Smart Cities for a society of longer lives

“We are currently in a society where people live longer. Smart cities are a response to this.” said Laurent Abadie, CEO of Panasonic Europe. His words are clear, smart cities are not only about technology and the environment but also about people’ well-being, about which services we can offer to people and make their lives better. In other words, we do not need to forget to reconcile all the three pillars of sustainability.

This speech came out after the commissioning of the self-sufficient city in Fujisawa, Japan, by the  multinational enterprise Panasonic. The Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town is a big neighbourhood with 1000 households, green areas and solar panels everywhere. They are not developing a town only based on advanced-technology but, in their own words, “based on actual lifestyles”. Electric cars and a rational use of energy (it has amazing street lamps! LED lights that only turn on during the pedestrians’ tour) have helped to reduce 70% of CO2 emissions. Also with water reuse installations they have achieved to lessen 30% of water consumption, and residents interact, bond and exchange ideas and objectives for achieving better lifestyles in mobility, security and well-being.

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This utopian city but is actually a high-functionality reality. However, it is located in Japan, and this country has the advantage of having “a culture very used to manage their own resources because the land is very scarce” said the Spanish architect Pich-Aguilera. Plus very dense. Have other countries the possibility to replicate this example and become a success, as well? Pich-Aguilera thinks that it is possible, and about his country, Spain, he believes that however nowadays the law is against the renewable energy, Spanish people are close to a great change. The reason is because this country has a great potential in energy-terms. First, because the climate, obviously, and second because the great potential in attaining a good and efficient energy management in cities.

The path is steered but we still need to work in better deals between the public administration and private initiatives for inversions. So come on, multinational corporations, follow the Panasonic and Apple example (they are working together in a second residential sustainable area in Japan) and the planet and people will thank you. It’s hip to be green!

If you would like to know more about the Fujisawa project, here you go! There are very good schemes and infographics about the sustainable ideas performance. http://fujisawasst.com/EN/

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Smart Cities for a society of longer lives

Too good to throw away: The adaptive reuse.

Nowadays, with the climate change and sustainable development being at the spotlight, I would like to write about the adaptive reuse. You may quickly grasp the concept only reading these words but, just in case, I will answer the following question for you: What does adaptive reuse is? In general, we understand that it “is a process that changes a disused or ineffective item into a new item that can be used for a different purpose”. Here the concept of circular economy is now being heard. The main point in this economic sustainable view is the 3R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycling). We can get off it to find new life in everything from bottles, clothes, boxes, vehicles, buildings and so on. I can see that this can be greatly translated to the “adaptive reuse” concept. As I said, we can try to adapt almost everything, but today I would like to focus in the last that comes to mind here: the building sector1635eb21dcdbf11dd81c38193a7c1080

We live and spend the majority of our time inside, so without sustainable buildings it is difficult to achieve a sustainable development. Buildings will have to be adaptable to the changing needs of the users. Flexibility in design, materials and thorough planning is the key. However, what happens if it is a building that already exists and was not planned according to these new needs? Then it is necessary to pursue a way which is sympathetic to give it a new purpose. All over the world, we find buildings which are abandoned, left unattended and unmaintained, causing a rapid deterioration and space misuse. Therefore, when a building can no longer function with its original use, a new use through adaptation may be the only way to take advantage and preserve it. We could say that the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle concept is applied here, because we consider that we preserve the building and there is no need for demolition and to build a new one. As a result, bypassing the wasteful process of demolition and deconstruction we alone see the benefits that this adaptation has for the environment. However, we could go further and prove that adaptive reuse is an essential component of sustainable development because it provides social and economic benefits as well. Let’s present it: In the social side, the recycling and adaptation of a building can restore the heritage significance of it as well as new housing or commercial or cultural opportunities to the community. Finally, in the economic side we have obvious savings for not having to acquire all the resources, materials and machinery to build a complete new building along with the embodied energy savings from not demolishing it. Is it good, isn’t it? It is like reinventing recycling.

To end, one great example (and a favourite of mine!) of adaptive reuse in buildings could be the transformation of the former Bankside Power Station in London to the art gallery Tate Modern. In a short span of time, Tate Modern has changed London and revitalised a previously underdeveloped area helping give the city a new image. It has become a key landmark for London skyline, while its concept and architecture have won international acclaim.

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As Viollet-Le-Duc said, “the best of all ways of preserving a building is to find a use for it, and then to”.

Too good to throw away: The adaptive reuse.

Celebrating a different and sustainable St. George’s day

Once upon a time, there was a Catalan village which lived frightened by a fierce dragon. The villagers realized that the only way to appease his hunger was offering people to him as food. The first person chosen by lot was the lovely and kindly princess, to everyone’s sadness. Once she arrived in front of the dragon’s cave to sacrifice herself, a brave knight appeared. He was the noble Saint George. He killed the dragon with his spear and freed the village. The legend told that from the blood of the dragon a red rose was born, and the knight offered it to the beautiful princess before leaving to live more adventures riding on his white horse.

Since then, on April 23th, Saint George’s day or in catalan Sant Jordi, in Catalonia the tradition is to celebrate it giving to your girl a red rose and a book to your boy (or both things of course) because the 23th is also the World Book day.

As a Catalan, I specially love this tradition and I enjoy very much walking around the streets this spring day. In Catalonia it is our particular Valentine’s Day (and healthier, flowers and books instead of chocolate candies! I do not mean that a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt because I love it, as well!). Besides, it is a day to claim the Catalan culture and many balconies are adorned with the Catalonia’s flag. It is very nice to see.

Now, you must be thinking what all this has to do with sustainability… So, here it goes. Nowadays, more and more schools and other cultural organizations in Catalonia are starting to celebrate an alternative and sustainable Sant Jordi or Saint George’s day the day before. Under the motto “a different and sustainable Sant Jordi“, they meet up to exchange books, normally used books which you have at home and have already read. In 2005, this experience was awarded by “Acció 21” Barcelona program. This program consists of a network of companies and organizations under the Citizien Commitment to Sustainability’s signature. They assume the responsibility for building a more sustainable Barcelona city and each company contribute within its scope.

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So, I personally applaud this initiative for this Book day. It is a great example of social sustainability. It provides equity and social cohesion to everyone. It is aimed to people who cannot afford buying new books, to people who wants to provide the same opportunities to others, to people who want to socialize with their community and all together build a better and healthier society.

I’m not saying that you don’t have to buy new books which you’re eager to read (writers have to eat, as well). However, it is very good to know that you always have the possibility to exchange your old books and make you and other people happy.

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rosebookSo, come on, let’s go “green” today and happy Sant Jordi ’s day to everyone!

 

Celebrating a different and sustainable St. George’s day

Towards Sustainable Cities. Strenghtening social bonds in Barcelona.

“It is not logical that in a Mediterranean city the majority of roofs are closed and do not have any kind of use”. This was remarked a few months ago by Barcelona’s city Mayor, Xavier Trias. I have to say that I totally agree with it.

If you have a look to an aerial photography of Barcelona, apart from acknowledging the imposing Sagrada Família and the perfect grid of the Eixample neighbourhood, you will probably see the lifeless, colourless roofs of the buildings. Roofs full of grey air conditioning systems and abandoned ropes for spreading clothes.

barcelona aerial This is a pity. A vibrant and warm city like Barcelona could do it much better. Who does not like to spend summer nights in a green roof with a gentle breeze and the lights of the city at your feet? Or winter middays under the sun that warms us up a bit? These communities’ rooftops could provide a neutral space within which people and neighbours come together and social interactions could occur. A sense of connectedness could arise and foster trust and cooperation among these individuals. Besides, these social dynamics help promote community wellness and social cohesion, provide individual benefits, improved public health, and social resilience. All of these are critical components of a sustainable and well-functioning society. I believe it is very important nowadays when more of half of world’s population are living in urban areas. Therefore, Barcelona is starting to launch an aid plan for the roofs of the city to have environmental, energy-efficiency and community gathering uses. This measure will be based on economic aids and incentives to communities of neighbours who decide to transform their roof. The Deputy Mayor for Urban Habitat, Antoni Vives, said that “if we recover all the roofs we could gain a surface area of 1,700 hectares, equivalent to two districts of the Eixample.” Actually, the present building standard commands that all the new municipal buildings including offices or social protected apartment blocks, must have community’ roofs. It is being done, for example, in the new Barcelona municipal library in the neighbourhood of Vallbona, which will have a green rooftop. A green roof is now widely recognised, for example, as a means of improving air quality and for providing greater thermal performance and roof insulation for the buildings they are laid on.social rooftop So, it is a very good idea to promote this kind of roof and also made it accessible to neighbours to promote the benefits of these community’s social strengths. This Barcelona plan is very interesting and it should be done in more urban areas. A more sustainable and resilient city is always a good idea. Come on, it’s hip to be green!

Towards Sustainable Cities. Strenghtening social bonds in Barcelona.

Eureka! Perfomativity and Architecture

I wanted to write this post for a few days but until now I hadn’t found the time nor the inspiration. The idea came in TECH 637 class of last week, when our teacher was talking about the presentation of online and offline self, the embodiment and the way interaction with other people help to create our self. I understood the implication of the self-presentation on online sites, but in that moment I was thinking all the time as if it was a philosophy class. Then, we had to try to relate these concepts with our area of interest. At that moment, my mind couldn’t stop thinking! Architecture, design, the self, sociology, people interaction, spaces…eureka

The concept of performativity was the link to my ideas. It is a term often used to name the capacity to construct and perform an identity through speech, gestures, acts… And eureka! Architecture can be somehow related with performativity. Architects really want to create his own design style and be acknowledged about it. But, they can do it without others, the society, people who are going to use, live in their buildings. They have to interact! The build environment, the designed spaces and the activities of people are related and inseparable. Architects needs to design and create spaces to fulfil the needs of people and their social requirements. Architecture cannot live without people and have to express the structure and principles of the society.masdar

Another way to understanding this, and to finish my post, is quoting Philip Johnson who was a great American architect: “All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.”

 

Eureka! Perfomativity and Architecture