Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cities Can Produce More Energy Than They Use

With new design strategies and available technologies, cities can actually be energy producing "factories" making more energy than they use and reduce, rather than add to, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

Helsinki, Finland has taken the lead in developing cities that contribute rather than detract from environmental quality. They are calling the design effort "Low2No".

Recognizing the need to improve sustainable building practices, Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, in collaboration with the City of Helsinki, has launched a sustainable development design competition. The goal was to attract and identify the best team to design a large building complex on a reclaimed harbour at the western edge of HelsinkiÕs central business district.

At their website (http://www.low2no.org/) they say:

The built environment is now the largest negative factor in the stability of ecosystems and the climate. As populations become increasingly urbanized, the evolution of cities will largely shape the outcome of our long dependence on natural resources. Two pathways of evolution are evident: an urban society that is in balance with the environment, or one that has depleted available natural capital. The decisions that will direct this evolution are being made now.

It is clear that no single organization, profession or nation can achieve the goals of sustainable global development. It will require an architecture of solutions including low/no carbon buildings; sustainable economic systems; enhanced mobility; sustainable planning and energy policies; resilient social systems (access, equity and capacity), among countless others.

They are focusing on four central objectives applied at the scale of a city block:

low (and one day no) carbon emissions
energy efficiency
high architectural, spatial and social value
sustainable materials and methods

Click on the heading above to see a video about the Helsinki project.

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