Urban designer, Stephen Moore, explains why the future of sustainable planning and design is in the creation of circular cities.
Two-thirds of the world’s population is predicted to live in cities by 2050 and according to the United Nations cities are responsible for more than 70 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The solution lies in ‘circular cities’, which are designed as living ecosystems that minimise waste, and reduce, reuse and recycle resources as much as possible.
Cities operate under a linear model, whereby raw materials are used to create goods, which are then consumed and disposed of. Urban planners should consider shifting infrastructure, transport and building design to make them adaptable and stand the test of time.
The design of our cities should also look to maximise happiness and minimise hardship, and focus on creating great places that people will love and enjoy. At its core, the way we design a circular city is through the lens of people.
A framework to create cities that prioritise people and the environment should include prioritise walking space and accessibility.
Planners should redistribute road space to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists, introduce more green spaces, and bring amenities and jobs closer to neighbourhoods.
This will ensure land is used effectively and puts people first – promoting better accessibility and walkability.
A key component of the circular city is the ability to reduce waste. Green infrastructure, which refers to a network of environmental features and green spaces that provide a natural means of reducing heat, improving air quality and mitigating waste.
Green infrastructure can include street trees, constructed wetlands and green roofs – roofs that are almost entirely comprised of vegetation. The lifespan of conventional flat roofs can be doubled with greening.
Data mining – analysing raw data to extract meaningful trends – can help inform planning decisions to increase the longevity of a design and its acceptance in a community.
When designing circular cities, planners could focus on the modes of transport accessible to the community to reduce car dependency. Multi-modal mobility – incorporating different modes of public transport and innovations such as ridesharing into an integrated system – can assist with this.
Almost 30 European cities including Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, Prague and Budapest have signed the European Circular Cities Declaration, which is a commitment to work towards speeding up the transition from a linear to a circular economy.
The declaration reflects broader European efforts to rethink the way economies and societies are organised. For example, port cities are often overlooked when it comes to reducing emissions.
More than half of all maritime emissions come from ships while berthed in ports.
The EU Green Deal sets an emissions reduction target of 90 per cent for port cities. It is also a pressing problem in Asian ports such as China where seven of the world’s 10 busiest container ports are located. Shipping currently accounts for over three per cent of global CO2 emissions.