New Urban Ideas: 22 Cities Prepare to Pilot the Future

San Francisco

San Francisco

No fewer than 22 cities have put out calls for innovative solutions to solve specific urban challenges as part of the Citymart urban ideas competition. The competition’s aim is to identify and share solutions to the global challenges that cities are facing.

The 2012 competition attracted 1,519 entries from 70 countries. Now Aalborg, Barcelona, Boston, Christchurch, Eindhoven, Fukuoka DC, L’Hospitalet, Lagos, Lavasa, London, Maringa, Mexico City, Oulu, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Rosario, San Francisco, Sant Cugat, Sheffield, Tacoma, Terrassa and York all hope to evoke a similar response.

The cities have presented challenges across a vast array of areas including mobility, economic development, social inclusion, health and well-being, urban management, lighting, energy, culture, future government and sustainable lifestyles.

The Municipality of Barcelona, for example, is seeking ways to make vacant neighbourhood spaces – both indoor and out – more sustainable with proposals that bring value to the community and create opportunities for economic growth. Barcelona has a population of more than 1.6 million in an area of 100 square kilometres, which is divided into 10 districts and 73 neighbourhoods. As well as kick-starting the economy of neighbourhoods in decline, they are looking for solutions which aim for social inclusion and community involvement.

Solutions could include data collection and analysis to enable the effective identification and early detection of neighbourhoods in need of attention. A methodology for compiling an inventory of suitable spaces would also be welcome as would a technological platform to support the implementation, monitoring and analysis of the solution.

Barcelona city

Barcelona city

London, meanwhile, has made a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 60 per cent to 18 million tonnes by 2025. Central to this is access to good quality data on energy use across the city.

Measurement allows London, and other cities, to assess risks and opportunities, track progress, and develop and target energy efficiency interventions in a quantifiable and transparent way. Reducing London’s energy demand by just five per cent will save the city an estimated £400m.

London’s current approach to the issue relies on energy-use data from central government. This has limited applications for monitoring, reporting and policy making due to the low level of spatial disaggregation of the data and the time delay in their publication.

London is therefore inviting solutions for the development of a dynamic energy use inventory that looks at usage in kilowatt-hours and greenhouse gases emitted, examining the combustion of fossil fuels and electricity consumption at all stationary sources within the city boundaries, to help show energy use across the city in near real-time and down to the level of individual buildings.

San Francisco, on the other hand, is looking for better storm response coordination. The city has a combined sewage system which transports and treats both storm water and sanitary flows in the same set of pipes. During intense rain storms, there can be too much water for the system to contain, which can result in street flooding and combine system discharges.

london city

London city

In order to best serve its citizens, San Francisco is seeking solutions that will allow it to immediately triage service calls and coordinate and dispatch crews to the most critical areas first.

Solutions may include polling responses and work order status from the Hub to a cloud-computing based system that can display storm-related call data, showing Nexrad radar and prediction to allow dispatchers to see areas of the City most affected by a storm, or having a mobile applet for field crews, engineers and supervisors to access data and maps from the field.

San Francisco will host a three-day Summit in May 2013 bringing together city leaders and solution providers to discuss the cities’ challenges and the submitted ideas, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is hoping his city’s culture will benefit the programme.

“San Francisco, as the Innovation Capital of the World, will facilitate a vigorous exchange of ideas and help develop innovative solutions to common urban challenges including transportation, the environment and healthcare that will build a better world,” he said.

The first round of judging of the submitted ideas will take place in February.

By Justin McGar
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