Smart cities are in vogue, and for good reason. A heightened focus on wellness and longevity coupled with growing and increasingly integrated technological capabilities can support healthy, happy, organized places where people live long, productive, and socially engaged lives.
Technology does have the ability to improve lives, but it remains only a facet of a truly great environment. ZGF’s urban planning practice has long recognized that to form a healthy, resilient district, planners and designers must focus on creating places that enhance the health and happiness of their occupants. We design sustainable, resilient districts that work with, not against, the earth’s natural systems. The places we make are easy to get to, easy to traverse, pleasant to be in, and physically and psychologically healthy for their inhabitants.
In the design of Kashiwa-no-ha, the first LEED-ND Platinum Smart City in the world and the winner of the 2017 / 2018 Urban Land Institute Global Award for Excellence, ZGF partnered with Mitsui Fudosan to pioneer a new urban planning approach. Stakeholder and community engagement were key to the creation of this resilient, economically robust, and humanized district at the city’s core. Rainwater is captured and filtered into a detention pond that doubles as a public park, creating a valuable district amenity while reducing the harmful effects of urban runoff.
Though our planning approach has now been exported across the globe, to places like China, Japan, and the Republic of Georgia, we first created healthy, resilient districts in our own backyard. Starting with the River District in Portland, Oregon, in the early ‘90s, ZGF was instrumental in the conception of the cutting edge ‘smart growth’ concept that is a foundational element of today’s ecodistrict movement. The River District illustrates how district systems and the integration of the natural and built environments can support community-scale energy generation, low-carbon transportation options, and active street design.
Since 2010, ZGF has partnered with federal, municipal, and community-based stakeholders in Washington, DC, to create the SW Ecodistrict: the country’s first government-adopted ecodistrict, envisioned as an active, multimodal, sustainable mixed-use neighborhood. The district is targeting net-zero carbon, and its systems will be highly integrated. Rainwater will be captured from roofs and sidewalks, filtered, and reused in the district to support the goals of significant water use reduction. Planning also accounts for transit and public realm enhancements to improve access for residents, workers, and visitors. Initial phases of the SW Ecodistrict are being implemented, and the district will ultimately support the health and vitality of its occupants and, by extension, the city.
Other examples of ZGF contributing to equitable, accessible districts that provide amenities for the long-term health and happiness of all occupants include:
- Surrey Centre, BC, Canada
- Makuhari Wakaba District, Chiba City, Japan
- Pike and Pine Streetscape, Seattle
- Civic Center Transit District Plan, Denver
- Broadway Corridor Framework Plan, Portland