Circular cities

Circular cities: New Normal norm for the future cities

Circular cities: A way to sustainable development strategies

More than half the world’s population currently lives in cities while projections certainly show a rise to two thirds by 2050. Many of us living in small areas means large amounts of waste, high resource consumption and a lot of energy use. We will combat these issues with the ideas behind the circular economy.

If we were to ascertain our cities as circular cities, how would they look? Green. And why? Because having a circular economy means using nature as a scout. With the assistance of green infrastructure, we can take nature for instance and transform our cities into circular cities.

Future of circular cities
Future Sustainable Cities |Source: Smart Energy International|

Green infrastructure alongside circular cities is certainly a planned network of natural and semi-natural zones in urban areas. Also, these are strategically designed to unravel problems with stormwater management, heat stress, air quality and biodiversity, etc. Furthermore, some common examples include Urban trees, green roofs and facades and constructed wetlands.

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Greening roofs, mitigating waste

Achieving a circular city certainly means ensuring the mitigation of waste. Green infrastructure additionally, reduces waste within the construction industry by increasing the longevity of exterior surfaces. With greening, roofs survive longer against harmful weathering and intense sunlight. The lifespan of conventional flat roofs can further be doubled with greening. Mutually city with a protracted tradition of greening roofs, Berlin even has green roofs reaching approximately 100 years of age.

Green facades also play an identical role by reducing the upkeep requirements of conventional facades because of the protective layer against sunlight and high temperatures. By using these nature-inspired measures in green infrastructure, cities reduce waste within the construction industry and thus, become more circular. Making our buildings last longer means less waste and subsequently helps us approach the thought of circular cities.

Seeing stormwater as a resource

Stormwater resource for circular cities
Source: Integrated Stormwater Management

One of the key roles that green infrastructure plays for cities is within the management of stormwater. When it rains, stormwater runs off sealed surfaces and is then conveyed to wastewater treatment plants. However, during heavy rainfall events, the treatment plant’s capacity could also be exceeded. This will consequently cause combined sewer water and stormwater to flow directly into rivers, severely degrading the standard of the water.

Sponge park in Brooklyn, New York
Gowanus Canal Sponge Park in Brooklyn, New York |Source: Pinterest|

Although newer sewer systems afford the separate conveyance of stormwater directly into the rivers, the runoff from streets and sealed surfaces still washes pollutants down to the rivers as well. Green infrastructure, thus, reduces the quantity of runoff to rivers by acting sort of a sponge. In Brooklyn, New York, a “sponge park” will help pack up the long-polluted Gowanus Canal. Likewise, in China, the “sponge city initiative” focuses on helping cities to soak up more rainwater to mitigate flooding. This will then increase the water supply and reduce pressures on the municipal treatment systems. Reducing and reusing runoff not only mimics nature’s circular way of handling rainwater but also reduces energy consumption at the wastewater treatment plants.

Many cities have already taken great strides during addressing storm water in a circular trend. For instance, in Berlin, one section of Potsdamer Platz with 30,000 square meters features a whole system of connected green roofs, urban spaces, and also, a constructed treatment pond for handling stormwater. By naturally treating water within the pond, little or no energy is required to scrub the water, which is then reused for irrigation and flushing toilets. Moreover, Toronto has even made green roofs obligatory since 2009 to manage storm water.

Energy consumption

Energy consumption in circular cities
Source: ITU

Reducing energy consumption at treatment plants is however only one way within which green infrastructure can aid in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Besides, green roofs and facades act as an additional source of insulation and protection against temperature extremes. Also, 40% of the entire energy consumption within the EU attributes to the building sector and over a 3rd of greenhouse gas emissions originate from an equivalent. So, by reducing the heating and air-con we could play an outsized role in cities’ efforts to mitigate global climate change.

Besides reducing energy consumption and subsequent greenhouse gases, it also sequesters CO2 and assists within the uptake of air pollutants. Nitrous oxide, sulfur oxide and particulate, for instance, are the pollutants for which the guidelines from the World Health Organization are often not reached in cities.

Aspiring even more benefits?

Above all, greened surfaces are appealing. People enjoy seeing more green in their direct environment, which is certainly crucial for those primarily residing and dealing in built-up urban environments. Studies have also shown that searching over greened surfaces reduces the recovery time of patients in hospitals and reduces psychological stress and depression of workers in urban environments.

Furthermore, increasing the green in cities combats the urban heat island effect and protects human health. For instance, at Potsdamer Platz, the summer temperatures are kept 2°C cooler than other surrounding areas.

Considering the various benefits, it is, therefore, clear that cities investing in green infrastructure become more circular and tackle several issues promptly. Hope you discover the blog useful, also do not forget to share it within your circle. Keep reading, keep supporting!

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