Over the past few decades, conservation efforts have lowered overall per-capita usage. However, the city's expanding population and rapid rate of urbanization has contributed to a ten-fold increase in domestic consumption, as well as a growing cityscape constructed of impervious surfaces. These trends have drastically increased runoff and water pollution, while reducing the natural infiltration that is critical for clean groundwater and other natural systems.
A model for change
Human activity, building sytems, and greater landscape are all linked to cycles of production, consumption, and decomposition. By considering these cycles and resource flows at a planning level, we can identify ways in which a city can optimize these cycles and increase efficiency—essentially creating an "urban ecosystem" that supports both ecological and economic health.
On the outskirts of Beijing, Sasaki's master plan for Songzhuang serves as an example of how a peri-urban district can strike a balance between development and open space. Retaining 98% of the area's existing agricultural land as either productive farmland or functional landscape infrastructure, the plan configures compact and diverse villages clustered along public transit corridors. This approach allows for regional-scale landscapes, such as the Chaobai River corridor, to be threaded to remaining agricultural lands and other regional corridors by a generous system of connecting greenways.
By combining agricultural knowledge and soft engineering techniques the Songzhuang master plan aims to increase efficiency and minimize waste—and provides a model for how we can rethink the interaction between urban and agricultural systems.
Read more from our Made in China series:
Made in China: Agriculture by Michael Grove