Infrastructure Packaging

Historically, cities as separate urban government units had never garnered any significant attention from the United Nations, but at Tuesday’s U.N. Climate Summit in New York, mayors from all over the world took center stage.
A common theme throughout the day was that cities are crucial to fight climate change because urban areas are responsible for nearly 70 percent of all carbon emissions.
To reduce pollution from urban centers, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the establishment of the Climate Finance Leadership Alliance, tasked with funding low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure projects and make their implementation better and easier as a key component of the struggle against global warming.

Despite the U.N.’s usual good intentions, the purpose of CFLA seems to be a work in progress, not due to a lack of focus by the loose partnership, but in part because infrastructure project funding is so different for various sectors in different cities. Participants at the summit highlighted that any financing initiative must be flexible in order to bring everyone to the table.
So far about 20 partners — ranging from the C40 advocacy group to Citibank — have committed to CFLA, according to Amanda Eichel, adviser to Michael Bloomberg, U.N. special envoy on cities and climate change and former mayor of New York.

Partners will not engage in direct funding of infrastructure projects, but rather leverage the right investors to make those projects a reality in developing countries, precisely where the risk is highest.
CFLA will thus function like a consulting firm for cities on “how to package projects in an interesting way to make them more attractive to investors,” Eichel said.
“A common communication, language and approach” in presenting infrastructure projects is the main reason cities have such trouble funding large infrastructure projects, Bloomberg’s adviser explained.
Investors struggle to navigate the bureaucracy’s competing priorities and the lack of clarity on any potential returns, so the initiative will provide them with guidance on each sector instead of focusing on individual cities, in order to maximize development impact.

To illustrate how the process works, Eichel gave the example of a mass transit development project in a particular urban area. CFLA would study what transport needs are across a range of cities within that sector and give recommendations on how to “market and advertise” that type of project to potential investors. It would then be up to that city to apply that “branding” strategy and choose their own partners and contracts based on individual cities’ criteria.

Outside of its partners, the initiative’s unofficial steering committee is led by the World Bank,Bloomberg PhilanthropiesU.N.-Habitat and the Rockefeller Foundation. Although final roles have yet to be finalized, Bloomberg Philanthropies and World Bank will be in charge of researching and assessing “the state of climate finance in cities” in annual reports, because measuring impact can provide more confidence to investors. U.N.-Habitat will act as technical adviser, determining the type of project for particular needs in various cities. The Rockefeller Foundation will be a core member of this group, although in a still unknown capacity.

Capacity building

Joan Clos, executive director of U.N.-Habitat and former mayor of Barcelona, insisted the problem is not a lack of money but putting it in the right places.
“What is lacking is not funding, what is lacking is the quality of the project,” he told Devex, stressing that the real issue is making sure cities know how to get a slice of that money. “Financial institutions require that [urban infrastructure] projects have a clear business model, they are understandable, in order to be funded.”
We are in the “demand side of the equation” to build up the capacity of developing country cities, Clos said.

The head of U.N.-Habitat specified that “turning solid waste into energy is one of the most important group of projects.” For instance, landfills in developing countries are usually the highest emitters of methane gas, but urban governments there don’t have the technology to harness the waste and turn it into energy. The goal is to convince investors that they can make a return on that type of financial risk, which Clos noted can be done by showing them the potential for “maturity of long-term investment” in sanitation and transportation projects, to name just two.

CFLA, he said, will help create institutional settings to attract investors. These would be “innovative instruments … not necessarily on the financial side” in the form of new water, electricity or transport companies, legislative reform or utility subsidies. The field is open because each city has a unique set of issues despite a shared, overarching problem within different sectors.

“The scarce resource is the solid business plan” for infrastructure projects, and the initiative has been established to remedy just that, Clos pointed out.
CFLA will thus adopt a unique business and climate change-based approach to development, which has the potential to push more private sector engagement if investors see they can make a profit.

Top U.S. banks want to be a part of the initiative, and surely Bloomberg’s name and business acumen will also help attract investors. But it remains to be seen if governments, aid groups and the private sector will be able to work together to achieve the goal of helping cities develop low-carbon and carbon-resilient infrastructure to really make them the next battleground to combat climate change.

Source: www.devex.com
Picture: Johannesburg by SmartCityStudio

100.000 jobs for Almere

Client: Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment / Municipality of Almere
Year: 2012 Output: Spatial Economic Strategy / 5 Films
Project:
For the main exhibition of the 5th International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam SmartCityStudio created five spatial economic strategies that conceptualise how 100.000 new jobs in Almere could be created. In dialogue with the municipality of the new town of Almere, entrepreneurs in the city and with the Dutch National government SmartCityStudio created five narratives around community wind power and algae production, small enterprises, healthcare, a special economic zone and an open economy. These Smart economic strategies should ‘liberate’ Almere from an outdated culture of control and create the conditions for citizens and entrepreneurs to act. SCS illustrated these strategies in five short films. Have a look at the film below or click one of the links.


1st Liberation: The Neighbourhood
2nd Liberation: Energy Production
3rd Liberation: Multinational Almere
4th Liberation: SEZ
5th Liberation: Healthcare

Source: SmartCityStudio Picture: EnergyRegion.NRW Films: SmartCityStudio with Crookedline

Testing grounds

The city of Eindhoven introduces the concept of ‘testing grounds’ as a means to open the city to anyone who can add to the development of the city often recalled as ‘Brainport’. In a recent conversation the author of this BLOG had with the alderwoman, which resigned from office just days ago (troubled because of a financial debacle in the removal of a trailer park in the municipality), she explains how the reduction of public regulations is part of a larger concept in which the municipality reinvents spatial planning. The idea that not the municipality ‘makes’ the city, but its citizens, its entrepreneurs and its higher education requires an ‘open’ city that could facilitate initiatives and that leaves the leading role in the improvement of an area or neighbourhood to anyone who fits that role the best. The power of this radical, but also ‘fashionable’ concept lies in its uncompromising way that it now effects legal regulations and urban governance.
Eindhoven’s ‘Action Plan 2030 – New Space 2013 – Fundamental revision of local spatial guidelines Municipality Eindhoven’ concludes that too many local policies and guidelines on top of national and European legislation block initiatives from private parties, citizens and even of the municipality itself. This fundamental change in the municipality to facilitate rather than to control ‘blueprint planning’ has been advocated recently by more municipalities in the Netherlands, but Eindhoven realizes this change will not happen overnight. A change of culture requires a process of learning. Therefore the municipality defined ‘testing grounds’. In those testing grounds the municipality lets go some of its regulation and is able to learn from the effects. The testing grounds cover a range of urban areas in order to learn about the effects in different settings.

Picture: Piet Hein Eek Laboratory and Workshop. In a former industrial complex in Eindhoven the designer Piet Hein Eek created a mix of workshop, showroom, shop and restaurant. This space of 10.000 m2 gives a powerful ‘boost’ to the regeneration of ‘Strijp R’ and is one of the many initiatives that is not initiated nor controlled by governmental policy but adds to the cities ambition to become a ‘Design Capital’ in the world. Eindhoven also houses the famous ‘Design Academy’. Sources: interview with ‘Mary Fiers’ former alderwoman of the city of Eindhoven, ‘Plan van Aanpak nieuwe ruimte 2013, gemeente Eindhoven’.

Community Mortgage



“In many poor and developing countries, land markets, prevailing policies, practices and institutions limit many of the working poor’s access to secure tenure and adequate land for housing. The Philippines is one such country, where patterns of urban growth and development make it difficult for the poor to remain in the cities where employment and other opportunities exist.”

“Through the Community Mortgage Program, the Government lends funds to informal settlers organized as a community association, making it possible for them to buy a piece of land that they can occupy permanently. The land can be on-site, presently occupied by the community, or an entirely new site to where the community intends to relocate. The CMP also offers loans for site improvement and house construction even if, in reality, the majority of CMP loans are issued for the acquisition of land. The CMP was designed to be a demand-driven approach; it is the community that needs assistance that decides to participate in the programme and initiates the process. In an on-site project, informal settlers can obtain ownership of the land they occupy by buying it through a community mortgage loan. One of the requirements is a subdivision plan, where the houses and plots are then re-aligned or re-blocked to conform to minimum subdivision standards. An off-site project, on the other hand, requires relocation to another area that the community chooses and purchases.”

“To be eligible for loans, informal settlers have to have a homeowners’ association (HOA) with at least nine households but no more than 200. After an association has complied with the minimum requirement and met certain criteria, the Social Housing Finance Corporation approves the mortgage and advances payment to the landowner. The group loan is payable monthly for up to 25 years at 6 per cent interest per annum. The land to be purchased serves as collateral for the loan. The HOA is considered to be the borrower.Throughout the process, it is responsible for preparing documentary requirements, negotiating with the landowner, collecting the monthly amortizations of itsmember-beneficiaries, and ensuring that their financial obligations to the lending institution are met. The HOA also enforces sanctions on community members, and oversees the re-blocking and enforcement of the subdivision plan.”

“The Philippines is the fourth most populous nation in East Asia. Growing at an average rate of 2 per cent annually, the population is currently 92 million, of which an estimated 63 per cent live in urban areas. Metro Manila, or the National Capital Region (NCR), is the largest urban centre in the Philippines. At present, its 16 cities and one urban municipality together had an estimated population of 12 million. If the current trend prevails, the Philippines is projected to be 70 per cent urban in less than a decade with an urban population of around 86 million. Unregulated urban growth and acute poverty have resulted in severe housing problems. Of the roughly 10 million Filipino families living in cities today, an estimated 3.1 million lack security of tenure with 2.7 informal settler households in Metro Manila alone according to data from the National Housing Authority in 2007.” Source: Innovative urban tenure in the Philippines, summary report, UN-Habitat / Global Land Tool Network. Picture: Christoph Mohr

City Deals

In the UK cities have gained more power and control over their own urban planning. This decentralization of power offers them the possibility to invest in infrastructure and regeneration projects. They can claim future tax receipts of their local businesses directly from the state if they come up with a plan.

At least two of six key principles of the City Deals put forward by Whitehall in London are Smart: Putting cities in the driving seat: cities, not Whitehall, are best placed to understand the economic opportunities and challenges they face. Many have already taken the initiative and begun to develop credible economic strategies, and these will be the starting point for our work with cities. Focusing on the wider metro area: Encouraging deals across the wider economic area has clear merits in terms of scale, geographical reach and economic governance. Deals will be negotiated with groups of authorities across a functional economic area.” The first wave of City Deals are being made with: Greater Birmingham, Bristol City Region, Leeds City Region, Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester City, Newcastle City Region, Nottingham City Region, Sheffield City Region. The second wave will invite twenty other cities and their wider areas. Picture: Manchester Skyline by Andrew Brooks

 

Street plinth strategy


Friday January 11th the book ‘City at eye level, lessons for street plinths’ has been launched in Rotterdam. According to the website www.thecityateyelevel.com:

“The plinths of the city are the ground floors that negotiate between the inside and the outside, between the public and the private: this is the city at eye level. Plinths are extremely important for the urban experience, which in turn is an important driver for the urban economy. The plinths might cover only 10% of the building, but determine 90% of the experience. While walking, you consciously and subconsciously examine the immediate eye-level surroundings and absorb any details.

Our book shows you how a good plinth “works” for a better street at eye level. It contains concrete and inspiring examples of strategies for design, land use/programme, the relation to the street, passenger flows and the collaboration of partners. The book is a collection of stories from over 25 experts all over the world: a collective product with lessons from planners, owners, managers and designers. In addition to many international examples and case studies, the book contains several interviews and research articles. It concludes with practical lessons for the reader to put into practice in their own cities.”

The city at eye level promotes a plinth strategy for the city in order to give an impulse to the urban experience and the urban economy.

Smart energy production

This movie on Smart energy production in the new town of Almere promotes the development of community driven energy production. It is part of a quintet of strategies for Smart City Almere which could turn Almere into an independent city with a vibrant urban economy. With this it will create conditions for 100.000 jobs to flourish. To do this the city adopts a new attitude towards planning and will liberate itself from a culture of control by creating conditions for others to do the job.

The movie on Smart energy production was part of ‘Almere’s Liberation’, one of the projects which was on show at the last Architecture Biënnale in Rotterdam. These ‘five liberations’ have been published on the internet today. The concepts and the movie are made by Zandbelt&vandenBerg, architecture and urban design and commissioned by the International Architecture Biënnale Rotterdam, Atelier Making Projects.

Have a look at http://www.youtube.com/user/smartcitystudio for the other Smart City strategies for Almere

 

Climate Street

According to Amsterdam Smart City: “Together with entrepreneurs … the Utrechtsestraat, is transformed into a sustainable shopping street where innovative technologies are tested. …A group of 40 enthusiastic entrepreneurs have been selected as the frontrunners group. They all actively want to participate in making the Utrechtsestraat area more sustainable. The frontrunner group is closely involved in the project and act as test team and soundboard of the various sustainable initiatives. Also, a base measurement has been carried out, mapping out the current situation in the street concerning CO2 and NO2. This base measurement serves as a starting point for the introduction of the various solutions.  Sustainable initiatives in the Climatestreet:

1. Entrepreneurs:
– Carrying out of energy scans, mapping out the saving potential of the entrepreneur in the areas of lighting, heating and cooling inside the shop/restaurant
– Implementation of Smart meters that measure energy consumption and can be connected to energy-saving appliances
– Energy display providing feedback on energy consumption and giving personal energy-saving tips based on the information provided by the smart meter
– Smart Plugs that automatically dim or shut down un-used appliances and lights

2. Public space:
– Integrated sustainable street lighting using energy saving lamps that can be dimmed during quiet times at night
– Tram stops that are provided with energy saving lighting with minimal environmental impact from production to recycling. The lights installed at tram stops are solar powered
– Solar-powered BigBelly waste bins with built-in garbage compacters, allowing the bins to be emptied five times less frequently
– Reverse Osmosis water column on a central location that limits the miles that cleaning vehicles have to drive to refill

3. Logistics:
– Waste is collected using electric vehicles from a single provider, minimizing CO2 emissions
– Optimization of logistical processes through clustering

Do It Together; Mutirão

Heliopolis is a favela within the city of São Paulo. Estimated is that within this favela 190.000 inhabitants live without having a legal address. In the seventies people invaded land and build this city themselves. Nowadays a share of the inhabitants rise into middle class. Part of the inhabitants still live in very poor conditions. Although the structures along the streets are actually quit good, the inside of the building blocks conceal a different quality, often with scarce space and daylight in a moist environment. Now that the city of São Paulo aims at the upgrade of favelas in the city the idea of mutirão becomes an alternative for the outplacing and verticalization of inhabitants.

“Rio established Operação mutirão which for the first time deemed resident participation necessary in community upgrades and relied on their own labor. The government provided engineering assistance and materials left over from other construction sites. Similarly, in 1968 governor Negrão de Lima gathered a group of architects, economists, and planners to form a program that offered design support and long term, low-interest loans on construction materials to residents: the Companhia de Desenvolvimento de Comunidades (Community Development Company, or CODESCO). CODESCO had residents vote on where within the community new streets would run and made sure to keep families together when moving people from one part of the neighborhood to another”. (rioonwatch.org)

“In Portuguese, the word “mutirão” is used to describe “a meeting place, an opportunity to work together toward a common goal” (Harrison, Huchzemeyer & Mayekiso, 2004). “Mutirão, a word from Tupi Guarani, an indigenous language of Brazil, translates as a group of people who work together to create something that benefits all,” (Habitat for Humanity, 2010). In an urban context, it often means neighbors getting together to construct part or all of their homes together, people helping to build each others’ houses instead of doing it on their own, particularly during portions of building which require a great deal of work during a short period which one family, alone, cannot deliver. This kind of mutirão has been commonly used in past decades by international development agencies and governmental programmes for construction projects. It is also the basis for international volunteer programs like Habitat for Humanity.  It was a way to save money on the one hand, and give people the chance to be a part of such projects, on the other.” (rioonwatch.org)

 

 

Loft Project Etagi

Loft Project Etagi in the heart of St. Petersburg is a good example of how to intensify the inner city. Two St. Petersburg architects took up the initiative to converse the former Smolinsky Bread Factory into an urban meeting point and creative space.The conversed factory houses three galleries, two exhibition spaces, a couple of design- and bookshops, a hostel and the cafe-bar. Café Green Room has a great summer terrace on the roof of the factory. One floor below you find a huge loft space which offers workspace for numerous free-lancers and small businesses on demand. Hidden behind a small door at the street the programmatic ensemble makes use of a potential space which is all over the city in the courtyards of the typical Petersburg building block. Key feature of this complex is the combination with attractors like the hostel and the summer terrace. The kitchen prepares good food and drinks without any profit but is an important driver behind the liveability of the whole.

Airbnb

This June the 10 million guests have already booked a room via Airbnb. Airbnb, which refers to Air-bread-and-breakfast is website which let you put your spare room or apartment for rent on the internet. It creates a community around these accomodations which often are way more exciting than an average hotel. Airbnb shows the demand for specific small scale accomodations in the city as opposed to the larger hotel chains and offers potential for anyone to start a ‘hotel at home’.