A total makeover. Cities are responsible for about 80 percent of carbon pollution. In Sydney we have decided to reduce our carbon emissions by 2030 by 70 percent from 2006 levels through decisive action taken now to retrofit our central business district using various technologies.
The innovation here is not the technology itself but its application at the scale of a city. A series of master plans will create low-carbon zones across the city, with co-located trigeneration energy systems (combining power, cooling and heating), recycled water treatment, and automated waste collection/utilization. And although individually these ideas and technologies are not new, bundling “green infrastructure” together in this way—and at city scale—is an Australian first.
In Sydney our energy comes from coal-fired power stations located more than 200 kilometers away. Our ultimate goal is to take the city off the national electricity network. We are looking at 70 percent of our electricity coming from local, decentralized energy and the remaining 30 percent from renewable-energy technologies. Interim reports suggest the trigeneration network alone could cut greenhouse gas emissions in city buildings by 40 to 60 percent, avoiding some of the high costs of transporting electricity from the country to the city, as well as reducing the need to upgrade the grid to cope with future demand.
—Clover Moore, lord mayor of Sydney, Australia
Water, Water Everywhere
The ancient metropolises like Persepolis [in what is now Iran], Athens and Mohenjo Daro [in what is now Pakistan] had superb water-distribution and sewage-removal systems. In my country, “urbanism” can be measured by the number of taps supplying clean water into the household, proper disposal of wastewater, and sewage treatment. So my vote goes to better water-distribution systems (both for drinking and sewage) as the one innovation that would make any city a substantially more livable place.
graduate student, VIT University, India
A Place to Put Your Head
In Vancouver homelessness has eroded the city’s “livability.” I would like to see forms (emphasis on the plural) of housing that appeal to the homeless—forms that they will use. This undertaking will necessarily address the root causes of their issues. Those afflicted by mental health, poverty, substance abuse and joblessness and runaways make up this population, and we cannot subject them to a one-size-fits-all approach. A place to put your head in safety and comfort—if it isn’t an inalienable right, it ought to be one. If our citizens are healthy and productive, the rest falls into place.
Sensors can serve many purposes, from making traffic patterns more efficient to measuring and reducing our emissions output to monitoring our health in our homes. The shrinking size and growing dispersal of sensor technologies in cities will make these improvements in urban life possible.
—Parag Khanna, senior research fellow at the New America Foundation and author of How to Run the World: Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance (Random House, 2011)
Transportation innovation is one of the keys to creating a more livable city. And one innovation that has the potential to greatly impact life through transportation is personal rapid transit. Personal rapid transit is essentially a personalized subway system for a city. These systems use pods that can hold a handful of people, carrying them directly from point to point, with no stops and no waiting at stations. Creating an easier way to navigate a city promotes interactions among its inhabitants and, in turn, a more livable, and potentially more productive, city.
—Samuel Arbesman, senior scholar at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and creator of Mesofacts, an initiative designed to promote awareness of the slowly changing facts in our everyday life