Sustainable Urban Village Model: A Biomimic Design

Creating the vision

by Deeksha Chopra, Environment Consultant

To advance the conversation on sustainable urban land-use practices, CNGF has developed a vision document to illustrate how we can be stewards of sustainable cities.

Rather than continuing to search for bigger technological solutions to the problems that plague our cities and imperil our planet, we believe the sources of sustainability can be found in the biological intelligence of our oldest, most elementary forms of life: the plant.

The international dialogue on climate change, such as the recently announced Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), highlights the importance of sustainable landscapes for supporting local needs in ways that provide numerous social, economic, and environmental benefits.

Where better to get ideas for our longterm vision, than nature itself?

Goals of the vision document

  • outlines an approach toward healthy land-use practices informed by biological intelligence;
  • highlights the significance of land management to support the growing global needs for food and fuel
  • presents strategies to support viable livelihoods through collaboration among multi-stakeholder groups in collective decision-making toward common goals
  • develops a methodology to measure, monitor, and record data so that this model may be replicated in different regional ecosystems worldwide.

Our vision is a biomimic design that draws upon biological intelligence to develop a sustainable urban village.

This model for the healthy use of natural and urban resources aims to meet the key objectives of: a) restoring local ecology and native plant communities; b) enhancing biodiversity; c) increasing carbon sequestration; d) restoring the connection to nature, particularly through education and training.

Our biomimic design emulates the life cycle of a plant, specifically a native plant. A plant creates its own energy and food, absorbs water, recycles its own waste, and finally reproduces itself, all while staying in one place. We think urban planners could actually learn a lot from plants.

By mimicking a plant’s life cycle, cities can provide a sustainable environment that requires significantly less energy to meet all the needs of human beings. Rather than continuing to search for bigger technological solutions to the problems that plague our cities and imperil our planet, we believe the sources of sustainability can be found in the biological intelligence of our oldest, most elementary forms of life.

This model will be implemented in the agrihood we are collaborating to construct in the heart of Santa Clara, which will serve as a sustainable urban village that includes affordable housing for low-income seniors and immigrants.

We aim to create a new model of urban living that incorporates affordable, medium-density housing within a self-sustaining environment that includes a working farm and offers numerous programs for wellness education. This is a truly innovative project, unlike any other in the United States.

The agrihood will also incorporate a working farm, native landscaping, and innovative methods of water conservation and waste management. It incorporates practices that will sequester more carbon, produce abundant food, clean the air, and promote biodiversity, all while being adjacent to six stories of urban apartment buildings.

Nearly twenty percent of the 6-acre parcel will be devoted to native gardens, food gardens, walking trails, and a working no-till farm. The vision document provides an overview of emerging trends and select case studies to illustrate how this model could work.

By observing and replicating a plant’s ability to complete its grounded life cycle, people can meet their essential needs for soil, air, food, waste, native ecosystems, energy, transportation, health and well-being, while using as little energy as possible, reducing infrastructure, and protecting the local ecology.

This will ultimately enable cities and residents to create a model of sustainability that allows future city stewards to do the same. Our vision document explains the urgent need to account for all of these factors, as each one plays a crucial role in contributing to healthy urban land-use. In addition, we present a framework for measuring the impact of sustainable land-use in regional urban landscapes.

This vision document is intended for individuals and organizations involved in planning, implementing, researching, or funding activities related to sustainable land-use. Each of these groups are an important audience for this document, as we recognize that different groups (funders, implementing agencies, scientists, and landusers) have varying interests and levels of understanding for adopting these practices.

 

Contributed by Deeksha Chopra, Environment Consultant

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