Thursday, 26 September 2013

"How to make a city great"

"What makes a great city? It is a pressing question because by 2030, 5 billion people—60 percent of the world’s population—will live in cities, compared with 3.6 billion today, turbocharging the world’s economic growth. Leaders in developing nations must cope with urbanization on an unprecedented scale, while those in developed ones wrestle with aging infrastructures and stretched budgets. All are fighting to secure or maintain the competitiveness of their cities and the livelihoods of the people who live in them. And all are aware of the environmental legacy they will leave if they fail to find more sustainable, resource-efficient ways of managing these cities.

The result is a new report arguing that leaders who make important strides in improving their cities do three things really well:

  • They achieve smart growth. Smart growth identifies and nurtures the very best opportunities for growth, plans ways to cope with its demands, integrates environmental thinking, and ensures that all citizens enjoy a city’s prosperity. Good city leaders also think about regional growth because as a metropolis expands, they will need the cooperation of surrounding municipalities and regional service providers. Integrating the environment into economic decision making is vital to smart growth: cities must invest in infrastructure that reduces emissions, waste production, and water use, as well as in building high-density communities.
  • They do more with less. Great cities secure all revenues due, explore investment partnerships, embrace technology, make organizational changes that eliminate overlapping roles, and manage expenses. Successful city leaders have also learned that, if designed and executed well, private–public partnerships can be an essential element of smart growth, delivering lower-cost, higher-quality infrastructure and services.
  • They win support for change. Change is not easy, and its momentum can even attract opposition. Successful city leaders build a high-performing team of civil servants, create a working environment where all employees are accountable for their actions, and take every opportunity to forge a stakeholder consensus with the local population and business community. They take steps to recruit and retain top talent, emphasize collaboration, and train civil servants in the use of technology.
Mayors are only too aware that their tenure will be limited. But if longer-term plans are articulated—and gain popular support because of short-term successes—leaders can start a virtuous cycle that sustains and encourages a great urban environment."

by McKinsey & Company

Monday, 16 September 2013

UK's floods forecast

In UK, Environment Agency is the entity that " forecast floods and warn the public." It  also raise awareness of flooding in areas prone to it, and recommend that people living there make preparations in advance.

It use's the latest technology 24 hours a day to monitor rainfall, river levels, groundwater levels and sea conditions. Combined with weather data and tidal reports from the Met Office, it can provide local area forecasts on the possibility of flooding and its likely severity. The operational teams remain on standby to determine which of defences to operate and when, working round-the-clock until the threat of flooding has passed.
It issue's three different kinds of flood warnings: Flood Alert, Flood Warning and Severe Flood Warning. 
Flood risk is not just the likelihood of flooding, but the possible damage a flood could do as well.
When we talk about flood risk we mean two things:
  • the likelihood of a particular flood happening. This is expressed as an annual chance or probability. For example, 'In this location, there is a 1 in 100 chance of flooding in any given year'
  • the impact or consequences that will result if the flood occurs
We need to know both the probability of a flood occurring and the severity of any impact (which may change depending on how extreme the flood is). Then we can describe what the risk is for a particular area.
Environment Agency carry out flood risk assessments based on information about the hazards and types of risk a flood presents, and their likely social, environmental and economic impacts. Flood risk assessments look at:
  • the source of a flood, eg river, tidal or coastal water
  • the paths that the water will take during floods, and how the severity of a flood affects its path
  • the impact on the people, land and property affected by flooding. This includes physical, emotional, social or economic harm.
  • historical data from past floods
  • present water levels
Risk assessments establish the nature and scale of the existing risk, and how this may change over time or as a result of any flood risk management measures we put in place.

Monday, 9 September 2013


In 1993 The Prince laid the founding stones for the 400-acre Poundbury development at Dorchester. This new “urban village” eschews modernist planning principles and auto-dependent suburban housing in favor of a diverse, walkable mixed-use traditional model. Now half complete, it is possible to evaluate how well the original goals are being achieved.

Poundbury was conceived as a compact, mixed use neighborhood that would prevent sprawl and maintain a clear boundary between the built, and the natural environment. Like a traditional village or small town, Poundbury succeeds admirably in this goal.

Fundamental to the development was to ensure that it fitted appropriately into its geographic and cultural context. Poundbury was intended to genuinely reflect the character of traditional Dorset towns, particularly Dorchester, the small County town to which it is connected. Traditional materials, construction methods, window, door and roof detailing were all modeled after existing patterns.

Unique buildings, often by renowned architects, are placed at focal points and turns in the street to enhance the vista and strengthen a sense of place.

As Phase Two is completed, a new aesthetic is emerging. A more civic style of architecture is appearing, with terraced, mixed-use buildings, particularly around Butter Market, the square at the heart of Phase Two, and at Queen Mother Square that will form the heart of Poundbury.
Architecturally, Phase One excels in creating an aesthetic, human scale environment at a village scale. Phase Two creates a more urban environment that reflects some of the best British architectural traditions from a broader region. While some cavil at the apparent abandonment of the original, more modest aesthetic, Poundbury was proposed as an “urban village”, a concept that integrates these two scales.

The layout of streets and succession of open spaces are pleasing to move through, with unique architectural focal points at the culmination of each street view. They are not laid out on a grid, but relate to the lay of the land, and to the natural gathering points at the lowest, and highest points.
Streets and squares are designed for the pedestrian scale, and subtle traffic calming devices are in place – paving stones to mark transitions, raised platforms, short jogged streets, and roundabouts at major intersections.

It is the proximity of business, residential, commercial and service facilities to each other, and to hospitable public places that generates social life in the public realm, facilitating the development of community. The plan paid attention to creating places, but apart from Pummery Square, the building uses around these places are not yet in place.
Currently, there are only 2,000 residents (complete, it will house 5,000). Statistics show that Poundbury has almost exactly the same demographics in age ranges as Dorchester, though Poundbury has a slightly higher percentage of children (18.2% aged 0-15, compared to 15.8%). This has been achieved in part by the fact that 30% of the housing is social housing – houses and flats indistinguishable from market rate homes.

Poundbury is already home to 140 businesses that provide employment for some 1,600 people, making it possible for a substantial percentage of the population to live within walking distance of their place of work, if they wish. Businesses include Dorset Cereals factory; 27 services including medical, dental, therapy, hair and beauty, financial advisors; 19 shops, including a supermarket, a garden center, bike sales, clothing, furnishings; 10 eating places; 6 offices; 6 real estate agents; and a bed and breakfast.
Like many cities around the world, Dorchester and Poundbury suffer from the proximity of large shopping malls and big box retail. Dorchester’s main street shops failed to maintain upper floor residences over shops. They are vacant, or used for storage, so in the evening the main street is dead, making the main street even less attractive. Weekly shopping is conducted by car at the mall. Large supermarkets containing pharmacy, bakery, meat and fish counters also destroy the opportunity for specialized independent shops to survive on main street.
When Poundbury was first conceived, the conventional wisdom was that planning a new compact mixed use ‘urban village’ that would help prevent sprawl was radical and impossible to achieve.
Poundbury has already proved extremely successful in the visual aspects of architecture and urban design, in it human scale, use of traditional materials and architectural forms, and ecologically sustainable features.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Amazing Green Cities

Many real cities around the world make the grade on lists fo amazing "green" cities,compiled annually by experts. Model cities are ranked by a combination of criteria. These include urban planning and environmental statistics. They encompass energy sources, consumption and emissions, as well as transportation options and habits. Most lists also make note of green living (such as the availability of public parks, green jobs and sustainable buildings) and green perspective (such as recycling).

It's uniquely challenging for urban areas to be green. They have a high volume of people, traffic congestion, trash and air pollution to name just a few obstacles. Seventy-five percent of the world's energy is consumed by the world's cities. Green cities have to strike a balance of managing their current needs without compromising the city's (and environment's) future.

In this article, we'll look at five amazing cities known around the world not only for their adoption of green practices but also for their green innovation and leadership.

For many cities, the question of ecologizing infrastructure means tearing down the old and bringing in the new -- a costly and sometimes bewildering prospect. But after World War II, Freiburg was one of many German cities that were able to find the good in the aftermath of destruction. A community of educators and professionals, the post-war period found Freiburg and Munster competing to rebuild along the most sustainable principles.
Freiburg continues to rank as a green city, with a particularly German flair for engineering and planning, social cooperation and profit. From cycling incentives to solar paneling (on as many as 50 percent of the roofs in some districts), the city has continually rebuilt itself as greenly as possible.
By creating a situation in which citizens are committed stakeholders -- as is the case with most of the cities on this list -- the green movement is a natural part of daily life. Some districts are created and supported by multiple-family flats, designed and built by the families that live there along environmental principles. The latest development is the "passive house," which uses ingenious ducting and insulation to remove the need for heating and air conditioning of any kind. Costing 10 percent more to build at the outset, the passive house construction reduces energy loss and bills by 90 percent.

The planning for Barcelona's shining achievement in ecology and urban design, the Eixample District, goes back as far as 1859. The human-centered design of this garden-city oasis, which spans 520 city blocks, continues to grow and change, and to inspire urban planners the world over.
As well, transportation in and between Spain's major cities has helped to turn the once-deadly air in Barcelona into a standard-setting, continually improving ecological area. It's estimated that by 2020, 90 percent of all Spanish citizens will live within 31 miles (49.9 kilometers) of a high-speed rail station. That will cut down on commutes as well as regular urban and rural traffic, and will tie the whole of the country to its urban hearts. Public buses, both in the cities and outside, run on electric power, bio-diesel and ethanol.
Barcelona's also famous for its recycling initiative, with color-coded and ubiquitous bins everywhere throughout the city. Taking an already successful plan to the next level, planners more recently began streamlining the process by providing corresponding bags to make recycling even easier for its citizens. In 2006, more than one-third of the city's total waste was recycled.

Melbourne has been in a drought since 1997, so water conservation is a major responsibility in any city planning project -- but the green building doesn't end there. In 2002, 2020 was named as Melbourne's target year for net zero carbon emissions. Also in 2002, the United Nations hosted a conference in the Australian city, drafting and eventually adopting the "Melbourne Principles":
1. Provide a long-term vision for cities based on: sustainability; intergenerational, social, economic and political equity; and their individuality. This principle is intended, in part, to keep away the fears of globalization and Cold War uniformity that some public works can raise.
2. Achieve long-term economic and social security. This principle applies to natural human rights, specifically the basics needed for a healthy life, such as clean water, shelter, food and sanitation.
3. Recognize the intrinsic value of biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and protect and restore them.
4. Enable communities to minimize their ecological footprint.
5. Build on the characteristics of ecosystems in the development and nurturing of healthy and sustainable cities. The way natural ecosystems operate can often inspire the most long-term development options.
6. Recognize and build on the distinctive characteristics of cities, including their human and cultural values, history and natural systems. People are naturally more likely to follow through on initiatives which make sense within their culture.
7. Empower people and foster participation.
8. Expand and enable cooperative networks to work towards a common, sustainable future.
9. Promote sustainable production and consumption, through appropriate use of environmentally sound technologies and effective demand management.
10. Enable continual improvement, based on accountability, transparency and good governance.

Enrique Peñalosa, the former Mayor of Bogotá, is still justly lauded for the many initiatives and creative problem-solving ideas he made popular during his time in office. A Duke University graduate in economics and a lover of capitalism, Peñalosa nonetheless created change based on a philosophy of "hedonics" -- he brought about change through planning around human happiness, rather than economic growth.
For one example, Peñalosa was offered a huge endowment for roads, and instead he used this money to set up a bus system. He revitalized green spaces by overhauling the bike paths in the city, saying, "A bikeway is a symbol that shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important as a citizen on a $30,000 car" . He also promoted designing for children as a first priority, intuiting that a city successful for children would be successful for everyone.

Curitiba contractors get tax incentives when their projects include green areas, but the urban ecological concern goes a lot deeper than that. The city built lakes and parks not only for its citizens' enjoyment, but in order to solve the problem of ongoing floods. Made up of almost 30 parks and urban forests, Curitiba has managed in just 30 years to increase the green space average from one square meter per citizen to 52, and continues to improve.

Malmö is home to about 280,000 people, making it the third largest city in Sweden. It lies in the Southern province of Skane and is composed of canals, beaches, parks, harbor and blocks that still retain the look and feel of the Middle Ages. But it's not the Middle Age aesthetic that lands it on this list. Rather, it's Malmö's innovative use of renewable resources and its goal to become a leading eco-city.
Western Harbour, a former shipyard now densely urban, runs on 100-percent renewable energy from sun, wind and hydropower, as well as biofuels generated from organic waste. Its buildings are constructed with sustainable materials and designed to be energy efficient, and its streets are pedestrian and cycle friendly -- 40 percent of commuters and 30 percent of all travelers go by bike.

The 1.7 million people living in Copenhagen are known for eschewing cars for bikes or the metro system, but green transportation is only part of the city's eco-friendly urban plan. In 2006, Copenhagen won the European Environmental Award for its clean waterways and leadership in environmental planning.
The city is lauded for its efforts over the last 10 years to keep its harbor waters safe and clean. Officials invested in a water quality warning system to monitor pollution levels.
Additionally, Copenhagen is famous for its windmills. More than 5,600 windmills supply 10 percent of Denmark's electricity; and in 2001, Copenhagen opened the world's largest offshore windmill park. The new park is able to power about 32,000 homes in the city, supplying about 3 percent of the city's energy needs.

Portland lies on the banks of the Willamette River in the Pacific Northwest and is home to more than 500,000 people. It's been a model of sustainable living for decades, smartly mixing urban and outdoor spaces.
Today Portland has roughly 92,000 acres of green space, including 74 miles (119 km) of biking, hiking and running trails, and has enacted an urban-growth boundary to contain the urban landscape and protect 25 million acres of forest and farms.

Vancouver is a coastal city, home to more than 560,000 people, and was named the world's most livable city by the Economist magazine. It's proved to be not only the most livable, but also Canada's model for using renewable energy sources.
 The city already leads the world in hydroelectric energy, which currently makes up 90 percent of its power supply. It also plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to levels 20 percent lower than reported in 1990 during the formation of the Kyoto Protocol.
Additionally as part of its energy-efficient plans, Vancouver hasn't been shy with implementing emerging technologies. Solar-powered trash compactors have sprung up around the city, each the size equivalent to a normal trashcan but able to hold five times the waste (which puts fewer emissions-spewing garbage trucks on the roads).

Reykjavik is the smallest amazing green city on our list, with only about 115,000 people living in the city and roughly 300,000 people in the entire country of Iceland. But its impact on the world has been impressive.
Iceland plans to unplug itself from all dependence on fossil fuels by 2050 to become a hydrogen economy. Already, Reykjavik (and all of Iceland) gets energy for heat, hot water and electricity entirely from hydropowerand geothermal resources -- both of which are renewable and free of greenhouse gas emissions. Some vehicles even run on hydrogen, including three city buses.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013


Before Singapore reclaimed a large swathe of its coastline in the 1960s, the houses of Katong, along what is now Marine parade Road, where the shorefront properties of the well-heeled. Today, they retain their laid-back, beachfront atmosphere, with palm trees lining the street and plenty of opensky.

In no other areas are there so many architectural styles. Traditional "malay houses" are raised above from the ground to protect from high tides and floods. katong's most iconic buildings are strings of candy-coloured conservation shophouses with a distinctly Peranakan personality : plasterwork scrolls and floral tiles.

New businesses have moved in. Chinese temples are round the corner from Anglican churches, and pocket-sized condominiums are sprounting among the shophouses and pre-war walk-ups. Still, zoning restrictions in the core conservation area help retain the old-world charm.