Sunday, October 17, 2010

Introduction (Cont.)

In this post, I would like to provide a bit of general background information on eco-cities, the Taiwan Strait Climate Change Incubator (TSCCI) project, and the Energy Masterplan for Taichung City.

What is an eco-city?

Although the term "eco-city" is a bit vague and perhaps over-used in attempts to greenwash projects, it is also not necessarily futuristic or impractical. Eco-cities are urban areas designed with environmental conservation, energy efficiency, and (more recently) a low carbon footprint in mind. Eco-cities achieve their goals through numerous measures including (but not limited to):

  • renewable energy sources
  • energy efficiency
  • public transportation
  • green buildings
  • waste recycling
  • water conservation and re-use
  • preservation and expansion of green space
  • smart grid technology
  • education

Eco-cities are largely conceived in two forms. Many current eco-city projects, such as the Masdar eco-city in Abu Dhabi or the Sino-Singapore eco-city in Tianjin, are new cities created from scratch. There are also eco-city projects that retrofit existing cities. While the former gives wider latitude to its planners, the latter presents further challenges but is ultimately more applicable to the needs of the world’s industrialized metropolitan areas.

What is the TSCCI Project?

The Taiwan Strait Climate Change Incubator (TSCCI) project incorporates eco-city proposals for the cities of Taichung, ROC and Xiamen, PRC. The TSCCI project was created by CHORA Architecture and Urbanism founder Raoul Bunschoten, who has worked with partners in Xiamen and Taichung on energy master plans for both cities. While each city has its own distinct strategic plan, there is a planned carbon-trading system that will link the two urban centers across the strait.

Taichung Energy Masterplan

Later this year, I will have an opportunity to go to Xiamen to examine its eco-city proposal and progress, but for now my focus will be on Taichung. Taichung is an interesting eco-city candidate because of the familiarity of the challenges it faces. Like many cities in the developed world, Taichung is confronted with traffic congestion, infrastructural insufficiency, and urban decay. Additionally, Taichung's districting situation adds a further dimension of influence to the urban development policies it adopts. By the end of 2010, Taichung City will merge with Taichung County, consolidating into one municipality. Thus, urban planning for Taichung will soon encompass a broader area, creating additional opportunities to carry out sustainable urban development projects.

Taichung has already taken steps to become a greener city. Taichung Mayor Jason Hu has emphasized carbon reduction and at the 2007 Bali Conference, Taichung (along with Taipei and Kaohsiung) agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 60% below 1990 levels by 2050. With its planned new convention center and metropolitan opera house, Taichung is constructing landmark green buildings that will convey its status as a sustainable city.

In order to achieve Taichung's vision as a model low-carbon city, the Taichung City Strategic Energy Masterplan under Climate Change was commissioned by the Taichung City government. The proposal was co-drafted by Professor Shuenn Ren Liou of Tunghai University (my Fulbright sponsor), Raoul Bunschoten, and Mr. C.S. Shen of S.C.S. and Associates Architecture Firm. In order to help Taichung City achieve its carbon emission reduction goals, the plan identifies six areas of Taichung City for green retrofitting:

  • Old Shui-nan Airport
  • Central Business District
  • Dado Mountain Corridor
  • Green Belt
  • Fazi River
  • Old Taichung City Hall

The proposal outlines specific green development plans for all areas except the Fazi River and Old Taichung City Hall. So far, only the re-development of the Shui-nan airport area has begun. Although CHORA and Tung Hai University’s proposal for Shui-nan airport's revitalization was not adopted by the Taichung government, its recommendations heavily influenced the energy efficiency and renewable energy components of the final proposal that was commissioned.

Taichung’s energy master plan proposal takes into account Taichung’s pre-existing configuration of open space, meteorological trends, and urban heat island effect. The plan offers a vision of eco-city development through five interrelated initiatives:

  • Energy devices
  • Renewable energy
  • Energy infrastructure
  • Education
  • Organizational reform

Over the course of the year, I will examine the various districts of Taichung and their green urban development initiatives in more detail. When applicable, I will draw parallels to green development in Taiwan's other cities and their potential transferability to other international cities.

1 comment:

  1. So will the eco-city model of Taichung be a hybrid of both current models? Or will it be based more around Sino-Singapore's model, considering that model is more congenial for industrialized centers.

    Curiously though, will Taichung's failures/successes be carried over to the whole of Taiwan? Is that part of a Taiwan sustainable development plan?