Many of the discussions at the recent Smart City Expo in Barcelona centered upon the need for local, environmentally conscious solutions to be incorporated into the planning of the cities of the future.
Vincent Guallart, the chief architect in the City Hall, Barcelona, presented Barcelona’s ‘City Protocol’. This is a model which attempts to define the anatomy of a city and Barcelona intends to promote it around the world. The model concentrates on five areas: Information, Water, Energy, Mobility and Production.
“Public administrators must be more than managers, we must also be inventors of cities,” – Vincent Guallart.
The need for cities to create jobs to attract residents was a theme that was highlighted in a session by Neil Gershenfeld, director of the Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA), a research body at MIT. Gershenfield sees the need for cities to become self sufficient even in technology. Local solutions needing to be found for local problems. The CBA has developed the idea of Fab Labs were state of the art machinery is used to manufacture objects. The aim is to ‘re-industrialize’ cities by bringing modern manufacturing back into the city itself.
“Instead of taking jobs out of cities, this new Industrial Revolution would see all the products consumed by citizens of a particular area produced locally,” said Gershenfeld, “a solution to avoid the economic and ecological disaster of the current global production system”.
In his session on urban planning, Gunter Pauli, entrepreneur and founder of Zero Foundation stated:
“We’re only just beginning to imagine the city of the future…”
He went on to describe projects which included solar panels which capture energy from both sides, houses made entirely from bamboo and a school in Sweden in which the air is renewed every half hour.
Smart City awards were also presented at the Expo.
Yokohama won the ‘City’ award for its commitment to renewable energy, promotion of the use of electric vehicles and its project to reduce CO2 emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.
Nice, in partnership with Semiacs, Sude, Urbiótica, Ensto, Moba, InQBarna and ErDF, won the ‘Project’ award for its efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and solve congestion problems. Reduction of public transport ticket prices to €1, provision electric cars and bicycles infrastructure, parking and traffic management are mentioned in the citation.
The Agbar group won the ‘Solution’ award for ‘Agmos’, an integrated water management system which is helping to improve the efficiency of water services in Barcelona.
Awards such as these can do much to generate the type of healthy competition which will spur cities around the world to improve their efforts. As a whole the Smart City Expo clearly sparked off many a lively discussion. These discussions are much more important than any lack of agreement or even apparent conflict. This is not an area where one solution is either possible or desirable. It is an area in which the search for sustainable solutions will be sought and found city by city. In fifty year’s time, visiting Barcelona will still be as fascinatingly different an experience from visiting Yokohama as it is today, even as they inspire each other to find their individual solutions to common problems.