The most ambitious sustainable city project in the world is underway now in China.
When Tianjin Eco-city is finished in 2020, it will be the world’s biggest city designed from the ground up as a sustainable, environmentally friendly, resource-conserving model of urban life.
Tianjin Eco-city is a unique collaboration between two governments, the People’s Republic of China and Singapore. At 30 square kilometers, The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city will be about one-third the size of Manhattan.
It’s currently being constructed 90 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of Beijing on land that used to be a waste site. It took three years to clean up and detoxify the site; ironic, since developers say the city will have high standards for air quality, water quality, clean transportation and carbon emissions.
Designed by Surbana Urban Planning Group, the city is being built near the business parks at the Tianjin Economic Development Area. The city isn’t intended for the wealthy or for environmental activists. It will be home to some 350,000 residents and will include subsidized housing for workers and their families. The initial living area is expected to be complete in 2013.
The city’s architects are avoiding polluting energy sources by relying on solar panels, wind turbines and ground source heat pumps. They plan to have at least a fifth of the city’s total energy needs supplied by zero emission energy sources. Eco-City will also depend on rainwater recycling and desalination of sea water.
An integrated waste collection system is already set up; its centerpiece is a pneumatic waste collection management system from Envac that effectively makes garbage trucks unnecessary.
The urban design emphasizes green spaces and open air recreational facilities. It gives special importance to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. It also features a tram line that crisscrosses the city.
Surbana’s developers say Tianjin Eco-city will attract industries that adhere to green best practices. Some 600 companies have already signed on to do business there.
The city will be divided into seven distinct sectors:
- Lifescape: A series of soil-topped mounds surrounded by trees to counteract the towering apartment buildings of the other communities.
- Eco-Valley: The green spine of the city that will link transit nodes, residential developments and commercial centers and feature restored habitats.
- Solarscape: The administrative and civic center of the city.
- Urbanscape: The core of the city, featuring compact layers stacked and interconnected by sky bridges and multiple levels to make efficient use of vertical space.
- Windscape: A transformation of Qingtuozi, a century-old village surrounded by a small lake, into a place for residents to relax and play.
- Earthscape: Stepped architecture will maximize green public spaces.
- Eco-Corridors: Four biodiversity corridors featuring plant and animal life and recreational opportunities for residents.
Surbana has already created 26 comprehensively planned townships that are home to 85 percent of Singapore’s 4.5 million residents. The group describes its philosophy of urban planning as “a technical and political process concerning the welfare of the people, the control of land use and the design of the urban environment, including transportation and communication networks, preservation and enhancement of the natural environment.”