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Urban Planning sample essay

In his book Urban Geography, Michael Pacione, discusses the “Future City-Cities of the Future”. In his analysis there are several principles that must be included in the future city in order for it to strive and be successful, “by 2025 65 percent of the world’s population will be in urban areas” (Pacione 2005) The need for the city of the next 100 years to be sustainable in all aspects is paramount for its success and its citizens to live in peace and harmony. The factors that will play a large part in deciding the fate of our future cities are addressing population growth, the economics of cities, or making cities economically competitive, the effective managing and creation of various modes of transportation and mobility and managing the largest pollutant most inefficient parts of of our cities: buildings. All while maintaining high ecological and environmental standards including proper reduction and disposal of waste . The city of the next 100 years must be successful in managing the impacts of all of these stated areas. I will highlight current cities that are struggling with some of these areas and what must be done for the future to prepare for the next century.

I. Population

There is wave of urban migration and population explosion particularly in 3rd-world nations. The projection of future growth in Lagos, Nigeria from the current city to the future city is projected to put Lagos as the 3rd largest city in 2015 behind Tokyo and Bombay. (Lagos State Government 2011) To stem and manage such growth city planners and local authorities must be diligent. Below is a picture of the daily traffic in the main city center, this is an example of the current situation when unfettered growth and poor or lack of planning are present.

While this may be an extreme example two of the projected largest cities by 2015 are both located in developing nations-Lagos being one of them and Bombay in India the other. The basic needs of the population must be met for these cities to become prosperous for its own success and for its inhabitants. With such large masses of population of people located in nations that currently have challenges handling the basic needs of its people the challenge will be to grow while still addressing these concerns. The solution to this problem of massive population growth and how to sustainability-as a city develop and grow can be found from William Rees from the University of British Columbia.

He and his team have developed an ecological footprint analysis which can be used to gauge and measure whether the current natural environment can sustain the growing population. In short, breaking down the consumption of what people use into five categories: food, housing, transportation, consumer goods and services. In addition, there are also land-use categories: fossil energy land, consumed land, food land and forest land. While I will not recite the entire analysis, what is important that can be extracted from this is the characteristics of sustainable future cities, as it relates to population growth. Preserving natural capital, minimizing the ecological footprint (this can include mixed-use development, 3-4 story apartment buildings along commercial streets). (Walker, Lyle and Rees, William 1997)

II. Buildings

Building and how we are currently operating them in the United States alone account for 40 percent of all energy consumption. The city of New York alone emits more greenhouse- gases, more automobile exhaust and more trash per square foot, than any other U.S. city. (Fettig 2006) In the future city of the next 100 years energy consumption of buildings must drastically be reduced. While there are some new groundbreaking solutions such as The United States Green Building Council that have developed a system of measuring energy consumption of building and providing a rating as to the effectiveness and usefulness of its energy consumption and sustainability. While this may be a great start and possibly a platform or model for future development it is simply not enough.

The high cost for seeking the highest standard for Existing Buildings –Platinum has pushed many building owners away from this concept. The sustainability of buildings is not only defined as installing solar panels on the roof or collecting rain water it must start with the design of our work places and homes. It’s changing how we live, how we work, architects must have knowledge not only of the aesthetic but knowledge and understanding of maintaining a high level of efficiency and sustainability. The buildings of the city can and must be an ecological master of sustainability. How we construct our buildings currently are: “the best possible product at the cheapest possible cost.” (Fettig 2006) An example of this is the construction of federal buildings across the U.S.- most of our federal buildings are large blocks of concrete with little or no efficiency or aesthetic value.

The General Services Administration is the branch of government which is responsible for the construction, development and managing all federal buildings. They are the largest developer and manager of commercial space in the US. (Fettig 2006) Recently, efforts led by architect Thom Mane of Los Angeles, he was tasked with developing the San Francisco federal building located at 7th Street and Mission Ave. The building is constructed with no central air conditioning, the building is naturally ventilated. The elevators strop on every 3rd floor with stairs for use between floors. There are no corner offices/edge offices. In addition, there is mostly all natural light only. Below is rendering of the building.

While the building may not be the standard from a perspective of beauty or function it mixes both the architectural form and user function and efficiency that his necessary for buildings for the future city of the next 100 years.

III. Economic Competitiveness of the City.

“Environmental quality is often cited as a goal that stands in opposition to economic activity. (Skinner 1997) The thinking that sustainability and environmental awareness stifles economic growth is a great myth in this county. The two can go hand in hand, and must do so for cities to grow its local businesses, create jobs for its residents, while also maintaining a high quality of life for the residents of the city. The Porter Model highlights four areas that a businesses must maintain in a city for it to gain a competitive advantage over its competitors. Having a strategic location, local market demand, and integration with regional clusters and utilizing human resources. (Porter 1990) For the next-century city the local businesses must play an important factor in creating jobs within the inner city that will attract residents and help create a better quality of life.

Skinner maintains that “local governments have large-broad powers to regulate businesses and they various types that are allowed to operate, therefore allowing more sustainable and environmentally-friendly industries into the city.” Various particular local examples of this in the region of S. Florida is in the city of Boca Raton. The city has created a local city organized group called Boca Raton Green Partners. The makeup of the group that meets monthly are local businesses committed to sustainable practices and reviews methods that city can take and policies they can recommend to foster a practice of sustainability for the residents and businesses.

The state of Florida also has a rebate program for residents to install solar panels on their homes and businesses. Residents can be reimbursed up to 20, 000 for homes and up to 100, 000 for businesses against the cost of installation. This in effect also created hundreds of local jobs for contractors and businesses this may be somewhat viewed as a public/private partnership. Environmental quality and economic vitality can be viewed as a singular entity that can fully support each other for the city to usher into the next 100 years and truly be a future city.

IV. Transportation

The above picture speaks volumes about the traffic problems most current cities face everyday. Smog, congestion, traffic noise, are just a few of the health consequences of our reliance of cars and the use of fossil fuels. When looking at transportation and the city it is not a one size fits all solution. There must be many options for residents and creating “accessibility rather than mobility.” (Fettig 2006) Some of the problems current cities face is large investments in highways and roads. For many years local and regional official’s solution for solving the traffic problem was building more roads. Within the city the use the public transportation is the most effective and environmentally-conscious way of mobility.

While this is nothing new to many readers what may surprise is that in some cities like Paris, France the local government is taking an active role in reducing the number of cars on roads. There has been a push for residents to use more public bikes, roads have been removed and trains or trams created in their places. These simple steps have allowed public transportation to move 3-4 more times the people on the same road previously used by cars. (Fettig 2006) The goal of the city is to reduce pollutants by 40 percent by the year 2020. By building a city non-reliant on the car for mobility not only will you generate less pollutants in the atmosphere but also a higher quality of life for residents.

In conclusion, the future city of the next 100 years has many challenges it faces. But these challenges can also be viewed as opportunities for innovation and change that can bring forth lasting economic and environmental benefits. By addressing these four main points: population growth, building efficiency, economic competitiveness of cities and transportation and mobility the city can be primed for the next 100 years.

Works Cited
E2. Directed by Tad Fettig. Produced by Elizabeth Westrate. 2006. Lagos State Government. November 30, 2011. (accessed November 2011). Pacione, Michael. Urban Geography, Ch. 30 The Future of the City-Cities of the Future. Routledge, 2005. Porter, Michael. “The Competitive Advantage of Nations.” Chap. 3, 69-130. McMillian, 1990. Skinner, Nancy. “Economic Development as a Path to Sustainability.” In Eco City Dimensions, 66-79. New Society Publishers, 1997. Walker, Lyle and Rees, William. “Urban Density and Ecological Footprints.” In Eco City Dimensions, 96-112. New Society Publishers, 1997.

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