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Building sustainable and resilient cities – the 31 October 2018 marked World Cities Day – where the spotlight on building sustainable cities came to the fore.

Cities already account for approximately 70-80% of the world’s economic growth, and this will only increase as cities continue to grow. In the next 35 years, the population in cities is estimated to expand by an additional 2.5 billion people, almost double the population of China. As a vital component for connectivity, public health, social welfare, and economic development, infrastructure in all its forms – basic, social, and economic – is critical for the anticipated urban growth.

As a day to promote the international community’s interest in global urbanisation and contribute to sustainable development around the world, 31 October marked World Cities Day – where the spotlight on building sustainable cities was brought forward to the global agenda.

“Globally, the annual investment required to cover the gap for resilient infrastructure is estimated at $4.5-$5.4 trillion,” says Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Networks, sub-Saharan Africa. “And while no two cities are the same, more than 50% of the global population live in cities. Instrumental to achieving sustainable smart cities is harnessing a new world of digital technology and communication to enable a connected city.”

Building on connectivity

Connectivity is a foundational layer to smart cities, both for Internet access and new digital services. A great starting point for cities is to deploy public Wi-Fi.

Continues Graham; “Public Wi-Fi is a great way to create a more vibrant community and connect citizens, businesses and visitors. But the benefits of Wi-Fi don’t stop there. Cities are leveraging smart Wi-Fi for many applications that go well beyond free public access to the Internet such as e-routing traffic, monitoring air pollution, conserving water, improving public safety and encouraging more direct participation, interaction and collaboration with local government offered services.”

In fact, according to an IDC InfoBrief, Smart City aspects such as networked LED street lighting can provide a 25-50% reduction in operations and energy costs. Connected trash bins can yield more than 50% reduction in garbage collection costs and a 20–30% cost reduction can be obtained with smart parking.

Intelligent water systems can save 40% of the clean water lost due to leaks and burst pipes.

Such aspects are vital to building sustainable cities and managing resources and services.

Sustainability lens

Alison Groves, regional director, WSP, building services, Africa, agrees but cautions that when planning, designing and building infrastructure within the African context, there is a need to be conscious that we are operating in spaces that sit at two extreme ends of the development cycle. “On one end, we have cities and urban centres that are faced with challenges to maintaining the capacity of existing infrastructure networks. These nodes still boast long-term infrastructure planning, which includes introducing smart technologies into their cityscape that will make these cities more connected, innovative and nimble in the face of future disruption. At the other end of the cycle, however, we have vast areas that are underdeveloped, geographically dispersed, remote, and with limited accessibility to-andfrom the nearest urban node.”

Groves believes that to be able to support continued and future growth – of populations, industries and economies – long-term planning must be approached with a vision to compensate for both ends of the development cycle and everything in between. “As we look to build cities and spaces for rural communities that are liveable, resilient to disruptions, and futureproofed, sustainability is the way to get there.”

“Sustainability is a lens through which the planning, project delivery, and development processes focus on achieving the needs of the communities today without sacrificing capacity for future generations. A sustainability lens always includes balancing priorities across several areas, including the economy, community needs, and environmental quality, but also equity, health and well-being, energy, water and materials resources, and transportation and mobility needs,” adds Groves.

Resilience and liveability Urbanisation, demographic shifts, environmental changes and new technologies are reshaping the way city leaders are looking at sustainability as well as creating and delivering on public services to address these new dynamics. The rise of smart cities is the response to these challenges. Smart cities will help solve the economic and social inequality that this divide creates, by providing Internet access to all citizens.

“With robust networks in place, bridging this divide will help bring communities closer together and encourage citizens to play a more active role in local councils.

Flawless connectivity will improve city infrastructure and make it possible for citizens to engage with their community, by removing the roadblocks that complicate
access to local services. We already see significant foreign direct investment into such key ICT initiatives across the continent, but sustainability has to be at the heart of this if Africa is to create a resilient framework for better cities,” adds Graham.

“In Africa, resilience and liveability must be the desired outcomes sought through planning and design processes. Achieving these outcomes will require respecting and balancing local environmental, social, economic, and climate risk priorities through a robust planning and data-driven design process. And, ultimately the goal should be that we are building liveable spaces that are people-centric, integrated, connected, smart, nimble and resilient – where societies can thrive, well into the future,” concludes Groves. SEI

About the authors

Alison Groves, regional director, WSP, building services, Africa Alison Groves has been involved in the ‘green’ movement in South Africa since its inception in 2007 and is a Green Star Accredited Professional. She is particularly interested in designing resilience into buildings, thereby future proofing against resource scarcities and the effects of climate change on the urban environment. A fundamental principle of her approach is to find synergies between systems and materials used, maximising potential for passive design, and create spaces that are focussed on the happiness, health and general well-being of the people occupying the space.

Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Networks, sub-Saharan Africa Graham assumed this position in 2015. He has maintained a strong focus on Broadband Wireless Access technologies as his field of speciality since 1999. He has worked in the telecommunications field in Africa for 18 years with in-depth knowledge of the MNO and telco markets in East, West and Southern Africa. He studied at Pretoria Technicon were he obtained his qualification in Industrial Engineering. His passion for the telecommunications industry is evident through his wealth of knowledge and experience, as well as his commitment to driving African solutions that enhance our way of life.