Renewable Cities On

a Viable Planet


Cities are like  living beings.   They  eat,  breathe, spend energy, and make "waste".  To the extent the processes of a city do  not  destroy  its  supporting  systems,  it is sustainable.  However,  ultimate  sustainability  depends on more factors than the  kind  of  viability  keeping  a clean "ship" provides.

Cities are  linked  to  a  web  of  life  of  planetary proportions.  Cities  and  farms  that  encourage  excessive growth erode the sustainability of ecological  systems  comprising this "life web", by causing loss  of  biodiversity  and  habitat.   Is there a critical amount  of  wilderness  surface  that  must remain intact, - and viable,  for us to avoid cataclysmic natural disasters?   How big a  role does the biota of Earth play in the stabilization of weather patterns?

Climate greatly influences the  growth of cities.  What if the climate changes?   What  if  the growth of cities and farms everywhere cause destabilization  of weather patterns to the extent that few places  on  Earth have climate?  What does lack of climate do to the flora and fauna of wilderness areas?  How will  farmers  know  what  plants to grow if the weather for their part of the earth  becomes more severe and unpredictable?

Although supercomputers may be  necessary to handle the massive amounts of data that  must  be processed to make our most wise decisions on these  issues,  there is an intuitive approach that may help us get some grasp of these problems.

Synthetic Surfaces

Sunlight is one of the most powerful  of all the forces that determine weather.  When we build farms and cities that respond differently to  sunlight  than  the permanent ground cover of  wilderness  vegetation,  we  create  a "synthetic" surface that causes changes in  the weather.  As the size of this surface grows, the effect it has on weather increases.

How large can these  synthetic  surfaces  become before their effect  upon  planetary  weather  becomes  disastrous? Since weather is a result of  many  kinds of powerful forces interacting in a state of  dynamic  equilibrium, this growth threshold is elusive and  variable.   If we build cities and farms that have  minimal  surface  per  capita,  more of the Earth can be restored to a  wilderness  condition, which, in turn, may have a stabilizing influence  on weather patterns. It is better to risk having too much wilderness than to have too little.

How can we shrink our cities  and  farms  to allow more wilderness?  How can we do  this  in ways that prepare us to live in a future lacking cheap  oil products?  At some time in the future, natural  products  will  be needed to replace the fibers, oils, plastics,  paints,  detergents, and legion other products now coming from  the petroleum industry.  Can we build urban environments that  require much less of these kinds of resources?  If we cannot,  we  will need much more farm land to supply these needs.

Proximity  Power

Proximity  Power  is  part  of  the  answer  for  these problems.  We need to  miniaturize  our  cities toward their most workable form.  Complex architecture that takes greater advantage of the vertical  dimension  can allow us to thrive with  a  minimum  of  energy   because  we  live  closer  to everything we are trying to do.   Since we cannot use energy without creating heat,  noise,  or  chemical pollution ( the law of entropy ), complex designs  also allow us to minimize environmental pollution.

Coupled with a high  degree  of  local  self  reliance, complex cities  of  the future  may  evolve  toward greater sustainability because tight recycling loops   will cause an increasing appropriateness of fit between real needs and the ability of suppliers  to  meet  those   needs.   Stated more simply, we may find it easier to do more with less in future cities.

Proximity Power is  the  effect  compact  and   complex cities generate because of the ways their essential elements are connected.   Proximity  Power  is  a  synergistic effect resulting from structural and temporal  components.  It is a power that results  from  living  closer  to  our lives.  We spend less of our life getting to our life.

Linear  distribution   networks  have  a  minimum  of complications  due  to  cross  traffic  or  congestion.  They  also contribute to the benefits Proximity  Power gives us.  These networks  allow transportation  of products and people along parallel paths.  As more of  these  paths are created in the vertical  dimension,  the   “foot print”  of  the  network decreases.   When  businesses  along  the  path  ship  their products a minimum distance to  their consumers, the traffic congestion along the paths decreases.   This leads us to the concept of Efficient Sequencing.

Efficient  Sequencing

Efficient  sequencing  of  businesses  allows back scratching businesses  to  live  close  to  each other.  The "waste" from one business becomes  the resource for another. Also,  the  various  businesses  involved  in  the  complete manufacture of a complex  product   can  happen sequentially along the distribution lines.    This assembly line approach to building cities may help us  lower the cost of living the same way  assembly   lines   lowered  the  cost  of  making automobiles and refrigerators.

Local  self  reliance,   in   a   city  having  linear distribution networks,  reduces  congestion  along its roads and corridors.    Proximal  access  to  resources  for local consumption makes this possible.   Food, more than any other resource,   should   be   minimally   packaged,   processed, transported,  warehoused,  and  handled.   A  long  line  of commercial food production  greenhouses  and  fields running parallel the length  of  the  city  can  greatly  lower  the energy, space, and  chemical  costs  of  delivering  food to urbanites.  In this future, most people will  know who grows their food.

The synergistic effect of a city  comprised of mutually supporting  elements  may  become   very  efficient  without becoming reasonably workable  unless  the city  satisfies enough of the needs of  the  people  it  serves.  How can we help a maximum of urban dwellers  come to a realistic belief that they are living in a  great  city that provides quality of life for everyone at minimum expense to all other life on Earth?  This' is a Utopian  and  noble  goal to strive for in our efforts to improve cities.

Cities are like elephants.   The  bigger they grow, the more they eat.  Larger herds require  more land.  Obviously, infinite  growth   cannot   occur   on   a  finite  surface. Therefore,  like  elephant  herds,  cities  must  achieve  a dynamic stasis of population  growth  in  order to have long range sustainability  for  any  given  design.   This may be easier to  achieve  in  cities  with  a  better  standard of living.

Sustainable Cities

Sustainable cities continually  strive for an ever more appropriate  fit  between  the   availability  of  renewable resources and the populations  those  resources serve.  This can be accomplished with  more  efficient  patterns of urban design and architecture that  allow  minimization  of energy costs while maximizing nurturing ability.

Sustainable  designs have durable quality.   These systems have a  long,  useful  life per unit energy cost and the energy base  that supports  them is  renewable.

Diverse energy  resources,  like,  solar,  wind, geothermal, gravity, hydro-electric,  animal,  and human power, and last but certainly not least, cogeneration, supply these complex life support systems.

Organisms that live efficiently and effectively, occupy a niche that provides them with adequate support.  The waste products these organisms  make  do  not destroy their niche. Cities,  too,  should   survive   in  niches  surrounded  by ecosystems that support the niche.  These ecosystems provide food and resources which the city  pays for with its "waste" products.  Ultimately viable cities  will  live well within the carrying capacity of their life support systems.  (Think of the city as though it is a living organism ).

How long can we continue building  systems that deplete atmospheric oxygen while  destroying  systems that replenish atmospheric oxygen?

Eliminating the need for  personal  automobiles  in the city solves many problems  plaguing  modern  cities.  Energy required to build and maintain  systems that support cars in the city can be diverted into making  higher quality housing and work places.   Instead  of  cars,  many  kinds of public transportation systems can be  put  on line that make cities more accessible for all people.

Let's build cities that make walking and bicycle riding the preferred choice  of  transportation  for  most  healthy people!  This is just one of the  ways we can greatly reduce the amount of machinery we live with.


Greenhouse-powerhouses may be one of the most important of the structural elements a city  can add that will help it evolve toward greater sustainability.  High-rise greenhouses supported by cogeneration electric  power may be integrated with retail and food processing  systems.  In a Linear City, these complex systems can  form  visually  exciting patterns from an aerial perspective as  well  as from the viewpoint of the pedestrian.

Sustainable cities optimize their necessary elements in ways  that let us thrive in adaptive harmony with the nature of the Earth —— instead of in contest with it.  *****

We may be seeing ever more need for disaster relief for large populations in the future.  Many people have been made suddenly homeless by natural disasters and human caused problems.  Tower Towns can be a way of helping people made homeless have a place to live.


Welcome to Imagine City               Audio Topics                  Global Renaissance

Moving Fast          Empower City            Renewable Cities            Connect City

Human Scale Cities        Super City       Tower Towns       Design Considerations

Restructuring for Activists        Sustainability Indicators         Subsidy by Design

Linear City Concepts                Network Megalopolis               Urban Agriculture


High Rise Greenhouses                Magnetic Levitation Trains              City Links

Coloring Book

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“Why Bother With Cities?”

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