Unlocking the Potential of Emerging Market Cities

By John Macomber

March 2

(This is a current events FYI post. For your own graded blog posts you should analyze, disagree with, or extend articles like this with your own thinking or with concepts from the Sustainable Cities course. For the most part our blog is not meant to be a clipping service).

Quote from McKinsey Global Institute: “A massive wave of urbanization is propelling growth across the emerging world. This urbanization wave is shifting the world’s economic balance toward the east and south at unprecedented speed and scale. It will create an over-four-billion-strong global “consumer class” by 2025, up from around one billion in 1990. And nearly two billion will be in emerging-market cities. These cities will inject nearly $25 trillion into the global economy through a combination of consumption and investment in physical capital…. Yet few business leaders focus on the importance of cities when establishing growth priorities.”

McK Center of Gravity

More here:  https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Strategy/Globalization/Unlocking_the_potential_of_emerging-market_cities_3015

And below:  Continue reading


Urban Growth: Old vs. New


If you had asked me yesterday whether I would elect to be on the Masdar project or the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Project, I would have answered Tianjin without a second thought. However, as I sat in class thinking about the cities that I have read about recently, I realized that many of the cities that came to mind were created in the past few decades: Chongqing of China, Naypyidaw of Myanmar, Incheon of South Korea, Brasilia of Brazil, Singapore. Yes, they were always there, as pretty much most of the land where we inhabit have existed way before we evolved into humans. However, the formation of these places into our concept of modern cities is fairly new. I then had an epiphany that Masdar may enjoy more success and impact in the long-term because our assumption that urban growth happening mainly in established cities could be wrong. Continue reading

Urban Farming

By Chris Horney

Similar to the conversation we have been having about Masdar and Tianjin, where each city is attempting to accomplish something different, I think it is worthwhile to understand that cities across the world are not all feeling the urbanization push quite the same. Prior to business school I lived in Royal Oak, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Detroit is experiencing the exact opposite of what Mumbai, Beijing, Lagos, and many other cities across the world are experiencing, as they have lost 25% of their population in the last decade. Many people have left for the suburbs of the city or left the state entirely, either for living condition reasons or economic reasons, or most likely a combination of both. Regardless of why it happened, Detroit City government now is faced with a challenge of having nearly 40 square miles (half the size of the city of Boston) out of 139 vacant in the city, with much of the vacant land owned by the city through foreclosure of properties and abandonment.

Because of this issue, an already cash strapped city who has lost a large base of taxpayers, Detroit now has not only a safety liability with abandoned homes (fire, drugs, etc.) but they also have a monetary issue that comes with attempting to maintain municipal services (fire, water, power, police, street cleaning, etc.) to large empty swaths of the city. Unable to afford to provide these services, blight has taken over the city and become a major issue. Unlike most cities, the challenge now becomes what to do in light of this new challenge. Continue reading

The power of air conditioning. How to turn it down?

By Daniel Nunez Gonzalez

One of the cases in the course involved Zhang Yue’s Broad Group and the emporium he built by first developing a non-electric chiller unit in China. The case reminded me of the role of air conditioning in recent demographic and urban trends, and in the consumption of energy and resources. Lee Kuan Yew, former PM of Singapore, called air conditioning the “greatest invention of this century” [1]. The generalization of affordable systems in the 1970s was a major factor in the growth of the Sun Belt in the United States.

South Bridge Road, Singapore. Pre and post-air conditioned construction in the tropical city-state. Credit: Flickr.com

Air conditioning’s popularization has led to perverse effects. For decades, cheap energy made customers and builders worriless about energy savings. Today, buildings account for 39% of the CO2 emissions in the United States; higher than transportation at 26% [2]. Air conditioning has a major effect in temperature in large cities, contributing to the “heat island effect”; in a warm day in Paris, the effect of chiller systems alone can increase the average temperature by up to 2 degrees Celsius [3]. Black-outs due to excessive electrical demand are now commonly related to heat waves, when the demand for air conditioning peaks.

Global demand is expected to explode. Only two of the warmest 30 largest metropolitan areas in the world are in developed countries. 2% of Indian households owned one air conditioning unit in 2007, compared to 87% of the US [4]. Popularization of air conditioning in the developing world will only contribute to more energy consumption and, ultimately, to climate change.

Credit: Sivak, M. “Potential energy demand for cooling in the 50 largest metropolitan areas of the world: Implications for developing countries”, The University of Michigan, Transportation Research Institute, August 24, 2008.

What can be done to avoid those developing countries consuming indiscriminate resources, without falling into the cliché of Western nations blaming them about the increase in pollution? Continue reading

Seeing is believing: is data visualization the low hanging fruit of energy reduction, or too good to be true?

By Julia DeIuliis

What if energy consumption could be reduced by ~2% without developing new technology, adding regulations, installing new equipment, or disrupting communities- and with minimal investment? If 2% sounds insignificant, remember that it would save households over $3 billion on electricity.

This is the promise of data visualization. Energy reports can display the absolute level of energy usage, as well as comparisons with historical usage and peers. For example:

Exhibit 1: OPower report

Continue reading

Time to Rethink the Urban Freeway

By Kevin McDonald

The limited-access highway has deemed by planners, environmentalists and much of the public at-large to be an unsustainable urban form of transportation. The unsustainability is driven by three elements of this facility: 1) non-renewable gasoline to power automobiles that use the highway, 2) the noise, disruption and pollution created by the automobile’s engine and operations, 3) energy-intensive forms of the built environment.  These key issues are juxtaposed against the indelible strength of the limited-access highway: point-to-point transportation that efficiently and quickly delivers goods and people.  In the US, those arguing against the sustainability of the urban freeway appear to have the day- the country has only added 2% to its 1980 levels of urban mileage. Recent technology innovations have mitigated the negative externalities of the urban freeway. This begs the question: is it time to rethink opposition to new investments in urban highway lane miles? Continue reading

Post Japan’s Triple Disaster – To Rebuild or Relocate?

By Adelyn Zhou

On March 11th, 2011, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck northern Japan and unleashed a devastating tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdown at Fukushima.  Over two and a half years later, much of the population in the affected area has left.  Formerly bustling commercial centers lie as fallow lots filled with rocks and weeds, and the majority of remaining residents are still living in temporary housing with no end in sight.

This past January, I had the unique opportunity to visit the post-disaster Tohoku region in Japan as part of an IXP.  We toured the displaced communities, hearing the first-hand stories of fishermen, farmers, high school students and town leaders.  I was inspired by the resilience of the community as they worked to rebuild their lives.  However amongst the rebuilding, there laid another more sensitive debate “not on how to rebuild, but whether the area be rebuilt at all.”  Similar to the class discussion on New Orleans, there has been heated conversation about this topic in Japan. Continue reading