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‘Design With Nature’ to Create Liveable Communities

China is building 30 ‘sponge cities’ that aim to soak up floodwater and prevent disaster


“Launched in 2015, the Sponge City Initiative invests in projects that aim to soak up floodwater. The projects are being built in 30 cities. By 2020, China hopes that 80% of its urban areas will absorb and re-use at least 70% of rainwater,” wrote Leanna Garfield. “The initiative is facing some challenges. After surveying all 30 cities, the researchers noticed several roadblocks, including planning models that are too homogeneous and not locally specific.”

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“The Liuzhou Forest City is the first experiment of the urban environment that’s really trying to find a balance with nature,” said Stefano Boeri, an internationally acclaimed architect


In 2016, China’s State Council released guidelines shifting the focus to the “economic, green and beautiful.” This shift created the opportunity for Stefano Boeri to implement his Forest City vision. The project comes on the heels of Vertical Forest, two residential towers in Milan covered in the equivalent of five acres of forest. “We started to imagine if it was possible to create an urban environment created from many of these vertical forests,” stated Stefano Boeri.

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Liuzhou Forest City Master Plan Breaks Ground in China


“Commissioned by the Liuzhou Municipality Urban Planning department, the city will host some 30,000 residents and feature the hallmarks of a typical city, such as offices, houses, hotels, hospitals and schools. These buildings will draw on geothermal energy and rooftop solar panel for their power needs,” wrote Nick Lavars. “Construction is currently underway, with the Liuzhou Forest City expected to be completed by 2020.”

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Coping with Heat and Rising Water Levels: “The Pacific Northwest is the best region in the United States for escaping the brunt of climate change,” stated Vivek Shandas, Portland State University


Places with newer infrastructure, with Climate Change Action Plans, that seek to build community across socioeconomic barriers, and are close to rivers or lakes are more likely to be prepared for the worst aspects of climate change. “When evaluating how prepared cities are for climate change, look at a handful of factors, including policy and politics, community organization, and infrastructure,” said Professor Vivek Shandas.

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“Sponge Cities” – a catchy way to describe the goal in restoring the capacity of the urban landscape to absorb water and release it naturally


In 2013, President Xi Jinping injected a new term into the global urban design vocabulary when he launched China’s Sponge City program. And then in August 2017, the Senate of Berlin released its Sponge City Strategy. The common guiding philosophy for both? Mimic nature, restore the water balance, adapt to a changing climate. The ‘sponge city’ imagery resonates. People intuitively get it.

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Adapting to Climate Change in Hong Kong: “To cope with stormwater flooding, the Government could adopt the ‘Sponge City’ concept,” urges Dr. Jeffrey Hung, Friends of the Earth


“Climate change is already happening and affecting all of us. Recent extreme weather highlight the concrete impact of climate change. It requires immediate action to improve the city’s resilience,” wrote Dr. Jeffrey Hung. “The Hong Kong Government should identify the risks, reinforce the infrastructure, establish recovery programmes, educate the public, and finance the reinforcements and adaptation measures to make Hong Kong truly climate change ready.”

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DESIGN WITH NATURE: Top Ten Cities in USA are Integrating Nature & Technology – a new report (2017) by Anil Ahuja, Smart Cities Guru


Smart Cities Guru founder Anil Ahuja has compiled a list of the top U.S. cities — from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles — that have found a way to combine technology and nature. “The challenge is to raise the bar for designing net zero living while enjoying and protecting the natural world. Water, Energy, Health, Equity and Beauty can all be protected and integrated through constructive implementation of technology,” wrote Anil Ahuja.

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FLASHBACK TO 2012: “In practical terms, we have packaged useful estimates of what the future will bring,” stated Dr. Charles Rowney when explaining the addition of the Climate Change Module in the Water Balance Model for British Columbia


“The Climate Change Module enables a wide range of stakeholders to make decisions based on a detailed assessment of climate change effects on local drainage, without having to decode the huge body of confusing and contradictory literature. Delivering this capability quickly and easily on the web is a ‘must’ – and this result is a ‘first’,” stated Dr. Charles Rowney. “This starting point will continue to evolve, but the leap in capability that this represents cannot be understated.”

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GREEN SPACE & HUMAN HEALTH: “Studies show that there is a definite link between mental health and living proximity to parks,” wrote Brian Strahan, mental health activist


In his article, Brian Strahan poses these questions: “What has a crystalline, winding, stream, got to do, with gaining clarity of mind? And what have the sawtooth edges, and linear veins on the leaves of an Alder tree, got to do got to do with someone’s capacity to adhere to societal norms and mores? How much vision is there on the long-term effects of living with more concrete and less space? We need to invest more in urban nature. It will improve mental health.”

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WHAT HAPPENS ON THE LAND DOES MATTER! – Reduce risk, reduce financial liability by implementing the Whole-System, Water Balance Approach (watch the webcast)


“We were delighted to have Kim Stephens and Jim Dumont share British Columbia’s cutting-edge continuous simulation model, known as the Water Balance Methodology, via a Forester University webcast,” stated Emily Shine. “At Forester University, we aim to position ourselves at the forefront of innovation in rainwater management and green infrastructure, and that is why we described Water Balance Methodology as a webinar that could not be missed.”

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