System Design and Management

The MIT Master's Program in Engineering and Management

Balancing Urban Systems through Design: Decarbonizing Urban Communities for 2050

Andrew Scott
Associate Professor of Architectural Design, MIT School of Architecture and Planning

Many of the suburban planned developments known as “new towns” that were built in the 1970s in Japan and Europe were new horizons for city dwellers, offering green landscapes and social facilities in sharp contrast to the degradation of the emerging mega-city. In creating them, developers invested heavily in the brute transformation of the land and its associated natural systems to create plateaus for mass housing and the dominance of the car culture. Fast forward 40 years to 2010, and many of these communities are in trouble, with high levels of debt, carbon-intensive urban systems, aging populations, and a weak employment base to sustain the local economy.

This presentation will outline a design research project at MIT, sponsored by Sekisui House, that attempts to reverse these conditions and make sustainability about an interaction between ecological, social, and economic forces in the local urban environment. Looking to the next 40 years in the lifespan of Tama New Town, close to Tokyo, the project was challenged to develop scenarios for 2050 that would not only lay out goals and objectives for retrofitting a sub-community of 10,000 people, but also tie into Japan’s emerging national goals for transforming to a low-carbon society. The design and research investigation developed concepts and metrics for the progressive transformation of the infrastructural systems of the city—energy, water, mobility, waste, land use, topography and agriculture—and looked into the means to fully integrate these with design proposals for new models of urban living at differing densities. A book about the work will be available in summer 2010.

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  • Sloan School of Management
  • School of Engineering
  • Engineering Systems Division

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