Are decentralised communities the way forward for sustainable cities?

(Eco Business, 30 Aug 2019) More countries are realising the limits of a take-make-waste model and coming round to the concept of a circular economy. What could cities and buildings of the future look like?

To realise the vision of a circular economy that reuses raw materials and minimises emissions and waste, it may be necessary to challenge the oft-cited projection that two-thirds of the world’s people will live in cities by 2050.

Different yardsticks for measuring a city’s progress may also be needed, said experts at an event organised by Eco-Business on Wednesday to discuss ways to keep resources in perpetual use.

“Do we really want to be using gross domestic product and consumption and income levels as measures of the progress and success of a city? Is that really how we keep cities and communities sustainable?” questioned Ms Jacqueline Lam, deputy regional director for Southeast Asia and Oceania at C40, a network of megacities committed to addressing climate change. 

Decentralisation could hold the key to creating communities that are self-sustaining in food production, water, energy and other areas, said Dr Sanjay Kuttan, executive director of the Singapore Maritime Institute and former programme director at Nanyang Technological University’s Energy Research Institute.

“I think we, for far too long, have accepted the fact that 70 per cent of the world’s population is going to be in cities by 2050, which is a bit ridiculous, considering cities occupy probably 3 per cent of the surface of the world. And that creates a lot of constraints and strain within the city,” he said.

“I hope the city of the future doesn’t look anything like what we have today, but is actually decentralised communities having their own self-sustaining food, energy and water resources, that are able to leverage technology to stay connected to the greater community at large,” Kuttan told an audience of about 100 senior executives and business decision makers.

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Eco Business, 30 Aug 2019: Are decentralised communities the way forward for sustainable cities?