Corporate responsibility in practice: building an eco-city from scratch

Warren, James (2009). Corporate responsibility in practice: building an eco-city from scratch. In: Wilson, Gordon; Furniss, Pamela and Kimbowa, Richard eds. Environment, Development, and Sustainability: Perspectives and cases from around the world. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 213–221.



This chapter is based on one company’s pioneering work in developing resource management systems and integrated design thinking to make cities more sustainable.
The case of Dongtan eco-city near Shanghai in China is used as an example to illustrate the types of frameworks and guiding principles which have been used to design an eco-city. The company is Arup, named after its founder Sir Ove Arup. It is a global firm of designers, engineers, planners, and business consultants providing a diverse range of professional services to clients around the world.

Dongtan was chosen by the Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC) to be the site for an impressive demonstrator eco-city and in mid 2005 Arup was contracted to design and masterplan the project. As an eco-city being built from the ground up, Arup had to take an innovative approach to formulating the key principles for guiding the building phase of the project.

The chapter defines eco-cities, and then explores the design process used by Arup. This process includes the use of specific tools, models and calculations to compare design options to achieve optimum ‘scores’ for sectors selected in designing ‘demonstrator’ or planned cities. Although the design process is presented in four distinct tasks, it is clear that complex masterplans, such as those for eco-cities, involve iterative processes throughout the entire lifecycle in order to be considered more sustainable. In the most basic linear format there are: masterplans, constraints and opportunities, design options and potential solutions. The chapter considers the eight guiding principles of the Dongtan sustainability framework and how these interact with the models used in designing eco-cities. The chapter concludes that ‘learning by doing’ may be the most beneficial way to create more sustainable cities along with meeting difficult reduction targets for energy, waste, water, and food/consumables.

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