There are many opportunities for an integrated approach of a range of societal issues at neighbourhood and/or district level. The research by the Dutch design office VenhoevenCS architecture +urbanism on urban development & infrastructure, healthy urbanization and eco-cities aims at developing state of the art design standards for neighbourhood facilities and multifunctional public accommodations. Ton Venhoeven, CEO and Founder briefs on how to rethink the city and optimize the performances & processes of new age developments.
As a design firm active in both architecture and urbanism, we develop and test design principles and key performance indicators for Smart MicroCities, mixed-use and multifunctional projects related to Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and the integration of urban planning and water management. In all these projects and studies we encounter untapped opportunities of neighbourhoods, townships, districts and communities to function as sustainable building blocks of intelligent cities and urban regions.
Worldwide there are many different programs to promote energy saving and sustainable energy generation. In most countries these programs are mainly sector oriented efforts, while a more integrated approach at neighbourhood, district and/or community level could generate a lot more value in quality of life, sustainability and economy.
In view of the challenges of sustainable urbanization, it is important to combine research from different sectors into manageable assignments and multifunctional tools that allow up-scaling and professionalization. By selecting the right scale to manage the complicated assignments, profitable multiple business cases can be created where services, facilities and amenities are shared and residual flows are turned into precious resources. The best way to
achieve this is to create Smart MicroCities.
What is a Smart MicroCity?
A Smart MicroCity is a 2.0 version of the old neighbourhood, village, township or urban district. A new type of neighbourhood/ township, based on walking/ cycling distances and/or number of inhabitants (10.000-100.000). It has a mix of functions, with houses, apartments, jobs, sports, social and healthcare facilities. Because of the proximity between different functions, Smart MicroCities are less dependent on larger networks. Its principles can be applied in green field developments, but also in redevelopment and retrofitting projects.
A Smart MicroCity aims at creating an optimal local metabolism at micro city level that can serve as building block for the Smart Urban Region of which it is a constituent part. Production and consumption are balanced as much as feasible. With these principles the micro city becomes the basic unit of Smart Urban Networks, the Circular Economy and Smart Urban Regions. What cannot be processed, reused, generated or produced efficiently at the micro city level, is traded or exchanged with higher scale levels. Transportation of people and goods between the different scales is multimodal, with smart logistics and hubs, it is efficient and sustainable, with optimal tuning of spatial development, public space and slow non-motorized traffic, supported by smart public and collective transport and self-driving vehicles.
At micro city level, managing of sustainable development and operations can be done by a neighbourhood entrepreneur, an area operations company, a community farmer, or a homeowner association. Coordinated decision making between higher and lower scale levels secures optimal and multimodal tuning of spatial development and mobility and infrastructural connections between different levels of urbanization.
In India this Smart MicroCity approach requires an India focussed reengineering of proven and new design standards with measurable performance indicators. This includes application of smart technologies, capacity building for city management jobs, and life cycle business and investment models. As in other countries, optimal interaction amongst micro cities and with higher scale levels requires multimodal logistics and mobility solutions with smart hubs and marketplaces.
Why Smart Micro City?
In the past, urban and economic processes had to be organized and optimized in a hierarchical, sector oriented way to create the necessary advantage of scale to be competitive. This led to large scale production facilities and related explosion of traffic, pollution and waste dumps. In the digital age centralized and linear production processes will gradually be replaced by decentralized circular ones. With the help of ICT, performance of all kinds of production processes can be optimized by harvesting resources from local residual flows and many other local opportunities.
If we know how to improve the intelligence and metabolism of a given area in a way that is affordable, sustainable and reproducible, we can quickly turn entire urban regions into smart, sustainable regions. That way we can reduce overuse of large scale infrastructure and non-renewable resources. Smart MicroCity can form the basis of a new sustainability ladder. What cannot be dealt with in an affordable, sustainable, way, is up-scaled to a higher aggregation level where this can be done in a better way. Smart MicroCity as notion can become the missing link between top-down planning and local, bottom-up development and management as it combines the advantages of both approaches.