Cities and urbanised areas are complex entities that have a strong impact on the planet. These spaces are the result of three factors that are closely linked: the city and territorial model, the industrial production model and the economic development model.
The quality standards imposed by the current economic development increases day by day, and so the quantity and diversity of the needed supplies (materials, water and energy). Therefore, the emissions and wastes to the atmosphere, water or soil also increase, causing several direct or indirect impacts to the environment (acid rain, global warning, destruction of the ozone layer, pollution…) as a consequence of their use or during any other stage of their life cycle. Hence, the ecological footprint increases too. For that reason, it is necessary to become aware of the effects that any activity can cause to the environment during the process of planning (design, implementation, organization…), development (constructive process, for instance), service life (maintenance, management, use, impacts on the health…) and final deconstruction.
The shape, standards and construction of these spaces are essential to minimize their environmental impacts and to assure a more efficient use in order to meet the actual needs without compromising the capacity of the future generations to satisfy their own ones.
The generalized access to the private vehicle, the reduction of the transport cost and the transition from a standardized production to a flexible one, together with the technological evolution and new means of communication, have led to a transformation of cities to disperse, decentralised and non-accessible spaces, promoters of unsustainable mobility and involving a higher resource consumption. To sum up, this model puts the balance of the territory at risk.
In contrast to this unsustainable model, it exists the compact city, which is a more efficient and quality city model, although the opposite general thinking. It is characterised for the public space, the neighbourhood scale, a quality heritage, the diversity of the soil uses and, therefore, it favours the proximity journeys, enhancing the accessibility and the use of more sustainable means of transport, such as the public or the active one. Thus, these spaces are more sustainable according to the three dimensions of the sustainable development.
The complexity and urban diversity considering the city as a whole and also all the different constituents of it, is fundamental to achieve economic efficiency, avoiding marginalization.
In the current economic model, where cities and regions are gaining importance, it is essential to define the distribution of the responsibilities between the different decision making levels (local, regional, national…) where local governments play a key role. However, to ensure a correct operation, it is necessary to, through planning, establish a global strategy to achieve an efficient and suitable territory for the new uses.
The territorial dispersion has exhausted all the urbanized soil. This fact leads to a need of an internal transformation of municipalities, establishing politics of:
This unsustainable territorial model based on the distinction between residential areas and leisure and work areas, cause problems to the administration regarding the maintenance of the services, since the productive wealth takes place in different municipalities where it has to be served to the population. Therefore, it is necessary:
The urban model and the management of cities will be indispensable to guarantee the social well-being of the citizens.
The use of cities will depend on the quality of the public space.
Public space is where the interchange between citizens will be held. Hence, a quality public space has to be assured for the daily life of the citizens, facilitating the use to all the people independently of the age, race, gender or physical or mental characteristics in a secure way during all day. These conditions will be linked to the edification that supports the public space:
Diversity will ensure the social cohesion, promoting the citizen participation and social organization, avoiding the creation of social ghettos that can destroy the neighbourhood as a part of the whole.
The city and the urbanised area in general, considered as the space where humans develop the great majority of their daily activities, will be responsible for a large amount of the environmental impacts on the planet. The characteristics of the buildings, their distribution, density, use and distance between them will be fundamental to determine the ecological footprint to the planet, due to they are considered as determinant issues of the uses that we do of the city and, in contrast, of the territory:
Urban planning will be of crucial importance to define the future tendencies and build the most suitable scenarios for the planet.