THE PARKS is the world’s highest standard for sustainable living, providing a net zero lifestyle for 150,000 residents. The city will produce 100% of its energy, water & food on site to become a self-sufficient destination.
The 1,700 hectare smart city is planned in the eastern region of South Africa. The development provides various mixed use hubs such as residential, medical, tourism, entertainment, retail & education. 40,000 residential units are distributed in 12 residential districts.
The economy of the city will be automated & digital with majority of jobs in green tech. More than 40,000 jobs will be created in the short and long term during the planning, construction & operation of the city. The city will thus become a benchmark of economically viable sustainable living and a positive contribution to the green economic growth of the country.
CEO of URB, Baharash Bagherian, who has masterminded designs of various sustainable cities including recently launched projects such as Xzero, AlNama, Nexgen and many more yet to be revealed, highlights the importance of THE PARKS as a new benchmark in sustainable cities.
“THE PARKS is innovatively planned with the highest standards of sustainability to create a car-free community & a unique zero carbon destination. THE PARKS is designed from its landscape to provide the happiest & healthiest ecosystem.
The landscape is designed to promote social sustainability and an active lifestyle, which permeates throughout the public realm of the city. Some of these features include outdoor fitness stations, community farming plots, outdoor sports courts, dedicated jogging and cycling tracks, waste to art public realm, outdoor concerts and much more.
The sustainable infrastructure serving the community are celebrated as features in the design, thus becoming more than functional systems. They will add aesthetic & educational value to the development & become part of the lifestyle experience.
Green spaces are the heart and arteries of the entire development. At the center of the development there is a unique 5km long multifunctional green spine, which has various branches of vibrant community parks that link all the buildings together. This resilient landscape will connect residents to all hubs within the development in minutes by walking, cycling or electric buggies. With over 32kms of dedicated running, cycling and equestrian tracks, THE PARKS will also provide the greenest & safest modes of active transport.”
The master planning for the development was also guided by ecology. The landscape is designed to capture, treat & reuse water whilst conserving as much of this precious resource. The planning of the landscape is highly focused on maximizing health, wellness, and social interaction. This will create a happy environment where residents become stewards of the community.
The housing typologies within each district will cater for all income levels, with no segregation. This will enable a truly inclusive & diverse workforce to flourish & increase community cohesion.
Additional sustainability initiatives include the use of intelligent solutions and a smart grid system to transform THE PARKS into the smartest city on earth. The city will use AI to optimize operations and blockchain technology to enhance sales and leasing. The city will also become the largest positive energy community in the world, producing a surplus of energy to neighboring communities. Local urban food production will provide 100% of resident caloric intake whilst also reducing food miles associated with carbon emissions from transport. All building materials will also be evaluated through life cycle assessments for the lowest carbon solutions.
The city will be provide the highest standards of sustainability in planning, construction & operation. Multifunctional holistic solutions are integrated into the planning to address all the three key pillars of sustainability; social, economic and environmental. The aim is to create a zero carbon smart city that takes a balanced approach between these three pillars.
Key planning principles at the early stages was one of the key drivers of creating THE PARKS. Basic design decisions such as orientation, density and form provided the biggest environmental gains, yet these required the least financial investment. Thus at the early stages of the project we were able to reduce a large amount of energy demand with little cost.
A sustainability brief was created for the project with targets and initiatives, which was divided into categories to create a unique sustainability DNA. Some of these categories included water, energy, food, waste, mobility, building materials, health & wellbeing, pollution, ecology, green & blue infrastructure etc.. The integration of all these sustainability elements into the design at the early stages helped to achieve the highest level of social, environmental and economic sustainability.
The project was further optimised using various tools, methods and analysis such as energy modelling, microclimate analysis, solar radiation analysis, daylight simulations/ analysis and glare control, water efficiency, water recycling, life cycle costing analysis, waste management and waste recycling analysis, sustainable landscaping and urban drainage analysis.
The city will also produce 100% of its drinking water on-site (solar powered air-to-water generators) as well as recycling 100% of its water for irrigation.
All waste in the city will become a resource. The city will also adopt a comprehensive zero waste strategy, which will be supported through community awareness programs. Waste separation at source and collection of all types of wastes will help in creating a more efficient waste recycling loop. All shopping outlets will primarily promote the use of zero packaging solutions, whilst biodegradable packaging material will provide an alternative green solution. The city will also ban the use of single-use plastics.
Biogas production from organic waste will also provide an additional source of energy. Cooking oil from restaurants & kitchen will be recycled into Bio diesel and used as fuel in construction for future expansions and phases of the development. Waste minimization in construction and operational phases of the development will also be aligned with recycling programs. 3D construction printing technology will make part of the construction processes which will also minimize waste & increase efficiencies.
To improve food security the development takes advantage of the latest innovations in food production such as climate controlled indoor vertical farming, beehives with remote surveillance, sustainable poultry & dairy farming, aquaponics for protein production, productive landscapes & bio saline agriculture.
HEART & ARTERIES
The landscape is the heart and social glue to the entire development connecting residents and workers to all the amenities through its green arteries within minutes. The multifunctional landscape is designed to maximize the promotion of biodiversity, health, wellbeing, whilst creating a vibrant, resilient social neighborhood.
The zoning distribution of the mixed-use areas in the masterplan is centralized to allow for all key services & amenities to be within walking distances. The diverse population are better connected & engaged through an inclusive mix use masterplan that caters for all income levels & provides a high ratio of green space.
Density of each landuse was optimized to concentrate the highest population at the heart of the city, thus reducing walking distances for majority of population whilst promoting a more inclusive and connected community.
WATER SENSITIVE URBAN DESIGN
The entire city will mitigate flooding & provide a variation of habitat for wildlife through its unique wetland-like parks which are designed as a network of green & blue infrastructure.
A green spine wraps the entire city with an integrated network of biophilic systems which allow nature to thrive whilst promoting resilience through various strategies. A green industrial hub and future expansion zone are located within the green spine.
Food is grown locally and sustainably. Scalable farms with high tech biosaline agricultural, energy, water & waste solutions that address the critical Food-Energy-Water + Waste Nexus are integrated within the green spine. Biodomes are also a key feature in the landscape.
CAR FREE ZONE
The design maximizes the landscape ratio to create a walkable city with limited vehicular access. The increase of landscape area will promote social activities, biodiversity and microclimate optimisation which will also mitigate effects of rising temperatures and urban heat islands.
Primary and secondary walking networks are well shaded and connected with other modes of green transport to offer residents the safest, most convenient and enjoyable travel to every aspect of the city. THE PARKS is designed and optimised in planning to be the most walkable city on earth.
LIMITED VEHICULAR ACCESS
Vehicular access is limited to the ring road and solar car park farms which are optimised to further reduce the walking distances for residents to their homes. Electric charging stations and reduced energy costs will promote the use of electric vehicles.
CYCLING + E-BUGGY
Alternative modes of transport such as cycling and electric buggies are integrated into the city, which is planned as primary and secondary hierarchy networks. These will give residents the most convenient, safe and carbon-emissions-free transport experience.
High-speed autonomous E.V shuttle improves mobility and will provide residents and visitors with convenient shuttle service which is well connected to all the hubs & facilities within the city. Each E.V shuttle stop is adjacent to a cycling and buggy station. The project also features an electric park & ride system for visitors.
The city provides 25 kms of dedicated running and cycling tracks which are continuous and are integrated within the landscape design. A dedicated 7 km loop of equestrian track also connects with the equestrian center.
THE PARKS is planned through its landscape which plays the most important role in the entire project. As a Biophlilic city, the landscape design will provide various environmental, social and economic benefits for its residents such as reducing air pollution, promoting biodiversity, managing storm water, increasing social interaction and connecting the community together. THE PARKS also uses nature as a multi-functional natural system complimented by green and blue infrastructure.
As the heart and arteries to the entire project, the landscape will help create a carbon sink and minimise the carbon footprint whilst promoting a healthy living environment and enhancing local air quality. The car-free strategy and alternative modes of transport will further help reduce carbon emission.
The design was optimised to increase the portion of greenspace through optimisation of urban planning strategies such as density, land use distribution, mobility & building typologies. More than 60% of the land area is dedicated to accessible open spaces, such as productive landscapes, non-productive landscapes, permeable pavements, sports fields, courtyards etc.
THE PARKS has the capacity to maintain the same level of quality of life, should there be any future shocks or stresses to its environment. The project integrates blue and green infrastructure to create a resilient and liveable city. The green & blue infrastructure allows water to percolate through soil to recharge the water table.
The landscape is designed with large collection of engineered natural areas to provide variation of habitats for wildlife, rain water harvesting, mitigating flooding, better air quality and cleaner water.
To create a resilient urban environment, THE PARKS adopts holistic water sensitive urban design [WSUD] strategies which brings many benefits to its residents as well as the environment such as minimising discharge of stormwater, protecting and enhancing ecological assets and providing high quality of life to residents in any event. Constructed wadis, site topography, rainwater gardens, bioswales & permeable paving are just a few examples.
The green infrastructure will play a strong educational role in the community and raise awareness of sustainability and how to live in balance with nature.
THE PARKS retains and enhances biodiversity, resilience & liveability through its unique terrestrial environment. Rain gardens & bioretention areas are low-maintenance and require no irrigation, yet reduce the volume of runoff whilst creating habitat for birds, butterflies and beneficial insects. Low-maintenance landscape, xeriscape and drought-tolerant planting will offer significantly less water consumption.
The landscape will also create a “cooler” community in the summer by lowering peak temperature within the city and mitigating the Urban Heat Islands. Trees and plants are chosen on their ability to be drought tolerant, provide shade, fix nitrogen in the soil, produce food and create habitat. Ultimately the landscape has multiple uses. It connects residents with the various hubs within the city whilst serving as an educational tool by integrating and highlighting all the sustainability elements within the city.
THE PARKS is a productive city incorporating many different urban farming methods such as community gardens, bio domes, aquaponics, vertical farms, biosaline agriculture and world’s first scalable FEW+W Nexus farms.
The landscape is productive and features community gardens to promote social engagement and are great educational tools for children. Beyond creating an abundance of food for people, urban farming promotes healthy eating and healthy lifestyles, it inspires and educates youth, whilst bringing the community together. Urban farming is thus the social glue, increasing community cohesion and social interaction.
THE PARKS will also feature the world’s first scalable food-energy-water & waste farms which are linked to one another. The city also recycles rejected brine water from desalination to farm fish and halophytic plants like Quinoa and Salicornia. The city will produce healthy and nutritious food without a negative impact for the environment to promote sustainability, nutrition and food security.
Urban farming will strengthen the resilience of the city whilst providing youth with a sense of stewardship and better understanding of the food system.
Residents will receive their caloric intake from variation of locally grown produce including fruits, vegetables, leafy and micro-greens, mushrooms, poultry, fish, dairy etc. The city will feature innovative solutions of advancing the global transition to sustainable food systems.
Ultimately vertical farming and the latest agri-tech will provide higher yields and reductions in groundwater contamination from agriculture runoffs. Exponential water savings and increased nutritional density are also some additional benefits of vertical farming.
The city has integrated technology such as Information Communication Technologies [ICT] and the Internet of Things [IoTs] into its hard and soft infrastructures. These technologies will transform the cities networks and services into a more efficient, intelligent and collaborative ecosystem.
At a city level, THE PARKS has a smart grid strategy in various layers such as energy, water, food, waste, air quality, health & wellbeing to provide resources more efficiently and equitably to residents. E.V charging stations, self driving cars & solar farms are just some of the components that will improve connectivity, sustainability, and livability.
The city will have the most connected mobility strategy, which will be autonomous, shared, and electric. EV incentives for all residents & smart EV infrastructure will help accelerate the transition towards widespread EV use.
THE PARKS will import yet export more renewable energy through a two-way grid system, thus creating a green economy for the city. Home energy-management solutions are enabled with transmission and distribution by the city’s smart solar grid systems. Homes are equipped with smart meters, network and security architectures, switching products and routing to create a renewable solar distributed generation grid.
THE PARKS also embeds sensors within its infrastructure which are connected to the IoTs and can communicate in real time to various components within the city. For example, waste can be collected upon receiving automatic notification that they are full. Real-time user data can be analysed to provide an estimate of the day and time of future waste collections. Fully automated waste collection & recycling plants will allow for faster and more comprehensive reuse of waste.
Smart water systems will reduce resident water consumption. All bathrooms, kitchens, water features, irrigation systems and facilities will integrate highly efficient water saving technologies. Drinking water is also produced on-site through solar powered air-to-water generators.
At a building level, sensors play a key role. Indoor lighting and temperature can automatically be adjusted based on various variables. These variables include the number of occupants in a room, the time of day as well as exterior weather and light conditions. All buildings will have embedded sensors to detect motion, temperature, noise, moisture, fire, smoke etc… to provide real-time data and help improve operational efficiency, safety and security. Shopping centers will be cashier-less which will eliminate long waiting times and provide a better experience for shoppers.
The city also adopts the world’s first high-tech scalable FEW+W smart urban farms which use saline water. In addition to biosaline agriculture, the city provides vertical farms, aquaponics, fish and dairy farms which will be enabled by data science, IoT, AI, and automation and are able to produce higher quality foods that are locally grown.
As a smart city, THE PARKS uses various technologies and will support start-ups and businesses in its green-tech hub to close the loop between food, water, energy, and waste. The institute will become the brain of the city and the educational tool for educating business on sustainable practices and to promote a bottom-up entrepreneurship. With conference and training facilities, the institute will also promote sustainability within the region to accelerate the transition towards sustainable development.
Ultimately THE PARKS will become a living lab, constantly monitoring the services & resources, using Artificial Intelligence for predictive analysis, piloting new innovations as well analysing user feedback in the city to evolve into the smartest city on earth.
THE PARKS will promote ecotourism to bring many benefits to the community whilst also enhancing travelers’ experience. As an edge-less city surrounded by a buffer of nature reserve and with hospitality components such as a 5star Eco resort and eco lodges as well as a nature conversation centre and an ecotourism visitor centre, THE PARKS will become a unique destination for travellers.
Sustainable tourism will increase employment and provide long-term income-earning opportunities for the community. The conservation centre will conserve natural heritage, biodiversity and local ecosystems with an aim to provide the same level of benefits to future generations. The city will empower local businesses towards green practices to enable the growth of a sustainable travel & tourism sector which is growing faster than the global economy and most other major industries.
The ecotourism visitor centre will monitor the impacts associated with tourism activities within the city, as well as providing preventive measures without compromising traveler’s satisfaction. The centre will also educate travellers as well as school children on minimsing their impact on the environment, thus will become an edutainment attraction.