The cities episode of Planet Earth 2 gave a lot of food for thought in terms of how to make the expanding cities of today more eco-friendly and more sympathetically built in with the environment.
Urbanisation represents an extreme problem for flora and fauna conservation. The rapid growth is preventing the natural world from keeping up, more habitats, plants, trees are removed and replaced with impermeable structures such as roads and buildings. Pollution increases, demand for energy increases and pressures on clean water and sustainable food increases. It is known that countries such as Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden and Iceland have gone to many lengths to boost more environmentally friendly cities, always being on the list of having the greenest cities in the world. However what may be surprising is the increase in more eco-conscious cities in countries where it may be less expected, such as the likes of Singapore, England and the USA.
Singapore the Urban Jungle
Singapore is one of the cities at the forefront of these eco-friendly developments. It has upped its green game with a rise in eco-friendly developments.
CapitaGreen, a large office building is one example of clever architecture. With an exterior that is 55% covered in plant life and double glazed - reduces solar heat keeping the interior cool. Other features of the building include a sky forest on the rooftop and its ability to channel cool air through its core channels for air-conditioning which vastly reduces the rate of energy consumption. It’s also equipped with a rainwater harvesting system and even the restaurant on top of the building, Artemis, uses sustainably-sourced ingredients from eco-conscious farms.
Marina Bay Sands, an impressive hotel, shopping centre, casino - you wouldn’t expect to have many ‘green’ systems to it. Yet this gigantic structure boosts 133,473 square feet of greenery, reduces solar heat gain, as well as having a rooftop infinity pool that reflects sunlight. It also has, amongst many other systems, anaerobic digesters that manage food waste, while an outdoor herb garden supplies the on-site restaurants.
The Supertree Grove, a magnificent sight, based in The Gardens by the Bay consists of 12 supertrees (18 in total around the Bay) measuring between 25 and 50 metres tall. 11 of which have canopies implanted with environmentally sustainable functions. These functions include photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy, acting as air venting ducts for the nearby conservatories, and can collect rainwater. They also consist of planting panels around the trunks and canopy of the trees that act like a living skin with over 162,900 plants comprising more than 200 species.
There are many other mentionable examples in Singapore such as the Tree House-Upon and the Nanyang Technological University’s which is worth a look at for other green architecture.
London is well known for its famous buildings such as Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, The Shard, and Buckingham Palace. But what may not be as well known is that in London a structure pushing the eco-architecture innovation is The Crystal, boasting to be one of the world’s most sustainable buildings. The Crystal based in London’s Royal Docks is an all-electric building that uses solar power and a ground source heat pump to generate its own energy. Not only does it generate its own power but it also has invested in state-of-the-art technologies to make it even more efficient. Some of these clever technologies include rainwater harvesting, black water treatment and automated building management systems.
BedZED is the UK’s first large-scale, sustainable community housing estate in London. This ‘eco-village’ is an inspirational design pointing in the right direction for future projects. It is built with the purpose to achieve big reductions in climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions and water use. One example of the eco architecture is sustainable water, with water consumption that is 50% of the London average. Another is the use of sustainable materials – with over half of the building materials derived within 35 miles. The idea of the project was to be able to make it easier, more affordable for people to be able to have a greener lifestyle with less impact on the climate and less waste.
New York: The Big Green Apple?
New York City has been investing in a city-sponsored green building initiative with many strategies for ecosystem services such as absorption, carbon storage, air pollution removal, local climate regulation, and recreation in urban planning. This is leading to alternative methods and sustainable buildings being created as the city grows. It has been suggested that promoting green infrastructure incorporating ecosystem services into land-use planning may help achieve sustainability goals by elevating the importance of conservation urban green space networks.
An example of its improvement in green architecture includes the One World Trade Center, it is one of the world’s greenest buildings. Containing a cutting-edge, high-efficiency cooling tower as well as using rain water for cooling and watering greenery.
Though this blog post highlights the increases in eco-friendly architecture and sustainable technologies, it is vitally important to bear in mind that mankind has a long way to go in terms of making eco-friendly, green, sustainable cities and it is with these type of structures and architectural ideas that will lead us down a much more hopeful path for a future that is currently looking very bleak.
Kremer, P. , Hamstead, Z., Mcphearson, T. (2016) ‘The value of urban ecosystem services in New York City: A spatially explicit multicriteria analysis of landscape scale valuation scenarios’, Environmental Science and Policy, Vol.62, pp.57-68