Creating an Eco-City: Methods and Principles Page 1
Creating an Eco-City: Methods and Principles
Sebastian Moffatt, The Sheltair Group Inc., Vancouver, Canada
A number of cities around the world have begun the long walk towardssustainable urban development. While the destination may be far, and the bestpathways not yet known, a number of new planning methods and principles areproving useful. This paper will examine these ‘eco-city’ methods and principles,and focus on how they differ from the best current practices for urban planning.What becomes clear is that moving cities towards ecological sustainability willrequire plans that address a broader scope of issues than normal, over a longertime frame, and with greater accountability. In addition, a number of planningtools and strategies may greatly enhance chances of success.Before examining the new planning methods and principles it is worth mentioningtwo important limitations that planners face in adopting any of the approachespresented in this paper.
Limitations on the applicability of eco-city planning methods
One major limitation to creating eco-cities is the current failure of planningpractice to adequately cope with urban growth management, to create functional,liveable neighbourhoods and to maintain the urban infrastructure - regardless ofecological goals. Until we have the basic elements of good planning in place, it isdoubly difficult to a new set of environmental goals. Moreover, the sameobstacles that have frustrated good planning practice during the 20
century, willlikely frustrate efforts to create eco-cities in the 21
century. These obstaclesinclude:
inadequate financial and human resources within planning departments,
lack of facilitators and information for conducting an effective publicprocess,
lack of comprehensive and up-to-date Master Plans,
an excessive reliance on private developers for initiating urban renewal,and for adopting better design methods,
the emphasis given to short-term capital costs as opposed to life cyclecosts, and the lack of accounting for non-monetary indirect costs;
lack of analytical and forecasting tools for modelling and evaluating urbandevelopment scenarios.This list goes on, and is familiar to anyone who has become involved in the often-painful process of creating and implementing master concept plans for urbanareas. A United Nations report on world cities, prepared for the SecondInternational Habitat Conference, profiled cities around the world and concludedthat even prosperous, developed cities like Tokyo and New York are now unableto manage their infrastructure, or to properly plan for the future.
No wonder thatso many of the fast-growing cities in less wealthy countries are having difficulty.A key strategy for eco-city planners, therefore, is to take advantage ofenvironmental initiatives to simultaneously enhance overall urban planningcapabilities. Recent experience with developing Green Building Guidelines forthe city of Santa Monica
, California illustrates this strategy. As part of creating anew set of building regulations and guidelines for meeting ecological andenvironmental goals, it was found possible to rationalise existing ordinances, andto streamline the entire permitting and inspection process for the city.