December 31 2007

Dongtan Eco-city

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Dongtan, a entirely new city being developed by the Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC), is designed to be the first eco-city, sustainable environmentally, socially, economically and culturally.

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The goal as stated by engineering and planning firm ARUP is to "create a development with low energy consumption that is as close to carbon neutral as possible."

The island of Chongming, on which Dongtan is located, is approximately 8,600 hectares (86 square kilometers). The island is the third largest in China and lies at the mouth of the Yangtze River. Plans call for one third of the island to be developed into Dongtan city while the remaining two thirds will be used for agriculture and to create a wetland buffer zone to the adjacent wetlands. 

Lofty aspirations for the project include production of its own electricity from wind, solar, bio-fuel and recycled city waste. Hydrogen cells will power public transport in the city. Also a network of bicycle and pedestrian paths will allow non-carbon emitting transportation throughout the development. Farmland in Dongtan will use sustainable farming techniques to grow food for the city.

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The plan presented by ARUP is radically different from all the other proposals for the Chongming island development. In the course of planning the islands development, long before ARUP was called to participate, SIIC contacted several design firms including US based Philip Johnson to submit proposals. The plans submitted to SIIC for the development of Dongtan were all very similar. They called for largely suburban development modeled after US development strategies. The city was to hold only 50,000 people and would be spread over the entire island in houses or mid height condo towers.

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ARUP identified the problem with their first decision. They sought to propose a dense city. A suburban condition would require private modes of transportation and make public transport costly. "Dongtan needed more people. Way more." writes Douglas McGray in his Wired article about Dongtan.

But how many more people? Double? Triple? The team found research on energy consumption in cities around the world, plotted on a curve according to population density. Up to about 50 residents per acre, roughly equivalent to Stockholm or Copenhagen, per capita energy use falls fast. People walk and bike more, public transit makes economic sense, and there are ways to make heating and cooling more efficient. But then the curve flattens out. Pack in 120 people per acre, like Singapore, or 300 people, like Hong Kong, and the energy savings are negligible. Dongtan, the team decided, should try to hit that sweet spot around Stockholm.

ARUP used the same research and data based decision making strategy to devise plans for transportation, energy, and water management. And fundamentally, the decision to create a denser city in lieu of an American styled suburban city, the designers empowered a number of these other strategies to use low energy / efficient methods.

For more information please visit the ARUP website or read the full Wired article.

Also you may want to check out this video from BBCNews.

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April 7th, 2008 at 9:01 PM


Beautiful photos!

August 10th, 2009 at 5:51 PM


What a beautiful concept...and of course the photos are stunning as well. I'll be the first to put up my singapore car insurance office in that eco-friendly place. =)