MIT’ s “Connected Sustainable Cities” project provides a vision of how citizens can employ ubiquitous, networked intelligence to ensure the efficient and responsible use of the scarce resources ‘“ particularly energy and water ‘“ that are required for a city’ s operation, together with the effective management of waste products that a city produces, such as carbon emissions to the atmosphere.
Connected Sustainable Cities book describes daily life in the connected sustainable cities we can expect to evolve over the next decade. It does so through scenarios that illustrate some of the ways in which inhabitants may use and manage their living spaces, move around the city, work, shop, pursue their educational, cultural, and recreational interests, and make well informed, responsible personal choices.
These scenarios are accompanied by brief sketches of the existing and emerging technologies, products, and systems that will support new, intelligently sustainable urban living patterns. In addition, there are short discussions of some of the theoretical, policy, and design issues that these scenarios raise.
Connected Sustainable Cities is a starting point for the investigations and debates that will be necessary as citizens, technologists, designers, policy experts, and political and business leaders begin to shape the connected sustainable cities that we urgently need to create in the near future.
- 1. How Cities have Evolved
- It is helpful to put the emergence of connected sustainable cities into long-term evolutionary perspective. For cities, like living organisms, have evolved from simple forms to more complex, internally differentiated, and intelligent versions.
- 2. Moving Around the City
- In modern cities, the largest users of energy are the climate control systems of buildings (heating, cooling, and lighting) and the mobility systems people use to get around from place to place. In small settlements, the consumption of energy for mobility was much less significant, since distances were short and movement was mainly on foot. But in today’ s cities, the distances are much greater, there are many economic, social, and cultural reasons to move around, and the use of mechanized transportation ‘“ particularly the gasoline-powered private automobile ‘“ means that every mile of travel consumes a significant amount of energy, contributes to carbon emissions and global warming, and adds to road traffic and parking congestion. Connected cities provide many ways to reduce the energy and other resources consumed in daily movement. The following scenarios illustrate a few of the most promising.
- 3. Managing Homes
- A home is a kind of artificial organism. It has four basic input and output streams: energy, physical things (materials and goods in and solid waste out), fresh and waste water, and information. In earlier times, input streams mostly originated near to the home, and waste was also disposed of locally. Now, homes are connected to far-flung infrastructures and to supply and disposal chains that may extend deep into a hinterland, or even globally.
Today, connectivity is opening up the possibility of monitoring and managing these resource and waste streams more effectively, linking waste streams back to input streams so valuable resources can be recycled through the system, and shortening supply and removal chains so that less time and energy are expended in moving things through them. The scenarios that follow in this chapter illustrate some of the emerging possibilities.
- 4. Managing Workplaces
- In communities, people tend to experience warmer, more satisfying personal relationships than they do in broader society as a whole. Imagine how much happier and productive we could all be if we could shift more of our work to the “warmer” location and away from the colder, less personal, more dehumanized location of the modern office building or factory.
Such is the idea of the “urban village” ‘“ a place where we broaden the local loop concept introduced earlier as a means to organize more sustainable behavior and use sustainable technologies while, simultaneously, capturing the opportunity to work, live, and play in that enhanced location, linking the best of a local community with the infrastructure of the modern work world.
It is possible only in our digital era.
- 5. Taking Personal Responsibility
- The overwhelming majority of us in the developed world have individual carbon and water footprints well in excess of what the planet can sustain. What can be done, especially since what may be the biggest variable in sustainability is human behavior?
- 6. Conclusions
- These scenarios have demonstrated some of the practical ways in which ubiquitous connectivity can help us to create and manage sustainable cities. From them, it is possible to draw some general conclusions.
About the authors
William J. Mitchell is Alexander Dreyfoos Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, director of the Smart Cities research group at the MIT Media Laboratory, and director of the MIT Design Laboratory. He was formerly dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT. He has played a leading role in the ArchNet, FACADE, and Palladio Virtual Museum projects. His latest books are Imagining MIT: Designing a Campus for the Twenty-First Century and World’ s Greatest Architect, both from MIT Press.
Federico Casalegno is the director of the MIT Mobile Experience Lab and associate director of the MIT Design Laboratory. A social scientist with an interest in the impact of networked digital technologies on human behavior and society, he both teaches and leads research at MIT, focusing especially on the area of rethinking and designing interactive media to foster connections between people, information, and physical places using cutting-edge information technology. Most recently, he is leading a new strategic alliance with the Fondazione Bruno Kessler in Trento, Italy, to build a pioneering sustainable connected home.
- Download the “Connected Sustainable Cities” book in pdf format.
- Read the new Foreword to “Connected Sustainable Cities” book
- Visit www.connectedsustainablecities.org for further information on the book.