is used for more than just office activity. In general, we seek connected, compact communities for a living city, utilizing mixed-use concepts and tactics for housing affordability, and providing a variety of typologies to meet various housing needs.

These mixed-use neighborhoods (in terms of housing types, prices, and ownership forms) must avoid gentrification and provide affordable housing in districts that are inclusive of the poor and the wealthy, young and old, and workers from all walks of life, as well as provide secure tenure (ensuring ‘aging in place’).

Housing typologies must adapt to changing demographics. Migration and diversity must be viewed as both an opportunity and a challenge. Mixed land uses are particularly essential since they aid in traffic reduction. All private developments should be required to provide 40 to 50 percent public (social) housing, which should be integrated with private housing. Green TODs should be the focus of higher densities.

Essentially, these modifications will try to bring more sustainable lifestyle choices, with jobs, retail, housing, and a city university all being close by, with IT and teleworking from home helping to greatly minimize travel (motto: ‘Don’t commute to compute‘). We prevent monofunctional projects, which result in a larger requirement for mobility, by combining a varied variety of economic and cultural activities. Green firms would be aided by the use of ethical investments as a source of capital. The question is how particular or adaptive structures should be to their intended uses.

Guiding Principles of Green Urbanism

11. Short Supply-Chains

Local food production, regional supply, and a concentration on urban farming and agriculture, including ‘eat local’ and slow food’ efforts, are some of the numerous components of this philosophy. A return to the community and to the allotment gardens of the past, where roof gardens become an urban market gardens, is part of the sustainable city. We must bridge the urban-rural divide and move cities toward models that promote natural ecosystems and nutritious food systems.

The eco-city’s residents would garden and farm locally, sharing food, composting kitchen trash, and garden clippings, and cultivating ‘community’ veggies. To reduce the need for gasoline-based transportation, it will be required to buy and consume locally. Reusing paper bags and glass containers, recycling paper, and the cost of food processing will all need to be reconsidered.

We will need to cut down on our intake of meat and other animal products, particularly shipped-in beef because the meat cycle uses a lot of energy and water, and herds produce methane and need a lot of electricity. Perhaps half of our food will have to be produced organically, without the use of oil-based fertilizers or pesticides, and grown locally.

12. Preserving Cultural-Heritage

All sustainable cities strive for improved air quality, improved health, and less pollution as well as the development of resilient communities, robust public space networks, and modern community facilities. This is how sustainable cities work. Each city, however, has its distinctive setting, whether it is by the sea, a river, in a desert, or on a mountain.

All of these variables, including materials, history, and population demands, will be considered in the city’s design. The essence of a place is in the growth of grassroots strategies, the preservation of its built history, and the preservation of a particular cultural character, for example, by fostering locally owned enterprises and encouraging innovation and cultural development. Cities will develop following the specific characteristics and characteristics of locations, the demographic characteristics of the population, and the inventiveness of the authorities and residents.

A city’s mission is to promote the health, activities, and safety of its citizens. City councils must therefore protect the city by developing a master plan that balances heritage with conservation & development, fostering distinctive places with a strong sense of place, and ensuring that densities are high enough to support basic public transportation & walk-to retail services.

13. Urban Governance

If we wish to transform current cities into sustainable compact communities, good urban administration is critical. It must provide efficient public transportation, good public space, and affordable housing, as well as strong standards of urban administration, and change will not occur without political support. For their urban goals to be realized, city councils require strong administration and political support.

They require strong backing for a strategic direction to manage sustainability through integrated management and governance approaches that include evolutionary and adaptive policies linked to a balanced review process, as well as public authorities overcoming their unsustainable consumption habits and changing their urban decision-making methods.

A city on the road to sustainable practices leads and designs holistically, implements change in a harmonic manner, and shares decision-making and accountability with its empowered citizens. Public consultation activities and grassroots participation are critical for guaranteeing people-sensitive urban design and fostering community participation when balancing community demands with growth. Citizens must take part in community actions directed against governments and large corporations, such as writing letters and attending municipal council meetings.

One of the trademarks of democracy is empowering and enabling people to actively participate in defining their neighborhood and urban environment. In terms of bureaucratic urban governance and best practice, authorities could consider the following: updating building codes and regulations, creating a database of best practice and global policies for eco-cities, revising contracts for construction projects and integrated public management, raising public awareness, improving planning participation and policy-making, creating sustainable subdivisions, implementing anti-sprawl land-use and growth policies, and implementing anti-sprawl land-use and growth policies, enacting density limits and promoting high-quality densification, deciding on a political course of action.

14. Education

Technical training and upskilling, research, sharing of experiences, and knowledge dissemination through research papers concerning ecological city theory and sustainable design are all parts of this approach. Waste recycling, water efficiency, and sustainable behavior are all subjects that need to be taught in primary and secondary schools. Attitude and personal lifestyle changes will be required.

The city is home to a plethora of knowledge-sharing institutions, such as galleries, libraries, and museums. We must give citizens sufficient education and training possibilities, boosting their chances of finding green jobs. Universities can function as ‘thought tanks’ for city transformation.

We also need to rethink how architects, urban designers, planners, and landscape architects are educated. It is possible to establish research centers for sustainable urban development policies and best practices in eco-city planning, where evaluation tools to quantify environmental performance and local building capacity are explored.

15. Understanding Developing Cities & Countries

Developing and emerging countries have unique requirements that necessitate specific tactics, technological transfers, and financial mechanisms. Those in underdeveloped or poor countries cannot adopt the same strategies or engage in the same discussions as cities in affluent countries. Similarly, specific methods for emerging economies and rapidly growing cities, as well as the problem of informal settlements and urban slums, as well as slum upgrading projects, are necessary.

Low-cost construction and mass dwelling typologies are essential for fast urbanization in conjunction with poverty reduction schemes. We must train local people to empower communities, create new opportunities, and diversify job structures, rather than focusing on a single sector of the economy (e.g., tourism). Asian urban centers must achieve more sustainable growth. Combating climate change which was mostly caused by developed countries’ emissions and is having the greatest impact in poorer countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, with a focus on the Small Island States, is a top priority.

It is essential to highlight that a vibrant city will not be created by a few unique engineering innovations. All the technology in the world will not be enough to achieve long-term viability and vitality.

The issue of urban planning is significantly more complicated. The integration and combining of qualitative and quantitative knowledge is required when designing a city. This necessitates holistic, multi-dimensional methods and the adaption of solutions to each specific situation.

Increased global material and energy consumption, along with an inadequate and unsustainable waste management system and a lack of resource recovery, has compelled governments, businesses, and individuals to investigate how to quickly implement innovative waste management and resource recovery techniques. It will take sustained and concerted efforts from industry, government authorities, university researchers, and people and organizations in our society to achieve sustainable materials flow in cities and ‘zero waste.’

The AEC (Architecture, Engineering & Construction) industry has a special urgency to catch up with others in terms of better managing its material and waste streams. Focus more on reusing entire building components after a building’s life cycle. Increasing the economic worth of recycled commodities, such as rare metals in e-waste, metals, paper, glass, and plastics is an area that will continue to be developed and invested in in the future.

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