The World’s First Sustainable City—Dongtan, China

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff September 9, 2005

Plans are in the works to create the first sustainable “eco-city” at Dongtan in Shanghai, China.

London-based engineering consulting firm Arup has been appointed by the Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC) to plan the world’s first sustainable city, which it is hoped will define the future of sustainable urban development in China and beyond. Arup’s challenge is to help create an entire city with lower energy consumption and one which is as close to being carbon neutral as possible within economic constraints.

The first phase of Dongtan is planned to be completed by 2010, when Shanghai hosts the World Expo. This phase will include a wide range of developments with urban parks, ecological parks and world class leisure facilities. Priority projects include the process of capturing and purifying water in the landscape to support life in the city. Community waste management recycling will generate clean energy from organic waste, reducing landfills that damage the environment. Combined heat and power systems will provide the technology to source clean and reliable energy.

Arup is responsible for the integrated master planning of the built environment in Dongtan. It is providing a full range of services, including urban design, planning, sustainable energy management, waste management, renewable energy process implementation, economic and business planning, sustainable building design, architecture, infrastructure and even the planning of communities and social structures. Needless to say, its role will be extremely broad and require a long term vision.

Three-quarters the size of Manhattan, Dongtan is strategically situated close to Shanghai on the third largest island in China at the mouth of the Yangtze River. The area is now mostly agricultural land but has been earmarked by the mayor of Shanghai and the Chinese premier as the site of China’s first sustainable eco-city. A road infrastructure is currently under construction to connect Dongtan to the Shanghai mainland.

“Arup is delighted to be working with SIIC on such an ambitious development that could well prove to be the template for sustainability in city planning—not only in China, but elsewhere in the world, says Arup Director Peter Head.

“There is a growing recognition in China that long term economic and social vitality depends upon more efficient, effective use of nature’s resources, coupled with improved human and environmental health,” explains Gary Lawrence of Arup’s Seattle office, the firm’s urban strategy leader and a senior adviser on the Dongtan project.