As cities become denser, we need to find solutions. How can we live, eat, and breathe correctly if we do not build sustainable cities? We need to mention the New Urban Agenda (NUA), adopted by the United Nations Conference in 2016. It helps promote a new global model for sustainable urban planning. We need to shape our future cities with a sustainability goal. We can create economic and innovative connected development through environmental sustainability. We now have huge projects integrating both sustainability and self-sufficiency. This is the key to managing the city of the future. If we want to make our lives healthier and more livable, we should invest in renewable energy, bio architecture, green spaces and so on.

Vincent Callebaut is a Belgian archibiotect and designs biometric and plus-energy buildings. He has over 50 projects to his name, making him an environmentally friendly architect. Created in 2008, Archibiotect is the innovative word invented by Callebaut. It combines the prefixes of the words ARCHItecture, BIOtechnologies and TECHnologies of Information and Communication. Facing urban and ecological issues, his aim is to make buildings produce their own power, vertical forests, and food farms, removing pollution, and much more. Vincent Callebaut Architectures is a visionary architectural company.

Callebaut created a project called “Paris Smart City 2050”. He imagined a connected, sustainable, and dense city. The city will have buildings covered with trees, vegetable gardens, solar panels, and wind turbines. He thought about implementing garden towers, vegetable balconies, a 23-kilometer ecological corridor, huge depolluting buildings using photosynthesis, and giant vertical farms. He put nature in the heart of the city. Integrating nature will help reduce pollution and heatwaves.

Callebaut succeeded in making buildings self-sufficient. One of his creations is in Taiwan and is called the bionic arch. It is self-sufficient thanks to solar and wind energies. He created space for gardens and prairies on it. The building is made to resist earthquakes. It looks like everything has been perfectly designed.

The architecture of the bionic arch interacts completely with any part of the building, reducing the ecological footprint. It also has many green areas to reduce the warmth an urban area creates. The bionic arch was therefore created to reduce carbon dioxide levels by creating oxygen. It also has a role in water conservation, energy efficiency, waste reduction and more. It also serves as a protection of biodiversity protecting species and flora with technologies such as ecological ponds. The quality of the environment we work in is important and we can measure it with the help of environmental factors like air quality. It can directly impact our health and comfort.

The Dragonfly is an urban agricultural building, designed by Callebaut and located in New York. The Dragonfly project offers apartments, offices, laboratories in ecological engineering, and vertical farming spaces. The building is self-sufficient in water, energy, and bio-fertilizing. Renewable energies had to be implemented for it to be energetically self-sufficient. Nothing is lost, everything is recycled. To have enough electricity to power the building, it will rely on solar panels, biomass, and wind turbines.

Small or big, many projects towards green smart cities have emerged in recent years. Every innovation a city applies makes it closer to reaching the goal of being self-sufficient.

In Singapore, one of the biggest crowded cities with 6 million inhabitants, artificial trees up to 50 meters high have been installed – also the product of Callebaut’s genius. They are equipped with temperature moderators, collecting solar energy for streetlights and collect rainwater to power fountains and urban farms. In this city, you cannot find any farmland left, so urban farms are a small-scale solution. In 2020, they had already 300 vertical farms, some can produce up to 1 ton of green vegetables. Vertical farms make it possible to grow and eat locally, with a small ecological and economic impact. That is why urban farms are often part of sustainable buildings. Callebaut’s work has not set foot in Singapore yet. Nevertheless, he was the winner of the "Highly Commented Award 2014" for the same project in Taiwan ("Tao-Zhu Garden",) during the World Architecture Festival in the Future Residential Buildings category. His genius will probably arrive in this giant city that needs it. Urban farms are one of the recurrent creations when it comes to designing sustainable buildings.

Urban farms are commercial businesses. They became connected to social justice and environmental sustainability in the 1970s. In dense areas, urban farms are usually vertical farms. Implementing them will make you experience a variety of environmental, economic, and social benefits. The aim is to capture carbon dioxide, but also to provide food for the population while reducing the energy cost of transporting food. Food is usually imported in cities because they do not produce enough for their population. The aim is to be able to feed the entire city with local production. Which is not achieved yet.

Moreover, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), urban farms can help resist many threats such as climatic disasters or pandemics. Urban farms are good but will not replace them for they have little capacity of production compared to the food grown on the ground. This needs to develop, and investments are needed. This can help with the health of our cities, but it is not the solution to all our problems.

Environment sustainability cannot be put aside and needs to be integrated in new buildings. Smart cities need to combine sustainability and technology to be effective.


Author: IDEC

Project: Skills4Cities