A new research report by multinational professional services firm Arup highlights the need for cities in arid and semi-arid climates, like Cape Town, to not only manage their scarce water resources better, but to promote smarter ways of living in arid urban environments through climate responsive design and infrastructure solutions.
The report, entitled ‘Cities Alive: Rethinking Cities in Arid Environments’, outlines key principles in shaping city-building in arid regions for the twenty-first century.
“Significantly, for developing cities like Cape Town, the report highlights an incremental approach to a water resilient future, setting out low-cost but high-impact solutions that cities can implement in the shorter term, as well as longer term investments to secure more equitable access to water and quality of life,” Arup South African Cities Team designer Aamena Desai said in a statement this week.
According to the report, cities need to learn from the past and make use of locally adapted, climate-specific design solutions.
They need to invest in green and blue infrastructure to increase the resilience of arid cities.
Finally, they need to design intelligent buildings and public spaces that respond to the demands of the climate.
The report points to examples of initiatives in arid cities that are making them more sustainable, healthier and better places to live, including through fog and dew harvesting, cool pavements and energy efficient buildings.
“New technology is allowing harvesting systems and materials to be optimised to extract large amounts of water, even in arid environments with low levels of humidity, the report says.
Touching on cool pavements, it notes that small changes to existing designs can make an impact.
“For example, a rethink of public spaces could improve the quality of lives for citizens. The City of Los Angeles has begun coating its streets with a special paint, CoolSeal, to reduce the temperature of the city. In an initial test, it has been shown to reduce ambient temperatures by 6.6 ºC.”
It further notes that buildings can be designed to play an active role in reducing reliance on air conditioning and mitigating the Urban Heat Island effect, which is an urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas owing to human activities.