By 2030, 60% of the world’s population is projected to live in cities. According to the C40 Cities initiative , while cities occupy only two percent of the world’s landmass they consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions. Furthermore, with 90 percent of the world’s urban areas situated on coastlines, cities are at high risk from some of the devastating impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and powerful coastal storms. Hurricane Sandy’s devastation in New York city was a wake up call.

With the dismal failure of  international United Nations led carbon reduction agreements and the shortening time window to decarbonize, cities offer a unique opportunity to take up the slack. Cities are large enough that a collaborative effort will make substantial difference and small enough so that policy decisions can be adopted rapidly. The combination of their significant carbon footprint and their relatively quicker ability to act suggests that they can make an important alternative contribution to carbon reduction. On this page, you can explore a number of such initiatives. Cities are therefore slated to play an important part in decarbonizing the planet and in our drive towards sustainability.




The C40 initiative consists of a union of 58 of the largest cities in the world united to fight climate change and a host of other common challenges that cities face. The Kyoto Protocol, Rio Summits and many other international attempts at establishing enforceable baseline reduction strategies have failed spectacularly. Our lesson is that social complexity gets in the way of meaningful action. Initiatives like the C40 are recognizing that efforts that operate at finer granularity that involve stakeholders with more in common may be the key to real action.

The participating cities will collaborate and share resources to solve major problems facing them all. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg says that national and international organizations don’t seem to get anything done, while cities are far more proactive. Members of C40 are hopeful that their collaboration will yield successes where international efforts such as the Kyoto Protocol have failed spectacularly.


Figure 1: Some facts about the C40’s impact (Source: C40 web)

Figure 2: City impacts (Source: C40 web)

Figure 3: City impacts (Source: C40 web)


Figure 2: Map of the C40 Cities (Source: C40 web)

The C40 cities are:

Cities: From Problem to Solution

The fact that cities are a big part of the problem means they can also be a big part of the solution. The same concentration of resource usage and carbon footprint also means that they are concentrated focus areas for solutions as well.


Packing large numbers of people into a compact space means:

  • efficient delivery of electricity, water, food
  • transport more efficiently with less waste
  • work, home, school and services are closer together


  • responsible for two thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions
  • use vast amounts of energy and water
  • they tear up land and tear down forests
  • home of polluting industry and polluting automobiles

New Urbanism: Cities for people not cars

New Urbanism is a a loose movement of architects, designers and planners that has flourished since the 1990s. It argues that our current concept of a city – as segregated, unsustainable and running on cheap oil – must change.

Principles of New Urbanism

  • City centers would become denser
  • combining residential, retail and work areas that allow people to easily move between on foot or using public transport
  • New zoning rules can be used to allow people to live, work and play closer together
  • At night, downtown would no longer turn into a ghost town
  • Buildings would be taller with houses replaced by apartment buildings
  • Multi-use buildings such as those in Tokyo and Seoul
  • Road and parking network make way for parkland and urban farms

Existing Model Cities

Many European cities were laid out in medieval times and were already designed with these principles in mind.  Those cities that have embraced car culture must undergo radical transformation to return to these ideals. There are  model cities that show how cities can significantly reduce their carbon footprint.

Vauban, Germany

The German community of Vauban is a green, planned community in the city of Freiburg in southern Germany. Construction of this community began in the mid-1990s and opened in 2000. In 2001, it had 2,000 inhabitants living in a greener, more sustainable way. Now, the Vauban district is said to have 5,000 inhabitants and 600 jobs. The Vauban district was created through cooperative decision-making and is a model of holistic environmental planning resulting in a complete eco-friendly community.

Green Transportation

The Vauban district was designed and planned around green transportation:

  1. the district includes some local streets but cars hardly ever go through the community
  2. there is no car parking within the community
  3. residents who own cars park in a community parking lot on the edge of the district, which is not subsidized by the car-free households like it would be anywhere else
  4. Vauban is one of the biggest car-free project” in Germany
  5. pedestrian and bicycle paths form a highly-connected, efficient, green transportation network
  6. every home is within walking distance of a tram stop
  7. all schools, businesses, and shopping centers are located within walking distance
  8. when moving into Vauban, 57% of the households that previously owned a car decided to let their car go
  9. 70% of the inhabitants live without a car in Vauban
Green Building and Energy
  • buildings were designed to minimize carbon dioxide emissions
  • locally-produced and sustainable materials were prioritized during housing construction
  • roofs are commonly equipped with solar and photovoltaic panels (Vauban one of the largest home solar energy districts in Europe)
  • there is a program for tree conversation and planting
  • a system for rainwater infiltration into the ground covers 80% of the residential area
  • local bioenergy plant converts organic household waste into energy
  • all buildings have to meet minimum low energy consumption standards of 65 kWh/m2a  – half the average German energy standards
  • public energy and heat are generated by a highly efficient power station operating on wood chips, which is connected to the district’s heating grid
  • 42 building units are “passive” energetically speaking: a passive solar house consumes 15 kWh/m2a or less
  • heat is produced by the house itself equipped with solar roofs and heat recovery systems
  • 100 homes follow a “plus-energy” standard, producing more energy than they use
  • energy surpluses are sold back to the city grid, and profits are split between each household

Curtiba, Brazil

The city is not a problem but a climate change solution. It is not enough to erect green buildings, use new materials and new sources of energy. It is also about the concept of the city design.

- Jaime Lerner, former mayor of the city of Curitiba

Curitiba, Brazil is perhaps the most famous example of a city which has radically transformed itself into a people friendly and low carbon city. Jaime Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba in Brazil and a winner of the United Nations Environment Award, says that it takes just three years to transform a city for the better, if you have the political will.

Lerner is famous for restructuring Curitiba’s transport system, introducing a bus rapid transit system which started in 1974 with 25000 passengers a day and now carries 2.2 million passengers daily. The city’s population has doubled since 1974, but its car traffic has declined by 30 percent.

Curitiba Statistics
  • 85% public transport ridership
  • Curitiba has over 500,000 private cars (more per capita that any Brazilian city except Brasilia) but 75% of all commuters (more than 1.4 million passengers per day) take the bus
  • During rush hour, buses can leave once every minute, carrying up to 20,000 passengers per hour, similar to the capacity of a subway.
  • this has resulted in fuel consumption rates that are 25% lower than comparable Brazilian cities and has contributed to the city having one of the lowest rates of ambient air pollution in the country
  • the average Curitiba low income resident spends only about 10 percent of income on transport, which is relatively low for Brazil
  • the transit system is a bus-based public transportation system designed for convenience and speed
  • In high demand routes, tubular, subway-style boarding stations speed boarding times through pre-payment and level boarding
  • the bus system replicates some of the advantages of a subway system at the surface, costing approximately 200 times less than a conventional subway
  • underground metro system would have cost $90-100 million per kilometre while the express bus way system came in at $200,000 per kilometre
  • Curitiba has a self-financing public transportation system instead of being saddled by debt to pay for the construction and operating subsidies that a subway system entails. The savings have been invested in other priority areas.
  • 90% of residents recycle 2/3 of their trash daily, which provides the citizens with a cleaner city as well as jobs
  • Curitiba has over 1,000 parks and natural areas with no signs of decline. Many are located near river streams and lakes, acting as buffers against flooding, development, and pollution
  • In 1970, Curitiba averaged only 0.5 m2 of serviced green space per capita. This figure has now increased one hundredfold to 50 m2 per person and all during a period of rapid population growth.
Lessons Learned
  • Top priority should be given to public transport rather than to private cars, and to pedestrians rather than to motorized vehicles. Bicycle paths and pedestrian areas should be an integrated part of the road network and public transportation system. In Curitiba, less attention to meeting the needs of private motorized traffic has generated less use of cars.
  • A sustainable city is one that uses the minimum and conserves the maximum. Th is pragmatic application of demand management and recycling is exemplified in Curitiba by solid waste recovery, re-use of old buses as mobile schools, preservation and use of historic dwellings, and employment policies where poor people are employed in the waste separation plant and as teachers of environmental education courses.
  • There can be an integrated and environmentally sensitive action plan for each set of problems. Solutions within any city are not specific and isolated but interconnected. The action plan should involve partnerships between responsible actors such as private sector entrepreneurs, nongovernmental organizations, municipal agencies, utilities, neighborhood associations, community groups, and individuals.
  • Creativity can substitute for financial resources. Ideally, cities should turn what are traditional sources of problems into resources. For example, public transport, urban solid waste, and unemployment are traditionally listed as problems but they have the potential to become generators of new resources and solutions. Creative and labor-intensive ideas can, to some extent, substitute for capital-intensive technologies. Also, cities do not need to wait for bailouts or structural reforms to begin working on some of their problems.
  • Social, environmental and economic solutions can be integrated into holistic approaches. Mayor Lerner’s leadership and creativity proved that there could be a sustainable solution for each set of problems usually found in fast-growing cities worldwide. A combination of public-private partnerships, transparency and participation was promoted in the development of equations of co-responsibility. The experience of Curitiba demonstrates that solutions, not only problems, can be seen in an integrated way.

(Source: Eo Earth)

Zero Waste Cities

Zero waste  is a cradle-to-cradle concept that examines the vast flow of resources and waste through our society, and moves to eliminate waste by treating them as inputs elsewhere.Urban planners seeking to create regenerative urban systems should start by studying the ecology of natural system because nature essentially has a circular zero-waste metabolism.


The city of Oakland reduced its annual tonnage to landfill from 363,000 tonnes to 264,000 tonnes in only four years. This was achieved by adapting a target of achieving a zero target by 2020. This target mobilized the city into adopting an aggressive cradle-to-cradle approach:

  1. recycling discarded materials back to the local economy
  2. applying the waste management hierarchy in priority order – reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost
  3. promoting recycling market development

Oakland’s zero waste principles adopted the following steps:

  1. improve downstream reuse and recycle of end-of-life products and materials,
  2. redesign upstream to reduce the volume and toxicity of discarded products and materials and promote low-impact lifestyles,
  3. support the use of discarded products and materials to stimulate and drive local economic and workforce development

Landfill Diversion = New Market Opportunties

Oakland municipal leaders wanted to reduce  landfill volumes of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and focused on two areas:

  1. capturing organics (yard waste, food scraps) for composting,
  2. increasing recovery of recyclables from waste materials hauled by private interests such as the construction industry

In 2008, organic material (including plant debris and food scraps) represented 48 per cent of Oakland’s total landfill disposal. The city wanted to convert post-consumer food scraps to energy via anaerobic digestion. East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) is a publicly-owned utility that supplies water to 1.3 million people and provides wastewater treatment for 640,000 people in northern California. Its main wastewater treatment plant is in Oakland. It became the site for the anaerobic digester. Waste haulers collect post-consumer food waste from local restaurants and markets and offloaded at EBMUD. After the digestion process, the leftover material is composted and used as a natural fertiliser.

Other Sustainable City Resources

Cities and Biodiversity 

The United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity along with the Stockholm Sustainability Centre has released a new study entitled Cities and Biodiversity which illustrate the impact that cities can have on biodiversity.  What is the linkage between cities and biodiversity loss?  Cities are one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss and unless future urban design takes this into consideration, it may lead to biodiversity tipping points.

The 20 ambitious Aichi Biodiversity Targets set by the Convention for Biological Diversity for 2020 cannot be achieved without a combined global effort at global, regional, national, sub-national, and local levels. The 180-odd states parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)  met in Hyderabad, India, from 8 to 20 October, 2012  to renew the commitment made in 2010 under the ‘Strategic plan for biodiversity 2011-2020’ and the 20 targets (Aichi targets) aimed at halting the extinction of plant and animal species.

According to the WWF, it will take US$200 billion (€153 billion) to 2020 to achieve the Nagoya targets. It is estimated that only US$10 billion (€7.6 billion) is allocated yearly to biodiversity protection. This amount  should be doubled by  2015 in order to reach this target. Cities will play a significant role in the reduction of biodiversity loss.

The Cities and Biodiversity report concludes that the actions of urban dwellers will largely determine the health of global ecosystems and the survival of biodiversity. Sustainable urbanization is essential for maintaining
human well-being. Cities—their inhabitants and governments—can, and must, take the lead in fostering a more sustainable stewardship of our planet’s living resources. Many already are, in ways that are innovative, exciting, and inspiring—but so much more remains to be done. This publication is a new and valuable tool for steering urban development onto a sustainable path. I hope you will read it, share it, and together withothers, take action to save life on Earth


Cities and Biodiversity Outlook – Action and Policy stems from Decision X/22
requesting the Executive Secretary of the CBD to prepare an assessment of
the links and opportunities between urbanization and biodiversity, based
on the concept of our flagship publication Global Biodiversity Outlook. The
primary goals of CBO are to:


Serve as the first comprehensive global synthesis
of researched scientific material on how urbanization affects biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics.
✤ Provide an overview, analysis, and response to
knowledge gaps in our understanding of urbanization processes and their effects on social-ecological

Address how biodiversity and ecosystem services
can be managed and restored in innovative ways to
reduce the vulnerability of cities to climate change
and other disturbances.
✤ Serve as a reference for decision- and policymakers on the complementary roles of national,
sub-national, and local authorities in preserving

Carbon Zero

Our choices come down to two options: a world in which climate change becomes extremely dangerous, or one in which it becomes totally catastrophic.

To keep climate change within that merely “extremely dangerous” range, scientists say, we must limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees C. Allowing warming to accelerate beyond 2 degrees C to 4 degrees C takes us beyond extremely dangerous into downright insane.

- Alex Steffan, author, Carbon Zero

Because urban centers are responsible for most of the problems, Steffan argues that it is logical that they also offer the greatest potential for solution. The need for action is urgent because large investments have to be made now to replace ailing infrastructure. We can either invest in dirty solutions or clean ones but once we make the decision, we will be locked in for many decades thereafter. Infrastructure investments have long life spans in order to pay back the high capital costs of their construction. This makes it politically and economically challenging to shut down new dirty infrastructure and industrial systems. Therefore, it is critical to invest in clean, regenerative systems now.

The climate crisis is upon us, it’s massive and it’s getting worse quickly. We must make bold and rapid reductions in our climate emissions. In fact, in just the next couple decades we must achieve net-zero climate emissions. That target, zero carbon, presents a stupendous challenge.

Our cities, though, give us amazing opportunities to reduce our climate emissions while improving both our economy and our communities.

Solutions abound. From cutting edge green buildings to more walkable neighborhoods, new “walkshed” technologies to green infrastructure, the sharing economy to the reconnection of urban places to rural nature, we have a tool chest of approaches that can make our lives frugal in energy but abundant in wealth and quality of life. If we bring the best solutions together in our cities, we can build cities that can lead us into the zero-carbon future.

We can’t build, though, what we can’t imagine. Carbon Zero takes on the task of imagining how all these innovations might work together, and gives you the tools to reimagine the possibilities of your city. It’s not a blueprint. It’s not a manifesto.

Carbon Zero is an invitation to imagine winning the climate fight.

(Source: Carbon Zero)

2 Billion Strong

2 BILLION STRONG is a bold visionary plan for the design of sustainable, regenerative and livable cities for the African continent for the next 40 years. It is a collaborative contribution of insights, expertise and experience made by the individuals who comprise the communiTgrow team. The title makes reference to the projected population of Africa by 2050; 2 BILLION people.

2 BILLION STRONG offers valuable insight into communiTgrow’s mission to build new regenerative cities throughout Africa communiTgrow has shared their intellectual property in this format, to inspire others and to illustrate how a sustainable Africa is within reach. An Africa where every citizen has access to the means and knowledge required to live a healthy, balanced life and a continent that is 2 BILLION STRONG is envisioned by communiTgrow.

The CommuniT Grow Solution

Figure 3: The six pillars of the CommuniT Grow model

CommuniT Grow is developing a unique approach to city growing. It is approaching it in a new and holistic way, integrating elements of community not normally found in development.


The economic pillar is best understood as developing a detailed business plan for a communiTgrow city. Consequently, each city developed by communiTgrow will have its own unique business plan. Initially, the economic pillar of communiTgrow is less about establishing a robust economy than it is about a 20 plus year business plan for the new development initiative. The goal is to ensure that sustainable microindustries are created on the back of supplying the established demand for homes. The attendant opportunity is the subsequent clustering around the construction industry and the magnets / attractors which create a multiplier effect that in turn establishes a full array of sustainable economic activities over the life of the building project.  These are then converted into permanent jobs for the citizens of the fledgling city. The sole objective of the economic pillar in the evolving new city is to establish a meso-economy built on the impetus of the construction of housing, the micro-economic business clustering within the a macroeconomic regional context.


It is estimated that by 2050, a rapid increase in urbanisation and population growth will result in more than 1.23 billion African city dwellers. This means that more people will be living in cities than the combined populations for urban and rural classifications of the Western Hemisphere. What is the scale of new urbanisation in relation to the existing?  This will result in an urgent need for 800 new cities on the African continent. Most of these new cities will be small to intermediate sized cities and towns. This requires a substantial realignment of the way urban, service and housing development is implemented. What communiTgrow proposes is a regenerative approach that allows for the constant growth and adaptation of the systems and environments that are necessary to support city development and its inherent sustainability.


 Education is a cornerstone of community development, especially as it pertains to early childhood development. Without appropriate opportunities for quality education, poverty traps are reproduced and become entrenched in communities and societies over generations. Breaking this cycle, however, need not take more than a few generations if education is employed as an instrumental and foundational.


There is a growing understanding of the role that “place” plays in influencing individuals’ and communities’ levels of exposure to health risks, as well as their opportunities for being healthy. The problems of unemployment and crime are acute and completely enmeshed with health, housing and education.  There are good reasons why an area-based approach to tackling health inequalities is an effective regenerating tool.


CommuniTgrow offers the opportunity to constitute project based business and governance for infrastructure and service delivery deployment, but more importantly; for city and municipal governance as well. It integrates across sectors (land and housing management, business, services, etc.) and across different scales (ranging from the neighbourhood, to walkable community, urban village to urban quarter scales).

Regenerative Ecology

Regenerative design and development is a body of work that addresses the opportunity to optimise the productive potential of well managed urban ecologies. This can be achieved through closing the loops of materials and resources that flow through a city and cascading them through many more designed cycles of beneficial use, that in turn structure urban ecologies and space making.

(Source: CommuniT Grow)

The Challenge of Building Sustainable Cities in Africa

CommuniT Grow is based in South Africa and will begin its pan African adventure with pilot projects in South Africa. Hence details of the challenges of South Africa are important. Below are relevant details required to implement this vision:

  • Proposing a fundamental shift in the way that cities are composed from a socio-economic and land use perspective and a plan to build 800 cities across Africa in the next 40 years.
  • The communiTgrow approach to housing development is new to South Africa and Africa: a property development company taken responsibility for creating the full value chain – from the building of the house to ensuring that the community itself is economically sustainable and that the neighbourhood is a fully integratedsustainable whole.
  • Provide integrated whole-system turnkey solution to affordable housing and community development is done to scale and is best applied where the core need is between 25 000 and 200 000+ housing units and part of a long term project which, in the case of provisioning 200 000+ units, would typically span a 15-20 year development period.
  • The residents of this new community, indeed a new city, will be able to earn “affordable living” and “make a life” in that very place. The cities we design and build will be able to generate jobs and offer wealth creation opportunities so that they become self-sustaining cities.
  • Six Pillars in holistic community development:
    1. Superior education facilities, teacher training programmes and syllabi (partially subsidised
    2. Comprehensive healthcare (partially subsidised);
    3. Integrated governance system;
    4. Increased size and quality housing units at reduced costs;
    5. Integrated business catalysts and sustainability programmes;
    6. Optimising urban infrastructure and natural systems design for spatial environmental and resource efficiency.
  • Income will no longer be the primary determinant of location within the new city.
  • Ownership of private vehicles will not be a prerequisite for access to infrastructure and services.
  • CommuniTgrow seeks to design compact cities that provide walk-able neighbourhoods and an efficient and reliable public transportation system that is designed to minimise the use of private vehicles.
  • It will increase social inclusiveness and reduce social segregation through the design of quality mixed-use areas. This is achieved through providing choice in house types and locations, access to economic opportunities within walking distance and access to community facilities and leisure spaces.
  • Employment is a fundamental component of the success of the CommuniT Grow business model.
  • Urban agriculture underpins our approach to sustainable development. Our model reinforces the need to promote urban agriculture within the city boundaries.
    • Key stats of African Urbanization
      • African urbanization will grow rapidly for the next 4 decades
      • The African urban migration now and in the next 4 decades will be the greatest migration of people in the history of humankind – in this instance a migration from the African hinterlands to the African urban metropoles which are already ill-equipped to cope with its current people load and the internal growth of African cities.
      • The African continent will need 800 cities, each accommodating between 800 000 and one million people per city linked to approximately 250, 000 housing units to be built over the next four decades to cope with the current rate of urbanization and migration to the African city
      • Current urban population of Africa: 373 million; 2050 projected urban population: 1.2 billion
      • 62 % of urban African dwellers live in slums
      • most African cities are hopelessly ill-prepared to cope with the additional pressures that growth will place on them in the medium and long-term future
    • The importance of Secondary Cities:
      • Between 1990 and 2010 the number of new cities (i.e. that were previously under 100 000) was 694
      • 54 of these cities grew to a size of between 1 and 5 million
      • 132 were intermediate cities ranging from half a million to 1 million people
      • 510 cities where less than half a million
      • by 2025, the majority of urban dwellers will live in cities that are less than 100 000
      • In Africa, the growth is occurring mainly in small to intermediate sized cities
      • Development of secondary cities along development corridors is important to address
      • Growth in the present African cities will largely be growth of informal and slum settlements. Ironically, the new African cities which do not exist yet may be the lowest ecological footprint cities in the world if they are designed according to the best sustainable design practices.
      • Pieterse emphasizes that “new forms of local community economies” are necessary in order to “recast” urban sustainability in the South suggesting that“bio-regional economic diversification” is necessary to ensure that local community economies remain resilient to changes that result from global linkages. Yet how can these ideas be deployed and implemented in the construction and governance of new, green-fields small to intermediate scale city developments?
    • South Africa statistics
      • 8.02 percent live in cities between 100 000 and 500 000
      • 9.82 percent live in cities between 500 000 and 1 million
      • 34.01 percent live in the 6 metros that host between 1 million and 5 million people
      • The 5 largest metros produce more than 50 percent of the economy
    • South Africa Potential for Energy Crisis
      • 60 % of transport fuels comes from overseas imports of crude oil
      • 40 % of transport fuels comes from coal, which is mined and refined locally and from gas
      • South Africa is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world
      • Coal provides 75 percent of the fossil fuel demand and accounts for 91 percent of electricity generation
      • The bulk of GHG emissions in South Africa come from the energy sector: 78% of South Africa’s total greenhouse gas
      • emissions in 1994, and more than 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions
      • The bulk of South Africa’s electrical energy is used by industry
      • Eskom claimed 200 billion tonnes of coal left (200 years supply); Hartnady in 2010 article said it is more accurately 15 billion tonnes. Therefore, peak coal is a future possibility.
    • South Africa Upcoming Potential for Food Crisis
      • South Africa could face a maize shortage soon and might have to import the grain.
      • Every food group has risen in price since last year (2011).
      • Bread and cereals are up 26.6 %
      • Bean products are up over 20 %
      • Fats, oils and animal protein are up about 14 %
      • Only 11.82% of South Africa has arable land so it is very precious therefore, urban agriculture is a priority for food security.
    • Water Pollution and Water Scarcity from Climate Change in South Africa:
      • Over 70 % is used for agriculture
      • Regional scale climate modelling predictions for Southern Africa: West is expected to experience decreased rainfall, while the Eastern Escarpment is expected to experience increased rainfall.
      • Higher ambient temperatures however, may negate rainfall gains, so increased rainfall projections may not translate directly into overall water gains
      • One South African conservation organisation has warned that South Africa’s fresh water could be so badly polluted in five years’ time that it would be unfit for drinking.
      • Harvesting water and improving the recharge capacity through improving soil and biodiversity conditions
      • May become a necessity in many water-scarce regions in Africa.
      • South African Treasury’s 2012 Budget Review states that South Africa will start running out of water 13 years from now without better management
      • Most sewerage systems in South Africa make use of a waterborne sewerage system. Given the current water crisis, this is not a viable solution.
      • A further problem relates to the location of informal settlements, especially along the urban peripheries and alongside water courses and over aquifers, as these are usually marginal, unplanned areas, where little or no provision has been made for waste and sanitation services. With inadequate sewerage systems in place, and little provision for the removal of waste, large quantities of waste are washed into rivers and wreak havoc on habitats, or are leached into aquifers where they make their way to overburdened water purification plants
      • Many long-abandoned mines are rapidly releasing their toxic contents into the water system.
      • Sewage is collected in a centralised system and treated, before running into rivers and the ocean. Most municipal sewerage systems in South Africa are 30 to 50 years old. The ageing infrastructure of most sewerage treatment systems in South Africa renders them as inefficient. A large proportion of the sewage emanating from South African urban areas is not treated properly prior to discharge, because the sewer systems are incomplete, or sewage treatment plants are overloaded.
  • Implications of water shortage for cities in Africa
    • Potable water supply for cities & cultivation of food that is necessary to feed their inhabitants, constitutes one of the most
    • Severe resource constraints in the region. (Solaroof! – design for the most important city sizes – 100,000 people) 
    • As cities spring up along development corridors across Africa, their water needs may prove increasingly difficult to meet, especially if they are further away from natural water resources.
    • Building new dams may not constitute a viable solution due to inter-border conflicts
  • Water system for new cities must be designed in radically new ways
    • No longer economically sustainable to establish large scale developments using conventional technologies and design approaches, as increasing costs of water and energy will render their operating costs exorbitant.
    • Pumping water and waste to and from large centralised water management systems is likely to be increasingly economically unfeasible in the future.
    • Indeed, if the city managers of developed, “world class” cities were given the choice today, they would likelynot put flush toilet systems in place. 
    • Decentralised water management systems will likely be required; which ensure re-use and recycling of water and the increased efficiency of water use through improved system efficiency and strategies for behavioural change.
  • Infrastructure choices that are made now will lock African cities into patterns of consumption for approximately thenext 40 years
  • Urbanization in Africa: Challenges
    • The lack of municipal finance and effective mechanisms for municipalities to collect revenue 
    • is pervasive, and is in large part due to the failure of institutions to engage with  urban development processes effectively. That is; the lack of formalisation of  housing and land markets means that municipalities have no avenues for revenue collection.
    • Large numbers of unemployed African youth (the “youth bulge” is a major concern for city governments and urban planners.
    • Women play key roles in informal settlements and slums and their role is changing
    • South Africa has amongst the highest inequity in the world; between Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban vs the rural areas
    • Africa faces skills shortages in areas that are critical for ensuring growth and development. However, the African continent is significantly resource rich in terms of:
      • minerals and raw materials,
      • renewable and fossil energy sources,
      • arable land,
      • biodiversity,
      • pristine and unique ecological habitats
      • labour pools
    • African cities are currently majority coastal, and are especially vulnerable to sea-level rise, storm surges, coastal erosion, flooding, drought, saline intrusion (e.g. Beira has up to 80km of saline intrusion), aquifer salinity intrusion (e.g. Cape Town), energy demands for cooling and refrigeration and energy demands for heating.
    • Africa has poor food security: if a drought in the US Midwest severely affects global corn supply, and Siberian wheat crop in Russia fails, this will severely affect Africa
    • Private sector led development in African cities has exacerbated urban sprawl and encouraged a proliferation of gated and enclave developments within African cities that exist as islands of privilege “amidst a sea of poverty”
    • There are strong arguments for decentralisation of governance in African cities, as well as for thedeployment of decentralised technologies and infrastructures in African cities.
    • The wide-scale lack of current infrastructures and service provisions, as well as the proliferation of new small to intermediate scale cities in Africa increases the relevance of new builds. It is this question that the development that is proposed in this book is concerned with.
    • “master plans”, such as spatial development frameworks (or SDFs) have exacerbated existing inequalities in the cities of the developing world, when deployed as a planning instrument in these cities. This approach cannot be replicated in the planning and
    • Construction of totally new city builds, or they will bring about the same inequalities. A new planning approach is needed.
  • South African Urban Planning
    • Consensus is that urban growth in South Africa is uncoordinated, unplanned, and is occurring at a greater pace than after the arrival of democracy.
    • 23 percent of the households in South Africa’s nine largest cities are estimated to be without adequate shelter. In reality, the actual numbers are probably significantly higher than these figures suggest.
    • South African cities are characterised by high levels of spatial fragmentation and polarisation between income groups as a result of the legacy of Apartheid planning.
    • Urban sprawl increases and reinforces a reliance on fossil fuels, because low population densities don’t support public transportation systems. In order for a public transportation system to be economically viable, settlements of at least 20 – 25 du/ha are required.9 Therefore, there are more private vehicles on the roads and as a consequence higher levels of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The result has been increasing commuter distances and high costs especially for the poor.
    • The very poor households in South Africa’s major cities spend up to 58 percent of their income on housing and transport and poor households spend 23 percent of their income on transport alone. This dislocation has also resulted in the exclusion of mainly the poorer city residents from the amenities and economic opportunities offered by the city due to the location or absence of these facilities in the suburbs. (SA Cities Network)
    • High pollution levels results from a lack of sanitation, waste management and adequate energy sources in the informal settlements. It is both difficult and costly to supply bulk services to the peripheral areas of the city.
    • The European technocratic planning model has created swathes of monofunctional land uses reliant on private vehicles for transportation. The land use management tools (such as rezoning and subdivision) are expensive and have resulted in lengthy planning processes, which are not appropriate for poor communities
    • Local authorities have not been investing in infrastructure maintenance and repair for the past three decades
    • Existing infrastructure systems for transportation and water are very energy intensive.
    • Housing backlog: 
      • Over two million houses in South Africa, and rising annually
        • ANC set itself a target of delivering 300 000 social houses per year, 161 854 housing units delivered in 2009 and 64 362 elivered in 2010
      • In Cape Town, there is a backlog of some 450 000 houses, which increases every year. The local authority has been delivering at a pace of some 6000 to 8000 houses per year
      • Minister of housing acknowledges that the current system cannot deliver on the housing promise
      • The number of people living in informal settlements and backyard shacks reflects the current dysfunctions in the housing sector. Neither the state nor the market has been able to address the housing need in an adequate manner.
      • A 2007 Community Survey showed that the majority of people participating in the economy cannot afford housing for themselves without state support. In 2007, 85.6 per cent of South African households earned R3 200 or less per month. Even those households who can afford to buy a house are finding it difficult to accesshome loans
      • The traditional lenders were and still are unwilling to make loans to low-income earners for housing.
      • Only middle and upper income households have access to traditional finance, while the poor are generally excluded, due to the cost of funding and the risk of lending in the lower market segments
      • Despite the best efforts of both the public and private sector, housing developments in South Africa have usually been located in areas with very poor infrastructure and services facilities.
      • The greatest need for housing is in the GAP housing market, consisting of people who cannot afford financing and don’t qualify for government loans
      • Existing bureaucracy adds unacceptable delays to housing deliveries
      • radical rethink is required that places integrated service delivery, community and sustainability at the heart of low-cost settlement development programmes.
    • Education Limitations (HSRC)
      • 12 million children live in poverty.
      • 4 million of these children are starving and 40 percent have growth problems.
      • 81 % experience income and material deprivation and many live in informal settlements.
      • More than 50 percent live in households where nobody is employed.
      • The schools are deprived of resources, facilities and qualified teachers and this is having a huge impact on the quality of education and skills
      • Unskilled and uneducated South Africans have little chance of finding a job in the formal economy
      • Over the 15 years, the municipal sector has lost 6/7 of its engineers and technicians, rendering most outlying municipalities unable to deliver even the most basic services.

Wescape – The First Pilot Project

Wescape Concept Video

Cape Town is currently experiencing urban challenges that face most developing cities. The city’s population is growing rapidly, making it difficult to keep up with housing, service and infrastructure demands. There is very little development opportunity within the CBD for the city to expand, so the West Coast Growth Corridor has been identified as a targeted development area. Located north-west of Cape Town on the urban edge and along the West Coast Growth Corridor, Wescape will assist in providing solutions to many of the metropole’s economic expansion requirements and 20 year plan for education, housing and health.

  • 25 km from Cape Town along N7
  • has been under planning for the past 6 years
  • CommuniT Grow’s lighthouse project
  • 200,000 new households
  • 20 year plan for housing, education and health
  • Environmental impact studies and urban design are at an advanced stage