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A potential template for green cities, on part of the 1,230-sq-kilometer Chongming Island in the Yangtze River, north of Shanghai, could start construction later this year. The start-up phase for Dongtan, tentatively planned for completion by 2020, might extend to 630 hectares. The town’s population could reach 80,000.

Dongtan’s planned “ecological footprint,” the amount of biologically productive land and water needed for human life, is within 20% of the recent world average of 2.2 global hectares per person. In some big cities, environmental consumption reaches 13 gha per person, notes London-based Arup Group Ltd., Dongtan’s planner for the municipally controlled Shanghai Industrial Investment Corp. (SIIC).

Energy use in some buildings would be 60% less than the current Shanghai norm. Use of  100% renewable energy as well as powering road vehicles with electricity and hydrogen would slash Dongtan’s carbon output. But the planning does not envisage dramatic reductions in carbon emission during production of construction materials. No single element of Dongtan will be “surprising,” but elements are integrated holistically, says Peter Head, Arup’s sustainability director.

Dongtan has already attracted attention. SIIC has asked Arup to work on three other projects, for Jinan, Langfang and Huzhou. And London Mayor Ken Livingstone was reportedly so impressed that he launched a mini version bordering the Thames River.

special theme issue:
  1. Dire Global Warnings Inspire Promising Antidotes to 'Civilization'

  2. View a Time Line of Environmental Twists and Turns, from 1938 to 2007 (1.7MB)

  3. Report Lights Fires Globally on Need To Slow Climate Change

  4. Politicians, Builder Groups Jump on the Green-Building Bandwagon

  5. Climate Shifts Have Engineers Rethinking Baseline of Planning

  6. Designers Look To Nature To Render Buildings in Harmony with Earth

  7. Companies Often Go Green To Reap Financial Rewards

  8. Officials Begin To Ask Just How Green a Highway Can Be

  9. Educators Issue Call for Green Programs That Cross Disciplines

  10. Coming Carbon Constraints Spur Powerplant-Emission Cleanups

  11. Eco-Friendly Engine Pioneers Search for Sources of Clean Power

  12. Big Zero-Carbon Project Planned in U.K.

  13. Template for Green Cities Nears in Asia

  14. An Agitated Port Official Pushes for Collaboration

  15. Human Role in Climate Change Is 90% Certain

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  18. Barometer of Change at NOAA
  19. In Search of the Zero-Energy Holy Grail
  20. Green Building Council Hones Rating System