Shared space creates safer and more attractive streets. The concept of shared space is based on the idea that less traffic design, like traffic lights, asphalt and curbstones, creates more cautious drivers. The concept of Shared space has been introduced by a Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman. His Shared space concept has put the relation between traffic behavior and the design of public space on the cities’ agenda. Shared space concepts have been materialized successfully in many cities. The Guardian of last year reported on Exhibition Road in London: “The first thing to say about the remaking of Exhibition Road in London is how sane it largely is. Its concept is unimpeachable – to make a thoroughfare lined with famous museums and other institutions into a place more pleasant for the 11 million pedestrians who visit them each year. Its execution is well-judged, apart from the not-small detail that blind people find it alarming. Yet it has taken 18 years since something along these lines was first put forward, plus £29.2m, a court case and endless consultations, to get to this point. How difficult can it be to lay a pavement? Very, it would seem. The road was first developed following the Great Exhibition of 1851 and has the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, Imperial College, the Royal Geographical Society and the Goethe Institute along its length, not to mention the Polish Hearth Club and a curious, spiritual-modernist-ish building that houses the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like many spaces made in the aftermath of expos and world fairs, it has always had an uncertain air: it is wide and straight, which gives it a sense of purpose, but the biggest museums present only their side entrances to it, while strips of what were originally private houses blur its identity. Is it a grand avenue of culture, a convenient side street or residential? If it is the first, it is too variegated; if the last, it is too broad”…….”Its big idea, which originated with Moylan, was to create a “shared space” whereby pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles all occupy the same surface, without kerbs or barriers to separate them. It seems risky, but the theory is that if walkers and drivers can see that they are occupying the same space, they will behave more responsibly.”…..”The overall effect is of generosity and calm. Crowds can flow more happily over the paving and the route from South Kensington tube to the great museums, which was always a tricky one unless you took a long subway, is now a pleasure. The road is a place where you might want to be, rather than just a means of getting someone else. It is not fussy and prescriptive, as public space improvements often are.” Sources: The Guardian, Exhibition Road, Wikipedia. Picture: e-architect.co.uk
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
According to Smartplanet: “For Parisians wondering if it’s a good day for a jog or a bike across the city, soon they’ll only need look up to learn how clean the air is. Baptized the Observatoire Atmosphérique Generali, a new, one-of-a-kind hot air balloon at the Parc André Citroën will take flight this spring thanks to a new partnership with the European insurance group Generali and the balloon’s designer Aerophile. The balloon will visibly inform about 400,000 Parisians daily about the air quality near traffic and away from roads. Moreover, the balloon will carry new instruments to study air samples above Paris. The balloon is part of Generali’s commitment to addressing preventable health costs related to poor air quality in France. A recent European study of nine French cities revealed that none respect the World Health Organization’s guidelines for appropriate amounts of ozone and fine particulate matter in the air. The study suggests that nearly 3,000 yearly deaths, 1,000 hospitalizations, and lowered life expectancy could all be avoided if France cleaned up the air. The Observatoire Atmosphérique Generali will play a role in monitoring such conditions in Paris. And the insurance moguls at Generali know who is paying for much of the nearly 5 billion euros that the study says could be saved if France cleaned up its act. In tandem with City Hall, the observatory will hold classes every morning for Parisian children, offering up to 30 people at time the chance to get a bird’s eye view of the capital while learning about air quality. The partnership between Generali, Aerophile, and the city will last five years starting this spring.” Picture: Aerophile
London had its Great Smog in 1952. Although being used to fog this one was more hazardous as ever causing death and illness in the City of London. Beijing has its Great Smog these days. Nothing to be proud of. Air pollution reaches up to 40 times the maximum as being set by the World Health Organization. Beijing sits in the middle of a coal-burning factories belt that expands ever more. The economic growth of China and the demand for electricity will not be the incentive for a cleaner Beijing. What should happen?Having a look at London in 1952 might help. The City of London introduced regulations followed by the Clean Air Act in 1956 only four years after the Great Smog. The Clean Air Act introduced a number of rules to reduce air pollution. For example by introducing ‘smoke control areas’ in which only smokeless fuels could be burnt. It regulated homes’ heat sources and it included measures to relocate power station away from cities and for the height of some chimneys to be increased. The Great Fog in London was that bad that even polluted air interrupted indoor events. It was simply not possible to see the projection in a cinema any longer. The Clean Air Act made the air in the City much better but it took a long run. In the 60-ies another Big Smog entered the city stage. It takes decades to clean up the air so Beijing better starts now. Another milestone since the Clean Air Act in London of 1956 was the introduction of Congestion Charges in the centre of the city in 2008. Congestion Charge charges high-polluting vehicles 25 pounds each time they pass through Central London’s Congestion Zone. Other vehicles are charged 8 pounds. Under the initiative, some low-emission vehicles can drive through the zone for free. In 2009, air pollution in the City of London was marked as moderate or high on only 12 days, less than a quarter of the 59 days recorded in 1993.
Sources: www.nytimes.com “Beijing Takes Steps to Fight Pollution as Problem Worsens” January 30, 2013, NRC Handelsblad 04 februari 2013, “Lessen van 100 jaar Smog”, www.wikipedia.com, “Clean Air Act 1956”, Smithsonian.com “Before and After, Cleaning up our Cities.” Picture above, London 1952, Piccadilly Circus. Picture Below, Beijing 2013.
At the 19th Intelligent Transportation Systems Congress in Vienna in October last year Smart Car Parking has been presented as a way to lessen traffic congestion in the city.
According to itsworldcongress.com: “Siemens and Streetline, Inc. have launched the first of its kind smart parking project in the city of Braunschweig, Germany to provide parking relief to residents and local businesses. The project is locally-led by BELLIS, a public-private partnership from Siemens AG and the Braunschweiger Versorgungs AG & Co. KG (BS | ENERGY). The advanced parking technology monitors parking space availability, distributes real time parking information to Streetline’s free “Parker” smartphone app, and tracks parking patterns and habits to help City officials better manage parking throughout the City. This is the first advanced parking project implemented jointly by Siemens and Streetline in Europe. The announcement was made from the Intelligent Transportation World Congress being held this week in Vienna, Austria.”
“The City of Braunschweig has approved installation of parking sensors and networking equipment to monitor real time data in designated parking locations throughout Kurst-Schumacher-Str, Nimes-Str and Tauben-Str. “Parker” by Streetline provides drivers with the location and general availability of parking spaces, shows the amount of parking time remaining, and allows users to pay for parking via their mobile phone where available. The advanced parking project will also provide a platform for DLR (German Aerospace Center) to do ongoing research on parking infrastructure and services, as part of their Transportation and Mobility portfolio.”
“One major factor contributing to city traffic congestion is motorists searching for parking,” said Hauke Juergensen, CEO Intelligent Traffic Systems, Siemens. “This modern technology from Streetline provides motorists an easier, more efficient way to find an available parking spot and provides the City of Braunschweig a cost-effective way to improve quality of life in their town in a time when city budgets have never been tighter.”
According to a European press release at the 24th of January: “The European Commission announced an ambitious package of measures to ensure the build-up of alternative fuel stations across Europe with common standards for their design and use. Policy initiatives so far have mostly addressed the actual fuels and vehicles, without considering fuels distribution. Efforts to provide incentives have been un-co-ordinated and insufficient.
Clean fuel is being held back by three main barriers: the high cost of vehicles, a low level of consumer acceptance, and the lack of recharging and refuelling stations. It is a vicious circle. Refuelling stations are not being built because there are not enough vehicles. Vehicles are not sold at competitive prices because there is not enough demand. Consumers do not buy the vehicles because they are expensive and the stations are not there. The Commission is therefore proposing a package of binding targets on Member States for a minimum level of infrastructure for clean fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas, as well as common EU wide standards for equipment needed.
EC Vice President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport said. “Developing innovative and alternative fuels is an obvious way to make Europe’s economy more resource efficient, to reduce our overdependence on oil and develop a transport industry which is ready to respond to the demands of the 21st century. Between them, China and the US plan to have more than 6 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020. This is major opportunity for Europe to establish a strong position in a fast growing global market.”
The clean fuel strategy is committed to various clean fuels ranging from electricity to hydrogen. This post focuses only on the ambition for electric vehicles.
……”Electricity: the situation for electric charging points varies greatly across the EU. The leading countries are Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. Under this proposal a minimum number of recharging points, using a common plug will be required for each Member State (see table attached). The aim is to put in place a critical mass of charging points so that companies will mass produce the cars at reasonable prices. A common EU wide plug is an essential element for the roll out of this fuel. To end uncertainty in the market, today the Commission has announced the use of the “Type 2” plug as the common standard for the whole of Europe.
Last week Prorail, in charge of Dutch rail, presented a revolutionary system that should put an end to the chaos around train stations caused by bicycles. Previous trials in Utrecht, Groningen and Zutphen show that the system creates thirty percent more space.
The bicycle parking system works by using switches built into the bike racks. When a bicycle in a rack is inserted it is determined by a computer. On large screens is shown how many places are still available. The administrator of the bicycle parking can also see how long a bike has been parked. If it is longer than the allowed period, he has the right to remove the bike. This smart parking should put an end to the estimated 60,000 so-called abandoned bicycles that nationwide are parked around stations. These are bikes that will never be retrieved, but they claim 15 percent of the storage spaces available. Previous experiments in Utrecht, Groningen, Zutphen show that the system delivers 30 percent more space. Not only due to the removal of all abandoned bicycles. The available space is also effectively used. Travelers have an overview of the amount of places still available. Now, though only 90 percent occupied, travelers think the parking is full. With the introduction of the new system it is easier to utilize the parking for the full 100%.
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.
According to Organic Green Roots: ‘photoluminescent Core Glow pebbles provide an interesting, almost ethereal feature to outdoor design. When the eco-friendly pebbles are exposed to light sources, (solar or otherwise) the special light capturing pigment within them becomes chemically excited and will ‘glow’ once that light source is removed. The luminescent material is a multi-activated, highly efficient powder cultivated from the earth, that enables light-storing with a long afterglow.
When added to a concrete driveway and exposed to the sun, the pebbles will store enough energy to illuminate a dark pathway all night long, initially very radiant, then slowly dissipating as dawn arrives. With only 10-20 minutes of exposure to daylight or lamplight, the pebbles can maintain their afterglow for about 10-12 hours.
The CORE Glow pebbles are non-radioactive, non-toxic and environmentally friendly. They can be implemented in a variety of landscaping, custom concrete or masonry needs. The material is a inert long lasting recyclable plastic but are also available in a recycled glass. Both last an average of 20 years.
So what makes them glow? A chemical element called Strontium aluminate; and an activator, Europium is added – this causes a chemical reaction, creating the glow. The material is biologically and chemically inert, so completely safe for home use.
These pebbles are primarily an esthetic element that can add a new layer to hardscape designs but certain applications will help to greatly reduce pathway lighting costs. Since the CORE Glow products require no electricity, no power supply and no batteries they saves natural resources and offer an alternative to traditional pathway lighting.’
Hurricane Sandy has made it ever more clear: disaster control or emergency managment should be a priority in urban development and urban managment. People keep moving to urban areas, which become vulnerable when it comes down to natural disasters. Not in the least because they are often situated along coastlines and in delta’s. Here the impact of heavy weather and flooding this could cause is a primary concern. Disaster control or emergency managment requires some basic but elaborative concepts which are described by the ‘Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHS)‘ of the U.S.A. These include among others: Emergency Sheltering Provision, Dam Safety Preparedness and a Hazard Analysis Program. Emergency Sheltering requirements foresee in the provision of safe havens for large populations. These shelters require good accessibility and large scale sanitary infrastructure for example. Dam Safety Preparedness regulates the condition of the Dams in New York State. According to the DHS ‘There are approximately 400 high-hazard (Class C) and nearly 800 moderate-hazard (Class B) dams that pose a threat to jurisdictions in the event of a dam failure. Approximately 70 of the high-hazard dams produce hydroelectric power’..The Hazard Analysis Program ‘Hazny’, ‘is an automated hazard analysis program. HAZNY asks questions concerning hazards that you face and, based upon your responses, rates and ranks each hazard. It includes guidance on organizing a team approach in conducting the hazard analysis’. Planning and controlling cities in order to secure safety is a Smart approach but not new at all. The lay-out of many historic towns worldwide has been based on the concept of security, though disaster control in those days was primarely related to military defense. Safety and emergency managment has been on top of the urban agenda sinds 9/11, Hurricane Sandy is stressing again the necessity for a Smart infrastructure to cope with natural disasters. That might prevent New York against flooding and another blackout.
In the summer of 2007 the ‘Coalition Project 1012’ started. This collaborative project initiated by the municipality, intends to reduce crime and to contribute to the economic upgrading of the postcode area 1012, the Red Light District in Amsterdam. 1012 is located in the heart of historic Amsterdam and is a major attraction for visitors from home and abroad. In order to maintain and improve this condition the Red Light District should be diversified. One of the applied strategies is a street-oriented one. Quite some red light windows and coffeeshops will dissappear after negotiation with the owners. To upgrade the street, ‘streetteams’ will be established who together with the inhabitants and entrepreneurs will make a vision for the street or a cluster of streets. Together with parties who already have position in the area a strategy to buy property has been set up. This property gets another function. Successful is to attract the creative industry. This sector feels at home within urban and ‘rawer’ conditions and are not scared off by the dubious industry which is just around the corner. The 1012 project already added several interesting creative spaces to the Red Light District like Ultra de La Rue Creative Space on the picture below. In the Rua General Jardim in São Paulo a similar strategy upgraded a prostitution street with the addition of a school for architecture, the Escola de Cidade and the Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil. This resulted in a weird mix of functions and people on the street, but above all it established a safer and more attractive street in downtown São Paulo.
According to Co.exist: “To eliminate landfills and encourage local agriculture, a new program lets residents exchange their recyclable trash in exchange for credits with nearby farms. Mexico City is turning its trash into food. The government’s environmental agency recently launched the Mercado de Trueque, a barter market where recyclable materials are exchanged for fresh food to support the city’s farmlands. “This innovative program is designed to show citizens directly and tangibly how what we call trash becomes raw materials. If solid waste is properly separated, it still has value,” writes the Ministry of Environment (in Spanish). The market accepts glass, paper and cardboard, aluminum beverage cans, PET plastic bottles, and returns “green points” redeemable for agricultural products grown in and around Mexico City, including lettuce, prickly pears, spinach, tomatoes, plants, and flowers. “The intention is to encourage and support the producers of soil conservation in order to raise public awareness of the local supply,” writes the Ministry. “It’s important to consume local products to avoid large shipments of goods, reduce the carbon footprint, generate fair trade and maintain agricultural lands south of the city. “Collecting and sorting recyclables is already a big business in some developing countries, but it’s not a habit for many households. Drawing a direct link between sorting and exchanging waste and a sustainable food supply may bring a new awareness into the mix. The first market, held on one Sunday this March, sold out, exchanging nearly three tons of 60 agricultural products for trash.”
A recent Dutch study researched the impact of atmosperic variables on the experience of safety among others. Safety in cities is regarded often from the ‘objective’ point of perspective. The subjective side of the matter is just as important. Many ‘objective’ safe neighbourhoods are being experienced as ‘unsafe’. Light, color and sound can add to the feeling of safety. Since many years underground parking is often well-lit and plays music at night. Although lightdesign will not prevent you from being robbed, it could make underground cityscapes much more attractive during day- and nighttime. Furthermore dedicated well-lit bikepaths could offer attractive ‘safe’ nightlanes in the city.
Although old news, Bogota’s Transmilenio Bussystem is a concept which should be added to this Smart City Studio Blog. According to Camilo Santamaría presenting at the UN-habitat Expert Group Meeting in Nairobi, february 18th 2011:
“Transmilenio bus system shows how public transport-oriented city planning can stimulate urban renewal whilst improving the use of space and energy resources. The city is located between a river and a mountain range, and contains a number of heritage buildings in the central business district. It has a population of roughly 6 million people, and is likely to grow an additional 2 million in the next 15 years. Constrained by natural boundaries and a historical urban core, planning for a growing population with a significant number of living below poverty lines is a challenge.The bulk of employment opportunities are located in the CBD, which is situated at the Northernmost edge of the city alongside the mountain and is surrounded by a number of smaller towns to the South. Faced with the challenge of moving people between residential areas and places of work, the city realised that a bus system would be the most cost-effective means of providing public transport, and would require significantly less land than a car-centred approach. Curitiba’s BRT model was adapted to include passing lanes for buses, as observed in Quito. The implementation of the Transmilenio and inclusion of sidewalks, cycle lanes and public transport routes into city design has created numerous opportunities for urban renewal. Areas once designated for roads are now used by cyclists and pedestrians, and a number of tree-lined avenues and public parks have been created around the stations and commuter routes. These green spaces attract members of the public, and the streets are once again busy with people instead of cars. To cater for growing demand for public transport, the city is now considering a metro system to service major routes”.
According to the Dutch newspaper NRC innercity cargo transport by boats is the future. In the historic towncentres of the Randstad congestion is an everlasting problem. These historic centres have once been designed for transport by foot, horse and… on the water. Small scale cargotransport on the finegrain network of historic canals in the innercities is a Smart alternative for regular distribution with too big trucks in the congested towncentres. The city of Utrecht sets the example. In 1996 it already started with a municipal ‘beerboat’ to deliver drinks at restaurants and bars along the ‘Oude Gracht’. Now there is also a boat for waste collection and a new beerboat on electric power. So no innercity noise anymore. The waste collection boat has a crane to transport waste bins from the quai to the boat. The industrial design for the waste bins on wheels should actually be improved, because the small wheels cause difficulties on the cobbled innercity roads. The advantage of the wasteboat is the reduction of congestion, CO2 and fine dust. The boat seems to be slow, but is much quicker than transport by truck. Utrecht aims on the expansion of the fleet. The city is working on a full electric powered city distribution system. Their ‘cargohoppers’, small electric vehicles which with a tail of ‘wagons’, are the alternative for the truck. These heavy trucks demolish the pavement in the historic city centres. The political support of the whole project is there, because it combines clean, silent and energy efficient alternatives.
The above is a summary of an article in the Dutch newspaper NRC: “Afval- en bierboten tegen de files”, October 20th, 2012.
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.
On the 13th of October the Nieuwe Binnenweg in Rotterdam, one of the longest shoppingstreets in the Netherlands, reopened. After a period of refurbishment of public space, renovation of facades and attracting new entrepreneurs an impoverished street becomes an attractive city street again. What has been done to succesfully revitalize a run down street in the city?
Renovating shops and attracting entrepreneurs As part of the revitalization of the Nieuwe Binnenweg in Delfshaven entrepreneurs who want to invest in the quality, appearance, safetymeasures or location of their store on the Nieuwe Binnenweg have the opportunity to apply for a subsidy. Entrepreneurs can apply for a subsidy for 55% of their renovationcosts up to a maximum of € 15.000, – (excluding VAT) per application. As entrepreneurs want to move along the Nieuwe Binnenweg for being part of one of the ‘branded themes’ like fashion, food or adventure they can apply for up to 55% of their relocationcosts to a maximum of € 7.000, – (excluding VAT).
An active campaign, branding the street and a phonenumber An active campaign and the branding which positions the run down street in the niche of creatives which live in the neighbourhoods around the street gained recognition which encouraged entrepreneurs to add to the concept. The type of shops which opened since the project started in 2008 are for example: a vintage tableware shop, an organic supermarket, an halal butcher, a furniture shop, an energy saving shop and LED advice, an eco design shop, south american fashion shop, an ice cream shop, a hip coffee shop and many more. Besides the campaign there is a phonenumber to call for if you are interested. That helps excited entrepreneurs to avoid bureaucracy.
Refurbishment of public space The refurbishment of public space add to the comprehensive concept which has been the objective. It consists out of the replacement of paving, pavement, street furniture and lighting. The paving was for example tarmac, but has been changed into clay brickwork. Also the tram tracks are updated, a little further apart, placed in such a way that the new trams of Rotterdam easily can pass eachother. The tramstops are raised and slightly expanded. The amount of electricitypoles for the tram has been reduced from 70 to 38 pieces
According to Dezeen: “The Grindbakken (dockside gravel pits, red.) were formerly used to transfer sand and gravel between ships and lorries, but were being cleaned up and painted white to be used for events and exhibitions.”
Green facades could offer many advantages for Smart Cities. Green facades add to the thermal insulation behaviour of buildings, to the biodiversity in the city, the quality of public space and reduction of air pollution; fine dust and carbondioxide. This adds to the idea of the ‘healthy city’. There are two types of green facades. Living wall systems and walls which consist of creepers or hanging plants. The first is an irrigated system of growing panels in which plants literally grow. The latter is a facade or a mesh along which creepers of hanging plants can grow. In north western Europe most green facades have a webbased irrigation system which monitors climate conditions in order to coordinate irrigation. With temperatures below zero degrees Celsius the irrigation system empties itself.
This week, October 1st, the Hogeschool has openend its doors in a former vacant office building. More than 2500 students and 500 employees (re)use the building in the heart of Rotterdam.
Rotterdam University maintains a number of educational clusters through Rotterdam. The Academieplein-site needed to expand to be able to accommodate the growing number of students. The vacant office block next door offered an opportunity to enlarge the school’s volume in short term. Zandbelt&vandenberg made the design for the transformation of the office building into a new educational facility. Just one year after the first design proposels the transformation of the former office building has been finished.
Ten new elevators, new staircases, replaced entrances, a compltet new lay-out and adapted installations changed the office building into a state of the art school building. The reuse of this vacant officebuilding sets the example for other innercity real estate to be redeveloped. It is possible.