Towards Zero-Carbon Cities

Shenzhen, China  |  2019-20

See the Final Presentations 2019-20

Overall view of the “Living Core” project by Torin Schuster, Hanquing Xu, and Alvaro Hererros, which features an integrated agricultural program that can impact energy performance and
foster a sustainable social, cultural, and resilient urban habitat.

The United Nations forecasts that 70 percent of the world’s projected nine billion population will be urbanized by the year 2050, creating one million new urban inhabitants per week for the next several decades1. At the same time, the planet is rapidly experiencing climate change, and every indication is that there is an urgent need to slow the rate of planetary warming within less than a decade to avert catastrophic consequences, especially with respect to coastal cities2.

This year-long studio conducted research in order to develop a typology of possible sustainable vertical cities that integrate the maximum number of relevant sustainable design strategies and technologies, not only in terms of carbon, but also in terms of internal environment, building community, and the impact of the building on the physical, social and cultural realms.

In the fall semester, students focused on the urban scale, in the context of the Qianhai area of Shenzhen, China—which they visited. They researched and designed a zero-carbon city, which was expected to run entirely on renewable energy. In the spring semester, the students focused on a zero-carbon cluster of skyscrapers – specifically developing the design within the urban design developed in the previous semester. The final designs took into consideration the cultural, climatic, and physical aspects of the location, and focused on net-zero carbon technologies and systems within the design proposals.

1 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2018;
2 Global Warming of 1.50C. Summary for policymakers. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2018.