(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) As shown in previous articles, an Eco House in Muscat could provide comfortable indoor climate and yet be energy-neutral. It would only consume as much energy as it produces. However the achievement of an Eco House would be negligible if principles of sustainability were not applied on a city level too. What then is an Eco City?
Many of today's cities, especially those in the boom regions around the world " in China, India, certain African countries, and along the Gulf " are designed following superficial ideas of an image or a skyline. These new cities are made of a few iconic buildings combined with vast stretches of suburban villas or condominiums and some visible or invisible slums. Look at Dubai for example. Dubai is modern only on the surface but not in its structure and strategy. It is not a very functional city, and also not sustainable, neither ecologically, nor economically, and by far not socially. Or look at Gurgaon, the shiny new town outside Delhi.
Impressive quantities of buildings were erected over the last decade, but due to a lack of attention for any public and communal aspect of planning beyond the boundaries of the private projects, the city is now prone to drowning in its own sewerage. It might sound paradoxical, but many historic cities were built more functional in terms of economy, resources and energy than today's cities. Despite the rapid urban growth globally, a sustainably planned city remains an exception.
Due to the demographic situation, the cities in Oman will grow very rapidly over the next few decades. The question is what kind of city model will lead to a sustainable future. The current trend of freestanding villas in wide spread suburbs connected only through private transport is the most energy demanding settlement pattern. Suburbs and highways eat up valuable land, traffic jams consume more and more time, and exhaust fumes poison the air.
People living in suburbs are entirely depending on cars, a phenomenon which comes with a decay of health and with social isolation. In contrast to this, historic Omani settlements, take for example Al Hambra or Ibra, were relatively dense structures with compact buildings and intact neighbourhoods, in which work, family life and recreation were integrated. The dense cities required less land, transport, and energy. But more importantly, they brought people together.
Such dense urban patterns are a way out of the dilemma. In a dense city, where residential and commercial units are arranged in close proximity to each other " vertically or horizontally " people can live a physically, economically and socially healthier life.
Building houses and building cities are two sides of the same coin. One makes the other. If buildings are designed according the passive and
active strategies, as outlined in the GUtech Eco House concept, and " most importantly " arranged into a dense, vivid, urban settlement, then it is possible to establish an Eco City, a new type of city which uses substantially less energy and can provide a human friendly and ecologically sound environment. Eco Cities don't come for free. It needs societal awareness, collective effort and political will to organise living together in a sustainable way.
Nikolaus Knebel and Martin Werminghausen are both Associate Professors at the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design at the GermanUniversity of Technology in Oman (GUtech) and lead the GUtech Eco House team, which will be built in partnership with HoehlerPartner architecture and engineering consultants, Musc