Cooler Cities: What Kinds of City?
How can we ensure cooler cities, in hot developing countries in particular? Our focus has been on Asia, home to most of the fastest growing cities in the world, many of them in extremely demanding tropical climates. Cities have been formed in many ways through the course of history. Perhaps we need new city paradigms for the future; or can some tried and trusted solutions, given modern methods, perhaps provide the best answers? Do some conclusions emerge about what type of cities we should choose to build?
In former times, towns did develop on the basis of simple environmental factors, such as favourable climatic sites, natural resources and availability of water, in addition to factors such as defence and proximity to trade routes. But the basic physical, environmental parameters, such as location, terrain, climate, energy or water have been largely secondary considerations in the growth of our recent cities. Major city planning decisions in the real world are seldom made with environmental grounds as a high priority, but on a wealth of pragmatic considerations such as land availability, land prices, existing infrastructures and market interests, or on grounds related to national and regional policies, prestige and much else. However, we do see that environmental considerations are gaining in focus, as witnessed by the efforts of hot-climate cities to improve their microclimate—even to the extent of restricting development densities, that is to say the ‘bottom line’ of profit. One might see in this a shift back towards a more centrally planned approach to planning, which has been out of fashion in neo-liberal economies; but with the rationale now being partly environmental rather than economic or ideological. Nevertheless, we can approach the question of urban form from a principally environmental point of view. Seen in purely physical terms, what kinds of city can provide the coolest environments in hot climates? In this chapter we discuss some of the environmental arguments for and against different city paradigms.
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