Building Unique Cities: a Paradigm Shift in the Global South

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Submission Summary
Rapid urbanisation often results in a uniform infrastructural development, which compromises on liveability. Commercially mass-produced building materials and designs largely dominate the urban fabric. This generates not only low quality of life, but also compromises meeting the Paris Agreement, which calls for cutting 90% of GHG emissions from buildings by 2050. Sustainable and local context tailored solutions exist, but they are mostly hard to upscale and cover less than 1% of the urban fabric. As per the World Bank, 60% of the infrastructure the world will see in 2030 is yet to be built. This means we have entered a critical decade which will determine the quality of urban dwellers’ life in the future. It is hence necessary to identify a third alternative way of building cities today. Over the last two years, UNICITI has been leading research on how we can meet today’s urban infrastructure and housing needs without compromising on livability and sustainability under its program A Third Way of Building Asian Cities. The program was launched in a special session at the 55th ISOCARP Planning Congress in Jakarta and focuses on bringing together upscalable manufacturing processes with local construction knowledge and craftsmanship. Its International Working Group of Experts (IWGE) brought together a number of prominent international urban practitioners and institutions. With UNICITI knowledge and coordination support, the group does research in 3 directions: 1. Alternative building materials and construction techniques, 2. Alternative urban development models, 3. Alternative policies and regulations. 1. Alternative building materials and construction techniques can help make buildings energy efficient, lower GHG emissions and offer localised solutions that bring out a unique visual identity of the place. Techniques such as compressed stabilised earth blocks (CSEB), building high rises with wood, combining 3D printing and pre-fabricated or modular building approaches with local materials and designs, or circular economy in construction materials are explored; 2. Alternative urban development models go hand in hand with the above. For example, high rise development highly limits the choice of building forms and construction materials (concrete, steel, glass, aluminium), and the manufacturing of these contributes to 20% of global CO2 emissions (IEA). In contrast, a high density low and medium rise model opens up a much broader spectrum of building materials and designs; 3. Alternative policies and regulations: Large scale construction companies and real estate developers lead the construction market and prioritise the economy of scales. Urban development for livability hence requires public policies and regulations that favour sustainability and quality of life. Here, smaller players can better contribute and bring in more diversity and local context tailored solutions. Such regulations have proved successful in creating a vibrant public realm, for example form-based codes in the United States. The session will actively engage participants in the on-going work of the IWGE and build on the 55th ISOCARP Planning Congress’ special session, which received strong interest from participants. It will share outcomes of the research conducted by UNICITI and the IWGE in 2020-2021 and offer ISOCARP members the opportunity join its on-going work. The session will be divided into three parts: 1. A setting the scene part (30 minutes) will present latest outcomes of the UNICITI and IWGE’s on-going research in the 3 above-mentioned verticals; 2. A working part (45 minutes) will break participants into 3 thematic groups and give them the opportunity to discuss challenges and opportunities arising in their respective countries; 3. A conclusive part (15 minutes) will present key points taken from each thematic group and outline ways in which ISOCARP members could further engage with the IWGE.
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5: Uniqueness and connectivity. Al-Baraha: unlocking urban futures
Founder and Principal Consultant
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