Big ideas: sustainable solutions for smart cities

Last night, we braved the rainstorm and attended the Big Ideas for Smart Cities, Sustainability talk hosted by Arup. We heard from technology and design experts about their big ideas for making New York a smarter, more sustainable city. We’ve put together a few takeaways that apply to our own work to find sustainable solutions to urban issues:

Adam Friedberg, Sustainability Associate at Arup, talked about the potential for microgrids to transform the power system by reducing inefficiencies by localizing sources to small multi-building networks. Microgrids could improve efficiencies both by minimizing dependence on resources outside of the city and also by reducing outages throughout the city.


Jun Shimada, Founder and CEO at ThinkEco, offered a marketplace solution to increase energy efficiency for residential units. Large enterprises already enjoy incentives for reducing energy usage, so why shouldn’t renters receive some credit for reducing their dependence on air conditioners? By providing incentives for turning off window units, he argues, we could see significant increase in energy efficiency.

David Gilford, Vice President of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, added that the best way to encourage innovation is to have a provide a robust ecosystem for entrepreneurs. He mentioned the Urban Future Lab, the NYC BigApps program and recent innovation competitions as just a few ways the EDC actively contributes to that landscape.

Robert Crauderueff, President and Founder at Crauderueff & Associates, proposed tracking storm water overflow, especially in private spaces. Measuring this overflow would allow strategic management of essentially untracked water flowing through the city. One significant possibility could be to reharvest the tracked rainwater for toilet usage, which could reduce water usage by 20%.

Yasmin Fodil, Senior Strategist at Good/Corps, called for a return to the basic question: how can we design whole systems to be effective for real people? She used the example of a database that quickly let veterans check their qualification for benefits. What happens to those people when they find out they don’t qualify? As designers, how can we empower those people to contribute to a better system that encourages resiliency throughout the community?

The Big Ideas for Smart Cities, Sustainability event was a great discussion and we’re excited to see these ideas take shape. Join us at next week’s talk hosted by SHOP architects and Droga5 for Big Ideas for Smart Cities, Open Space and Placemaking.

Photo by Andrés Nieto Porras.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply