Indian government set forth a smart city proposal to develop 100 new smart cities back in 2014. One of the ideas introduced includes developing the island city Mumbai. Housing built up three to five storeys high would be increased to 40 to 60 storeys so that more people could inhabit the region. “Vertical with a Vengeance” is what that idea has been dubbed.
Some of the details of the proposal made by the municipal authorities and developers have been attained. Through the urban metabolism model or the measure of how the built-up environment would make an impact, there has been a determination made on how energy and the flow of materials in that area would be affected from the redevelopment. The conclusion is that the proposal is one that isn’t necessarily smart or sustainable.
The Impacts on the Cities
In the smart city proposal, it was clearly defined as to what the Indian government considered a smart city. About half of the objectives listed were related to the metabolism of the city as well as environmental concerns like sanitation, water, efficient transportation, reductions in air pollution, sustainability, and the depletion of resources.
There were various data types collected for analysis. Some of them were gathered during physical visits to different areas. Others were from secondary sources like non-governmental organisations, local governmental agencies, and research from the construction industry.
Models were created in three-dimensions of both the existing conditions and the developments that were proposed. The purpose is to show the changes in the height of the buildings, the width of the streets, parking lot provisions, roofing space, open areas, landscaping requirements, and other building aspects.
Census data was used to determine the total population and the population density of these areas. There was an assessment done on the available space and the developer’s calculations. Through all of the data gathered, researchers were better capable of determining what the development would do to the environment and what additional resources would be needed as a result of the increase in population.
The Effects of High-Rise Housing
The changes per capita or from the unit of floor area are what were used to compare the impact on the environment of these new developments. Data was analyzed up against the existing housing information.
Expectations are that the population of the region being developed with the high-rise housing would increase by 25%. The studies performed showed that the metabolism accelerates and doesn’t grow on a per capita basis as previously suggested.
With the growth, water waste production per capita and water consumption would increase by 155%. The reason behind that projection is the assumption there will be more appliances and bathrooms in the more massive towers. With the roof space of the towers being smaller than what is currently on the existing housing, rainwater harvesting would be reduced to less than half, or around 45%. As a compulsory requirement, that’s not something that would be beneficial with the redevelopment of the towers.
Predictions for the increase in electricity use were set at 30%. A 226% increase in electricity use in retail and commercial spaces is also what was expected. Lighting, ventilation, lifts, pumps, and air conditioning usage would all be required and that’s how that figure was determined.
Emissions of carbon dioxide are another problem with an increase of 43% expected as a result of the bigger population. There would also be a 176% transport emission increase because there would be around 3,000 more car space and more private cars on the road.
This particular Indian region already suffers from blackouts, untreated sewage, and water rations in their current conditions. Increasing the population would only make these problems worse.
Vertical Equals Vulnerable
There is a significant push to make urban areas smarter and more livable. Along with that comes a promotion to increase population densities. The argument is, with the increase in people, there is a depletion of valuable resources. In turn, the functioning capabilities of the city go down making the region less desirable to live in than what it was before.
The ideas behind the developments are coming from the right place, but there is no explanation or solution to what would happen to support what they are proposing for smart cities. The impacts of these vertical constructions seem to have more adverse effects than positive ones.
There are regulations and policies in place around the world to prevent urban cities from sprawling any further than what they are. As a result, the only other option is to go up. There are problems with water supplies, waste disposal and the centralised flow of energy that comes along with these changes. That dependency is quickly turned into insecurity and vulnerability for the regions impacted.