sustainable cities

Sustainable Cities – Model and Features

Sustainable Cities are gaining popularity these days due to rapid urbanisation, population growth and pollution. Sustainable cities are those that are dedicated to achieve environmental, social and economic sustainability for existing populations. The concept doesn’t jeopardise the ability of future generations to experience the same. The 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects notes that 68% of the global population would live in urban areas by 2050 and these figures may rise. 

In this blog let’s analyse what are sustainable cities, their features and the reasons for their prominence.

What are Sustainable Cities?

Sustainable cities are those that are dedicated to achieve environmental, social and economic sustainability for existing populations. The concept doesn’t jeopardise the ability of future generations to experience the same.

This can be achieved by creating opportunities for everyone through a design that prioritises inclusivity while still ensuring long-term economic development. Their priorities include,

  • Minimizing energy
  • Minimizing water and food inputs
  • Drastic reduction in waste and heat output
  • Reduction in carbon footprint

Now that we have understood about sustainable cities let’s move on to why we need sustainable cities.

Importance of Sustainable Cities

According to the UN Environment Programme, most cities today face the following issues:

  • Environmental degradation
  • Traffic congestion
  • Insufficient urban infrastructure
  • Shortage of basic services such as water supply and sanitation
  • Waste management

Cities account for 60 to 80% of energy consumption and at least 70% of carbon emissions despite occupying just 3% of the Earth’s territory. As a result, building clean, resilient, and sustainable cities is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals’ highest priorities.

Sustainable Cities Model

  • A sustainable city encourages economic development and meets the basic needs of its residents while also ensuring that all residents live in safe and healthy environments.
  • A sustainable city provides a long-term way of life in all four domains: ecology, economics, politics, and culture and can solve all the problems faced by modern-day cities.
  •  Richard Florida, an urban studies theorist, focuses on the social effect of sustainable cities, stating that cities should foster a great people environment that appeals to individuals and families of all sorts, rather than just a competitive business climate.
  • As a result, a transition to a sustainable urban living will provide a venue for social interaction and create conditions conducive to human flourishing.
  • These types of cities will also encourage the use of public transportation, walkability, and biking, both of which would improve both residents’ health and the environment.

Let’s go for a trip through a sustainable city and learn its features.

Features of Sustainable Cities

A sustainable city offers enhanced quality of life to its residents. The key features of a city that make it sustainable are listed below:

  • Urban Agriculture and Urban Forests
  • Sustainable Transportation
  • Energy Conservation
  • Green Buildings

Let’s look at each of the features in detail.

Urban Agriculture and Urban Forests

Sustainable City-Urban Forest
Sustainable City-Urban Forest

The method of growing and distributing food, as well as raising livestock, in and around a city or in urban areas is known as urban agriculture. It is strongly linked and dependent on the urban ecosystem in the following ways:

  • Use of urban residents as key workers 
  • Use of typical urban resources (such as organic waste as compost or urban wastewater for irrigation)
  • Direct links with urban consumers
  • Direct impacts on urban ecology (both positive and negative)
  • Being a part of the urban food system
  • Being influenced by urban policies and plans are all examples of such linkages.

Let’s have a look at how urban farming contributes in making a city sustainable.

Contribution of Urban Farming in a Sustainable City

  • Energy used to transport food is decreased when urban agriculture can provide cities with locally grown food.
  •  Urban agriculture’s energy-efficient design will minimise each city’s carbon footprint by reducing the amount of transportation required to deliver goods to consumers. 
  • Such areas can serve as carbon sinks, absorbing some of the carbon that urban areas naturally accumulate. 
  • Produce grown in urban gardens is often thought to be more flavorful and appealing than produce purchased in stores. 
  • Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables is linked to a lower risk of disease, and urban agriculture can be a cost-effective way to provide residents with fresh produce in urban areas.

Sustainable Transportation

Sustainable transportation aims to create a more environmentally responsible and socially equitable urban core. reduce a city’s dependence and use of greenhouse gases by combining

  • eco-friendly urban development
  • low-emission cars
  • residential proximity

Transportation networks currently account for about a quarter of global energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Since transportation services have such a large effect on a city’s energy use, planning experts have placed a greater focus on sustainable transportation in the last decade. Some of the key areas of focus are:

Car-free Cities

  • Car-free cities or cities with significant pedestrian areas are often included in the design of a sustainable city.
  • The car-free idea is often considered an important part of the design of a sustainable city.
  • Following the COVID-19 lockdown, large areas of London will be made car-free to enable people to walk and cycle safely.

Urban Proximity

  • Urban proximity necessitates the construction and expansion of cities with sufficient population and landmark density so that destinations can be reached in less time.
  • This reduced time in transit reduces fuel consumption and makes alternative modes of transportation, such as biking and walking, more available.

Energy Conservation

Sustainable cities prioritise the use of renewable energy sources to reduce and manage emissions. Renewable energy is the energy obtained from sources that are naturally replenished on a human time scale such as wind turbines, solar panels, or bio-gas generated from sewage.

Sustainable cities  minimise the need for air conditioning (a huge energy demand) by:

  • Planting trees 
  • Lightening surface colours
  • Using natural ventilation systems 
  • Creating green spaces covering at least 20% of the city’s surface 
  • These interventions combat the “heat island effect” caused by an excess of tarmac and asphalt, which can make urban areas several degrees warmer than rural areas—up to six degrees Celsius in the evening. 
  • Green roofs help to reduce the urban heat island effect by altering the surface energy balance. Air quality, environment, and water runoff are all benefitted from incorporating eco-roofs or green roofs in sustainable cities.
  • Sustainable cities also adopt xeriscaping, rainwater harvesting, hydroponics etc for water conservation. 

Green Buildings

Green Building
Green Building

Sustainable Cities promote LEED-certified green buildings. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building certification scheme that is used all over the world. A building may have a variety of features that make it “green.” Let’s have a look at some of them:

  • Power, water, and other resources are used more efficiently.
  • Use of renewable energy sources.
  • Steps to reduce pollution and waste, as well as the facilitation of re-use and recycling.
  • Satisfactory indoor air quality.
  • Non-toxic, ethical, and long-lasting products are used.

Also check: Cost effective construction

Sustainable Cities of the World

  1. Adelaide – Australia
  2. Bafut – Cameroon
  3. Victoria – Canada
  4. Vancouver – Canada
  5. Tianjin – China
  6. Turku – Finland

It’s time to wrap up.


  • To sum up, Sustainable cities are those that address the social, economical and environmental aspects of sustainability by adopting urban farming, sustainable transportation, conserving energy, reducing emissions and pollution and promoting green buildings.
  • Sustainable cities aren’t just a lofty target for urban planners and environmentalists; they’re a requirement in the fight against climate change.
  • Flooding, heat waves, contaminated water sources, and other disasters can all be kept at bay with sustainable infrastructure.
  • Disease spread can be reduced or even eradicated by smart, sustainable urban planning, as we saw with the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Cities that reduce their vulnerability to climate change and other natural disasters will experience less property damage, insurance losses, and even deaths, making sustainable city activities a requirement for long-term success.

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