Rethinking Cities: a holistic approach to sustainability and urban design

The Sustainable Cities Initiative at the University of Oregon brought in a special speaker Monday night for a lecture titled, “Rethinking Cities: a holistic approach to sustainability and urban design.”

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Mr. Stellan Fryxell is a partner at Tengbom Architects based in Stockholm, Sweden. This architecture firm has done notable work all over Scandinavia, the UK, Russia, and China, and Mr. Fryxell himself has had meetings with both Al Gore and the Chinese President to convey his exciting ideas about how to design and create sustainable cities for the future. Mr. Fryxell knows, like we do at the BioBE center, that cities are major contributors to climate issues that we are facing. Approximately 200,000 new people move into cities every single day, and cities themselves are growing geographically faster than their populations. Infrastructure investments, although currently decreasing overall, are critical to help us work better with the climate and plan more resource efficient cities. Sweden has shown that GNP can still grow with decreasing CO2 emissions, despite the significant financial investment upfront. Mr. Fryxell proposes an “urban toolkit” that will help to achieve sustainable cities – just building green buildings with passive heating and cooling and recyclable materials is not enough. Traffic and transportation must be via rapid transit or with vehicles that utilize alternative and renewable fuel sources. The biodiversity of the landscape must be taken into account, along with the re-use of water and sewage and recycling and incineration of waste for energy production. 80% of all fuel is renewable in Sweden, with co-generation of heat during fuel generation. Even sewage water is viewed as a resource for heat and biomass. Mixing air into the tap water can reduce water consumption up to 25%, further reducing energy costs. Information and communication technology (“smart” cities) will be helpful, although not critical to success of sustainability. Smart devices can certainly help it to be “easy to act correctly”, an important component of successful sustainability. What is critical, according to Mr. Fryxell, are integrated planning and design strategies in place to help encourage local engagement and diverse perspectives.

I hope that these planning teams will include advocates for designing their buildings and outdoor spaces that encourage both macro and microbial biodiversity that we think can increase the health and wellness of inhabitants.

 

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