The depletion of natural energy sources, city overpopulation, increased carbon footprint, physical, and biological pollution, as well as global warming, with all of its effects on the quality of life, are the most pressing challenges of the twenty-first century. Large settlements, which are characterised by high population and development densities, will be most impacted in this regard; as a result, urban planners will need to reconsider their form and functions in order to meet the demands of a sustainable urban lifestyle.
In our day-to-day life activities, a large amount of carbon dioxide is produced and released into the environment. These activities include eating, transportation, burning fuels and also most importantly, through industries. The construction industry has a significant impact. Despite the fact that the topic appears to us to be broad and nearly oblivious, the materials we choose and the manner you operate with them have an impact that we should consider.
But what exactly do we mean when we talk about sustainable urban living in twenty-first-century cities? As the ultimate goal is to harmonise the interrelationships of the urban ecosystem. Sustainable urban living in the twenty-first century depends on sound urban planning, which gives contemporary urbanism a fresh conceptual perspective. The concept of “green urbanism” emerged in the 1990s and promotes compact, energy-efficient urban development, aims to transform existing city districts and regenerate the post-industrial centre of the city. Green urbanism is a conceptual framework for zero-emission and zero-waste urban design. It encourages the creation of urban areas that are both socially and environmentally sustainable.
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First Thing First, What is Green Urbanism?
The planning of public areas, structures, and infrastructure is known as urban design. According to one definition, green urbanism is the process of developing such communities that are healthy for both people and the environment. It is an effort to create environments, communities, and lifestyles that are more sustainable while using fewer resources overall. In order to develop eco-friendly communities that reduce waste and emissions, employ sustainable building materials, and support electrified transportation, green urbanism is a sustainable approach to urban planning.
Urban areas may provide the foundation for how environmentally conscious and sustainable city design can benefit the environment at the local, regional, and global levels. In addition to architects and urban designers, green urbanism involves the participation of landscape architects, engineers, urban planners, ecologists, transport planners, physicists, psychologists, sociologists, and other specialists. At every step of the city’s life cycle, green urbanism takes every effort to reduce the use of energy, water, and materials.
The book “How Green is Your City” can be used to provide a brief overview of the history of green urbanism in the United States. The idea began to take shape gradually in the late 1800s, when some major American towns adopted cutting-edge sanitary, sewage, and drinking water systems. Public parks and open spaces were gradually introduced in New York City. The US government provided its citizens with inexpensive homes post World War II.
“Los Angeles: A History of the Future”, written by Paul Glover in 1892, is the first book to describe the thorough reconstruction of cities toward harmony with nature. European support for urban sustainability was never far behind.
Following the Earth Summit in 1992, various concepts have been used to try to lessen urbanization’s negative effects on the environment and achieve sustainable development, including sustaining cities, sustainable urbanism, green cities, eco-towns, eco districts, and eco-cities, resulting in a more tranquil way of life. New technology applications are fundamentally possible in both sustainable and green cities.
Urbanisation Impact on Environment
Urbanization and its effects on the environment have always gone hand in hand. Developing nations became more concerned about the effects of pollution and inadequate sanitation on public health throughout the 19th century.
The relationships between cities and ecosystems were divided into three phases by planners. Early urbanisation (3000 BCE – 1800 BCE) features more effective farming methods. Energy consumption, notably the use of fossil fuels, expanded quickly during the second phase of urban industrialization (1800–1950 CE). With fast population increase and economic globalisation, the city-environment interaction has reached its third phase, or global interdependence, since the 1950s. Additionally, the scope of environmental issues spans local, regional, and global levels, with cities increasingly contributing to environmental harm on a worldwide scale.
The number of people residing in towns and cities has increased dramatically since the 1960s. Due to the physical expansion of metropolitan centres, nearby ecosystems can rapidly become degraded.
Climate change affecting urban sustainability are impacted in terms of rising temperatures and altered rainfall patterns. Carbon dioxide and methane are the main greenhouse gases, and as the effects of climate change become more obvious, their high concentration in the atmosphere leads to a variety of problems, including air pollution and acid rain. Environmental calamities, including cyclones and storms, rising sea levels, unstable land, and shifts in biodiversity could also affect certain other cities. The entire scenario emphasised the urgent necessity to concentrate on re-establishing the urban ecosystem with special attention paid to human settlements.
Practical Concepts in Green Urbanism
The most recent approaches to urban planning encourage creative ideas for the growth of cities around the world in the future. These theories are predicated on the idea that a city functions as a complex living organism. Sustainable Action Plans, which serve as a blueprint for sustainability, are becoming commonplace in many cities. Green urbanism has developed from theoretical frameworks to actualized action plans.
As specialised literature promotes new urban concepts designed for this purpose, such as new urbanism, green urbanism, bio urbanism or organic urbanism, biophilic city, smart city, sustainable city, eco-city, and green city, there is a demand for an applicable method in the planning and management of a city.
The growing necessity to incorporate sustainability in the field of urban planning gave rise to the idea of new urbanism concepts. By reducing the amount of material and energy used, this is a way to develop urban areas that are healthy for both the environment and the people who live in them. Designing sustainable cities, also known as eco-cities, means taking into account how they will affect the environment. This means reducing waste output, pollution, and the inputs of energy, water, and food. The principles of sustainable urban development are likewise comprised of these objectives.
The maintenance of biotic processes in urban contexts and the preservation and increase of biodiversity are all made possible by the green infrastructure, which is a network of connected green spaces and hydrographic features. As a result, it encourages sustainability and an improvement in living quality.
However, green infrastructure also need support mechanisms in terms of planning, just like all the other comparable urban components. Given that people are biological beings, green infrastructure is both human and environmental friendly.
Key Factors in Green Cities
The unique characteristics of green cities have an impact on their morphology and functionality, which in turn account for the distinctions between these communities and the “common” cities. The green spaces are one of the essential elements of urban infrastructures in general and of green cities in particular. By reducing pollution (including noise pollution), conserving water, preventing soil erosion, reducing the impact of bacteria on people and animals by cleaning the air, regulating the urban climate, and enhancing the quality of urban living psychologically, green spaces play a significant multifunctional role in enhancing the living environment.
As part of the strategic spatial planning of urban environments, the blue-green corridors may be utilised as tools for integrating water surfaces and green spaces with the goal of managing flood risk and preserving the richness of fauna and flora. In order to safeguard the natural environment, many cities have green belts erected around them. They are also intended to ensure more spaces for leisure and recreation, limit their unchecked growth, and preserve the priceless historic landscapes.
The urban forest is yet another crucial element of the green city. In general, it depicts the numerous types of tree vegetation that can be found in or around cities, from lone trees in private gardens to street-lining trees, from tiny groups of trees around homes to parklands and the last remaining pieces of natural forests. Apart from urban forests, which are often totally regulated by the government, urban agriculture is another eco-friendly, beneficial practise that has evolved in contemporary cities.
Returning to traditional building methods, techniques, and materials is a more modern trend. The resulting structures, however, would be more at home in the suburbs than in the actual metropolis. An innovative system for assessing home customs that integrates energy efficiency with cultural and aesthetic principles. From the perspectives of building technology, energy consumption, moisture content, earthquake resilience, and durability, these structures are environmentally friendly.
Eco-friendly sidewalks are a good alternative to concrete pavements since they have less of an impact on the trees and their root systems because they are more flexible. The modular paving technique for rubber sidewalks allows water to seep into the ground. Additionally, these walkways benefit from recycling used tyres. Natural stones (granite, limestone, basalt, cobblestones, etc.), which are more resistant to freezing and high pressures than concrete and asphalt, are used in another ecological improvement concept.
The growth of green urbanism and green city ideas has made it important to assess the green urbanism to major cities, which are struggling with critical issues relating to environmental quality and, indirectly, lifestyle quality. Cities all across the world are making dedicated efforts to lessen the production of carbon emissions. Three interconnected pillars support green urbanism: energy and materials, water and biodiversity, and urban design and mobility. Electric public transit, energy-efficient construction, and renewable energy sources are some of the essential components of ecologically friendly city planning. These include electrified public transportation for a net-zero future and intelligent public lighting.
Copenhagen: The World’s First Carbon-Neutral Capital
Denmark has rapidly developed into a humming metropolis of green energy and environmentally beneficial initiatives. By 2025, Copenhagen plans to become the first carbon-neutral capital in the world. Although most cities intend to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2050, Copenhagen is setting an example for other cities to follow by demonstrating how simple it is to go green without going bankrupt. The city is aiming to provide nonstop, all-electric public transportation in an effort to get more people to use it rather than drive their own cars. Copenhagen has 62 wind turbines with a combined output of up to 158 megawatts in order to significantly reduce the city’s carbon footprint.
Singapore: City in a Garden
Singapore has demonstrated to the rest of the world how green urbanism is possible in a densely populated city. The city is recognised for its capacity to infuse urban settings with greenery and wildlife. Singapore’s current motto, “Singapore – City in a Garden,” emphasises that the city places a high value on its natural surroundings. The city features a vast 180 kilometre park system with pathways and walks winding through parks, gardens, and other outdoor areas all around the city. With the help of its Skyrise Greenery project, which finances the construction of roof and vertical gardens, the city has strengthened its green urban framework.
The use of renewable energy has increased all around the city. The city also boasts a model recycling programme, with practically all construction waste recovered and waste stream extraction reducing the amount of waste that ultimately ends up in landfills. Most of the city’s rain and storm water is collected and put to use. Singapore also boasts a highly regarded public transportation system, with most of it moving faster than traffic on important thoroughfares.
Large cities are becoming increasingly crowded and urbanised, making it harder to control phenomena like chemical and biological pollution as well as the ongoing rise in building density and garbage production. According to current understanding, the green city concept unifies all theoretical aspects of future cities into one workable plan. In addition to the standard urban elements, the green city contains unique characteristics, such as areas that produce green and blue oxygen, landscaped and environmentally friendly buildings, eco-friendly cars, green energy, and sustainable waste management systems.
The oxygenation and purification of urban air, the preservation and even expansion of biodiversity through fostering semi-natural habitats, and other advantages are just a few of the key advantages of green cities. If effectively maintained, green infrastructures could develop into popular tourist destinations, boosting the local economies. The main finding is that self-sustaining cities of the future can be ensured by green (infra) constructions.