Written by Tran Lam
Today, Energy Foundation is giving us a talk on sustainable urban planning in China. At 9:30am, we set out for our one-hour-and-a-half subway commute to the office in Jianguomen. Commuting in cities, especially Beijing, is daunting; average commute in Beijing is 2 hours (terrifyingly, that is NOT round trip). And car traffic is not that much better. A statistic I read somewhere says that traffic peak hours in Beijing take place 16 hours a day (out of Earth day’s 24 hours). The government is struggling to get cars off the streets while frantically constructing mega public transit facilities. But will public transit increase or decrease traffic? That’s the chicken-and-egg question in urban planning.
Energy Foundation is a NGO-grant sponsor of China Sustainable Cities Program. Aside from funding, the foundation’s sustainability experts work closely with various Ministries of the government and real estate developers in different cities to ensure the enforcement of Guildline of Sustainability (paradoxically, laws are well written in China but they are rarely enforced).
8 Sustainable Principles—the Dogma of Urban Planning
Develop neighborhoods that promote walking
Prioritize bicycle networks
Create dense networks of streets and paths
Support high-quality transits
Design zones for mixed-use neighborhoods
Match density to transit capacity
Create compact regions with short commutes
Increase mobility by regulating parking and road use
An example of 3rd principle ‘Create dense networks of streets and paths” is successfully accomplished by the Energy Foundation in Kunming Chongqing New Town Development Project. Street blocks in China are superblocks (dimensions: 500m x 500m). Chinese residential blocks are often walled and gated so residents usually drive around the block to search for the gate (if they pass the gate, they have to circle back). The Energy Founation works with different developers of the areas to transform the superblocks into grids by making the streets within the gated blocks public (tear down the wall!). This is a significant accomplishment because superblocks cause car emission to be four times higher than using grid streets (see the graph).
3rd principle of Urban Planning Dogma: no superblocks = reduced carbon emission = less air pollution = fewer lungs cancers = fewer children’s deaths = happier world = WORLD PEACE.
If you would like to talk more about how urban planning maintains world peace, contact me at tranl95 at stanford dot edu. Or you can check out efchina.org and schinastc.org.