Building the sustainable cities of the future

Image of AeroFarms indoor vertical farm

Earlier this year, a report from the United Nations predicted that 2.5 billion people will live in cities by 2050; that is two of the three people on earth. While that naturally means that cities become more diverse, the demand for resources and services, such as food, police and public transport, will increase exponentially.

It is understandable that governments and organizations around the world are looking for technology to power the cities of the future and make them smarter by creating urban areas that use data-driven, innovative solutions to create efficient, sustainable ways to support economic development and improve the quality of life of residents.

Sustainable food solutions

Cities need food. While the number of cities that take control over their own food, and is looking for new, innovative ways to reduce their ecological footprint, and as a result, healthy options become more readily available, there is still a long way to go.

Thinking about how to feed a fast-growing population while at the same time tackling obesity and the greenhouse effect is a huge task; it is also not the most convenient. Of course it would be easier to keep driving to the local store and pick up a packet of beef that cost a 15-hour journey by plane, but it is not sustainable.

AeroFarms is building a vertical farm of 78,000 square feet. Credit: AeroFarms

(Image: © AeroFarm)

AeroFarms in Camden, New Jersey offers one solution: vertical agriculture. The company is planning a 78,000 square-foot vertical farm that will grow 12 stories of leafy goods, from kale to warehouse animals. Thanks to technical developments, it is not so time-consuming to keep plants on a stable diet as it once was; Systems can be created that release calculated amounts of nutrients and water into the soil, driven by hydroponics and areoponic systems.

Elsewhere, Good Bank, a Berlin-based restaurant, implemented urban agriculture within its restaurant space, with incubators that grow a salad along the walls of the dining room.

Searching for alternatives also means that we have to open our pallets for new horizons. Exo and Aspire Food Group are two of the companies that currently include crickets in their protein bars – which have already been sold at Whole Foods.

Vertical gardens

From vertical agriculture to vertical gardens. As more people flock to suburban areas, we need to become more innovative about how we use the physical space. Green spaces do much more than just make beautiful places – they have been shown to reduce stress levels, improve biodiversity, attract birds and insects, extract heat from dense urban areas and improve air quality.

Concept image of & # 39; vertical forest & # 39;

Stefano Boeri Archietti plant & # 39; vertical forests & # 39; in Paris. Image credit: Stefano Boeri Architetti

(Image: © Stefano Boeri Architetti)

The Italian architectural firm Stegano Boeri Architetti is planning to make a giant Foret Blanche in Paris – a vertical forest of 54 meters high that is planted with trees, shrubs and flowers. The same company is also working on a Forest City & # 39; in China, where everything from schools, houses, hospitals will be covered with green – CNN called it & # 39; & # 39; the world's first city with polluting foods & # 39; & # 39 ;. Meanwhile, The Edible Bus Stop in London takes on the pollution of the city with playful ideas, such as creating an edible bus route, where bus stops are surrounded by herbs and edible flowers.

Two wheels good, four wheels bad

Covering a bus stop in edible flower petals is not the only way to make public transport sustainable. The capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, cut one of the city's main 20 lanes in two, leaving 10 lanes for cars. The other half is used as a & # 39; surface-subway & # 39; – an express lane only for public transport, whereby passengers will pass through the city in half the time.

Other cities are trying to ban cars completely. Madrid has already begun to take action by banning non-residents from driving in the center of the city and only allowing low-emission cars belonging to the local population, delivery vehicles and public transport in the city center .

Image of bicycle lane

Copenhagen is one of the world's most bike-friendly cities. Credit: Wikicommons

When it comes to the complete elimination of vehicle pollution, however, bicycles are the obvious solution. Improving bicycle lanes in urban areas is currently a global goal, with Copenhagen one of the most developed systems. According to Wired, the Danish capital has completed a Harbor Ring cycle route along the entire inland port since 2015, a new traffic light system that gives priority to cyclists, boosts digital congestion signs to improve traffic light and open new highways. About 62% of the city's inhabitants cycle daily, while only 9% drive.


An important and perhaps less controversial aspect of smart urban innovation is supervision; namely, how police departments integrate technology in their operations. One way in which tech promotes law enforcement is its body camera. Smart Cities Drive indicates that one third of the police departments in the US are already using or attempting to shut down their officers with bodycams. The devices not only help protect police officers, but are also used to capture interviews and take photos.

Law enforcement agencies increasingly want to use drones to catch criminals. Credit: Wikicommons

Law enforcement agencies increasingly want to use drones to catch criminals. Credit: Wikicommons

Drones are also part of the action to increase public safety, used to track stolen vehicles and to pursue fleeing vehicles. Earlier this year, the city of Louisville in Kentucky filed an application with the Federal Aviation Administration asking whether he could use drones to respond to scenes – the drones would be equipped with ShotSpotter, a system that uses a series of microphones to gunfire within seconds.

If technology can help make our urban environments safer, cleaner, greener and healthier, the cities of the future can be idyllic places to live.

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