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A New Model to Solve Urban Problems

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Čedo Maksimović
Imperial College London

Over 50 percent of the global population lives in urban areas and it is predicted to reach 60 percent by 2030 and 70 percent by 2050. The world’s cities all face a multitude of threats such as climate change and weather extremes of increased frequency and intensity/duration.

The region of Central and Southeastern Europe (CSEE) is no exception: severe floods and droughts and extreme cold and heat waves which have recently struck the region, are expected to occur more often and with higher levels of severity, posing grave risks to human life and urban infrastructure. Natural disaster risk is worsened by population growth and uncontrolled urbanization. Urban water resources are under increasing strain. Other related urban problems are: a decline in biodiversity; air and noise pollution; compromised human health and wellbeing. Poor environmental conditions are often combined with socio-economic problems such as unemployment, corruption, poverty and crime.

Many solutions currently proposed for urban problems are often single issue focused; solving one problem often creates another one. However, the Blue Green Dream (BGD) project funded by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) is developing and implementing an alternative approach; multifunctional Blue Green Solutions (BG Solutions). Key to the BGD’s paradigm is merging of conventional and recycled urban water (blue) assets with vegetation based (green) infrastructure by inter-linking with urban eco-system services and quantifying their performances and benefits. The BG Solutions yield multiple benefits to future cities: climate change resilience, mitigation of urban floods, droughts, noise, heat island and air pollution; enhancement of biodiversity, quality of life, energy efficiency and provision of urban agriculture at the cost lower than conventional systems resulting in a more sustainable and livable urban environment, improved human health and more robust national economy.

Pilot BG Solutions are being implemented and monitored in Berlin, London, Paris and Rotterdam. The science and tools for maximizing the benefits provided by BG Solutions, for new developments or retrofitted to existing cities, are being developed. A BGD-Integrated Modelling System is being created. The BGD tools are usable in strategic planning at the national, regional, provincial and city level and Urban spatial architectural and landscape planning. They are ranging from the initial conceptual planning stage to more complex systems for the final design.

A company (Blue Green Global Ltd) has been created to further market BGD products. An extensive network of BGD regional centers in Europe has been founded to secure the project’s longevity. Through intelligent deployment of multiple services provided by urban vegetated areas – BGD will transform our conception of urban environment from grey to blue/green.
In CSEE, BGD activities are coordinated by the BGD Regional Centre for CSEE in collaboration with CIRSD and national focal points, as well as focal points in each of the countries. With BGD, the CSEE countries, regions, academic institutions, cities and developers as well as potential funding and supporting organizations, will be contributing to climate change and weather extreme resilient, sustainable cities and infrastructure.

The BGD paradigm encompasses and provides next generation’s integrated solutions and added value to the concepts such as Green Infrastructure, Resilient Cities, Low Impact Development, Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems, Water Sensitive Urban Design, Smart Cities etc. Given rather poor environmental conditions, and scarcity of financial resources prevalent in the CSEE region, BGD provides an opportunity to solve urban environmental problems in an integrated fashion and with a wiser use of both natural and financial resources. The BGD provides cutting edge, resource efficient solutions to realize future resilient cities at affordable cost. Furthermore, it provides an innovative framework for: 1) capacity building in both the public sector and professional communities; 2) raising awareness within the general public and 3) engaging young generation and professionals through cultural events and their social media.

United Nations University (UNU-Flores) has adopted BGD paradigm for its continuing education program in Water-Food-Energy-Waste nexus.

Prospective investors, philanthropic organizations and financial institutions planning to be involved in urban infrastructure projects are invited to engage with the BGD paradigm available in the framework for collaborating on future infrastructure/urban planning projects within the CSEE region.

Professor Čedo Maksimović
Imperial College London

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