How do we create environmentally positive Cities?

How do we create environmentally positive Cities?

It is hard to imagine but cities cover just 3% of our Earth’s total land surface but they produce a staggering 70% of all carbon emissions. The modern-day skyscrapers, shopping malls, vehicles etc. all contribute towards the vast amount of CO2 emissions and the constantly rising global temperatures. With the concerns of global warming and climate change being one of the most important issues that we will deal with in our generations, it is imperative that the way the cities are constructed and how they function need to be addressed.

In the current article, we will state the three areas of focus in order to bring both the heat levels and the CO2 emissions under control. The very first step is to integrate more trees into the current city planning to provide cleaner air, the second is the focus on sustainable infrastructure and finally, it is to construct and create green buildings. Below we look at these three points in detail and also state the available resources that could lead to it becoming a reality.

1. Integrating trees into Buildings:

One of the most definitive ways of reducing CO2 emissions is by introducing trees into the building design. A fully grown tree can also hold around 400 gallons of water and can also be instrumental in reducing its surrounding temperature by 2 degrees, which could cool the surroundings. However, the question of space does arise as to how architects and engineers can implement tress into their design when there is already a dearth of space. There can be two successful approaches in order to increase the number of tress. One prime example is that of ‘Bosco Virticale’ in Milan which contains hundreds of trees and plants across different levels. The similar concept of virtual forest is also going to be adopted by Nanjing Gardens in China. The other approach is to create urban gardens across rooftops like in the case of Chicago city hall. A green roof was installed a top of the city hall and when the surrounding area was mapped with thermal camera the temperature was found to be 2°C lower than its surroundings. Looking at the success of the Chicago city call Toronto in 2010 passed a legislation requiring green roofs to be compulsory on new construction over 2000 sq. meters.

Both the above options require extensive planning. The virtual construction technology can provide a wide array of benefits. Building Information Modeling can provide architects and engineers greater control over the designs and operations phase. Revit can be used to calculate the position of sun, the weather conditions, conduct load calculations etc. MEP BIM Services can on the other hand be used to implement urban gardens. They can take into account the ducts, cooling and heating conditions as well as the measure the effect of trees and rooftop gardens on the internal environment.

2. Sustainable Roads:

At the heart of our cities lies our road network, perhaps the biggest manmade structure ever. The materials used for its construction, namely crushed rock, sand and asphalt are possibly one of the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions. The first order of change would hence have to commence with the building materials. Today a variety of research is being conducted on the alternative materials. One idea is to use refabricated and recycled plastic. The very nature of plastic which makes it difficult to properly dispose of can in fact lend to make roads more durable. Another option is to use horizontal solar panels which would on top of being better for the environment also be an excellent source of generating more renewable energy.

It’s not just the new roads whose construction could lead to adverse environmental consequences but even the unnecessary reconstruction of the existing roads. Scan to BIM Services can be used to gain accurate representation of the roads and figure out which roads or networks needs to be reconstructed. Point cloud data can be used to create data rich 3D models which can be used to calculate fright volume, vehicle capacity etc. This could help conserve resources and energy which would been consumed during the reconstruction.

3. Constructing Green Buildings:

Perhaps the MEP systems of the building are the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions. HVAC and lightning collectively consume 57% of the total energy usage in any building. Firstly, the building design must be altered in such a manner that there is more natural light, air circulation etc. Additionally, improper maintenance of HVAC systems could lead to excessive consumption of energy and also exert more energy. Facility Management can be used to keep a proper track of all the building MEP systems.   Another way to reduce energy loads is to implement alternate sources of energy like solar panels, wind turbines, geo-thermal heating etc. into the building.

Artificial Intelligence can be another added advantage to reduce the consumption of energy. It could automate certain functions in order to monitor and control the use of energy for example sensor controlled lights which switch off the minute the person leaves the room or automated taps which regulate the flow of water etc.


At the end the aim is to move beyond a few isolated projects and work towards building a city which can sustain itself. In order to achieve this goal there needs to be a collaborative effort on the part of the citizens, the policy makers, the construction sector and the energy service providers. Looking at the current state of things and the necessity of creating net zero cities it is now imperative to make necessary changes and to make them fast.

Written By:
Bhagwati Pathak
Bhagwati Pathak is an Executive Director at Tesla Outsourcing Services. Technical Project Management, BIM, Client Management, and Leadership are her forte. With an expertise in BIM and a flair for writing, her articles provide a direction to contractors, sub-contractors, engineers, and architects in employing the right methodology for an Architectural, Structural, or MEP CAD / BIM project.

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