By 2050, the world’s population is expected to swell to 9.6billion, with around 66% living in urban areas. This projection is leaving many cities wondering how they will feed all those people.
Solution: A Swedish food-tech company called Plantagon is proposing that cities consider building what it calls “plantscrapers” — office towers that contain giant indoor farms. Plantagon is constructing its first plantscraper in Linköping, Sweden.
Called The World Food Building, the tower will operate hydroponically, meaning vegetables (mostly greens) will grow without soil in a nutrient-rich, water-based solution.
This building will produce approximately 550 tons of vegetables annually — enough to feed around 5,500 people each year.
The front of the 16-story tower will include the farm, while the back will include the offices. About two-thirds of the building will be devoted to offices, while the other third will include a huge indoor farm.
The crops will grow using both natural sunlight and LEDs. The LEDs will be calibrated to specific light frequencies to maximize production.
Robots will perform many of the farm’s processes, keeping operational costs down.
Compared to an outdoor farm of the same size, the plantscraper will generate more food while using less land and water. The tower will save 1,100 tons of CO2 emissions and 13 million gallons of water annually.
This plantscraper will include a spiraled food production line, which automatically moves the plants from the bottom to the top and back again while they grow. The length of the cycle would depend on the crop, but would normally take 30 days
This project demonstrates how to feed cities of the future when they lack land, water, and other resources
Stakeholders: City municipality, builders and contractors, urban farming specialist, large multinational companies
Deployment: Construction of this $40 million building began in 2012, and it’s set to open by early 2020.
City administration and planners should visit Plantagon and meet its management to understand the technology, landscape, city issues and administrative challenges.
City should engage large multinational companies, including large food retail giants operating within the city, who may be willing to rent / invest space in such buildings
For engagement, best practice sharing and leading towards solutions – there will be need to conduct round-table discussions and conference between urban framing specialist, building contractors, developers, investors and city administrators
Since this is longterm solution and will need time to implement, learn from Plantagon’s experience once its operational in 2020.
Roads laid with asphalt are unsustainable, brittle and they contribute over 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide around the world each year.
Solution: Roads made from recycled plastic are stronger, greener and maintenance-free
It takes less time to lay than asphalt
Durability is likely to be three times higher
Plastic is compressed into prefabricated sheets, which are easy to transport and install on site
Each sheet is recyclable and replaceable – making it very easy to maintain roads
These sheets are light weight and hallow, can suck in water to avoid flooding and allow plumbing and cable installations underneath
Stakeholders: City municipality, road contractors, manufacturers of prefabricated plastic sheets, academia and scientific researchers involved in further evolving this technology
Deployment: This technology is tried and tested in couple of cities mainly in Netherlands, UK and the US
Draw experience from the cities where this technology is already adopted
City municipality to engage with manufactures of prefabricated sheets and road contractors to understand the feasibility and scale of deployment
Start with changing asphalt roads with this technology in parks, local communities before moving to main city roads or highways. This will help in testing the durability, traffic load and also creating awareness
Construction wastes have become a pressing issue in many developing countries and have adverse effects on environment, economy and social aspects. Illegal dumping is a common issue created from the physical construction waste and besides that non physical waste like cost and time overruns are not properly addressed among the construction players.
3D printing (additive printing or additive manufacturing) is a production technique for creating solid objects from a digital file uploaded to a 3D printer. The printer reads the file and lays down successive layers of materials, such as plastics, resins, concrete, sand or metals, until the entire object is created. Like an inkjet printer, a 3D printer has containers of a raw material, often plastic based, that it extrudes in a precise pattern to lay down layers.
Extremely large 3D printers have already been built that can use concrete-like materials to fabricate a variety of large structural components and even entire buildings, such as emergency huts and residences.
Most printers can only extrude one type of material at a time, but more advanced printers have been built that can extrude multiple materials, providing a level of speed and flexibility that was not present before. Components can be printed offsite and shipped to the jobsite where they will be erected with steel reinforcement. Alternatively, the printer can be transported to a jobsite to fabricate on demand.
Benefits of 3D printing include: reduced materials usage, increasing the ability to design a larger variety of customized homes and buildings, savings of 30%-60% in construction waste, reduction of production time by 50%-70%, reduction of construction labor costs by 50%-80%
Currently, the types of materials available for use in these printers are rather limited. In addition, many printers may be limited to a single type of material. Additionally, transporting printers to and from site could be problematic as could safe onsite printer storage.
Stakeholders: City civil and construction authorities, builders, contractors, labor, companies manufacturing 3D printers, architects, etc.
Deployment: Before the commercial operation:
Test 3Printer for on-site small construction jobs
Engage architects, designers, builders and contractors and addressing forth coming issues and opportunities
Civil and construction authorities to lay building codes and guidelines
Sustainability Problem: Traffic Congestion and Carbon Emission
Transportation is one of the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Over 90 percent of the fuel used for transportation is petroleum based, which includes gasoline and diesel.
Solution: Uber, the ridesharing company wants to deploy flying taxis in Dallas, Texas and Dubai by 2020. These taxis would be electric, would have vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capability, and would be quiet enough to operate in urban areas.
Called as Autonomous Air Taxi (AAT), the vehicle is environmentally friendly, powered by electricity, and the prototype version has a maximum flight time of 30 minutes, at a cruising speed of 50 km/h (31 mph), and a maximum airspeed of 100 km/h (62 mph).
As with longer-distance flights, the advantage of flying taxis would be low travel times. They could cut the travel time between San Francisco’s downtown Marina and San Jose down to 15 minutes from the two hours it takes to make the same trip by road.
Costs should be reasonable as well. In early, small-scale operations, Uber believes it can achieve costs of $1.32 per passenger miles, slightly higher than taking UberX over the same distance. Though as technology evolves and flying taxis gain popularity, cost will fall below that of cars.
While it will take some time to put in the infrastructure to park and charge these taxies they are bound to create a more comfortable and time saving travel experience, while reducing significant amounts of carbon emissions.
Stakeholders: City transport and aviation authorities, private companies willing to invest in and operate flying taxis, manufactures and operators of charging stations for electric cars, city residents.
Deployment: Before the flying taxis start commercial operation:
Companies manufacturing these vehicles will have to pilot test these for operational, efficiency and safety measures.
Operating and charging companies will have to work closely with transportation and aviation authorities
Operating companies will have to coordinate with charging and infrastructure companies.
General awareness among city residents along with highlighting safety issues
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as communities where a minimum of one-third of the population lives at least one mile away from a supermarket in an urban area or ten miles away in rural areas. Based on several reports, some 37million people or over 10% of US population live in food deserts – typically a low income neighborhood that lack access to nutritious food like fresh fruits and vegetables.
About the technology: PaySecure
The links between food insecurity, hunger, and public health have prompted a variety of policy solutions. From small-scale farming to urban community gardens or the USDA Double Bucks program at farmer’s markets, which doubles the worth of every EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) dollar spent at the farm stand to financing new grocery stores in food deserts.
In rural communities with smaller populations, economics does not support a grocery store every 10 miles. Similarly, no access to private cars and limited public transport makes it difficult to visit farmers market. Some elderly and disabled customers cannot navigate farmers markets or even grocery store aisles.
Till recently EBT cards could only be used at physical grocery stores as recipients had to enter a personal identification number to verify their identity. Last year USDA partnered with a company called Acculynk, which develops a software for an online PIN-pad, a technology that protects users’ identity when shopping online. They further mandated a few food retailers to accept EBT card payment on their online ordering sites
Though this is not a foolproof solution to tackle food insecurity as residents in many rural areas may run up against a lack of high speed internet access, it creates convenience and scale of reaching a wider population by moving away from brick and mortar grocery stores.
Government Agencies (USDA), Food Retailers offering online service and free delivery, Technology Companies that can offer PaySecure Technology and Residents living in food deserts
Engage with and mandate several food retailers to accept EBT card payment.
Improve internet connectively in specific rural areas of offer a centralized wifi hotspot with high speed interest access.
Train and educate residents to order fresh food online
Engage and encourage couple of unemployed residents in such neighborhood to register themselves with food retailers, who can employ them for delivery service. This to an extent will also tackle the unemployment issue faced in food deserts.
Sustainability Problem: Not enough roof space for large buildings to go solar
Large commercial estates consume a lot of energy. Roof space is never enough for such buildings to go energy neutral. Therefore, actively using buildings’ facades will generate the much needed renewable energy.
About the technology: Solar Windows
Solar-power-generating windows have solar cells installed in the edges at a specific angle that allows the incoming solar light to be efficiently transformed into electricity.
Such windows can generate 8 to 10 watts of power, which enables the user to charge a phone per every square meter two times a day.
The surface of Power Windows is coated with a special material that transforms incoming visible light into near-infrared light, which is then transported toward the solar cells in the edges of the windows. This works similarly to a glow-in-the-dark star, the difference is that the glow star emits the green wavelength, but the coating on such windows emits light in near-infrared wavelength.
The cost of the wiring that brings power from the grid to such windows is considerable in large commercial estates, and investing in power-generating windows would, therefore, make commercial sense.
Policy makers (Green Building Codes), Real Estate Contractors, Solar Panel Manufacturers and owners of large commercial and residential buildings.
Awareness -Several iconic buildings have gone live with solar windows, especially in Netherlands – experience, cost effectiveness and benefits for such buildings should be widely publicized for educational purpose
Solar panel manufacturers will have to collaborate with researchers to refine this technology for a mass production
Policy plays a significant role in any city dynamics – effort should begin to include solar windows in any new building codes including retrofit codes
Sustainability Problem: Mass adoption of Clean Energy Alternative
It took 60 years (1840-1900) for coal to rise from supplying 5% of global energy to 50%, dethroning wood. Oil took another 50 years (1915-1965) to beat coal, rising from 5% to 40% and more recently from 1930 to 1985, Natural Gas rose from 5% to 25% of global energy supply. Given how long these transitions take, it is important to invent, develop and market technologies in clean energy for mass adoption – considering the pace at which the world is grappling to avert catastrophic climate change.
Solution: A team of researchers from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) has developed a paint that can be used to generate clean energy.
They developed a new compound that sucks water vapor from the air – much like those humidity-absorbing packets of silica gel one can find in many consumer products. But unlike silica, the new material (synthetic molybdenum-sulphide) also acts as a semiconductor and water-splitting catalyst, meaning that it takes water molecules and separates them into oxygen and hydrogen, a clean fuel source.
The compound is made more effective when mixed with titanium oxide, a white pigment often found in house paint, which makes it easily applicable to a wide range of buildings – converting a brick wall into energy harvesting and fuel producing real estate.
This paint is likely to be effective in a variety of climates, from damp environments to hot and dry ones near large bodies of water.
It can be used to cover areas that wouldn’t get enough sunlight to justify the placement of solar panels, maximizing the solar output. With this paint any surface can be painted — a fence, a garage, or a doghouse and transformed into an energy-producing structure.
Stakeholders: Policy makers (Green Building Codes), Real Estate Contractors, Paint Manufacturers and typically any home/office owner.
Deployment: Before the paint gets commercially viable in next five years:
Paint manufacturers will have to collaborate with researchers to understand the technology and start aligning their manufacturing lines
Policy plays a significant role in any city dynamics – effort should begin to include such paint in any new building codes including retrofit codes
Awareness – researchers, paint industry (upstream and downstream) and government agencies should create awareness among residential and commercial building owners – not an expensive paint to use as an alternative, generates clean and cheap energy, an easy to use – mass adoption solution!