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Dongtan – Eco City

Update: well that was fast. Looking a little further into this project, it might actually be dead..

In an older Guardian article Peter Head, of Arup, was listed as one of 50 people who could save the planet. Specifically, Mr. Head was credited as a lead designer of a new eco-friendly city, Dongtan, in China.

From the Guardian,

Peter Head, 60, is an unlikely man to be leading a cultural revolution. The soft-spoken Englishman, a director of Arup and one of the world’s leading bridge builders, is now the master planner of the world’s first true eco city.

His brief from the Shanghai city authorities may have been simple, but in building and design terms it was the equivalent of a moonshot: to build on an island at the mouth of the Yangtze a city for 500,000 people that can lead the world’s fastest growing economy out of the industrial age into the ecological one. Dongtan will cost $50bn or more, and be a prototype for 400 or more similar Chinese cities over the next 30 years.

Nothing like this has been tried before, Head says. “It’s a complete paradigm shift. It is to be three, four or five times an ecological improvement on anything that exists. China is trying to use ecological efficiency to detach resource use from economic growth, the traditional development path. It’s a different way of thinking. They believe a new economic model will come out of it.”

Dongtan will be all but self-sufficient, powered by wind, wood and sun. Its cars will be electric or hydrogen-fuelled, and its buildings will be mini power stations. There will be no landfill sites and 80% of waste will be recycled. Enough local food will be grown to supply much of the city’s needs. Turf-covered rooftops will collect, filter and store water, and solar panels will heat it; wind turbines will provide nearly 20% of its energy needs.

“China came to us with the idea. I was shocked by the scale of their ambition but they’re deadly serious. Every province in China is building a demonstration eco city like this.”

Other countries are catching up, too, and Head sees a 21st-century revolution gathering pace: “We will look back on Dongtan and say it was a pretty crude effort, but it will be seen as a first step. It’s significant but it’s nothing like the answer. What will develop over the coming years is an ‘ecological systems approach’ to cities, one that uses nature to get us out of the mess we’re in.”