In many of my blogs, I discuss ways to make urban environments more sustainable and green. I recently read an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled: How to Build a Greener City. This article was aimed less at what one person could do and more at what a city could do to become greener. Green planners are always searching for new ways to incorporate sustainability into planning. However, many methods have been in existence for decades, though implementation has been limited.
Global trends in migration are showing a strong leaning toward urbanization. About half the world’s population lives in cities, and that number is continuing to rise. With so many people living in urban areas, the opportunity for lower carbon footprints is becoming a reality for many. People that live in city environments tend to have lower footprints as they drive less than their suburbia counterparts, and have lower utility use since they live in apartments and condos.
What are green planners doing to improve the environmental situation in cities? Below are a few examples with a couple of advantages and disadvantages.
Micro Wind Turbines
Created: In use since the early 1800’s
Description: Small generators that can be mounted on buildings in cities. They are more adaptable to changes in the wind and vibrations.
Advantage: Paired with multiple units as well as solar panels, they can produce a large portion of a building’s energy requirements.
Disadvantage: Rated at only 1-3 kW
Pneumatic Garbage Collection
Created: Sweden, 1961
Description: You’ve probably seen the tubes in grocery stores that clerks use to send money to the offices? It’s the same idea: garbage is sent through a series of underground
tubes to a centralized collection area.
Advantage: No need for an army of garbage trucks to drive through the city
Disadvantage: The tubes would be required to be installed, which would take a lot of money, as well as possible disruption to cities. It also would require education if the tubes
were not able to accept all types of waste.
Created: First published paper in Berlin by Reinhard Bornkamm (however, green roofs have been in existence for centuries)
Description: Roofs are covered (or partially covered) in sod and plants.
Advantage: Reduces heating costs, reduces stormwater runoff and management and filters out pollutants
Disadvantage: High initial cost (as well as occasionally higher maintenance costs); occasionally retrofitted buildings will require increased structural integrity to cope with
the weight of the green roof.
While I could go on, I believe the long term benefits of transforming our cities into green cities outweigh the disadvantages. It can also beautify a city and allow people to enjoy the
outdoors rather than have disdain for their dirty city streets and buildings.
The reality is that people are moving into cities at an increasing rate. Now is the time to decide what kind of cities we would rather work and play in.
Lauren Wingham-Smith is a Municipal Peer Review Team Project Assistant with Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited, acting on behalf of the Municipality of Port Hope. She holds a Bachelor of Engineering, specializing in Materials Science and Engineering with a minor in Economics. This multidisciplinary background allows Lauren to view both the environmental and human effects of engineering projects. She is also passionate about green innovation and design.