Is the living-lab Europe too self-confident?

Based on some insights from the “2013 Shanghai Intelligent Building Expo” urbanisation really takes up pace in China. Over the next 20 yeras urban population is predicted to increase by 350mio. There are plans to newly build 50,000 skyscrapers and 170 underground transportation systems.
Energy efficiency is the most critical factor in the chinese urbanisation process as the building sector stands for approx 40% of the total energy consumption.

It will be interesting to observe what solutions will be tested and rolled out for the intelligence of a building e.g. automation, HVAC, lighting, elevation as well as its substance e.g. construction, isolation, energy supply.
Will solutions be developed in China and exported to Europ and North America? Will chinese companies buy into the european market e.g. with M&A or sponsored pilot projects (like Toshiba in France) or will it be the other way round?
So far, listening to stakeholders in Europe, there is the manifest belief, that Europe is the living lab for the golbal future.

Learning about the ambitious chinese plans the self-consciousness of “established” multi-nationals might be a bit too self-confident.

Ørestad – first the infrastructure, than buildings on landfill

• Ørestad is the youngest quarter of Copenhagen build on the island of Amager – a landfill-area, previously used by military. Since 1992 it is turned into a mixed quarter for living and working. The quarter stretches north-south with 5km in length and 600m wide.
• There will be another 20 to 30 years before Ørestad is finished. The planning aims for 20.000 inhabitants and 60.000 workplaces.
• Quite unlikely for urban development in Denmark is that infrastructure is in place before buildings. That is due to the financing model applied:
In 1993 the Ørestadsselskab company was founded to develop the area. Their main task is to set up the infrastructure, a Metro-line, for the area. The project shall be financed by the revenue gained from selling ground to investors. Ørestadsselskab is owned by 55% from the municipality of Copenhagen and with 45% the Danish State.
• The Metro connects the various parts of Ørestad with the centre of Copenhagen and runs parallel to the Europe highway that gives a good connection to Sweden and the airport Kastrup.
• The guiding thought of this new urban development could be „Open Live“:
• There are private buildings comprising flats of 30m2 to over 100m2 all one open space.
• A newly built student-home conceptionally follows the analogy to chinese housing – being little groups within a bigger community. There are living groups of 12 students sharing kitchen and lounge facilities. Several of these groups are clustered in a section and 4 sections build the circle of the whole community.
• The „Gymnasium“ is the first highschool build in Denmark within the last 35 years. There are no traditional class rooms, learning is all open space.
• The „Concert Hall“ opened in 2009. It is built according to the plans of the french architect Jean Nouvel. It is covered in blue canvas that allows the projection of the play to the fassade.
• Besides all these good approaches for sustainable urban development Ørestad is also a great example for topics to be cautious about.
• The infrastructure (metro and main road) makes the quarter easily accessible but also cuts through, destructing the slightest effort for atmosphere and coziness. This development seems to make the same mistake as the car centered developments of german towns in the late 60s, early 70s.
• The groundlevel of the buildings was supposed for shops and retail. However this approach didn’t work so far, as most of the retail is concentrated in the newly built shopping center „Fields“ – the biggest in Scandinavia. This complex sucked all shops out of the neighbourhood and leaves the groundlevels around empty.

Why does it seem to be so difficult to create the coziness we love in grown city structures? Developing a greenfield is a unique chance – however we always seem to know exactly what went wrong afterwards.

Neapolis, Cyprus
With Neapolis near Pafos, Cyprus planns an investment of 2 bn EUR for 1 mio square meters. Neapolis seems to be a greenfield project and aims to position itself as the first ‘Smart EcoCity’ within the EU.
The financial and business model is not transparent on the website so I asked for further information – let’s see, how reliable they are!
At first sight it looks as if the leptos group is a construction company (founded 1960) focussing on hotels and resorts. Is the next step from there to build smart cities?

Looking forward to receive further information from them on how involvement of technology providers is planned, how investment should work and what the timing is. I keep you posted!

You can only be CO2 neutral, when you don’t exist

Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart
Keynote speaker Smart City World Congress, Barcelona / Spain, 13.-15.11.2012

“Even trees are not CO2 neutral. You can only be CO2 neutral, when you don’t exist. Trying to reduce emissions therefore is the wrong thing. And doing the wrong things perfect means doing things perfectly wrong.”

With two examples he underlines his statement: Firstly, the sealing of buildings is tax supported in Europe – however behavior of inhabitants is not adequately changed. He quoted a study that detected climate in a building often being worse than outside. Consequently there is a negative impact on health that is shown, for example, in Asthma being the most common chronic disease among children worldwide and rapidly growing. In Europe 10-15% of children are affected. Secondly, things are not used to “be smart”. So it doesn’t help to make them more sustainable or extend lifetime. Inventing tires for double milage only extends the problem.

Therefore he invented the “Cradle to Cradle Concept”. It is a biomimetic approach to the design of products and systems. It models human industry on nature’s processes viewing materials as nutrients circulating in healthy, safe metabolism. It is a holistic economic, industrial and social framework that seeks to create systems that are not only efficient but also essentially waste free. Companies designing products that go in the biological cycle are for example Puma, KLM and Maersk. According to Braungart future cities could affect the climate like forests, being carbon positive, not neutral only. Currently 25% of the world emissions come from buildings. An urban area set up in the cradle to cradle concept is the “Park 2020” near Amsterdam. Also the city hall of Venlo in the Netherlands is based on the concept, so are companies in the building industry like Thoma Holz buildings, Schüco windows, Moas tiles. Philips, famous for light products just recently decided to align the company according to Braungart’s concept. Their first lighthouse project is selling light to the city of Rotterdam instead of lightbulbs. Cost for electricity decreased by 60% – Philips and the city of Rotterdam share the saving.