Danish capital awarded for sustainable design solutions

On 29 August 2013, the Danish capital Copenhagen received an Index Award – the world’s biggest design award – for the city’s climate adaptation plan because, according to the jury, it provides “a unique and robust framework for a massive influx of sustainable design solutions in the future.”

Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan. Courtesy of Rambøll

CopenhagenClimateAdaptCO200The City of Copenhagen’s aim is to reach carbon-neutrality as the first capital in the world in 2025. As such, the city’s climate adaptation plan is tightly interlinked with Copenhagen’s other key plans for green, sustainable, social and economic development. Taken together, the plans serve as the framework for hundreds of Danish designers, architects and engineers working on designing solutions for a vibrant and resilient metropolis of the 21st century.

Copenhagen City will use the award sum of 100,000 euro specifically with a focus on creating innovative design solutions and involving local citizens.

This was reported by Index on the website designtoimprovelife.dk.

The Copenhagen Climate Adaption Plan – 2011 (PDF, 16 pages, 0.7 MB)

Index Award wrote:

“The planet’s climate is in a state of change, throwing tsunamis and massive rain pours at its inhabitants, and the Index Award, a Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, is now rewarded for allegedly having found a way to connect and address the climate changes in one master plan: the city’s Climate Adaptation Plan, aiming to prepare Copenhagen for the future by developing the Danish capital as a “climate proof”, attractive, and green city.

The plan is one of two winners in the Community Category of the INDEX Award 2013. Jury member Arnold S. Wasserman called it “a foresight of critical importance.”

“Copenhagen is already a world leader for green and sustainable solutions. By implementing the Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan, the city can stimulate growth and sustainability at the same time. We believe that a climate proof city is more attractive to live and invest in”, said Mayor of Copenhagen, Frank Jensen.

In the Climate Adaptation Plan, experts have assessed which climate change challenges are the biggest and where Copenhagen as a city can derive the greatest benefit by taking action now and in the coming years. At the same time, the city is looking at how such measures — necessary for Copenhagen to adapt to the future climate — can be of pleasure and benefit to the city immediately. Thus, the Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan is “designing the city of tomorrow today”, as Index Award jury member John Heskett put it.

Copenhagen is taking a lead in addressing climate change by targeting three key levels of climate adaptation:

  • Minimizing potential damage arising from climate change.
  • Warning and response systems to deal with abnormal conditions.
  • Preventive infrastructure to cope with damage, loss and traffic disruption.

A spokesman from the Municipality of Copenhagen said: “By including a green growth perspective in our thinking, Copenhagen will ensure that investments can be made in partnership with external investors. This can contribute to investments being not just an expense for the city, but also a way to create growth and employment — as well as attracting new knowledge and new business to the city.”

Sankt Kjelds Kvarter, Copenhagen. Courtesy of Tredje Natur

The Index Award jury’s motivations for awarding this design is that in a year where climate adaptation plans are mandatory in all municipalities throughout Denmark — and a central focus of city administrations around the world — Copenhagen’s Climate Adaptation Plan really stands out with its main focus on seeing flooding and climate adaptation as a resource rather than a problem, benefiting businesses and citizens alike. Thus, by rethinking climate adaptations as a whole, via in-depth analyzes, the Danish capital will use excess water as a vital resource — while implementing flexible design solutions that reduce construction work and saves money for the city.”

Index Award winners 2013:

Smart Highway — a Dutch take on intelligent roads of the future. Smart Highway also won the People’s Choice Award after a close vote on CNN.com.

FreshPaper — a revolutionary and simple sheet of paper keeping produce fresh four times longer.

The Natalie Collection — a trio of birth simulating devices preventing child and maternal death.

Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan — the Danish capital’s pioneering plan of how to address the changing climate.

Raspberry Pi — a $25 computer aiming to digitalize the whole world.

The annual Index award show took place on 29 August in the city Helsingør, one hour’s drive north of Copenhagen, with an audience of 1,500 Danish and international guests.

Other sustainable publications and plans from Copenhagen
Through the extensive efforts to make the City of Copenhagen greener, the council and departments has gained new skills and knowledge in the field, and they share this through publications of their results and future plans.


Sustainable mega-city role model: Mexico City

Mexico City hopes to be turned into an example for the rest of the world by the implementation of climate policies and new systems that will transform the sprawling, polluted capital city into a green urban leader.

Text and photo brought to you by designtoimprovelife.dk

Much like Copenhagen, Mexico City is gaining more and more positive attention for its green initiatives. The sprawling, polluted capital, Mexico City is to be metamorphosed into an exemplar green city thanks to the urban strategy: Plan Verde. The holistic strategy aims to improve the interaction between the citizens and their environment in order to create a more thoughtful use of resources.

With a population of more than 20 million people, and a reputation for high crime rates and pollution, the city has set out to change its ways and image through sustainable solutions embedded in the Plan Verde strategy.

Plan Verde is a strategy that focuses on fighting environmental and urban problems with green solutions, and through it the Mexican capital has already become a sustainable role model for other mega cities.

The strategy aims to better the interaction between the citizens and their environment to create a more thoughtful use of natural resources and create behavioral changes in society. It also allows citizens to know what the objectives are and which actions the government proposes for achieving environmental sustainability.

The green plan offers a 15-year strategy with US$1 billion-per-year investment to develop new transport, water, waste, land conservation and alternative energy programs for the city. Climate adaptation is a central concern, and a $5.4 billion Climate Action Program aims to reduce the city’s carbon dioxide emissions by seven million tonnes — about 12 percent — from 2008 to 2013.

Other Plan Verde initiatives include urban gardens and compost piles for 15 middle-class apartment complexes. Collection centers are planned to allow residents to sort, clean, and resell recyclable materials to local industries.

As part of a ‘Travel by Bike’ initiative, 300 kilometres of bike routes are being created in ‘corridors for non-motorized transport’. There are also nine rapid transport corridors with 200 kilometres of restricted lanes being built for buses. And traditional taxis are being replaced by electric cars to cut emissions. In the waste sector there is an ambitious project to capture biogas from a landfill site.

While these are mitigating actions, designed to remedy the mistakes the city inherited from prior poor strategy, or lack thereof, forward-thinking adaptation is also built into the program. For example, one notable element is work on urban ravines to reduce the impact of heavy rain. This is likely to benefit vulnerable low income groups who live in such locations. There is also reforestation and soil conservation on the urban fringe.

A staggering 59 percent of the total land area of the Federal District of Mexico City is designated as a conservation area. However, there has long been a problem with illegal development, logging and fires. In response, the City has created a special police unit of 1,500 officers to enforce environmental regulations in the land conservation areas.

The many systems around the city are meant not only to bring a better service for people, but also concern aesthetics in relation to Mexico City’s context as an international metropolis with great attention to the graphic identity that distinguishes the city’s public transportation systems.

Read more about design to improve life and how Index is inspiring, educating and engaging people in designing sustainable solutions to global challenges on designtoimprovelife.dk.