Call us on 682 350 0300

The Urban Construction Challenge – 5 Cities Leading The Way to a Sustainable Future

According to research from the United Nations, the world’s population could reach almost 10 billion by 2050, with two-thirds of these people expected to live in urban areas. If we compare this to 1980 when only 39% of the global population lived in urban areas, we can see that a huge challenge lies ahead for the construction industry.


There are several construction challenges facing city councils across the world, including:

  1.  How to meet the residential requirements for this growing population
  2. Developing the infrastructure to support this growth
  3. Limiting the environmental impact that will come with a growing urban population

One way to address some of these channels is for cities around the globe to start embracing the circular economy model in terms of construction projects. This will mean a greater focus on existing resources, but more importantly a shift in mindset when developing new construction projects.


According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) 2016 online database, 74% of Europe’s population was urban, while this increased further for Latin America and North America, at 80% and 82% respectively. With population growth in these urban areas expected to continue, we look at five cities that are leading the way to a more sustainable future.


5 Sustainable Cities Leading the Way

1 Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm was the first city in Europe to be recognised as the “European Green Capital” back in 2010. Since then Hamburg, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Nantes, Copenhagen, Bristol, Ljubljana, Essen, Nijmegen, Oslo, and Lisbon have all been recognised for their commitment to improving the environment.


Stockholm has big ambitions to be fossil-fuel free by 2050 and has introduced “district” heating in recent years to replace oil heating. This involves a centralised heating system to more efficiently heat buildings, with over 80% of heat and hot water in Stockholm apartments now coming this way.


As well as this, the city has created several eco-districts, with Hammarby Sjöstad the most famous, and a benchmark for eco-urban areas across the world. The circular economy system used for waste and energy management in Hammarby Sjöstad has inspired similar projects in Canada, UK, China, and Thailand.


2 Copenhagen, Denmark

When it comes to sustainable cities, Scandinavian cities are certainly creating the models from which many other cities are following. As well as Stockholm in Sweden, the Danish capital of Copenhagen is another city that is leading the way to a more sustainable future. In 2009 Copenhagen set a goal to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025, as part of its CPH 2025 Climate Plan. Like Stockholm, Copenhagen has focused on energy-efficient district heating solutions.


In 2010 Copenhagen introduced a green roof strategy for urban developments, requiring all new builds to have a green roof. Copenhagen, and indeed Denmark as a whole is well on the way to be a circular economy society. In 2015 Denmark was awarded the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders award ‘The Circulars’ for being a global leader in exploring the opportunities for a circular economy.


Launched in Copenhagen in August 2018, the Circular Construction Challenge is an initiative that looks at six ground-breaking ideas for reducing waste in construction in Denmark. The end goal is to build a zero-waste world, where waste is seen as a resource that can be reused, something we are also working towards here at CDE.


3 London, UK

Through the creation of the London Waste and Recycling Board, the city of London has set its sights on being the best circular economy city in the world. The Circular London initiative aims to provide the right conditions for a circular economy model to flourish, with the Circular Economy Route Map created in June 2017 to support this.


The 2018 Sustainable Cities Index by Arcadia listed London as the world’s most sustainable city, pipping Stockholm, Edinburgh, Singapore and Vienna to the title. The City of London Sustainability Policy has helped provide a focus for businesses and residents of the city to work towards a more sustainable future. A sustainable economy and respect for the environment and natural resources have been central to this policy.


4 San Francisco, USA

Sticking with the theme of zero-waste, the city of San Francisco has set ambitious targets to be a zero-waste city by 2020. While the city looks like missing this target, they have managed to successfully divert 80% of its waste from landfill, putting it way ahead of most of the US, and some way ahead of cities like New York and Chicago who divert around 21% and 10% of waste from landfill respectively.


The implementation of new policies has been a big reason for the success that San Francisco has seen in the diversion of this waste from landfill. In 2009 the city made it compulsory for all businesses and residents to recycle and compost waste. While San Francisco is doing a good job, it still has some way to go as 500,000 tonnes of material still end up in landfill sites every year.


When it comes to the re-use of construction and demolition waste material, by law in San Francisco, C&D waste material that is removed from projects must be recycled or reused – no waste can be taken to a landfill site or dumped. Policies like this ensure San Francisco leads the way for sustainability in the US.


5 Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is the host city for the 2020 Olympic Games and the city is showing great innovation when it comes to re-using resource by manufacturing all the medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games from consumer electronic devices like old mobile phones. The project includes a target 100% recycling rate in the refining of gold and respecting the environment by using scrap metals to create the medals.


Tokyo lies at the heart of the world’s largest metropolitan area, and the city has been working on many fronts to become the world’s most sustainable megacity. With almost 14 million people living in the city itself, the sustainability challenge that Tokyo faces is greater than most. Tokyo has many policies in place to reduce its impact on the environment and become a global leader in sustainability.


One such way is how the city recycles and re-uses trash. The city’s aim is to turn trash into land, by diverting it from landfill sites, and through a process of burning trash at high temperatures in an environmentally friendly way, the bottom ash and slag that is created as a by-product is used in the production of cement and other construction materials. If you’re walking along the streets of Tokyo, you may find yourself walking on something that was once household trash.


New World of Resource

Here at CDE, we continue to look at solutions for creating valuable resources from waste material. Our equipment is currently helping organisations across the world divert construction and demolition waste material from landfill sites, creating valuable secondary aggregate products ready for market in the process. In 2018 our equipment diverted 15 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste from landfill sites around the world.


Together we’re unlocking a new world of resource.

; ;