Eco-innovations in Designing Eco-cities and Eco-towns

Eco city

The objective of this third article of our collaborator Dr. A.N.Sarkar is to look at the potential benefits of developing eco-cities and eco-towns with focus on ecology, environment, sustainability and economic impact aspects. Technology and urban layout for Eco-City and Eco-Towns are also highlighted. This is complemented by a detailed case study on leading Eco-cities and Eco-Towns in the World. In a future article we’ll take a look at the potential benefits of developing aerotropolis around the megacities of the world.

The International Eco-city Conference Series of the World Eco-city Summit, held in 2008 in San Francisco, brought together the key innovators, decision-makers, technologists, businesses and organizations shaping the conversation around the ecological and sustainable city, town and village design, planning, and development. Ideally, therefore, Eco-city/ Eco-Town projects should a priori typically include carbon emissions reduction and resource efficiency targets, economic development goals, and unique city designs to promote healthy, socially sustainable communities, as well as to gain recognition for sustainability. Eight years later, those valuations remain current in our days.


The most challenging problem facing our cities today is to meet the ever-rising demand for power, water supply and waste management


Benefits of Developing Eco-cities and Eco-Townships 

There are several benefits of developing Eco-cities and Eco-Townships; which among other things, are largely green and eco-friendly. These include: efficient land-use, habitat preservation and restoration, effective transport management and energy efficiency, efficient use of resources, emissions and pollution control and enhanced quality of life for the occupants as detailed below.


 Eco city


Efficient Land-Use 

In today’s scenario, development has become synonymous with physical expansion or growth. There is a need for significant changes in the pattern of land use and construction that will provide communities with better quality of life and at the same time conserving natural resources. Green Township rating system addresses the impacts of urban sprawl by encouraging compact, mixed-use developments and promotes higher urban densities without affecting the quality of life. Habitat 

Preservation & Restoration 

Conventional development is generally insensitive to natural environment. Such developments may scar the landscape, take prime agricultural land out of production or destroy biodiversity and natural habitats. The Green Townships rating system is designed to facilitate restoration and preservation of the natural environment by encouraging strategies that aid interface between the built environment and natural environment. This approach will not only enhance the fabric of the planned development but also provide environments conducive for living and working. 

Efficient Transportation Management 

Traffic congestion, long-distance commuting, rising levels of air and noise pollution are pressing issues in today’s cities. Efforts to relieve congestion such as, constructing flyovers, road widening etc., are good initiatives but may not address issues such as fossil fuel consumption and associated emissions. ‘Green Townships’ rating system addresses these issues by encouraging effective and efficient transportation management strategies. Such strategies include increasing opportunities for bicycling, encouraging pedestrian-friendly networks; reduction in the number of automobile trips, promoting public transportation and use of alternative vehicles. 

Efficient Use of Resources 

Perhaps the most challenging problem facing our cities today is to meet the ever-rising demand for power, water supply and waste management. Meeting this demand requires enormous amount of investments infrastructure. Efficient and effective use of resources is thus vital in augmenting the existing infrastructure. 

Water Efficiency

Most of the Asian countries are water-stressed, and in countries like India, the water table has reduced drastically over the last decade. Green townships encourage the use of water in a self-sustainable manner through reducing, recycling and reusing strategies and can save potable water to an extent of 30 - 50%. 

Energy Efficiency

Green townships can reduce energy consumption of infrastructural equipment through energy-efficient street lighting, motors, pumps etc. The energy savings that can be realized by adopting this rating program in infrastructural equipment can be to the tune of 20-30%. Further, on-site power generation using various renewable energy technologies and other clean fuels can significantly reduce the load on-grid power supply. 

Enhanced Quality Of Life

The place that we live in has profound effect on our lives. People have a natural predisposition to feel better and perform better in livable&safe environments. Green township developments are beneficial to the individual and community. Mixed land use and compact planning are the characteristic of a green development, which reduces dependency on automobiles and associated green house emissions. The outdoor air quality is enhanced by providing landscaped areas, encouraging the use of clean fuels for vehicles. Noise levels are reduced by provision of vegetative buffer. Green buildings and energy efficient infrastructure further aid in reducing the green house gas emissions. Public landscaped areas, walkable streets, bicycling lanes, community gardens and public spaces encourage physical activity and help in improving public health. 

An eco-city is a city built off the principles of living within the means of the environment, an ecologically healthy city


Benefits to Developers 

There is a widespread perception that environmentally responsive developments are time-consuming and financially less rewarding. However, in reality well-executed green developments perform extremely well financially, as they require lower operating costs, increase health and productivity of the citizens and have higher marketability. The immediate benefits include a reduction in water and energy demand right from the initial stages of operation. 

Eco-City and Eco-Town: Innovations and Economics 

An eco-city is a city built off the principles of living within the means of the environment. The ultimate goal of many eco-cities is to eliminate all carbon waste, to produce energy entirely through renewable sources, and to incorporate the environment into the city; however, eco-cities also have the intentions of stimulating economic growth, reducing poverty, organizing cities to have higher population densities, and therefore higher efficiency, and improving health.



The concept of the “eco-city” was born out of one of the first organizations focused on eco-city development, “Urban Ecology.” The group was founded by Richard Register in Berkeley, California in 1975, and was founded with the idea of reconstructing cities to be in balance with nature ("Urban Ecology"; Retrieved 21 November 2011; Roseland, 1997 ). They worked to plant trees along the main streets, built solar greenhouses, and worked within the Berkeley legal system to pass environmentally friendly policies and encourage public transportation. Urban Ecology then took the movement another step further with the creation of The Urban Ecologist, a journal they started publishing in 1987. Urban Ecology further advanced the movement when they hosted the first International Eco-City Conference in Berkeley, California in 1990. The Conference focused on urban sustainability problems and encouraged the over 700 participants to submit proposals on how to best reform cities to work within environmental means. In 1992 Richard Register founded the organization Eco-city Builders which has acted as convener of the conference series ever since. Eco-City Conferences have been held in Adelaide, Australia; Yoff, Senegal; Curitiba, Brazil; Shenzhen, China; Bangalore, India; San Francisco, United States; Istanbul, Turkey; Montreal, Canada; Nantes, France and Abu Dhabi (2015) ( "Eco-city Builders"; Retrieved 21 November 2011 ). 

An eco-city is an ecologically healthy city. Into the deep future, the cities in which we live must enable people to thrive in harmony with nature and achieve sustainable development. People oriented, eco-city development requires the comprehensive understanding of complex interactions between environmental, economic, political, and socio-cultural factors based on ecological principles. Cities, towns and villages should be designed to enhance the health and quality of life of their inhabitants and maintain the ecosystems on which they depend. Eco-city development integrates vision, citizen initiative, public administration, ecologically efficient industry, people's needs and aspirations, harmonious culture, and landscapes where nature, agriculture, and the built environment are functionally integrated in a healthy way. Eco-city development requires  

a. Ecological security: clean air, and safe, reliable water supplies, food, healthy housing and workplaces, municipal services and protection against disasters for all people.

b. Ecological sanitation: efficient, cost-effective eco-engineering for treating and recycling human excreta, gray water, and all wastes.

c. Ecological industrial metabolism: resource conservation and environmental protection through industrial transition, emphasizing materials re-use, life-cycle production, renewable energy, efficient transportation, and meeting human needs.

d. Eco-scape (ecological-landscape) integrity: arrange built structures, open spaces such as parks and plazas, connectors such as streets and bridges, and natural features such as waterways and ridgelines, to maximize biodiversity and maximize accessibility of the city for all citizens while conserving energy and resources and alleviating such problems as automobile accidents, air pollution, hydrological deterioration, heat island effects and global warming.

e. Ecological awareness: help people understand their place in nature, cultural identity, responsibility for the environment, and help them change their consumption behavior and enhance their ability to contribute to maintaining high quality urban ecosystems.


AEco-cities and Eco-Towns decrease the residential and commercial dependence on automobiles


Eco-city Development Criteria

There are currently no set criteria for what is considered an "eco-city," although several sets of criteria have been suggested, encompassing the economic, social, and environmental qualities an eco-city should satisfy. The ideal "eco-city" has been described as a city that fulfils the following requirements: 

• Operates on a self-contained economy, resources needed are found locally

• Has completely carbon-neutral and renewable energy production

• Has a well-planned city layout and public transportation system that makes the priority methods of transportation as follows possible: walking first, then cycling, and then public transportation.

• Resource conservation—maximizing efficiency of water and energy resources, constructing a waste management system that can recycle waste and reuse it, creating a zero-waste system

• Restores environmentally damaged urban areas

• Ensures decent and affordable housing for all socio-economic and ethnic groups and improve jobs opportunities for disadvantaged groups, such as women, minorities, and the disabled

• Supports local agriculture and produce

• Promotes voluntary simplicity in lifestyle choices, decreasing material consumption, and increasing awareness of environmental and sustainability issues

In addition to these initial requirements, the city design must be able to grow and evolve as the population grows and the needs of the population change (Graedel, Thomas, 2011). This is especially important when taking into consideration infrastructure designs, such as for water systems, power lines, etc. These must be built in such a way that they are easy to modernize (as opposed to the dominant current strategy of placing them underground, and therefore making them highly inaccessible). Each individual eco-city development has also set its own requirements to ensure their city is environmentally sustainable; these criteria range from zero-waste and zero-carbon emissions, such as in the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city project and the Abu Dhabi Masdar City project, to simple urban revitalization and green roof garden projects in Augustenborg, Malmö, Sweden. Using a different set of criteria, the International Eco-Cities Initiative recently identified as many as 178 significant eco-city initiatives at different stages of planning and implementation around the world. To be included in this census, initiatives needed to be at least district-wide in their scale, to cover a variety of sectors, and to have official policy status.

Practical Achievements of Eco-City 

Economic Impact

One of the major and most noticeable economic impacts of the movement towards becoming an eco-city is the notable increase in productivity across existing industries as well as the introduction of new industries, thus creating jobs. First, the movement away from carbon-producing energy sources to more renewable energy sources, such as wind, water and solar power, provides local economies with new, thriving industries. The creation of these industries, in turn, births an increase in the demand for labor; thus, not only does total employment increase, but an increase in wages also mimics increasing employment. Moreover, one of the main priorities of a sustainable city is to reduce its ecological footprint by reducing total carbon emissions, which, economically speaking means increasing productivity. Merely increasing the rate of productivity in an industry reduces costs, both monetary and environmental; that is, as an industry becomes more productive, it can more efficiently allocate and use both its physical and human capital, reducing the time it takes to make the same amount of goods which also allows for a higher wage (because employees are doing more) and a lesser environmental impact. In all, although the initial movement towards becoming a sustainable city may be quite costly for a smaller, poorer city, the benefits of such movement are plentiful in the long-run economic model. 


Improvement of Environmental Standards

Although local environmental standards may differ across eco-cities, each city nonetheless has its own appropriate and practical goals and expectations that have provided the foundation for their recognition as a sustainable city. Differences in these goals and expectations are to be expected, however, due to the limitations of technology and local financing. The primary goal for all sustainable cities is to significantly decrease total carbon emissions as quickly as possible in order to work towards becoming a carbon-free city; that is, sustainable cities work to move towards an economy based solely on renewable energy. Actions towards carbon-reductions can be seen on both the corporate and individual levels: many industries are working towards cleaner production, but individuals are also moving away from environmentally costly forms of transportation to more sustainable methods, such as public transportation or biking. On this note, another common environmental goal is to increase and make more efficient the public transportation systems. Many sustainable cities also work towards becoming more densely populated (urban density); having its citizens living closer to energy production means less environmental costs of transporting said energy to citizen households.  

Technology and Urban Layout for Eco-City and Eco-Town 


By decreasing urban sprawl, Eco-cities and Eco-Towns decrease the residential and commercial dependence on automobiles. Concurrently, improved public transportation further decreases the demand for cars. The development of metro station and light rail transit systems provide mass transit not only within sectors of a city but between cities. Furthermore, many eco-cities are employing expanded “clean” bus routes in order to decrease the emissions from single household vehicles. Critics note, however, that the high price of “clean” diesel, CNG/LNG, hybrid electric buses, and super capacitor-powered buses may not prove “economically and operationally viable” (World Bank, 2009). 

Coping with Urbanization Trend

Eco-cities as well as Eco-Towns may also seek to create sustainable urban environments with long-lasting structures, buildings and a great livability for its inhabitants. The most clearly defined form of walkable urbanism is known as the Charter of New Urbanism. It is an approach for successfully reducing environmental impacts by altering the built environment to create and preserve smart cities which support sustainable transport. Residents in compact urban neighborhoods drive fewer miles, and have significantly lower environmental impacts across a range of measures, compared with those living in sprawling suburbs ("Towards a Green Economy"; United Nations Environment Program; Retrieved 17 November, 2011). The concept of Circular flow land use management has also been introduced in Europe to promote sustainable land use patterns that strive for compact cities and a reduction of Greenfield land take by urban spraw. In sustainable architecture the recent movement of New Classical Architecture promotes a sustainable approach towards construction, that appreciates and develops smart growth, walkability, architectural tradition and classical design. This in contrast to modernist and globally uniform architecture, as well as opposing solitary housing estates and suburban sprawl. 

 Landscape Development Focus

Eco-cities primarily employ green roofs, vertical landscaping, and bridge links as methods of decreasing the environmental impact of land use. Constructing green roofs and investing in vertical landscaping create natural insulation for residential and commercial properties as well as allows for rainfall collection. Additionally, green roofs and vertical landscaping lower urban temperatures and help prevent the heat island effect. Bridge links allow for development of a walkable city without disrupting the soil to run utility lines by connecting buildings with above-ground walkways.

Energy Management Priority

Eco-cities look to employ renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines, solar panels, and biogas, to reduce emissions. Wind turbines present the opportunity of being able to provide both localized districts within eco-cities and the larger region as a whole with emission-free renewable energy that can additionally supplement existing power sources. Furthermore, by designing buildings with natural ventilation systems, eco-cities reduce the need for air conditioning, thus, drastically decreasing commercial and residential energy use. The energy generated can come from large scale energy production systems such as solar farms which supply many homes and businesses or from individual buildings energizing at least in part their own energy from solar photovoltaic or small scale wind turbines or biomass. Many eco-cities additionally look to deploy solar thermal energy. By installing solar collectors, developers will be able to provide hot water for space heating and individual and community needs while reducing dependence on gas-fueled boilers. While solar thermal energy appears to be a more efficient source of renewable energy, many urban planners also view photo-voltaic as a viable source of energy. Photovoltaic directly converts solar energy into electricity; however, the extensive costs associated with developing this technology on the city-scale may limit its use when compared to its potential payback. Biogas technology is also deployed as a source of renewable energy as the organic material from wastewater is converted into fuel (Issue Brief: Smart-Growth: Building Livable Communities. American Institute of Architects; Retrieved on 23.3.2014). 

Water Supply Economy

Eco-cities aim to decrease water consumption by employing technologies that reduce the amount of water that is needed for irrigation and sewage flow while also preventing black-water and grey-water runoff from entering ground water sources. Developers generally suggest installing low flow fixtures, rainwater harvesting systems, and sustainable urban drainage systems to meet eco-city standards. Additionally, advanced irrigation systems (xeriscaping) aid in maintaining green infrastructure while decreasing green space consumption of water for irrigation.


Futuristic city


EU Prototype Model of Smart Eco-Polis adopted the Smart Eco Polis Strategy and Implementation Plan where Eco-town and local communities are envisioned as smart and green, livable and creative, vibrant and attractive, climate-resilient places of the future and unique destination of excellence. The Polis Region is run by a distributed intelligent management platform for future-proof infrastructure, smart mobility and transportation, efficient utilities, clean energy networks, smart power and communication grids, public facilities, intelligent street lighting, intelligent building systems, etc. 

Now the legendary Aphrodite’s place in Europe, Polis Chrisochous, extending from the national park of Akamas to Pafos forest of Tylliria (southwest of Cyprus), along the Med coastlines of marine Natura 2000 sites, is first to meet the major concern of global urbanization: “…there are no examples to date of cities or regions or states launching fully integrated, strategically designed Smart and Sustainable development programs, strategies and plans”. The Smart Eco Polis Program aims to transform the whole region of Polis as an intelligent green region: environmentally sustainable, inter-connected, instrumented, innovative, and integrated, regionally and globally attractive for businesses, citizens, visitors and investors. Life Integrated Projects Environment and Nature and Horizon 2020 Lighthouse Smart Communities Projects are among the key EU 2014-2020 Funding Tools. 

Smart and Sustainable Polis is run by its nature-wise urban brains, an intelligent city environmental governance platform, managing its resources, assets, processes, and systems: Urban Land and Environment, Roads and Transportation, Energy networks and Utilities, ICT networks and fiber telecom infrastructure, Public and residential buildings, Natural Resources, Water and Waste Management, Social infrastructure, Health and safety, Education and culture, Public administration and services, Communities and Businesses. Launched under the Smart Cities Global Initiative, the Smart Polis Program presented for the “World Smart Cities Award”, “looking for the most ambitious Smart City strategies, the most advanced projects and the most innovative solutions around the world which foster the evolution of the Smart City concept”.

Smart Eco-Polis: A Miniaturized Global Initiative

Committed to the EU Smart Cities and Communities Initiative to improve the quality of life and communal well-being, the Council of POLIS is determined to transform the POLIS Region as a European (Mediterranean) model of regional sustainability, as an innovative corridor of seaside smart town resort and eco-communities; carbon-neutral or zero-carbon and zero-waste region with integrated “green” and “blue” economies. The Smart Eco-Polis Global Initiatives taken by the Organizers of the EU Smart Cities and Communities undertook the following strategic decisions, as per their mission objectives:

 The Smart Eco Polis Strategy and Implementation Plan where the Eco-town and local communities are envisioned as smart and green, livable and creative, vibrant and attractive, climate-resilient places of the future and unique destination of excellence (Figure 1). 

 The Polis Region is to be run by a distributed intelligent management platform for future-proof infrastructure, smart mobility and transportation, efficient utilities, clean energy networks, smart power and communication grids, public facilities, intelligent street lighting, intelligent building systems, etc. 

 In order for the urban wealth and communal benefits to be pursued, the Urban Areas and Rural Communities shall have ecologically healthy living, safety and well-being, integrated sustainable town and communal planning and land use, connected residential areas, green living, clean environment, eco-friendly roads, car-free zones, smart streets, clean transportation, energy and advanced utilities, urban agriculture, home ecology, green buildings, renewable energy networks, rainwater catchment systems, solar desalination plants, biomass refineries, solar gardens, environmental quality, low utility bills, lease or sales premiums, increased property values, high property developments, coastal and maritime eco-tourism, quality jobs, solar eco communities and smart eco town, global branding, and highly competitive marketability. 

 The SMART ECO POLIS Initiative shell be performed by the Public-Private-Civil Society Partnership, led by the Advisory Council, chaired by Mayor and assisted by the city councilors and local community presidents, and run by the program management, leading strategists and members of the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities. 

 The SMART ECO POLIS Advisory Council invites future-looking businesses and national ministries, utilities and NGOs, banking institutions and investment funds, developers and investors, academia and research organizations, citizens and civic associations, to adjoin the exciting journey of building intelligent eco-communities and cities, as the keys to a sustainable recovery and smart growth of Cyprus and Europe. 

 Being in line with the EU Strategy 2020, the Eco-Polis Investment Program is to utilize the EIB’s Framework Loan under the EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 - 7-Years Planning, Strategies, Policies and Regulations, Funds, Programs and Projects, all innovative funding opportunities, schemes, and initiatives, as well as local government incentives for smart urban growth and sustainable redevelopment. Financing could follow the Public-Private-Citizen Partnership business models, and be shared by the private firms, investors, and municipal government. 


Sustainable Trinity

Sustainable Eco Polis Structure


Life Integrated Projects Environment and Nature and Horizon 2020 Lighthouse Smart Communities Projects are among the key EU 2014-2020 Funding Tools


The Smart Polis Cloud Platform 

 The Urban Internet of Everything is the cloud-networked connection of people, processes, data, and things. 

 The i-Region Environmental Operation Center is connected with thousands of sensors and cameras spread throughout the cities, as the city brain of the Urban IoE, in which M2M technologies are vital to present intelligent data analytics for city processes. 

 “Smart Polis “Intelligent Platform is to integrate a technology-centric (smart) level, an intelligent (people-centric) level, and eco-sustainable level improving the Urban Economy, Community Integration, Quality of Life, and overall Sustainability. 

 $14.4 trillion of potential value at stake for the private sector, IoE is a $19 trillion opportunity for businesses and governments globally 2013-2022.

Eco-Smart Polis: Life IP Environment Projects in the EU

 Polis and the surrounding area, because of its unique beauty, idyllic natural environment and excellent climate, is among the first choices for environmental sustainability and eco regional development policies, fitting the LIFE+ Projects for Environment and Climate Action (Integrated project for Environment implementing on a large territorial scale (regional) environmental/climate plans or strategies required by specific Union environmental or climate legislation, developed pursuant to other Union acts or developed by Member States' authorities, primarily in the areas of nature (including Natura 2000 network management), water, waste, air and climate change mitigation and adaptation). 

 Committed to the EU Strategy 2020 for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and the Smart Cities and Communities Initiative to improve the quality of life and communal well-being, the Council of POLIS is determined to transform the POLIS Region as a European (Mediterranean) model of regional sustainability, as an innovative corridor of seaside smart town resort and eco communities; carbon neutral or zero-carbon and zero-waste region with integrated “green” and “blue” economies. 

 The City Council adopted the SMART ECO POLIS Strategy and Implementation Plan where the core town and local communities are envisioned as smart and green, livable and creative, vibrant and attractive, climate-resilient places of the future and unique destination of environmental excellence. 

 Considering the scale, scope and high ambition of our integrated eco region strategy/plan, it is expected that the LIFE program could contribute its average amount, EUR 10 million, with the total project budget to be around EUR 17 million, mobilized from other EU Funds.

Aerotropolis: The Futuristic Vision

Aerotropolis is basically conceived as an international business hub surrounding a modernized and self-contained airport with huge potential to provide demand-driven infrastructural, logistics, supply-chain and services support to help promote international businesses, connecting a large number of international and national cities, including emerging smart cities. With the future growth potential of industrial, commercial and life-style products the future demand for all these will spurt manifold demanding more connectivity between the metropolis and the adjoining airport (i.e. Aerotropolis) in one hand the destination airports, countries, continents on the other hand. This should therefore correspondingly match futuristic consolidation, modernization and expansion of aerotropolis to a smart city complex keeping the aerotropolis in the heart of the business hub. Electronic bricks (i.e. Internet of Things) will play a pivotal role in future designing of the modernized aerotropolis; the way it is currently done in designing the Smart cities, Eco-cities, and Eco-Towns. For ensuring long-term sustainability of the modernized aerotropolis, among other things, the essential services, pollution control mechanisms/devices, rapid mass transport systems, municipal and medical services, conservation of energy, natural resources etc. should be in the priority list of planning and future execution.


The Urban Internet of Everything is the cloud-networked connection of people, processes, data, and things



Global energy crises and alarming climate change patterns observed in past couple of decades, principally resultant from high emissions level and global warming, has been a serious concern of the global community at large; as rightly expressed in the concluding session of the Global Climate Summit (COP21) recently held in Paris. According to the learning made from the analysis of the cited case studies in the paper, the concept of smart cities, eco-city, eco-town and aerotropolis; together with eco-industrial clusters, should essentially constitute the broad framework for developing future strategies and initiate appropriate action-oriented programs to mitigate and therefrom suitably adapt future eco-innovations, allowing formulation of new plan of action for a chain of new eco-villages, eco-towns, eco-cities and aerotropolis based on their existing and future economic potential, coupled with environmental safeguards. This will effectively help develop gradual and incremental growth (based on Kaizen Principles) of eco-towns starting off from the local-level initiatives at eco-village-cluster levels; and graduating therefrom into building on ambitious eco-cities and aerotropolis to help promotion of sustainable green economy in a mutually inclusive (with participation of green community) and yet competitive and sustainable manner in future. 




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