Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Today, half of humanity, around 3.5 billion people, live in cities. The UN expects that figure to increase to 68% by 2050. Cities take up only 3% of the world's land area but are responsible for 60% to 80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions. Considering these figures, the cities of the coming decades must be more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive.
Cities have their own Sustainable Development Goal and their own world day, October 31, because one of the United Nations' main concerns is inequality, which they can reduce if they opt for a redesign that integrates the most vulnerable people. How? With better connected and more open places that boost social and economic exchanges, avoiding marginal areas that displace people without resources.
This connectivity is also achieved through public transportation. The cities of the future must prioritize pedestrians over cars and encourage walking and cycling, in addition to fast and sustainable public transport systems. This not only allows for a friendlier and more accessible city for every resident, but also, according to the United Nations, would help reduce disease and promote a healthier lifestyle.
Green areas also improve residents' health and quality of life. At a time of drought and climate crisis, they must be designed to rely on resilient and site-specific species for sustainable water consumption. "Green spaces help cool the air, provide shade, and absorb atmospheric pollutants," the UN noted. Its benefits on the physical and psychological health of citizens are also proven.
Encouraging neighborhood life, in line with the increasingly widespread 15-minute city movement, is also seen as a future option for cities. This trend is based on the idea that, within 15 minutes, residents can walk or cycle to their home and work, but also stores for shopping, schools, a health center, and leisure areas. Its aim is to promote social relations through more inclusive places and reduce travel and polluting emissions.
Cities are vulnerable to climate change due to their high concentration of people and their location. And here architecture plays a fundamental role. More sustainable buildings are already under construction, for example, with biomaterials. But what about the ones that are already there? The Higher Council of Associations of Architects of Spain (Consejo Superior de Colegios de Arquitectos de España) (CSCAE) notes the importance of investing in the installation of photovoltaic panels or geothermal mechanisms to be more sustainable in energy consumption, but also because of the exterior insulation of the facade to reduce the home's temperature.
Technology to foster resilience and sustainability will be an excellent ally, and in particular, artificial intelligence will be crucial in this process. It will help, for example, with more efficient garbage collection and more appropriate electricity use at all times thanks to technologies such as adaptive street lighting. It will also bring major advances in building efficiency and water management.
But not only technology. Taking a look at the past can also be important for the future, as Yael Issacharov, an Israeli designer living in Barcelona, has done. Her solution for interiors is based on walls designed with terracotta that fill with water and, through evaporation, cool the room without air conditioning. The system is similar to that of traditional botijos. Because traditional techniques can also be critical to building an efficient future.
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