Category Archives: Ecology

Sustainable cities of the future – sketch

Notes for keynote at UK Green Building Council Annual City Summit, Birmingham.

1. Spatial planning & human behaviour implications of sustainability – reduction of transport carbon through shift towards walking, cycling & public transport

2. A massive shift needed in transport + land use planning, urban + landscape design, architecture. Professional inertia. Turning the supertanker.

3. A massive opportunity. Reason to turn.

4. Lessons from the past eg Pompeii, Brindley Place.

5. Examples from the present eg Darwin, London SkyCycle, Birmingham Charette.

6. UK government: Smart & Future cities agenda is a sustainability agenda.

7. Social inequalities dimension of sustainability.

8. Need to act at all scales simultaneously ie there’s work for all of us to do.

9. Challenge for modelling.

10. Challenge for research.

11. Challenge for practice: design, development & real estate investment.

12. Already being acted on. The supertanker is turning.

IBM Smart Cities, Helsinki – latest notes

9.50 Keynote

What will the future city look like?
The city of transaction

How to plan a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable city
The effects of the digital revolution on human behaviour patterns

Tim Stonor, Architect & Urban Planner, Managing Director, Space Syntax (UK)

Data is not the solution.
Turning data into knowledge is a beginning.
Turning knowledge into wisdom is the next step.
Turning wisdom into action is the key.

All of this requires theory.

Here is a theory of the city.
It begins with a description of the city as a geometrical configuration.
Of land uses and linkages.

Addressing the question that planners ask. That politician ask and demand of planners. That property developers make and lose money on.

What goes where and how is it connected together?
Continue reading IBM Smart Cities, Helsinki – latest notes

IBM Smart Cities, Helsinki

19th October 2011

Tim Stonor
“What will the future city look like?”

View the presentation

Themes to be addressed
1. How to plan a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable city.

2. Effects of the digital revolution on human behaviour patterns.

In addressing the question, “What will the future city look like?” I am less concerned about the visual appearance of individual buildings and more concerned about how the city is planned as a layout of streets, spaces and land uses.

Why? Because the spatial layout of a town or city organises the movement and interaction of people. Movement and interaction lead to social and economic transaction. These are the building blocks of society, of culture and therefore of being human.
Continue reading IBM Smart Cities, Helsinki

Giving it all away? Space Syntax & the future of urban planning software

Notes for a lecture to be given at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 23rd March 2011
With notable exceptions, the current use of technology in planning and, especially, urban design/architecture practice is medieval. More visual than analytic. More about the “Wow!” than the “Why?”, the “Which?” or the “Will it?” Example of animation in traffic models – “Our clients like to see them move!”

Urban imperative – rapid scaling up of urban centres – provokes need for new thinking.

We need to look more at how places work than how they look.

We need to bring academic research into practice and for academia to be better led by the needs of practice.
We need to think about online social networks as well as “real-world” physical/spatial networks. Indeed real world is as much online as physical/spatial.

We need to share our data. The future will be made by great partnerships, not great individuals. It has arguably ever thus been.

Open source makes commercial as well as ethical sense as the route to collaboration.

Space Syntax as the case study. Continue reading Giving it all away? Space Syntax & the future of urban planning software

From landscapes of extraction to creative industries of organic matter & waste

​​Monday, 14th February 2011 at 6pm
Stubbins Room, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 48 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Pablo Rey, Basurama
Manolo Mansylla, Trashpatch
Robin Nagle, anthropologist of material culture (waste)
Scientist doing research in biomaterials (Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering/ Materials Research Science and Engineering Center – School of Engineering and Applied Sciences)

Richard Forman
Technology has no limits. Science has no limits. Human creativity and imagination have no limits. The limits are imposed by matter. Raw materials are being extracted from the remotest of geographies and we are beginning to exhaust the last reservoirs of available minerals in order to perpetuate a production system based on disposability and the consumption of wholes, not parts; of large, not small; of new, not old; of multiple, not the one that is needed. In order to extract such minerals, we often deplete forests, along with the cultures that inhabit them, or contaminate river basins. Science and technology can produce brilliant responses to our environmental problems, but unless they take into account the source of the materials they consume, the counter landscapes of extraction, those of waste and slums (people get displaced as we render their land useless through monoculture or extraction), will continue to grow; setting off our good intentions to move towards a more sustainable future. Continue reading From landscapes of extraction to creative industries of organic matter & waste

Spatial Justice in Urban India

Notes from a talk by Leo Saldanha and Bharghavi Rao on “Contested Terrains: Environmental and Spatial Justice in Urban India” at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, organised by HUPO, the Harvard Urban Planning Organisation.

A right to life includes a right to livelihood.

This challenged by:
– privatisation
– gating
– surveillance
– separation and marginalisation
– cleansing of the urban poor
– harassment of sexual minorities
– encroachment of the car.

This creates a fragmentation of communities. The problems are well understood by elected representatives – the problem is in municipal bureaucracies.

The future needs to be the “cheap city”. The small/medium-sized city is the future. Continue reading Spatial Justice in Urban India

Daniel Schrag: Climate Science & Climate Change

Notes from a lecture given as part of:
IGA-310 Energy Policy: Technologies, Systems & Markets

22nd September 2010

Prof Daniel Schrag

Atmospheric C02 hasn’t been above 300 parts per million in last 600,000 years, with large fluctuations, until recently. Likely to rise to over 600. Currently c390. 

Just because there are natural cycles doesn’t mean that human actions aren’t significant.

Equator is place of stability, so melting there is v significant.

Key question is whether rate of change can be accommodated. Previous historic change 

We know C02 is a greenhouse gas, we see it going up and we know it’s happening faster than ever before in history. 

Can we prove that C02 is causing the warming? We can’t but you’d be a fool to bet against it. 

C34 million years ago, ice formed at poles, leading to greater seasonal variation, with ice reflecting heat. 

Likely to be worse than scientists forecasts since scientists work to 95% confidence intervals cf military <50%. 

People don't experience global avg temp, they experience local effects.

Guarantee there will be surprises. 

Gulf Stream is NOT caused by ocean currents but by winds created by circulation of the earth, which is not going to stop spinning.l 

Boston has cold winters because of westerly winds not because of Gulf Stream. 

London benefits from ocean, which absorbs heat in summer and release in winter. 
So, Cape Cod 10 degrees warmer in winter than Boston but cooler in summer. 

Pacific Ocean thermocline, warmer in west and cooler in east, w cold water closer to surface. El Nino brings warmer water to east, with global effects.  

North West Passage opened from ice in 2007 cf Panama Canal. Plus thick ice at 50% of 2007 levels.

North east passage has opened too.

Key about sea ice is reflection of sun and insulation of sea from atmosphere.

Rain on ice sheets is problematic. 

250 cubic kilometres of ice being lost from Greenland per year = 5mm per year. 
But unclear if rate of melt is steady.

Ross Ice Shelf – high consequence, low probability event? We don't actually know. Its a known unknown. Lots of sea level bound up in ice sheets. 

Building a sea wall is not a long-term strategy.

500 billion tonnes of C02 in permafrost which, if released (from microbe action) into atmosphere is greater than all fossil fuel burned to date.

Problem is going to be with us for a long time.

Eg if all fossil fuel burned, atmospheric carbon likely to peak below 2,000 parts per million, then settle c 400 for tens of thousands of years. 

What can be done?

European negotiators obsess on timescales 
But what matters are cumulative emissions over a time period of c100 years
Most likely way forward is to grow emissions to build up capacity then reduce rapidly. 

Prob of cap and trade on linear path is that best path may not follow. 

Impact = population x affluence x technology
An identity

Emissions = pop x GDP/person x emissions/GDP

Isn't problem about population growth
Not entirely true. Growth from 6 to 9 billion growth is only 50%. 
Economists predict global GDP will grow from 20 trillion 2008 to 250-500 trillion by 2100. 

Problem is therefore because people are richer and therefore more carbon emitting. 

US and China accountable for 50% of emissions.
Africa doesn't figure in emissions reductions. 

One of problems of Kyoto is involvement of everyone. 

Better for smaller group eg bilateral US/China. 
What Obama did was v imp because he got China, Brazil, South Frica into room to set new direction.
British and German cuts were achievable because Britain had ended coal industry and Germany anticipating reunification and removal of inefficient East German practice. 

Ways to reduce emissions of C02
1. Use less energy – efficiency/conservation
2. Non- fossil fuel energy: renewables and nuclear
3. Carbon capture and storage

Nees to be thought of as a threat similar to terrorism. 

Some detractive interference between factors eg oust on 1. Will drive price of energy down. 
Price matters (linear correlation of efficiency of use versus price of energy)

Ccalifornia uses 40% less energy per capital than rest of US, effect of Gov Brown in 1970s

Electricity generation by state

This an experiment on planet not performed for millions of years
Poss more than predicted
Adaptation necessary
Mitigation necessary
Stabilizing greenhouse levels is possible but looks unlikely now
So massive suffering by human societies and natural ecosystems is likely

Churchill – democracy is the worst form of government apart from the alternative

[Longer applause than the polite norm]