2030: The Incredible Sustainable City

January 2, 2015

Imagine arriving in your city’s downtown core on a quiet electric train, whisked along tracks through residential and urban city blocks. You glance toward the mountains in the distance, visible through a sky free of smog.

As the train pulls into the station, you step out and inhale the clean air. Electric buses and trams move swiftly past you along the road and throughout the city in a widely accessible grid, similar to Curitiba’s efficient transport system. As you walk along broad sidewalks toward your office, the weight of each step triggers a small pulse of electricity that flows from the pavement’s array into the city grid.

Your company has offices in a riverside building, integrated into its environment like those in the eco-city Masdar. The building operates so efficiently that it contributes net energy to the grid and is powered by a geothermal system, wind turbines and PV panels synced with the sun’s arc across the sky. Retractable shades shield offices from the summer sun. You are fortunate to live and work in a city entirely connected to the earth’s plentiful energy systems of sun, wind and subsurface heat.

You settle into your office on the second floor, which is mostly illuminated by walls of windows and a glass atrium located in the building’s center. Structural materials and furnishings were created from nontoxic, sustainably harvested componentss, leaving the indoor environment as clean as mountain air.

After a few hours of work, you walk up a circular staircase lit by windows and take your lunch at the café on the top floor. Fruits and vegetables that fill your plate were gathered from the rooftop garden that morning; hummus, chicken and grains were harvested from farms located a few miles outside the city.

As the day ends, you power down your low-energy holoscreen and gather your belongings to return home. You return to the train, which has just sped into the station. The sidewalk that takes you from the station home glows as you walk, lit by phosphorescent molecules embedded in the pavement, lighting your way and reducing the need for streetlights that block the view of stars in the sky.

Walking toward your home, you glance up at an apartment building on your left and smile at the vertical vegetable garden winding up the southern face of the building. PV panels and a thermal solar array cover the roof and supply energy and hot water to each unit in the building.

Your city’s hydrological and organic systems are also integrated into the environment’s natural cycles. Freshwater that falls as rain and flows in streams down from the mountains is optimally utilized, including sufficient recharge of the region’s surface and ground water resources. Parallel pipes channel potable and treated reclaimed water to each home and building and then out again after use by residents. Fluid wastes are channeled to a quaternary treatment facility and then back out again for use in landscapes. Solid wastes are flushed to a collection center and used to generate biogas. Grey water is immediately filtered on site and used for flushing ultra-low flow toilets. Vegetables and other green wastes are harvested to create an organic, rich compost that is transported to farms within and surrounding the city, completing the capture of carbon-rich waste back into the food supply.

As the weekend approaches, you look forward climbing into your Tesla, powered by energy collected from PV panels on your roof, and heading out into the countryside for a drive.

An entry to the Masdar Engage Blogging Contest www.masdar.ae/adsw/engage

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2 Responses to “2030: The Incredible Sustainable City”

  1. Susan Says:

    Loved reading this, Laurel! San Mateo has a great sustainability program, which I look forward to learning more about.

    Some of your post sounds akin to the ideas I’ve written about for Cisco’s S+CC program.


    • Thanks for the comments! I was in the Bay Area for Christmas and the air was actually incredibly clear for once – I look forward to that being the norm with green technology.


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