By 2050, six billion people will live in cities. They already account for 75% of global energy consumption. But with 60% of the urban areas expected to exist by 2030 not yet built, there is huge potential to shape future development.
Here are Ramboll’s top seven principles to enable resilient cities, developed with partners across the world.
1. Paying for an unknown future
Most cities are ready to act on climate change and there are solutions available that can build resilience. The uncertainty lies in the exact impact of climate change; looking 50-100 years ahead, forecasts become less clear. But decision-makers should still apply a holistic approach to analyse economic, social and environmental consequences and seek bold new partnerships to finance the investment needed. It is important to;
- Understand the wider socioeconomic potential of urban planning and design projects.
- Identify winners and losers and their expected returns on investment to form a common language.
- Bring different professions and competences such as public utilities and private companies together in co-creation.
Above all, focus must be directed towards interdisciplinary and integrated solutions that enhance overall liveability.
2. Public decision-making
Public authorities need to understand attitudes to development at different stakeholder levels and their structures need to support a holistic, multiple-purpose approach.
To ensure that the investment has maximum impact, cities should;
- Perform comprehensive cost-benefit analyses.
- Identify the most vulnerable areas calling for urgent action.
- Focus on lifting neighbourhoods while adapting to the changing conditions and stimulating green growth.
- Enhance urban equality and security at the same time.
- Engage early and actively with stakeholders.
3. Cost-effective, low carbon cities
Cities need renewable energy solutions as much as possible but they also need strategic planning.
One example of this is district-wide heating and cooling. When urban development projects are planned, establishing a system that is prepared for future expansion is needed. With district energy grids for hot and cold water, cities get more value for money with a high security of supply, a high quality of energy and a low environmental impact at a low cost.
District energy and power grids are invisible too. No cables hanging above, no noisy wind turbines or solar PV disturbing the aesthetic feel and architectural design.
4. Adapting buildings
Approximately 40% of our total energy is consumed throughout the building lifecycle – as well as it using large amounts of high quality, drinkable water and bringing other secondary effects, including on ecosystems and land use.
There are several ways of successfully adapting buildings to the reality of climate change. In particular we must design buildings to consume less energy to start with – the many ways to do this are already well documented. In the last 40 years, great progress has been made to improve our understanding of how energy consumption can be reduced. These efforts must continue.
5. Public involvement
Relevant voices are not always heard before initiating a climate adaptation project. It is often a question of restricted resources and time – not lack of will or intent, but the benefits are valuable and at least three important groups should be included;
- Business leaders – for commercial success, investment, green growth potential and job creation.
- Knowledge institutions and industry experts – for evidence-based insights needed for workable solutions that stimulate long-term development.
- Citizens – without whom you risk developing a technical solution that creates resilience but does not support overall liveability goals.
Assessing which projects will lead to the greatest long term positive impacts and working out how to prioritise them is a determining factor for the level of public involvement needed.
6. Cloudbursts and flooding
Rising sea levels, heavier and more unpredictable rain patterns and inland flooding are beginning to make a huge global impact. But it can be difficult to choose the right approach to match a city’s individual needs whilst creating more value for the city and its residents.
Blue and green infrastructure is the answer. With this approach it is possible for cities to add an extra layer of water, trees and plants that branch out through the streets, between and on top of the city landscape to strengthen the ecosystem while enhancing social cohesion, improving wellbeing – and increasing property prices.
7. Making the dream real: climate friendly urban mobility
Ever-increasing urban populations mean transport infrastructure is quickly reaching or exceeding its design life, while budgets are tighter than ever. Cities need to shift policies toward liveability priorities that have already been proven to support strong economic development.
Growth strategies should organise smaller communities within the urban area around mixed-use centres of density. First, land use and urban planning must define a progressive strategy that minimises distances and travel times for residents. Public transport infrastructure then becomes cost-effective and intuitive to implement, as well as more viable and attractive.
Murray Sayce is Principal at Ramboll Environ.