… Meanwhile a Low Carbon Future City for China by SBA Design

Is China attempting to implement a new paradigm of urbanism? This is the question that raises seeing these increased eco-cities or low carbon cities. Chinese urban environments are in the midst of multiple shifts, driven by interconnected economic vitality, people, and resources. Whatever we can think, the SBA Design's 'Low Carbon Future City' illustrates Chinese vision of cities in the (near) future: an eco-city that emerges to intertwine human and natural systems. At least this is the mission of these emerging Chinese eco-cities.
Low Carbon Future City © SBA Design

This 'Low Carbon Future City' consists of low-carbon, economic and energy design. The purpose is to manage to support the climate protection process efficiently. This project is part of Chinese Climate Protection Program which aims at increasing programs of energy efficiency, development of renewable energies and promotion of energy savings while reducing pollutant emissions and strengthening environmental protection. Since 1980s Chinese government appeared to have included the sustainable part into its economic recovery. China's intention is to address climate change and promote sustainable development.

To understand SBA Design's design proposal, it is important to briefly go back over Chinese Climate Protection Program that highlights Chinese objectives in terms of climate change. While there are large uncertainties in the climate change impacts, climate change has caused some impacts on China, specifically sea level rising in the coastal areas, glacial retreat in Northwest area, the earlier arrival of spring phenophase. To address global warming, Chinese government has carried out numerous policies and measures: Restructuring the economy, promoting technology advancement and improving energy efficiency; Optimizing energy mix by developing low-carbon and renewable energy; Launching national wide tree-planting and afforestation campaign and enhancing ecology restoration and protection; Effectively controlling the growth rate of population through family planning; Strengthening laws and regulations, and policies and measures relevant to addressing climate change; Further improving institutions and mechanisms.
These measures lead to objectives articulated into four key elements: to control greenhouse gas emissions, to enhance capacity of adaptation to climate change, to enhance R and D, to raise public awareness and improve management. China has integrated new technologies as essential in the Climate Change Prevention Program. To Adapt cities to climate change can be possible with the integration of new technologies. Smart eco-cities are inscribed into Chinese objectives for the next decades.
© SBA Design

This leads to SBA Design's design proposal 'Low Carbon Future City'. This 'Future City' is implanted on the island of Hainan, precisely Yinggehai in the south-west of Hainan. The site measures a total of 176.6 square kilometers. The Hainan island specificity is characterized with its saline areas. Salt production can be mainly utilized by the use of salines. The storage and production of renewable energy as central in Chinese urban policies is the other part of this design proposal. Thanks to new technology, renewable energy can be distributed for use according to demand.

This results in a 'theme city', specifically: A rural-urban interaction, a "glo-cal DNA city" and a city of responsibility. A rural-urban interaction, first, a strategy to mix Chinese identity of rural and recent massive urbanization. How to build up a city that combine two principles: 'rurality' and urbanity? Before the 1980s and Chinese massive urbanization, rural has played an important role. Constituting an urban identity of the 21th Century can be possible with the mix of advantages of rural and those of urban interconnected to create livable cities. The implementation of public and green spaces in the form of squares, parks, green axes and canals make possible a life in a natural environment which all the while retains its urban character.
A "glo-cal DNA city", second, in the fact that this city integrates interconnected flows in capital, people and resources at local, regional and global scales. A city of responsibility, then, in that inhabitants will play a role in the transitioning to sustainable cities. Chinese Climate Change Prevention Program indicates that China will strengthen education, training and public awareness on climate change. As China has the largest population in the world, and is facing with excessive population growth, it is clear that population growth will be accompanied with GHG emissions growth, increased land use, and energy-intensive use. To help implement sustainable policies responding to these issues, China has been developing, since the last two decades, a vast program of education to involve the population consisting of people participation and education — conferences, so forth — on climate change.
© SBA Design

The Low Carbon Future City is mixed uses as well, containing: living, working, shopping and leisure. The masterplan provides for each district a center within the city, including nine "units" each and a defining district function, environmentally-friendly industries and ecological living, forming this urban design concept of a "theme city", as the architects state.

Transportation transit closely follows the pattern of the salines, the architects say. Three axes: Pedestrians, bicycles, public transports. The network inside the island-like districts is tailored to pedestrians. They are made up of bicycle paths and bus lanes as well. The Low Carbon Future City incorporates the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system.
© SBA Design

Photovoltaic panels, solar and wind powers, rain water, recovery of water resources and energy generation from biological waste form the energy principles. Photovoltaic technology is particularly efficient in this area. According to the architects, with about 300 days of sun per year, an energy potential of 1628-1861 kWh/(qma) is possible. This energy strategy is to build up a new urban, local and energy-efficient city landscape with the incorporation of a new and appealing architecture.

It is of course too early to formulate an opinion of this ambitious smart eco-city. One can nonetheless say that this 'Low Carbon Future city', as well as other smart eco-cities projects such as Tianjin, Dongtan, is an illustration of Chinese ambition in terms of sustainable urban policies and measures. Some will forecast Chinese urban development as future urban development. I will merely say: wait and see how these eco-cities projects will be achieved. Yet this Low Carbon Future City opens new possibilities for sustainable urban designs: rural-urban interaction, glo-cal DNA city and responsible city.

Building Fact
Project: Low Carbon Future City
Program: Urban planning
Architects: SBA Design
Stuttgart/Shanghai Team Members: Jürgen Kunzemann, Cathrin Fischer, Maura Capuano, Qin Zhang, Yongfeng Cui
Client: Department of Housing and Construction of Hainan
Location: Hainan, China
Area: 176,2 sqkm
Focus area: 42.8 sqkm
Type of Project: Competition, 1st prize
Project Duration: 2010/11
Province Planning Target: Pattern of a Future City, Low Carbon demonstration City

credit images: SBA Design

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