Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Sustainable City! China Enters the Age of Sustainable Urban Design

China's rapid transformation period is enabling amazing break-throughs. While politicians and citizens of the world keep avoiding the key challenge of transforming our resource-depleting cities into sustainable organisms, China takes the necessary step into a new era of urban development: Building Sustainable Cities.

By Kathleen Hom & Eric Schneider, PNYV! USA

China is in a unique position. Whereas most of the world's cities are facing serious decay of their old, overcome structures, China is founding and composing completely new cities! Combining the high end knowledge in green technologies and infrastructures. Truly, a worldwide novum, and a must-see for what's possible - for everyone.

Very conscious of escalating environmental degradation, of rich environmental heritage and a growing population of disgruntled workers, China is already a a world leader in exhaust regulations, solar and wind energy. Now, the government has started the creation of the world�s first eco-city in Dongtan. Arup, a Britain-based planning, engineering and design firm, and the Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC) have joined hands to transform Dongtan, a rural island nestled in the Yangtze River near Shanghi, into a green city that has minimal negative impact on the environment and takes an active role in encouraging the well-being of its residents.

Planners, like Peter Head, Arup�s director of this project, want this city to revolutionize how cities are built. Through sustainable design and planning, Arup aims for Dongtan to be self-sufficient, generating all energy from renewable resources, growing all food, and recyling all waste.

The residents of this city, which will eventually be three quarters the size of Manhattan, will live, work and relax in the city. The final project will have parks and other such areas to encourage an active population.

The first phase of the eco-city is slated to be finished by 2010, just in time for Shanghai Expo trade fair. And, at the present time, two more eco-cities are planned for China; timeframes and locations have yet to be disclosed.

Charting this new frontier, planners have faith in the bright future of China. �There is a growing recognition in China that long term economic and social vitality depends upon more efficient, effective use of nature�s resources, coupled with improved human and environmental health,� says Gary Lawrence, senior advisor on the project and Urban Strategy Leader.

We hope that not only will this city include eco-technological advances, but it will also encourage an active citizenry, another component key for a sustainable society.


� Arup is a leading global firm providing design, engineering, planning and business services, and is the creative force behind many of the world�s most innovative and sustainable buildings, transport and civil engineering projects

� 2006 is Arup�s 60th anniversary, and the company has operated in China for nearly 30 years

� Arup has more than 10,000 projects running at any one time, globally, and almost a quarter of their worldwide staff of 7000, are based in Hong Kong and China

� The company has worked on more than 300 projects in mainland China, including sports venues, hotels, offices, airports, libraries, power stations, bridges, highways and railways

� They are currently designing some of the highest profile projects for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, including the Olympic Stadium, the National Swimming Centre and the new Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital International Airport, and the design and masterplanning of the world�s first sustainable city, Dongtan near Shanghai


In August 2005, Arup was contracted to design and masterplan the world�s first sustainable city, Dongtan in Shangha, China. Their contract is with Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC) which is listed on the Hong Kong stock market. In November 2005, we signed a contract to work with SIIC on two further eco-cities � timescales and location are to be confirmed.

Arup is currently in the process of gaining approval of the masterplan and design from the Chinese Government. SIIC will then invite international investors to take part in the first round of funding.

Dongtan will be a city of three villages. Phase one should be completed by 2010, in time for the World Expo in Shanghai, and will accommodate a population of 50 000, rising to a projected 500 000 by 2040. Dongtan will incorporate many traditional Chinese design features and will feel like a �Chinese� city.


Dongtan is to become a "city of towns", with many focal points for citizens and integrated into the rural landscape. It will have several villages, or communities, of different characters, rather than creating one faceless area. This shall make the city a lively, vibrant and sustainable, a unique, varied and high-quality urban environment, which enables inhabitants and visitors to use the city as a place for play, leisure, encounter, work and enjoyment of the natural world, in a balanced and sustainable way.


- An ecological footprint which is close to the global earth-share of 2.2 hectares per person! (compare your footprint at

- Minimising energy consumption in buildings and transport

- Creating maximum use of renewable energy with the aim of energy self-sufficiency

- Closed-loop recycling where all waste is reused or recycled

- Maximum use of local organic fresh food

- Water self-sufficiency

- Design for zero particulate emissions from transport vehicles

- Design for accessibility, with homes near jobs and public services, connected by dedicated safe walking and cycling routes and efficient public transport

- Green spaces and water features designed to increase bio-diversity and create a traditional Chinese sense of place throughout the city

- World-class leisure, eco-tourism, health and knowledge enterprise developments with a focus on emerging technologies

- Long-term robustness against the impacts of climate change



� Arup's aim is that Dongtan will be self-supporting, generating all its energy needs, including transport, from renewables and will have zero emissions from the tailpipes of vehicles

� Farmland around the city will grow food for the city and there will be nutrient and soil conditioning recycling between city waste and the surrounding land

� The city's design will aim to prevent pollutants reaching the adjacent wetland areas


� The city region will supply the bulk of its energy from wind turbines, bio-fuels and recycling organic material

� An Energy Centre will contain the energy supply centre for the entire city of Dongtan. It will also be a tourist attraction, as well as a leisure park, science exhibition and an education centre


� Most of the city's waste will be recycled and organic waste will be composted or used as bio-mass for energy production

� There will be no landfill of waste and human sewage will be processed for irrigation and composting


� Where possible, labour and materials will be sourced locally to reduce transport and embodied energy costs associated with construction

� A combination of traditional and innovative building technologies will reduce energy requirements associated with heating and cooling of buildings by up to 70%

� Good public transport will reduce air and noise pollution, which enables buildings to be naturally ventilated, and in turn reduces the demand on energy

� Green roofs on buildings improves insulation, water filtration and potential storage for irrigation or waste disposal

� A compact city (made of villages) reduces infrastructure costs as well as improves amenity and energy efficiency to public transport systems


� Dongtan will be a city linked by a combination of cycle-paths, pedestrian routes and varied modes of public transport, including buses and water-taxi's

� Canals, lakes and marinas will permeate the city, providing a variety of recreation and transport opportunities

� Public transport will use innovative technologies, which may include solar powered water taxi's or hydrogen fuel-cell buses

� Visitors will be encouraged to park their cars outside the city and use public transport while in the city

Altogether, most of this may not sound revolutionary. Which is good, because it tells us that this is possible anywhere! So - how come your city is not like this?

For all urban design, architecture, engineering and politics students, we can only advise to watch Dongtan, Arup - which appears like a global player taking corporate responsibility serious, and the Chinese government - which is, in this case, setting an example in responsible governance.


Arup�s Dongtan sites: and and

Arup�s social responsibility:

Further articles:,,1681385,00.html and,6903,1635188,00.html and and