Ecological Systems of Urban Planning

| Eero Paloheimo’s lecture in Binhai Forum, China, 22nd September 2012 |

*1* Ladies and gentlemen,
Let us think first – not administratively but philosophically – what is a city. It seems to me that a city can be defined in the best way not by its area, not by its buildings, streets, cars etc. A city reminds a living creature. It eats and it empties its bowels. It becomes old and grows. It even thinks and feels. It has an atmosphere. It has its nerves and its veins. It certainly has a metabolism. Many people would say that a city has a soul. This is why in my opinion it is justified to say that a city is the people living in it.

*2* Then it is also correct to say that the area of the city is not only the constructed area but the whole area used by its inhabitants for their living. The daily consumption then includes that area which is needed to produce the food and the energy for the inhabitants and further the paper and timber consumed by the inhabitants. The inhabitants also need a recreational area. All these areas are described in the view of city Vienna in the beginning of this century. It had then a population of approximately 2 million people.
The red area is the built city, about 200 km2. The blue area is reserved to energy production, using solar panels, windmills and geothermal energy, and its area is about 300 km2. The yellow area is agriculture, 2500 km2 and the green is commercial forest, to produce paper and timber needed by the inhabitants. The violet area is recreational area. All this together makes about 6000 km2, which is about 30 times as large as the built area. The latter is usually considered as the area of the city.

*3* I will then speak about the character and definition of an EcoCity. What are they? Why do we build EcoCities? EcoCities are not a new kind of architectural fashion or a new way of making money, although many people seem to think that way. They are an essential part of a huge programme to save the world from ecological catastrophe. We have some absolute imperatives for an EcoCity and I show them here although I remember that I have shown this very basic slide also in two earlier years in Binhai Forum.

*4* Now, going to the systems of an EcoCity, we have to make a division into two types of properties, materialistic and spiritual. Of course, they influence each other. The materialistic side, all the six issues written on the left side, give the city its appearance, its form. The form is influenced – of course – by the type of traffic, buildings, streets, parks and the whole landscape. The appearance of an EcoCity should show immediately to the visitor that he comes to a new kind of place, not a traditional city. An EcoCity should be a manifest of something new. But the right side of this slide is even more important. If the city is basically its inhabitants, the thinking and feeling of the inhabitants must be in synergy with the appearance of the city. The materialistic environment and the spiritual atmosphere strengthen mutually each other.

*5* We can study the different great unities – the systems of an EcoCity – roughly by asking how they influence each other. Even then we can see the remarkable mutual synergy. It is clear that the physical form of the city – the environment – has an effect on the atmosphere and the life-style in the city. To be realistic we must remember the money – the economic restrictions. The fourth unite – the education – is necessary, while it gives the city a sustainable basis to continue through generations the fundamental principles.

*6* If we then study any of the basic systems thoroughly, we can find plenty of sub-systems, which bring us closer to the everyday practices. The materialistic environment e.g. can be divided into several sub-systems, which again in the same way as the main systems influence each other. We can study and we should study simultaneously the system of traffic, land-use, production of goods and production of energy. Again, all they influence also each other. That makes the EcoCity so necessary and effective. We have to study the different sectors of technology simultaneously, not separately.
I will now present three examples of these technological systems. They are all studied for a specific project, but can be applied to any other EcoCity also. They all satisfy some basic need of the inhabitants: water, food or energy.

*7* Speaking about importance: water is apparently the number one of the three needs. We can see anyhow from this slide that the circulation of water alone would not be the correct way to study the metabolism of the city. Use of water has an essential connection to energy production, agriculture and treatment of organic waste. We should study the whole circulation, beginning from the yearly rainfall and finishing the study when the water is used as different waste rationally.

*8* Let us then speak about food. In the same way as studying the circulation of water, we cannot totally separate the recycling of organic and inorganic waste. Also food and agriculture has a link to energy production and water circulation. The ideal situation is that an EcoCity can produce the most important part of its food itself, self-sufficiently. I don’t think anyhow, that it is reasonable to produce all food self-sufficiently, using artificial greenhouses and basins for fish-production. I think idealism should be combined with rationality.

*9* The third daily need is energy. I remind you that we speak now of EcoCities, which are supposed to consume clean energy independently of the place where that energy is produced. We have wind, sun, geothermal energy and organic energy as sources. It is necessary to study the need of land to this production similarly as we study the need of land to produce e.g. food or paper.
Let me discuss the ecological efficiency of the city. We have to study the ecological footprint of the city, which is same as the ecological footprint of the consumption of the city’s inhabitants. The ecological footprint of a single product is already a very complicated issue.

*10* If we want to do this exactly, we have to study an integral of increasing number of smaller and smaller units. This method is called input/output model which is applied not to money, but to different environmental fac tors. Generally it is considered to be very laborious and extremely complicated. Anyhow, an analysis like this should be made to all cities which call themselves EcoCities. Fortunately, I can console you that there is a method, which is exact enough and reliable enough to fulfil this analysis. Everybody, who wants to know more about this is welcome to talk to me after my speech.

*11* One more important issue. We are just in the beginning of building the EcoCities. Binhai is the first, very beautiful step but the progress will develop during the next decades. To be sure that the development goes to the right direction we need more. EcoCities are products and products need a factory. We need something which is like the Silicon Valley in California to develop the Clean Technology and assure the synergy of the field. We need an EcoValley, which has to be a combination of Scientific Institutes and a real EcoCity, where the everyday life can be studied in the scale of reality. Let me guess that the first EcoValley of this kind will be built in China.

You will find an illustrated version of this article in the homepage of Oy Eero Paloheimo Ecocity Ltd (EPECC) .