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Friday, 19.04.2024
eGovernment Forschung seit 2001 | eGovernment Research since 2001

In the fight against climate change, much attention is placed on greening our energy-production methods, which can feel a world away for city dwellers who might never have seen the inside of a power plant.

But when we look closer, just around us, we realise that the cities we live in are actually a major driver of energy demand, from the electricity needed to power buildings, to the food trucked in to be cooked in restaurants.

With this in mind, in recent years urban planners, start-ups, and governments have been in a race to develop green-tech solutions that can reduce the carbon footprint of cities while improving lives for their residents.

London has been at the forefront of sustainable city design, from its network of cycle lanes to its hybrid-powered public-transport system. But more could be done - here are four ideas already adopted in other world cities that could benefit London, too.

  1. Vertical farms

    What is it?

    Vertical farming makes the most of cities’ limited real estate to pack in several produce-growing floors into one building. These farms are often stacked with high-tech equipment and temperature-controlled rooms that guarantee harvests independently of weather conditions – a key consideration as our weather patterns become more extreme.

    How will it help?

    Reducing the miles our food has to travel not only cuts emissions, but gives us better-tasting, fresher food. It can also help avoid food waste, as urban farms producing for a specific city are well attuned to local demand, unlike countryside farms, which produce to sell on the open market.

    Chances of success

    You can find the largest urban farm in the world just outside Paris’s city centre, in the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre. The aeroponic, or soil-less, farm is slated to produce almost 1,000kg worth of fruits and vegetables per day. Similar, though smaller ones, have been developed in cities like New York in recent years.

    If Parisians and New Yorkers can do it, why not Londoners?

  2. Autonomous, electric public transport and delivery vehicles

    What is it?

    From electric buses and taxis, to self-driving trains, transport technology has evolved significantly in recent years, to the point that it is now not that unfathomable to imagine a future where all public transport is electrified and self-driving.

    And over the years, logistics companies, ever keen to reduce costs in an industry with thin margins, have eagerly lavished money on self-driving tech startups, from Google-backed Waymo to Sweden’s Einride.

    How will it help?

    As more and more cities restrict their city centres to electric and public-transport vehicles, London included, the case for greening them is all-the-more apparent, so that tourists, workers, and residents can all enjoy cleaner air.

    Our obsession with online shopping has also led to a boom in delivery vehicles on our roads, from food couriers to parcel trucks. Reducing their emissions, and making them autonomous, can increase their efficiency and even reduce their numbers.

    Chances of success

    Electric buses and trains are nothing new – but getting cities to adopt them is another story.

    While London’s TfL has been mired in strikes and funding gaps, it has nonetheless managed to expand and improve, from the Elizabeth Line to the DLR’s new trains.

    Programming vehicles for London’s unpredictable roads will be different from, say, American or Chinese cities’ grid-like planning. Nonetheless, start-ups like London-based Wayve have made significant strides in recent months on the road to full self-driving vehicles.

  3. Buildings as solar farms

    What is it?

    Putting solar panels on roofs is nothing new – but what if buildings’ windows became the panels?

    That is an idea being explored by American start-up Ubiquitous Energy, whose window coating converts sunlight into electricity. Tiny wires connect the film to the building’s electric grid to capture the power generated.

    How will it help?

    In modern cities like London, New York, and Singapore, imposing glass skyscrapers dominate the skyline, sometimes even defining it. Leveraging all that window surface can not only help buildings become self-sufficient energy-wise, but also reduce the energy that a city consumes overall.

    Chances of success

    Ubiquitous Energy is eyeing a 2024 date for the commercialisation of its coating, but it said its windows will be 30 per cent more expensive than regular glass and only offer 10 per cent efficiency in converting solar energy, versus solar panels’ 20 per cent efficiency.

    That might put it at a disadvantage in the eyes of budget-conscious developers and building owners. Nonetheless, the company points out that, until now, windows have been “passive”, and now they have the chance to actually generate electricity.

  4. 15-minute neighbourhoods

    What is it?

    Spurred by the pandemic’s shift to work-from-home arrangements, city planners around the world have started to look into designing neighbourhoods so that everything someone might need, from groceries to medical care to entertainment, will be available within a 15-minute-walk radius.

    How will it help?

    We’re already commuting less after the pandemic, and many cities, especially in Europe, have made big pushes for cycle-friendly roads. Reducing commuting and travelling even more will help bring down emissions further, while also fostering a stronger sense of community as our society becomes increasingly lonely and fragmented online.

    Chances of success

    While the idea of mixed-use neighbourhoods has already been adopted in cities like Barcelona, the reality is that it often requires changes to the neighbourhood’s underlying infrastructure, planning rules, and traffic management.

    City workers’ return to the office might also hamper plans for 15-minute neighbourhoods, as people get back into their commute routine.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Zi Wang

Quelle/Source: msn, 04.11.2022

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