As densely populated geographical areas, cities are characterized by urban growth. Cities are economic, cultural, and political centers that offer various services, infrastructure, and opportunities. Urban densification is associated with adverse effects such as pollution, health problems, and social issues. With populations in India and China exceeding billions, there is a high demand for housing and services.
Recent research, such as studies by Berkeley Cool Climate Network and other institutions, has led to a paradigm change in our perceptions of urban densification. This paradigm shift is intended to reduce cities’ carbon footprint and support collaborative efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. The strategy of densification has been proposed as an important one for combating climate change and promoting social well-being and prosperity. But a question remains: how can we achieve densification and address global warming? Companies like Holcim responded to this challenge with sustainable building solutions and engaging in meaningful conversations with architects. One example is Shajay Bhooshan, Associate Director at Zaha Hadid Architects. These collaborations offer valuable insights into urban densification’s role as a catalyst for climate action.
Using low-emission materials and roofing solutions that facilitate the incorporation of vegetation are some strategies to support efforts toward sustainable architecture. Among them are the use of materials with low emissions and roof solutions that enable the incorporation of greenery. Bhooshan believes that densification can also be an essential aspect of sustainable development or, at the very least, reducing the impact of built environments on climate change. The decline in urban density over the last century has made it challenging to achieve densification.
Density is a concept that can be interpreted in many different ways. It is essentially the number of structures in an area. Satellite Cities were one of the most critical urban paradigms in the 20th century. It aimed to balance urban activity and population distribution. Bhooshan, however, argues that the segmentation of needs results in different buildings being constructed for each market. This requires individual maintenance and energy supplies. In addition, other economic and regulatory policies discouraged the growth of central cities in favor of peripheral areas. This has resulted in increased transportation costs, the use of private vehicles, infrastructure expenditures per capita, and higher CO2 emissions. If we continue to build cities the same way, building a New York-sized city every month would be required.
Understanding space efficiency from the perspective of density is essential. To achieve this, buildings and spaces must be used more intensively and consciously. This efficiency, combined with using recycled and new materials such as ultra-high-performance concrete, can promote a different aesthetic and encourage community living. To achieve this, the people need a voice within the built environment. This means involving them in decision-making processes about their community.
Collaboration between architects, companies, and other stakeholders is required to design solutions that meet planning and design needs. It is not the responsibility of a single entity. Holcim works with architects like Prof. Dr. Philippe Block, and Holcim collaborates with architects such as Prof. Collaboration between different actors will allow the creation of architectural solutions, engineering, and logistical solutions to densification. This will help us tackle the challenge of decarbonizing cities. Understanding the issues we face is crucial, as a lack thereof may lead to an inefficient allocation of resources, given the limited resources available on the planet.
Holcim has developed low-carbon concrete to help build new structures. Integrating waterproofing and innovative insulating systems is crucial for making buildings more sustainable. This may involve the reuse or components of existing buildings in urbanizing economies. Urbanizing economies such as India, China, and Southeast Asia would require intelligent building solutions for disassembly, reconfiguration, and other approaches.
We must be more aware of how we use our resources and organize our cities. Shajay Bhooshan explains that efficiency is achieved by utilizing space more efficiently. Bhooshan cites the Striatus project as an example of an intelligent building. Zaha Hadid Architects, Block Research Group, and Holcim collaborated on this project to build a bridge with 3D-printed cement. This project shows how computational abilities and digital technologies can achieve different aspects of the reuse and recycling of building materials. It is essential to highlight innovative ways of utilizing materials such as concrete. Concrete is the most commonly used building material and offers an opportunity to show that climate goals don’t mean a complete re-design of existing materials. The focus should be on making low-carbon and environmentally friendly. We can reduce our dependence on natural resources by adopting such practices.