By 2050 the world’s population is expected to reach 9.8 billion people. Nearly 70% (6.7 billion people) are projected to live in urban areas. This poses a question:
How should we design the cities of the future?
To answer this question, numerous designers provided the following basic responses:
- The plan should allow ecology to guide development.
- We should protect water sources and design systems to capture, treat, and reuse it.
- Energy will be renewable.
- The city will become more liveable even as it becomes more densely populated.
- All waste becomes a resource.
- We should grow food locally and sustainably.
- High-speed rail improves mobility.
- The culture and heritage of the increasingly diverse population are publicly supported.
- The infrastructure is carbon-neutral.
- The economy is largely automated and online.
Designing urban hubs
In a densely developed hub, sustainable land use within and outside its borders helps people thrive by providing water, food, and recreation. High-capacity transit reduces emissions and speeds commute times. A mix of housing types within each district provides diverse workforce housing and eases crowding. Also ,mixed-use districts provide all services of homes and workplaces. Open and green spaces, community venues and buildings with larger units foster happier and healthier families. Regional high-speed rail stations become centres of business and social activities. Indeed, new communities and developments take advantage of advanced hydroponic technology for urban farming.
The value of local, organic and sustainable farming is part of the curriculum in future city schools. Remote-sensing and information technologies maximise irrigation efficiency in city farms. In lieu of gutters, bioswales (absorbent rain gardens) and pools collect and filter rainwater for reuse. Fully automated waste collection and recycling centres contribute to faster and more comprehensive reuse of waste. Solar panels and roof gardens are common stop buildings, encouraging sustainable energy and small-scale farming. Instead of covering or burying hazardous sites and contaminated soil near cities, they are cleaned.
Designing smart buildings
Buildings incorporate natural elements and are largely modular, leading to faster production with less waste. Spaces can quickly transform to meet changing housing, industrial, or business needs. Interspersed green spaces promote natural airflow in buildings while providing shade and social areas. Bioluminescent materials capture sunlight and illuminate infrastructure and buildings. Water filtration, environmental monitoring and native landscaping are part of the streetscape. Also, low-rise buildings allow more light and air to reach the ground, promoting health and well being. Historic buildings have new uses, primarily to encourage cultural diversity and continuity. Indeed most future vehicles are self-driving and electric especially those used for business purposes. All new developments collect data in order to monitor and boost energy performance. Solar panels incorporated into all surfaces of the building’s facade during construction capture the sun’s energy.
Designing social interiors
With fewer cars outside and more plants inside, air quality improves and airborne particulates are fewer. Automated smart refrigerators and pantries order food and other supplies for the home. Used items, those that aren’t already biodegradable, are more easily reused or recycled in dense communities. Future cities are fully accessible to the disabled, giving all residents unfettered access to goods and services. Small and family size units, as well as easy access to services and transit, welcome a range of ages in one building.
Designing self-contained neighbourhoods
Neighbourhoods’ design helps meet most daily needs within a 10-minute walk. Varied housing types draw mixed-income communities; people of all economic strata can live close to work. The construction of barriers blocks storm surges and creates new marine habitats. Cultural festivals and venues to support them are important elements of increasingly diverse and densely packed cities. Also, lighter and cheaper bladeless wind turbines on building rooftops provide supplementary energy. Indeed, green ventilation systems reduce demand on energy-intensive conventional climate control systems. Remotely programmed drones become large and powerful enough to transport people within the city. Crops planted vertically become standard, bringing people and food closer together and reducing transport costs and emissions. Real-time video displays relay information to the public and updates citizens on the city’s energy-saving measures.
You can hot-swap modular interiors for other uses in response to new economic conditions or innovations. In today’s Copenhagen 40% of commuters ride bikes. In the cities of the future, 50% of commuters will. The city’s environmental monitoring centre tracks habitat indicators like air, water and soil quality. Efficient materials such as stretchable steel accelerate construction time and reduce a building’s carbon footprint. Buildings connect at upper levels travel times and street-level congestion. Not all buildings are high rises. Sustainable practices can be more effective at three to five stories.