Published 29 April 2007
Late in 2005 & early in 2006, stories appeared about plans to create a green city on Chongming Island â€“ a hard-to-reach “suburb” of Shanghai with a major habitat for migratory birds in its eastern marshes.
I was highly sceptical about Chinese plans to turn this island into a repository for yet more of Shanghai’s growing population â€“ 130 million people within 2Â½ hours of the Bund, according to the Wired article which is the subject of this story â€“ without destroying the bird habitat.
But it proved hard to pin down information backing serious environmental intent by the Chinese corporation which had become owner of the island, or to suggest the migratory station’s days would soon be over.
The stories I read in foreign media were glowing about the proposal, very short on inquiry about how it might be done and likely outcomes. What I suppose I was looking for was something written from the perspective of the birds: If a city is plonked on the doorstep, will I be happy stopping or nesting here? Do I have somewhere else to go, or can we co-exist? What does it matter to humans, or to ecology, if several species of bird are decimated?
Now, another Chongming story, this time capturing much of the thinking that went into planning a city now proposed to be 10 times the original scheme, building up to 500,000 residents over 4 decades.
The Wired article, by New America Foundation fellow Douglas McGray, does far more than unveil the thinking that secured Ove Arup the job of creating a green city on the front door of the world’s biggest metropolis. It’s full of ideas on doing growth better.
Below, I highlight some of the points Mr McGray has made in his article. And in a separate story, mostly put together in early 2006 but not run on this website at the time, I give details of the Dongtan city project on Chongming Island. It’s an inspiring story and it contains lessons for us in Auckland.
Shanghai represents the forward edge of the planet’s next urban explosion. These new megacities could evolve into sprawling, polluting megaslums. Or they could define a new species of world city.
With Dongtan, Arup is testing a radical new approach to urban design, one that suggests citiesâ€¦.. can actually get greener as they grow.
The plan was never to pollute forever; it was to chase wealth at any cost and clean up later.
Dongtan’s master planâ€¦.. has almost nothing to say about architectural style. Instead, it outlines the world’s first green cityâ€¦.. It’s like the source code for an urban operating system.
He (Ove Arup architect & urban designer Alejandro Gutierrez) & his team imagine a city powered by local, renewable energy, with super-efficient buildings clustered in dense, walkable neighborhoods; a recycling scheme that repurposes 90% of all waste; a network of high-tech organic farms; and a ban on any vehicle that emits CO2.
Instead of building the (power) plant far away and out of sight, Arup would put it up near the city centre, capture waste heat and pipe it throughout the town. With good insulation & smart design, the plant could heat & cool every building in Dongtan.
Related story: Masterplan for an eco-city: Dongtan
Attribution: Wired article, story written by Bob Dey for this website.