29/2/2012 - How social media can improve city life.
29/2/2012 - Toronto City Council Defeats Mayor, Resurrects Transit City.
29/2/2012 - Is Africa really urbanising rapidly? Not according to recent data.
29/2/2012 - Tactical Urbanism Lands in Raleigh.
29/2/2012 - Ljubljana recognised for its green credentials.
28/2/2012 - Paris Authorizes Cyclists To Run Red Lights.
28/2/2012 - The Politics of Urban Governance.
28/2/2012 - Data Sharing Seen as Crucial to the Future of Public Transit.
27/2/2012 - The local government case for sustainable communities.
27/2/2012 - London becomes first city in UK to have permanent Pedestrian Countdown technology.
27/2/2012 - The Atlas of Urban Vulnerability in Spain.
26/2/2012 - Chinese Cities in Desperate Need of Competent Planning.
26/2/2012 - EURO 2012 football championship for mayors.
25/2/2012 - Is the Government Abandoning Moscow? .
25/2/2012 - 'Pathways out of poverty': social mobility in European cities.
25/2/2012 - ISEMOA scheme on accessible mobility is currently being tested.
24/2/2012 - Chicago : five projects for Navy Pier.
24/2/2012 - What Has 16 Pedals, 12 Seats, and Goes Up to 10 MPH? .
23/2/2012 - Join ICLEI founder Jeb Brugmann for a webinar on 22 March, 2012.
23/2/2012 - CHAMPion cities in cycling teaming up! .
22/2/2012 - Assessing Miami's New Urban Experiment.
22/2/2012 - Auckland : port project contested.
22/2/2012 - Kanagawa Prefecture opens up solar power to its residents.
21/2/2012 - The Greening of Houston.
21/2/2012 - The new CASCADE website is now online.
20/2/2012 - Saving the Mall By Returning to Its Ideals.
20/2/2012 - Small Scale Solutions for Big City Problems.
19/2/2012 - San Francisco wins 2012 Sustainable Transport Award.
18/2/2012 - ROMA-NeT learning event focuses on Roma and the Labour market.
18/2/2012 - Port of Windsor : landscaping development against criminality.
17/2/2012 - Demand Rises for Condos and Small Houses, While Big Home Sales Languish.
17/2/2012 - New house? Do-it-yourself in Rotterdam.
17/2/2012 - Fill Cars, Fight Traffic.
16/2/2012 - Energy efficiency call for submission launched for local and regional authorities (Deadline: 8 May 2012) .
16/2/2012 - The Most Frangrant Cities In The World.
16/2/2012 - The 2012 IMCL International Urban Revitalization Award.
15/2/2012 - Clos presents youth initiative to Secretary-General.
15/2/2012 - Calgary Experiments With Crowdsourcing Its Budget.
15/2/2012 - Dynamics of deprived neighbourhoods in the URBACT cities.
14/2/2012 - America's Third World Infrastructure.
14/2/2012 - Community-led local development at OPEN DAYS 2012.
13/2/2012 - Urban hub "BentoBox" fosters cargo bike deliveries in Berlin.
13/2/2012 - The Threat of Poor Urban Design to Public Health.
12/2/2012 - Citizens, municipalities and cities key to meeting climate goals.
12/2/2012 - Green Building Trends To Watch in 2012.
11/2/2012 - Toronto forges Weather-Wise partnership.
11/2/2012 - 'Shared Space' Streets without Sidewalk Curbs--Safer for Pedestrians? .
10/2/2012 - 'Pathways out of poverty': social mobility in European cities.
10/2/2012 - The Rise of the Megacity.
9/2/2012 - Final URBACT Call for Proposals from networks of EU cities.
9/2/2012 - The Green Digital Charter text and infopack now available in six languages.
9/2/2012 - Study Confirms Environmental Benefits of Adaptive Reuse.
9/2/2012 - Crime rates in EU drop slower .
8/2/2012 - Lessons From the World's Great Biking Cities.
8/2/2012 - "Energy Efficiency Watch" Conference on 1st March 2012 in Wels (AT) .
8/2/2012 - A Paradigm Shift in Urban Runoff.
7/2/2012 - Best Practice Award for Coastal Towns: Call for applications.
7/2/2012 - Are U.S. Cities Effectively Desegregated? .
7/2/2012 - Online form to facilitate submission of projects for the DIA Best Practices Award.
6/2/2012 - Arch. Ettore Maria Mazzola to receive the IMCL International Urban Design Award.
6/2/2012 - A Call For Regenerative Cities.
6/2/2012 - Vienna ranks top among Smart Cities.
5/2/2012 - Will Toronto's Mayor Drag the City Back to the Twentieth Century? .
5/2/2012 - Call for cities to join Bologna for a cycling challenge.
5/2/2012 - Better cities, better life in Malawi.
4/2/2012 - Fourth call for applications to Youth Fund.
3/2/2012 - French town wins Topten energy audit by sharing its life-cycle costing approach.
3/2/2012 - New Report Paints a Dire Picture of Metropolitain Unemployment.
3/2/2012 - Bordeaux, the return of the river.
2/2/2012 - Going green with a swipe of a card.
2/2/2012 - Call for cities to join Bologna for a cycling challenge.
1/2/2012 - Why Portland's Public Toilets Succeeded Where Others Failed.
1/2/2012 - Major Swedish support for UN-Habitat.
1/2/2012 - € 67 million available for new Intelligent Energy – Europe projects.
How social media can improve city life
During a conference in New York on February 15 2012, organized by UN-HABITAT and the MIT Center for Civic Media, academics, professionals, researchers and students teamed up to find innovative plans on how social media can improve city life. During several presentations and subsequent brainstorm sessions, the participants investigated possible social media solutions for urban challenges on numerous issues.
Toronto City Council Defeats Mayor, Resurrects Transit City
In a stunning blow to Mayor Rob Ford -- who, on his first day in office in 2010 scrubbed the "Transit City" plan in favor of an ill-thought out and unfunded subway scheme -- the Toronto City Council has quashed his plans and resurrected the old one.
Writing for the Globe and Mail, Marcus Gee marvels at the political obstinacy of Mayor Ford, who could have worked a deal with his opponents but instead has had a "transit plan...rammed down his throat." He notes,
"[Ford] ignored the host of transit experts who called his vision nonsense. He refused to take his plans to city council, bypassing the city’s supreme democratic body. He spurned the [Toronto Transit Commission] manager and TTC chair who dared to question him. But on Wednesday, council struck back, handing the mayor his worst defeat and rubbishing his transit blueprint.
More than $8-billion in funding was at stake. The shape of Toronto transit for decades to come was on the line. It is one of the biggest files on any mayor’s desk, and Mr. Ford is no longer in control of it...Transit City, the light-rail network that Mr. Ford declared dead, is suddenly alive and breathing again, having emerged like Lazarus from its underground tomb."
TTC Chair Karen Stintz, who led the revolt, is now being touted as a mayoral contender for 2014.
Is Africa really urbanising rapidly? Not according to recent data
It is common knowledge that sub-Saharan Africa is urbanising faster than anywhere else in the world ... but what if we're wrong?! This misconception, based on simplistic projections from very old data, is contradicted by recent censuses, which suggests we need to rethink our understanding of urban poverty across the continent.
It is well known that African urban populations are growing. Almost every article or policy document on the topic is foregrounded with this point. Very often there is an explicit forecast of when this or that country's population will become at least half urban. Usually it is presumed that this will be soon.
There is no doubt that urban populations in sub-Saharan Africa are usually growing. This is a challenge to national governments and city authorities because it means there are more urban residents each year who need houses, clean water, sanitation, transport and, above all, employment. However, whether most African countries will fairly soon be mainly urban is another issue. There is now plenty of data to suggest that in many cases, they will not.
Tactical Urbanism Lands in Raleigh
Emily Badger reports on surreptitious wayfinding signage that has been appearing mysteriously under the cover of darkness in Raleigh.
Following up on a story addressing more conventional wayfinding techniques that ran last week, Badger highlights the efforts of a group called Walk Raleigh to give helpful guidance and encouragement to those exploring the city on foot.
According to Badger, "In mid-January, a group calling themselves Walk Raleigh posted 27 such signs at three intersections around the city, and we hear (by reading their Facebook page), that the stunt has actually caught the eye of city officials who may look to make the signs permanent."
Badger includes images of some other favorite tactical urbanism projects for inspiration.
Ljubljana recognised for its green credentials
Ljubljana has been selected as ‘greenest local authority 2011’
A total of 28 Slovenian local authorities competed for the title of Greenest Local Authority 2011, which was awarded to EUROCITIES member Ljubljana during a ceremony at Ljubljana City Hall on 31 January 2012.
This is the second year the campaign has run under the Green Slovenia trademark in partnership with the Slovenian Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning, the Association of Municipalities of Slovenia and the Association of Municipalities and Towns of Slovenia.
Entrants were required to demonstrate their credentials in the categories of waste management, water, energy, communication and awareness-raising as well as sustainable transport.
Paris Authorizes Cyclists To Run Red Lights
In most cases, traffic signals are used to stop vehicles succumbing to Newton's law of motion, but a new decree in Paris will change that. Eighteen intersections are now subject to newly relaxed rules that allow cyclists to continue at red lights.
The new law is already being tested in the French cities of Nantes, Bordeaux and Strasbourg and will be extended further if it is proven to make roads safer as well as more efficient. So far, the trials "have led to no rise in the number of accidents," according to Paris' Town Hall.
"On my daily bike run I go through three red lights so it saves me time," Caroline, a cyclist in Nantes, told RTL radio. "I just need to look left to see whether a car or even a bike is coming. It works very smoothly." Belgium, Germany and Scandinavia already apply the rule.
"It makes cycle traffic more fluid and avoids bunching up cyclists when the traffic lights go green for motorists," explained municipal authorities.
The Politics of Urban Governance
“One of the shortcomings in much of governance research, not just urban governance, is that it has been too much concerned with the cast of actors and the configuration of collaboration.” Being interviewed is Jon Pierre, author of The Politics of Urban Governance. “I have always worked on several projects at once and have also tried to be active in more than one research field. In some ways, the book is reflective of that work strategy as it incorporates not just urban politics and urban social theory but also institutional theory, public management, and globalization analysis.”
Data Sharing Seen as Crucial to the Future of Public Transit
When civic leaders from around the world gathered for Vancouver's 2012 Cities Summit last week, urban transport was on everyone's lips, and information sharing was seen as the key to unlocking future successes.
Fortuitously, as Alexis Stoymenoff reports, for cities and transportation agencies strapped for funding, improvements to transit systems can be made relatively simply, with better use of information that is already at hand.
"By opening up data collected by different municipal departments and agencies, cities can offer new and creative services (like transit apps) with little cost to taxpayers."
According to Gordon Feller, Director of Cisco Systems’ Urban Innovations program, “It’s not something that the city has to spend money to develop. Third parties will develop it, and the city can take advantage of it.”
The local government case for sustainable communities
The City of Melbourne and ICLEI Oceania are hosting a forum for local government on 30 March 2012 focused on enabling sustainable communities, through innovative policy solutions and collaboration between key stakeholders.
The forum will feature:
- parallel sessions for elected representatives and local government administrators and stakeholders to develop the case for sustainable communities.
- the release of a Local Government Position Paper on Local Climate Change Action.
- a workshop to develop a Local Government Guide for Enabling Sustainable Communities (draft), which facilitates use of the Green Building Council Australia’s Green Star Communities National Framework for local government.
This topic is also being explored at the C40 Workshop on sustainable communities being held in Melbourne earlier in the week. The aim of the forum is to engage and inform a wider audience of the C40 workshop outcomes and to develop a 'local' response for Australian local governments.
London becomes first city in UK to have permanent Pedestrian Countdown technology
Following a successful trial, Pedestrian Countdown technology will be rolled out at pedestrian crossings throughout the UK capital, giving pedestrians a clearer idea of how long they have left to cross the road. Research from the trial showed that 83% of pedestrians surveyed about the trial liked the Pedestrian Countdown technology, as did 94% of mobility impaired users and 79% of children surveyed who had experienced traffic crossings with and without the system.
The Atlas of Urban Vulnerability in Spain
From the Spanish Department of Architecture, Housing and Land Development a new tool for urban analysis has been developed, namely the ‘Atlas of Urban Vulnerability in Spain’. This dynamic online mapping application allows users to analyse the multiple dimensions of urban vulnerability in all municipalities in Spain. It has been designed from the Census of Population and Housing 2001 and is expected to be updated once data from the new Census 2011 is available. The Atlas is available in Castilian and English.
Chinese Cities in Desperate Need of Competent Planning
A new report by one of China's premier academic research organizations has warned about rising discrepancies between the growth of China's cities and their ability to provide the resources necessary to serve those populations.
In ominous language, the report by the Social Sciences Academic Press, a division of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, warns about impending 'urban diseases' caused the country's rapid transformation to a majority urban population.
"Urban diseases involve adverse affects generated when there is huge disparity between an urban center's resources and its social needs at crucial points in its development, and the functions of various overloaded sectors are thrown into disarray, it said.
In particular, the report cited a lack of provident city planning giving rise to such problems as traffic congestion and pollution."
EURO 2012 football championship for mayors
Ahead of the 2012 European football championship, whose final tournament will be hosted by Poland and Ukraine between 8 June and 1 July 2012, the Association of Polish Cities (ZMP) and the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC) are organising a football tournament for European mayors.
The championship is to take place from 15 to 21 May in the Polish region of Katowice and the Ukrainian region of Kyiv. Teams can be composed of 16 to 20 mayors and deputy-mayors. Deputy-mayors must be over 40 years of age and cannot represent more than 50% of the team.
Participation in the tournament is expected to cost €100 per person per day, which includes accommodation, meals and local transportation. The deadline for registration is set at 29 February 2012.
Is the Government Abandoning Moscow?
Nate Berg reports on a plan by federal and city government officials in Moscow to decamp from the central city for offices in newly annexed outer regions, and to redevelop the former office buildings as housing and hotels.
Why would officials vacate the center of the 865-year-old city? According to mayor Sergei Sobyanin, it's a lack of parking.
In an odd bit of reasoning, Berg reports that officials cite the fact that, "many federal workers travel to work by car, but few apartment dwellers in the city have cars. Sobyanin thinks it simply makes sense to put more car-less people in a parking-deprived area and take those dependent on their cars to an area where more parking can be made available."
The move has been made possible by a recent annexation and expansion plan that will increase the size of Moscow by 2.3 times. To solve the notorious traffic problems in the city, officials envision turning Moscow from a unicentric city into a polycentric model with multiple job centers, reports Berg.
'Pathways out of poverty': social mobility in European cities
New EUROCITIES tender on patterns of social mobility in European cities open until next Wednesday, 29 February
EUROCITIES recently launched a call for tenders from urban researchers to study patterns of social mobility in European cities. Announcing the research call, EUROCITIES secretary general Paul Bevan said, "We know that throughout history poor people have been attracted to cities by the opportunities they offer for work and advancement. We want to find out more about how European cities nowadays provide those pathways out of poverty. Are there still more chances for upward mobility in urban rather than rural settings? Can we distinguish public policy choices that help and hinder social mobility?"
Funded under the European Commission's PROGRESS programme, the research project will run from April to October 2012, with a total budget of up to €20,000. The deadline for tenders is next Wednesday, 29 February 2012. For further information, contact Sophia Voigtlaender using the details provided.
ISEMOA scheme on accessible mobility is currently being tested
The ISEMOA project develops a quality management system aiming to support local and regional authorities to improve their work on accessible mobility. Currently the prototype of the ISEMOA scheme is being implemented in 18 test sites.
Chicago : five projects for Navy Pier
Icon of the city and major tourist attraction (9 million visitors in 2010) the Navy Pier of Chicago will celebrate its centenary in 2016. An international competition has been launched for its redevelopment with notably the objectives of proposing a new dream, more public areas making use of the presence of the water, installations and programming enabling all year round activities. The sustainable development of the site and its integration with the city are also being taken into account. Five proposals have just been rendered public.
What Has 16 Pedals, 12 Seats, and Goes Up to 10 MPH?
The first bicycle bus for schoolchildren, built by Dutch company Tolkamp Metaalspecials, of course.
So far, only 25 bikes have been made, but in bicycle-heavy Netherlands, it's the "next logical step" in transporting the nation's youngsters.
"Built by Tolkamp Metaalspecials, and sold by the De Cafe Racer company, the bicycle school bus (BCO in Dutch) is powered entirely by children and the one adult driver (although there is an electric motor for tough hills). Its simple design has eight sets of pedals for the kids (ages 4 to 12), a driver seat for the adult, and three bench seats for freeloaders. The top speed is about 10 miles per hour, and features a sound system and canvas awning to ward off rainy days."
Join ICLEI founder Jeb Brugmann for a webinar on 22 March, 2012
The Security and Sustainability Forum (SSF) presents their fifth and last webinar in their Free Adaptation and Security Webinar Series. The ‘Maintaining Economic Vitality’ is co-produced by the ICLEI and explores successful local and national approaches in maintaining business continuity and jobs while responding to extreme weather events, energy impacts and threats from other disruptions to national systems.
What are the best sustainability practices from across the globe? What makes them successful? What is the evidence that sustainable cities are more resilient? Join Jeb Brugmann, holder of the Millennium Award, Stockholm Partnerships Award and author of “Welcome to the Urban Revolution”, and an expert panel from business, government and nongovernmental organizations in this thought provoking and educational webinar. Jeb’s new book “Welcome to the Urban Revolution” demonstrates how we can transform cities into more productive, equitable, and sustainable places.
CHAMPion cities in cycling teaming up!
The bicycle is one of the corner stones in creating sustainable and liveable cities. To meet that challenge, 7 European champion cycling cities have joined forces. They aim to become even better at making the bicycle a key mode of transportation in their cities, while sharing know-how with other cities.
Assessing Miami's New Urban Experiment
Three years after its adoption, Sean McCaughan assesses the impact of Miami 21, first New Urbanist zoning code adopted by a major American city.
Miami 21, authored by Miami based New Urbanist leaders Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Andres Duany, was the firm's attempt to translate their policies, which had largely been tested at the suburban scale, to a fully urban environment, in their own backyard. McCaughan sees successes and failures at this early junction.
Of the failures, McCaughan sites the lack of adequate mass transit to support walkability, the design of the new Miami Marlins ballpark, and the lack of reduction in parking requirements. "The code is not complete. Miami 21 is stymied by the fact that it is not a code for a complete city, but only for its zoning. Miami’s lack of quality mass transit is one of the city’s worst obstacles to growth, and yet transportation planning was firmly beyond their jurisdiction. The long battle to enact the code also led to compromises and conformity on such matters as parking requirements."
McCaughan sees the code's early successes at a finer grain. "The strength of Miami 21 is not in big moves, like rail lines, or iconic public buildings. Miami 21’s power is urban infill, density, and the vitality of the pedestrian experience at the neighborhood level."
Auckland : port project contested
The project for the extension of the container terminal of Auckland, validated by the municipality last March, is today contested. A lobby of urban users, urban planners, and the Association of Architects of Auckland has rendered public, simulations of the future project. Whilst they recognise the necessity of increasing the container capacity of the port, they are strongly denouncing this specific project and its visual impact from the city, and for vessels (notably cruise liners and ferries) entering the port.
Kanagawa Prefecture opens up solar power to its residents
After the great earthquake last year and the subsequent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, power supply shortfalls occurred even in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Planned power outages were implemented on a large scale, which had extensive impacts and was a big blow to the economy and various industries.
ICLEI Member Kanagawa Prefecture has been promoting the Kanagawa Smart Energy Plan, which integrates measures for increasing power supply through use of solar power and other renewable energy sources, and for cutting peak power demand as well as shifting the peak demand.
To push forward the dissemination of solar power systems, which is at the core of the power supply component of the Plan, Kanagawa Prefecture is promoting the Kanagawa Solar Project.
The Kanagawa Solar Banking System has been kicked-off as a part of this project.
The Greening of Houston
Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Partnership is connecting restored downtown landscapes with Houston’s fledgling light rail line. "This has been a partnership of civic, business and public leaders who have worked for nearly two decades to reclaim a much-abused resource at the heart of Greater Houston, to make a restored landscape as a focal point for the region's public spaces and future development," says Robert Yaro, President of the Regional Plan Association.
The new CASCADE website is now online
Coordinated by EUROCITIES, CASCADE is a three year project (2011-2014) of networking and mutual learning on local energy leadership. It supports cities in delivering the EU 2020 targets for energy and climate change.
The project involves 19 large European cities as partners as well as thematic experts Koucky & Partners and Wuppertal Institute. The project has a budget of €2 million, with 75% of that being financed by the EU.
You can now find out more about the mutual learning and networking activities organised by our CASCADE project by visiting its new website, www.cascadecities.eu. Here you can also draw inspiration from the 19 city profiles which describe how CASCADE cities are delivering their local energy policies.
Saving the Mall By Returning to Its Ideals
Stephanie Clifford documents the extraordinary lengths malls across the country are going to in hopes of attracting customers in the face of e-commerce and a battered economy.
Victor Gruen probably didn't have vegetable gardens and casinos in mind when he envisioned the country's first enclosed shopping malls as community centers. But in communities across the country who cannot afford to demolish malls suffering from high vacancy levels or attract new tenants, some extraordinary uses are bringing in visitors. According to Clifford, "Schools, medical clinics, call centers, government offices and even churches are now standard tenants in malls."
"The efforts reflect a shift in how Americans want to shop today: rather than going to big, overwhelming malls, many prefer places where stores can be entered from the street, featuring restaurants, entertainment and other Main Street mainstays. Also, as commuters in urban areas shift to public transportation, the giant parking lots are no longer needed."
"While some malls can afford to change with the times, many cannot, and over all, there are too many malls today, urban planners say. The vacancy rate at shopping centers and strip malls was 11 percent in the last quarter of 2011, the highest level since 1991, according to the research firm Reis. Larger regional malls fared better, with a vacancy rate of 9.2 percent."
Small Scale Solutions for Big City Problems
A recent article in the Regional Plan Association's newsletter examined "micro-solutions" to city development problems. Rather than addressing growth and development challenges solely with large centralized strategies, some cities are using more innovative approaches that may be cheaper and faster to implement. Micro-solution examples include relying on green infrastructure instead of a new water-treatment facility, and implementing car- and bicycle-sharing in place of a highway expansion.
San Francisco wins 2012 Sustainable Transport Award
The Sustainable Transport Award is given in recognition of innovative transport solutions and sustainable transport in cities around the world by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP). The ITDP works with cities worldwide to bring about transport solutions that cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce poverty, and improve the quality of urban life
The Sustainable Transport Award was given to two cities for the year 2012 – San Francisco, USA and Medellin, Columbia. The winners were selected based on four characteristics: increasing mobility for residents, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from transportation, improving safety, and increasing access for cyclists and pedestrians. Additionally, each city is a leader in using social media and online technologies to reach out to local residents, providing more informative and convenient services.
ROMA-NeT learning event focuses on Roma and the Labour market
How to improve Roma employability? This question was at the heart of a transnational ROMA-NeT meeting in Bologna on 27 to 29 September 2011. Practitioners from the partner cities who have experience and learning to share in this field took part in this event where they worked with experts on the theme of Building a transitional labour market.
Port of Windsor : landscaping development against criminality
Confronted by problems of security and criminality in certain of the port areas, the port of Windsor (Canada) have undertaken landscaping development in consultation with a development company, police services and the University. The operation was executed with the adolescents of the neighbouring districts and in association with the local population. Certain areas have been made secure whilst others have become places for promenade and for ecological discoveries.
Demand Rises for Condos and Small Houses, While Big Home Sales Languish
Recent surveys show a need for 40 million more small and attached homes and condos in the United States than are currently available. Speaking at the 2012 New Partners for Smart Growth Conference last week, Chris Nelson of the University of Utah said that the imbalance between the demand for smaller homes and the millions of unsold large-lot homes is dragging down the real estate market.
New house? Do-it-yourself in Rotterdam
Winner of the EUROCITIES 2011 Innovation award, Rotterdam's 'do-it-yourself' housing programme allows residents to buy and renovate houses at affordable prices
Rotterdam’s ‘do-it-yourself houses’ (‘klushuizen’) project was awarded the EUROCITIES 2011 award for innovation at our annual conference last November in Genoa. Launched in 2004, the scheme allows Rotterdam’s residents to buy properties in some of the city’s less desirable neighbourhoods at rock-bottom prices. Many of the houses were taken on by the city from landlords who were not maintaining them to appropriate standards. Initially, the plan was for the city to renovate the properties and sell them on, but it soon became clear that selling newly-renovated houses in run-down areas was going to be a challenge.
Fill Cars, Fight Traffic
According to the Ridesharing Institute, filling out cars with more passengers may be the cheapest, simplest way to ease congestion, reports Emily Badger. However novel strategies must be introduced to overcome the broad decline in carpooling.
Whether through carpooling, slugging, or vanpooling, filling in all those empty seats on the highway could be the answer to easing congestion, beginning with just one workday a week. And the Ridesharing Institute isn't necessarily talking about old-school carpooling either: social media and technology is helping the organization push for more convenient, user-accommodating arrangements.
"Developing the best models will require actual R&D (although a small amount has been done and “soft” efforts to change mentalities has shown some promise). But while ridesharing currently accounts for about 10 percent of commuting trips, it gets nowhere near that in budget allocations or R&D funding from transportation agencies or large employers. Transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure have a similar problem because, on the whole, most of our attention and money goes toward accommodating single drivers and their cars."
Energy efficiency call for submission launched for local and regional authorities (Deadline: 8 May 2012)
In the framework of the Intelligent Energy Europe programme, the European Commission has launched a call for proposals directed at local and regional authorities, and other relevant stakeholder, with the aim of significantly contributing to the implementation of EU energy policy objectives.
The deadline for the submission of project proposals is set for 8 May 2012 at 17:00, Brussels, Belgium, date and time. Projects must result in a broad and lasting impact on Europe’s energy situation and revolve around one of three actions: energy-efficient public spending, local energy leadership or local energy investments.
The Most Frangrant Cities In The World
Chalder Burr, GQ's scent critic ranks the top ten most fragrant cities in the world.
Critical highlights include Burr description of Bogota: "Like a new car, concrete, and aftershave—a product of the bustling downtown business district. It's strange but you can also detect the altitude—8,612 feet above sea level—because of the exotic wind, rain, and greenery that rises from the Andes in the East."
More concisely, he describes Rome's fragrance as "like L.A., but with 2,000-year-old stone and 500-year-old palazzi, peeling paint, and espresso-spiked decadence."
The 2012 IMCL International Urban Revitalization Award
The 2012 IMCL International Urban Revitalization Award will be awarded for Ecuador’s nation-wide program “The Plaza: A Place of Encounter”, a visionary project to revitalize social life and economic vitality by restoring the country’s historic plazas.
Jacobo Herdoíza, Director of this project, will give a public presentation on Monday evening, May 21, at the 49th IMCL Conference that takes place at the Governor Hotel, in Portland, OR, May 20-24. This will be followed by presentation of the Award to Mr. Herdoíza, who will receive it on behalf of Ecuador’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage (Ministerio Coordinador de Patrimonio) on May 22.
The project was launched in Ibarra, in April 2011. The website identified the challenge: “The Plaza, in most Latin-American cities, was the point from which the city, public life, commerce, symbolic space and the seat of power developed. Today, the Plaza’s functionality is negatively affected by environmental and social factors, by problems of accessibility, and by urban development pressures, causing deterioration of the urban image, as well as civic activity. The potential for social integration in the city depends on possibilities for social encounter and exchange among people. In this sense, the use of public space, and particularly the Plaza, is an effective instrument for social cohesion.”
Ecuador’s National Plan for Good Living (El Plan Nacional para el Buen Vivir) is developing directions for community participation in the revitalization of these public places. A book about the project is in preparation.
The theme of the 49th IMCL Conference, Planning Healthy Communities for All, is perfectly exemplified by Ecuador’s visionary project, “The Plaza: A Place of Encounter”.
Clos presents youth initiative to Secretary-General
UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos, accompanied by senior Norwegian and United States officials, on Tuesday presented a new youth initiative to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Dr. Clos was accompanied by Mr. Arvinn Eikeland Gadgil, the Junior Minister who serves as Political Advisor to the Minister for Environment and International Cooperation, and Mr. Ronan S. Farrow, Director of the State Department's Global Youth Issues Office.
Giving young people the economic opportunities and political rights they are clamouring for isn't just right - it's essential for all of our security and prosperity,” said Mr. Farrow. “That's why the United States has taken a hard look at whether its programmes and policies are doing all they can to work for, and with, youth. And it's why we are so encouraged that the United Nations is doing the same.
In a related development, UN-Habitat was elected as the co-chair of the UN Inter-agency Network on Youth Development. Tuesday's meeting comes as UN-Habitat is planning a major youth meeting with other agencies, governments and partners at its Nairobi headquarters 15-18 March.
Calgary Experiments With Crowdsourcing Its Budget
In order to educate its citizens on how budgeting decisions are made, and inform decision makers on the priorities of its citizens, Calgary has engaged in an ambitious outreach process to get citizens to participate in drafting the city's budget.
As Nate Berg reports, the outreach program, titled “Our City. Our Budget. Our Future.”, used an online budget-making tool that allowed the city to better communicate exactly what each department does and to educate citizens on the trade-offs that the city must make.
"The site was also adjustable so that citizens could see, for example, what a 5 percent cut in funds would eliminate from the parks budget, or what an extra 10 percent would add to the transportation department’s plans for the year."
The site also served to give citizens a louder voice by proposing budgetary ideas and priorities in a novel format.
According the Mayor Naheed Nenshi, "We used to do things like open houses and town halls when we had those discussions. And what we learned this time around is that the open houses and the town halls are the most expensive and least successful part of the process."
Dynamics of deprived neighbourhoods in the URBACT cities
The development of deprived urban areas in Europe has always been a central concern for the URBACT programme. The French General Secretariat for urban and social development (SGCIV) highlights the results of URBACT projects related to the development of deprived neighbourhoods in a publication entitled "Dynamics of deprived neighbourhoods in the URBACT cities" (only available in French).
America's Third World Infrastructure
Alex Marshall investigates the reasons why America's infrastructure resembles a third world country's, and decides that we have our arcane budgeting processes to blame.
In search of some of the less recognized causes of our infrastructure woes, Marshall looks at governing official's predilections for raiding maintenance money to fund other budget shortfalls and the peculiar ways in which financing and political mechanisms make it easier to fund new projects rather than maintaining those already built.
"A transit manager at a major American city told me a revealing story during a tour: 'See those lights,' said the official, pointing to some bulbs within some rusting metal frames hanging over the platform. 'It would only cost about $1,000 a year to maintain those well. We can’t get that. So instead, we will wait until they rust out and fail completely. Then we will replace them, at a cost of perhaps $100,000.' This is poor governance and poor economics, to say the least."
Community-led local development at OPEN DAYS 2012
The 10th European Week of Regions and Cities (OPEN DAYS) takes place from 8 – 11 October 2012 and will include a series of workshops on community-led local development
Hosted by the Committee of the Regions each year, the European Week of Regions and Cities, known as OPEN DAYS, is an opportunity for representatives from Europe’s cities and regions to gather together, share views and exchange best practice on regional and urban development.
High on the agenda of this year’s edition is the future of cohesion policy 2014 – 2020. In this context, the CoR is coordinating a series of workshops showcasing community-led local development projects from around Europe. The workshops, which will take place from 9 – 11 October, offer project representatives, experts, associations and regional, local, national and European officials the chance to exchange and network on the October 2011 Commission proposals for post-2013 funding of community-led local development initiatives.
Workshop proposals will ideally consist of at least three projects or contributions, preferably from different member states. They should be submitted by 5 March 2012 and priority will be given to proposals which present examples of EU-funded projects, initiatives and networks and existing cooperation agreements between funds; that show good practice of bottom-up community involvement; and that demonstrate partnership between local authorities, private interests and businesses.
Urban hub "BentoBox" fosters cargo bike deliveries in Berlin
Last week, the city of Berlin presented the “BentoBox”, Europe’s first prototype of a flexible collection station for packages, little packets and smaller sachets. The station was combined with the deployment of innovative cargo bikes to achieve quick, cost efficient, emission free and almost silent distribution of goods.
The Threat of Poor Urban Design to Public Health
Scott Carlson profiles the work of Dr. Richard J. Jackson, chair of Environmental Health Sciences at the UCLA's School of Public Health, one of the leading voices calling for better urban design for the sake of good health.
For much of the past decade, Dr. Jackson has been trumpeting the connection between urban design and many of the most urgent public health issues affecting Americans today. Advocating from various platforms including his past position as head of the National Center for Environmental Health at the CDC, books including "Urban Sprawl and Public Health: Designing, Planning, and Building for Healthy Communities" (Island Press, 2004), and a new mini-series for public television called Designing Healthy Communities, Jackson's work has earned its share of critics, from Libertarians to the National Association of Home Builders.
Dr. Jackson is currently focused on efforts to make a much broader group of people aware of their role in public health, not just health providers or health practitioners. "If we are going to change the way we build our communities, it has got to be done because of the demand of the citizenry—a demand that the average, very busy local political leader can understand," Dr. Jackson says. "We humans are so adaptable that we look at the world that we are in and we think, It has to be this way. But everything around us was an idea in someone's head before it was built. In large part, the idea behind the series is to alter what's in our head."
Citizens, municipalities and cities key to meeting climate goals
Martin Lidegaard, Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Buildings, stressed the vital role of local authorities in tackling climate change during his keynote speech at a breakfast policy briefing organised by Brussels-based think thank, European Policy Centre, on Tuesday 24 January.
When asked about the ambitious efforts made by signatories to the Covenant of Mayors initiative, Lidegaard remarked:
“We need a combination of a clear top-down agreement and bottom-up engagement. The objectives of any UN agreement will not be met if we do not engage citizens, municipalities and cities. Without these actors Europe cannot deliver. The potential of the grass-root level should not be underestimated, not in Denmark and neither in Europe. 85% of all capital today is private. It is clear that we need to approach our climate challenge from all angles, certainly also from bottom-up.”
The ambitious Covenant of Mayors initiative engages more than 3,000 local and regional authorities in a voluntary commitment to increase energy efficiency and promote the uptake of renewable energy sources on their territory. Signatories, of which over 100 are EUROCITIES members, aim to meet and exceed the EU’s 20% CO2 reduction objective by 2020.
Green Building Trends To Watch in 2012
Claire Easley talks with the "godfather of green," Jerry Yudelson, about the "megatrends" to watch for in the Green Building industry over the next year.
Green Building will not be immune to the overall trends in the economy and the real estate industry, but the market is still poised for growth, albeit growth that may be focused around "frugal green" amenities.
Trends in the U.S. include continued growth in LEED for Existing Buildings certifications, which will likely exceed registrations for new construction for the second year in a row. Net-zero energy buildings will gain traction and water issues will continue to grow in importance.
Yudelson also sees performance disclosure, which is already prevalent in the European Union and Australia, becoming widespread in U.S. cities as prospective tenants seeks to compare energy costs between buildings.
Toronto forges Weather-Wise partnership
The partnership focuses on the protection of the region's residents, organizations, infrastructure, and environment from extreme weather. Toronto is the first Canadian city to bring together such a diverse group to focus on adapting to climate change.
The WeatherWise Partnership, which includes representatives from the three levels of government and many other sectors, has identified the continuation of electrical power during extreme weather events as its first priority. Future areas of focus may include urban transportation, flooding and extreme heat.
Visit www.toronto.ca to read more about this exciting collaboration!
'Shared Space' Streets without Sidewalk Curbs--Safer for Pedestrians?
A new approach in urban street design, called 'Shared Space,' aims to reduce the dominance of cars by getting people and vehicles to share the road space. This includes removing curbs so that there is no clear physical demarcation between the pavement and the rest of the street. This strategy has arguably made streets safer for pedestrians, with less accidents and slower vehicle speeds.
'Pathways out of poverty': social mobility in European cities
EUROCITIES has launched a call for tenders from urban researchers to study patterns of social mobility in European cities. Announcing the research call, EUROCITIES secretary general Paul Bevan said, "We know that throughout history poor people have been attracted to cities by the opportunities they offer for work and advancement. We want to find out more about how European cities nowadays provide those pathways out of poverty. Are there still more chances for upward mobility in urban rather than rural settings? Can we distinguish public policy choices that help and hinder social mobility?"
Funded under the European Commission's PROGRESS programme, the research project will run from April to October 2012, with a total budget of up to €20,000. The deadline for tenders is 29 February 2012.
The Rise of the Megacity
Through the lens of Chengdu and Delhi, Paul Webster and Jason Burke explore how the rise of the megacity is changing the way we live.
In the developing world, where many of the world's emerging megacities can be found, "poor rural families flooding into the world's urban population centres bring challenges that have never before been seen – nor met."
"Optimists see a new network of powerful, stable and prosperous city states, each bigger than many small countries, where the benefits of urban living, the relative ease of delivering basic services compared to rural zones and new civic identities combine to raise living standards for billions. Pessimists see the opposite: a dystopic future where huge numbers of people fight over scarce resources in sprawling, divided, anarchic "non-communities" ravaged by disease and violence."
Final URBACT Call for Proposals from networks of EU cities
URBACT, an exchange and learning programme for European cities promoting sustainable urban development, has launched its third and final call for proposals for the creation of up to 19 new Thematic Networks. The Call is open until 15th March 2012.
Jointly financed by the European Regional Development Fund and EU Member States, URBACT enables cities from across Europe to work together to develop solutions to major urban challenges, reaffirming the key role they play in facing increasingly complex societal changes. It helps cites to develop pragmatic, sustainable solutions that integrate economic, social and environmental dimensions. Through URBACT, cities can share good practices and lessons learned with professionals involved in urban policy throughout Europe.
Projects approved through this 3rd URBACT Call for proposals will address one of the 8 topics defined for the call, while considering the following challenges:
Candidates can find full details at http://bit.ly/tW8Qlm
The Green Digital Charter text and infopack now available in six languages
With the aim of making the Green Digital Charter more accessible to non-English speakers, NiCE proceeded to the translation of the Infopack into five more languages: French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish.
The Green Digital Charter infopack consists of all the publications developed under the NiCE project to provide full information on the Charter and the project activities to promote the Charter implementation.
The infopack is now available in six languages and can be downloaded on the GDC webportal: http://www.greendigitalcharter.com/resources/green-digital-charter-infopack.
Study Confirms Environmental Benefits of Adaptive Reuse
Sarah Laskow reports on a new study from the National Trust for Historic Preservation that confirms and quantifies the adage that reuse of a historic building is more sustainable than LEED certified new construction.
As Laskow reports, one item of interest to come out of the report is that renovated buildings outperformed new buildings on energy savings in every category of building type except for one: "converting a warehouse to a multi-family dwelling, which required enough extra materials that creating a new building was the greener choice."
"One goal of the report was to make the case for building reuse as smart development practice, an option that is often overlooked. For green-minded preservationists, the data in the report gives heft to long-held beliefs: As TreeHugger’s Lloyd Alter puts it, 'As a writer about sustainable design [the report] backs up the arguments I have been making for years, and as a preservation activist, it gives me and everyone in the movement the ammunition we need to demonstrate that old buildings are green.'"
Crime rates in EU drop slower
Crime keeps decreasing throughout the EU, but at a less steady pace than in recent years. This is one of the main conclusions of the recently published Eurostat report ‘Crime and Criminal Justice, 2006-2009’, in which statistics on various types of crime in the different Member States are monitored and analyzed. Though the trend of a decreasing crime rate is significant, notable differences between countries and types of crime remain.
Lessons From the World's Great Biking Cities
Christine Grant was fortunate enough to win a fellowship that allowed her to spend six months in the world's most bike-friendly cities. In this article she shares with us the 10 essential lessons she learned along the way.
In addition to the elements planners might intuitively understand about how to provide an encouraging environment for bicyclists in our cities (protected lanes, implement a bike-share program, etc.), Christine has some intriguing findings.
One such recommendation that would-be bicyclists may not consider is Lesson 7 -- You don’t need bike clothes:
"Most of the women and men I saw on bicycles throughout Europe and Japan didn’t wear special clothes. People just wore their usual outfits, heels and all. Women from London to Tokyo looked beautiful, stylish, and feminine while they were cycling. Men frequently pedaled in suits. 'Style over speed,' says Mikael Colville-Anderson, who started the Cycle Chic movement."
"Energy Efficiency Watch" Conference on 1st March 2012 in Wels (AT)
EU energy efficiency policies matter to you? You would like to see what progress has been made in the Member States concerning the policy implementation? If so, the Energy Efficiency Watch Conference, in the framework of the international conference World Sustainable Energy Days, might be of interest for you.
This conference is organised as a part of the IEE-funded "Energy Efficiency Watch 2" project which aims at facilitating the implementation of the "EU-Energy Services Directive".
You will discover the main results achieved by the project so far, including screenings of National Energy Efficiency Action Plans and a comprehensive stakeholder survey on the progress of energy efficiency policies in the EU Member States in the last years.
Besides expert presentations, an interactive voting session will be held.
A Paradigm Shift in Urban Runoff
Christine MacDonald looks at efforts by everyone from home gardeners to municipal water authorities to rethink and rebuild the infrastructure to handle urban runoff.
As cities across the country seek to improve the quality of their waterways by ending the "scourge of sewerage overflows" and polluted runoff, efforts large and small are contributing to capturing and filtering rain water where it falls.
"Once, cities were built to channel storm water away from building foundations and roadways. But as urban areas have grown, rooftops, streets and other impervious surfaces have disrupted cities' natural hydrology. Today, everyone from water authorities to home gardeners are looking to absorb rain where it falls, eschewing traditional treatment plants and underground sewerage tunnels that effectively neutralize runoff, but don’t do much else.", writes MacDonald.
Beautifying streets, saving money, and providing habitat for wildlife are just some of the benefits of such efforts.
See also our recent feature on moving Beyond Low Impact Development for a more in-depth analysis of the current challenges, and five proposed strategies, for effective stormwater management.
Best Practice Award for Coastal Towns: Call for applications
European local communities are invited to take part in a competition for best practices in the regeneration of coastal towns - the Best Practice Award Programme of the Council of Europe. The competition is organised by the Council of Europe Centre of Expertise for Local Government Reform, in the framework of the UK Chairmanship of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers and in partnership with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the UK Local Government Association. In the first stage, interested towns are invited to send the completed "Expression of Interest" form latest by 29 February 2012. For more information: www.coe.int/congress
Are U.S. Cities Effectively Desegregated?
Sam Roberts reports on a new study of census results that found the nation’s cities are more racially integrated than at any time since 1910.
The study, published by Edward Glaeser and Jacob L. Vigdor at the Manhattan Institute, finds that suburbanization by African Americans was one of the largest factors in curtailing residential segregation in metropolitan America. Roberts writes that the report concludes that, "all-white enclaves “are effectively extinct” and that while black urban ghettos still exist they are shriveling."
For all of the progress noted by the report, however, caveats and notes of caution were sounded by the author's colleagues, and the authors themselves. "'Residential segregation has declined pervasively, as ghettos depopulate and the nation’s population center shifts toward the less segregated Sunbelt,' Glaeser and Vigdor [indicated]. 'At the same time, there has been only limited progress in closing achievement and employment gaps between blacks and whites.'"
Online form to facilitate submission of projects for the DIA Best Practices Award
As the regional UN-HABITAT centre, the Best Practices Hub - Vienna identifies innovation and success in the implementation of urban programmes as part of the UN-HABITAT Best Practices Programme. This worldwide call for proposals is intended to determine, by March 2012, how cities and municipalities deal with the requirements of increasing urban growth, the role of urban systems in climate policy and with planning tasks aimed at creating a sustainable and socially just city, in order to support the objectives of the DIA Best Practices Award, the best practices database and the further work of UN-HABITAT. An online submission form, which is to facilitate the submission of potential projects, has been recently made available at www.bestpractices.at/submission.
Arch. Ettore Maria Mazzola to receive the IMCL International Urban Design Award
Prof. Arch. Ettore Maria Mazzola, The University of Notre Dame, School of Architecture, Rome Studies Program, will be the recipient of the 2012 IMCL Conference International Urban Design Award, to be presented at the 49th IMCL Conference in Portland, OR, May 20-24, 2012.
Professor Mazzola’s work has consistently led the way in envisioning urban environments that celebrate community, and lift the spirit. His designs are hospitable for all, and show special concern for more vulnerable population groups, children, elders and the poor.
His project to replace a monolithic, low income housing block near Rome (Corviale) with a genuinely livable urban fabric, without disrupting the community, provides an exemplary model for urban renewal throughout the world. For more information, please see Regenerate suburban districts – proposal for the “ground-scraper” Corviale in Rome.
Professor Mazzola’s books include: The Sustainable City is Possible (2009); and Architecture and Town Planning, Operating Instructions, introduction by Léon Krier (2006). Please visit Professor Mazzola’s Profile.
The theme of the 49th IMCL Conference is Planning Healthy Communities for All, a theme that Professor Mazzola’s work perfectly exemplifies.
A Call For Regenerative Cities
Sustainability is not enough. Because so much damage has already been inflicted upon the world's ecosystems, Anna Leidreiter argues for the need for regenerative cities that positively enhance 'ecosystem services.'
Writing in The Global Urbanist, Leidreiter calls for the development and implementation of technologies and practices that "re-enrich the landscapes on which cities depend."
"The established horizon of urban ecology should be expanded to include all the territories involved in sustaining urban systems. Urban regeneration thus takes on the meaning of eco-regeneration."
Vienna ranks top among Smart Cities
The first global comparison of cities in terms of innovation, technology and sustainability ranks Vienna as number 1 of so-called Smart Cities, ahead of Toronto, Paris and New York. The ranking, which was conducted by the US climate strategist Boyd Cohen and has been recently published by the online magazine Co.Exist, was based on acknowledged criteria and analysed all studies existing in this field. It reaffirms once more the City of Vienna’s leading role in urban development, which was already recognised by the Mercer Study, where Vienna was ranked in the top position for several times, being awarded the title of “most liveable city in the world”, and by the World Smart Cities Award 2011, where Vienna reached a top position.
Will Toronto's Mayor Drag the City Back to the Twentieth Century?
Just a year into his term, Christopher Hume delivers a scathing critique of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his pro-vehicular policies.
Hume does not believe that the damage caused by Ford's misguided ideas and abrasive tone have mortally wounded the city, but as the city's transit situation "goes from bad to worse", he fears for its future.
"As we’re now beginning to understand, it’s not LRTs that must be removed from streets like Eglinton, but cars and trucks. And if not removed, reduced in numbers. The current arterial imbalance discriminates, often with deadly results, against pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders and the city itself.
After decades of such thinking, change won’t come easily. A pseudo-science such as traffic engineering appears as normal as can be, but it’s little more than an organized system for enabling all things vehicular."
Call for cities to join Bologna for a cycling challenge
The city of Bologna and the local transport authority SRM will launch a contest of European cities to challenge each other on transport cycling mileage in May 2012. Cities interested to join should get in contact before 15 February 2012.
Better cities, better life in Malawi
The cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and Zomba last week launched Urban Profiles highlighting the priorities for improving life in all four centres of the southern African nation.
“I urge all the cities to utilize these profiles by using them to help in allocating development resources and also to help mobilize resources to address the identified challenges in their respective cities,” Mrs.Ivy Luhanga, the Principal Secretary for Local Government and Rural Development at the Malawi Cities Forum on citywide slum upgrading in the capital 23-25 January 2011. “I appeal to donors, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, academia and all city dwellers to work together and to support the efforts of the city councils in reducing poverty in our cities.”
Addressing the root causes of slums and putting in place response and preventive measures are at the top of the agenda for those committed to poverty reduction in Malawi. The Forum was organized by the Non-Governmental Centre for Community Organisation and Development, an affiliate of the Shack Dwellers International.
The conference was the first of its kind to take place in the country, and focused on slum upgrading, during which lessons learnt were drawn from a number of cities Malawi and neighbouring Southern African cities. It also provided an important forum for participants to discuss community led slum upgrading interventions.
Fourth call for applications to Youth Fund.
The UN-HABITAT Urban Youth Fund will this year provide one million dollars to projects led by young people aged 15-32 years who are piloting innovative approaches to employment, good urban governance, shelter and secure tenure
Under the Fund's rules small development initiatives are eligible for grants up to $25,000.
Of the one billion slum dwellers in the world today, it is estimated that more than 70% are under the age of 30. These young people have few resources available to improve their own living environments. There are many youth-led initiatives in slums and squatter settlements around the world that require support in their efforts to transform their communities.
UN-HABITAT invites young people based in cities or towns from the developing world to apply for grants from the fund. Applications open on February 15th 2012 and the deadline for applications is April 15th 2012. More information and details are available at
French town wins Topten energy audit by sharing its life-cycle costing approach
The town of Venelles celebrated the New Year knowing that it is on the way to dramatically improving its energy efficiency. It was selected as the winner of a free energy audit worth up to €7,500, funded by the Intelligent Energy Europe programme. The small commune near Aix-en-Provence, with just over 8,000 residents, impressed the judges in the Topten Life-cycle Costing in Public Procurement competition with its ambitions to retrofit its public buildings. The Mayor, Jean Pierre Saez, said “the cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use.”
To enter, public authorities had to describe the actions they have taken to improve energy efficiency in their purchasing. In 2007, the Municipal Council of Venelles decided to start implementing environmental criteria in its procurement. From sourcing more sustainable food for its school canteens to introducing electric and hybrid vehicles for its municipal fleet, Venelles has put the decision into action.
The competition aimed to draw attention to the use of life-cycle costing (LCC) in procurement. LCC is a way of calculating all the costs associated with a product, service or work throughout its life-cycle. When applied to the procurement of IT equipment, vehicles or lighting, for example, it may result in the decision to purchase more energy-efficient products.
The energy audit will be carried out on the École Marcel Pagnol, a primary school with 122 students that was built in 1960. The audit will cover all aspects of the school’s energy consumption and recommend improvements. Venelles has already taken steps towards improving its buildings, with the installation of a photovoltaic system at the City Hall saving 23,776 tonnes of CO2 in four years.
With over 2 trillion Euros spent on public contracts on a yearly basis in the EU, translating to 19 percent of its GDP, it is clear that there is huge potential to make this spending more sustainable. The Topten Project (funded by Intelligent Energy Europe) and ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability is working to help public authorities apply tools like LCC in their procurement. The website www.topten.eu/pro offers guidance and sample tender documents for procuring more efficient and environmentally friendly products while complying with EU regulations.
New Report Paints a Dire Picture of Metropolitain Unemployment
A new report released Wednesday, to coincide with a U.S. Conference of Mayors gathering in Washington D.C., finds that only 26 of the nation’s 363 metropolitan areas had recovered the jobs lost during the recession by the end of last year.
Michael Cooper reports on the bleak outlook found in the study commissioned by the Conference, "It will take at least five years for the 80 hardest-hit areas to recover the jobs they lost."
The report comes as the country's mayors -- Democrat and Republican -- grow increasingly frustrated that the Federal Government, rather than providing cities with tools to improve their economies, have in fact cut many of the programs that cities have come to rely on to fund operations and improvements.
"Not only has Congress failed to overcome partisan gridlock to agree on a way to created much-needed jobs by spending more money on infrastructure, mayors said, but even the small sources of federal support that cities rely on — whether the Community Development Block Grants that were devised by Republican administrations in the 1970s or more recent federal programs that help struggling cities pay for more police officers or firefighters — are being scaled back as Washington has made cutting the deficit a priority."
“We’re looking for a partnership with the Congress to put America back to work,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, a Democrat who is the president of the mayors’ group, said in an interview. “We’re looking for the Congress to do its job. If we were to grade the 112th Congress, I think you’d have to say the midterm report card grade would be very clear: an F for failure.”
Bordeaux, the return of the river
About ten years ago, the left bank quays of Bordeaux were invaded by cars and trucks. The port was less and less active in the city centre and was turning more and more towards the estuary. The Garonne which had for a long time been at the centre of the history of the city had become just a river that ran through it, at best little by little ignored, at worst highly unloved during its catastrophic rises of the water level like that of March 1988.
Awareness and the beginnings of reconciliation with the river started in 1999 with the “Festival of the river”, and in 2000 with the ‘Garonne Plan’. This plan, at the time, enabled the larger orientations aimed at turning the city once again towards its river to be traced. Between 2001 and 2007, these orientations became more solid with the implementation of the project led by Michel Corajoud on the left bank.
The Port are attentive to the presence on their territory of numerous remarkable natural areas and are now looking to privilege logistics using rail and waterway more respectful of the environment.
Nearly 300 000 new inhabitants are expected in the metropolis by 2030 which will then attain 1 million inhabitants. This demographic expansion will necessitate 50 to 60 000 housing units with numerous projects concentrated on the banks of the river.
Going green with a swipe of a card
Residents of ICLEI Member Kanagawa Prefecture will soon be paying their bills with e-money.
This, as Kanagawa Prefecture collaborates with Aeon Co., Ltd. to promote environmental education, through the use of e-money called Kanagawa Green Eco WAON.
Kanagawa Prefecture entered into a comprehensive cooperation agreement with Aeon Co., Ltd. to promote better use of resources, economic and community development, and public service on 13 October 2011. Based on the agreement, the Kanagawa Green Eco WAON cards were issued and are currently used in Aeon shops and other shops in partnership with the system of WAON.
Every time a customer uses the Kanagawa Green Eco WAON cards, part of the purchase proceeds will be donated to the Kanagawa Prefecture and used for activities of environmental education.
Specifically, the donation is to be utilized for Clean Energy and Energy Conservation School Project which sends professionals from companies and Not-for Profit Organizations (NPO) of energy sector as instructors to schools and provides children hands-on opportunities to learn environmental issues.
There have been many cases in which part of the purchase proceeds through local IC cards are used for community development but Kanagawa Green Eco Waon is the very first e-money system in Japan that contributes to the promotion of environmental education.
It is hoped that countermeasures of global warming will be further reinforced together with the expansion of the project above as well as other initiatives such as the promotion of clean energy and energy conservation, environmental measures, and green campaign agreed in the comprehensive cooperation agreement.
Call for cities to join Bologna for a cycling challenge
The city of Bologna and the local transport authority SRM will launch a contest of European cities to challenge each other on transport cycling mileage in May 2012. Cities interested to join should get in contact before 15 February 2012!
Following its campaign "Bologna Citta in bici" (Bologna cycling city) the city of Bologna, Italy, is now extending its scope and looking for cities to join a cycling challenge between several European cities. During May 2012 a group of citizens in each participating city will track their cycling kilometres as "cycling transportation", not as sport, through a GPS tracking system. During a month also CO2 savings would be quantified.
In cooperation with Endomondo, a sports community based on free real-time GPS, customized web pages for each participating city will be developed. Tracking facilities as they have been used already for Bologna’s recent cycling campaign are easy-to-use free applications for smartphones. Track points and workouts in CSV format for the whole challenge period will be delivered by Endomondo to all cities, thus allowing further elaboration for statistical purposes.
Endomondo offered to deliver the needed support for a group of at least 10 cities aiming at pure costs covering: the amount of 3.500 € per city was quantified. Then each city should be active in enrolling its own citizens using its own channels: mailing lists, press releases, local promotional activities. Costs can be this way very limited, ensuring a very positive impact in terms of image and results. A corporate image logo of the campaign will be agreed.
If you are interested to join the challenge please contact Polis for more information before 15 Februrary:
Contact Bologna: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why Portland's Public Toilets Succeeded Where Others Failed
For the residents of Portland, Ore., taking a whiz in a public toilet is not just a matter of necessity. It’s an act of civic pride.
That’s because the city is home to the Portland Loo, a unique, patented outdoor bathroom that inspires such worship in its fanbase you’d think that Steve Jobs himself had designed it. This adoration comes despite the fact that the 24-hour loo was built to be as inhospitable as possible. This toilet does not want to be loved, but in Portland, it is No. 1 (and, presumably, sometimes No. 2 as well).
The soulless receptacle for bodily waste has its own blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. When a loo hater set one ablaze last June, Facebook denizens flocked to its defense. "The Portland Loos rock! What other city can boast public restrooms that are fire proof. ;)" wrote Laura Mears, while Charlie Clint chimed in with, "I'm always sending someone to use one of these – and it's great to hear how sturdy they are! (woo hoo)."
Major Swedish support for UN-Habitat
UN-Habitat and the Government of Sweden signed a new collaboration agreement on Wednesday whereby Stockholm will provide USD 14 million over the next four years to support the agency's work programme.
The funding will be allocated towards UN-Habitat's new medium-term priorities – urban planning, equitable and inclusive urban land legislation, urban poverty reduction, gender, democracy and human rights are some of the medium-term priorities.
The agreement was signed by UN-Habitat Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos, and the Ambassador of the Government of Sweden to Kenya and Permanent Representative to UN-HABITAT, Ms. Ann Dismorr.
"We express our most sincere gratitude to the Government of Sweden for its vision in understanding the increased relevance of urban issues in the current and future economic, political and social agenda," Dr. Clos said in a statement welcoming the agreement.
He cited "the valuable partnership with Sweden in the medium-term that allows us to work together to improve the lives of millions of citizens facing new challenges for sustainable urban development." He also recalled "the importance of the Swedish cooperation, especially in the last ten years, to a wide range of UN-Habitat activities and projects at local/municipal, national, regional and international levels".
The agreement also includes the strengthening of transparency, efficiency and excellence in management. In this context, UN-Habitat will continue to introduce results-based management and work on a pilot project on open data and transparency following the Swedish Government's experience with www.openaid.se.
€ 67 million available for new Intelligent Energy – Europe projects
The new IEE call for project proposals is open. In 2012, there will be € 67 million available for funding. Applicants are asked to submit ideas for projects in areas such as energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, clean transport and local energy investments.
The call closes on 8 May 2012 for all types of actions except the Build Up Skills initiative which has different deadlines.