What Technologies Can Help A City Become More Efficient?

Learn what cutting-edge solutions are helping cities achieve efficiency goals


The following question was recently posted on Quora:

"What Technologies Can Help A City Become More Efficient?"

Read the following responses on different solutions to boost energy sustainability:

Mark Mazzeo, Industrial Engineer:

Rain sensors.

I live in Orlando, Florida. During the summer it rains here every afternoon, almost like clockwork.

During a typical downpour, which is often about the time I leave my office (around 4:30 in the afternoon), I will regularly pass dozens of homes and businesses with vast expanses of grass that have their sprinklers running.

Runoff from sprinkler systems takes with it fertilizers from our lawns, oil and dirt from our cars and streets, and other things that eventually find their way into the water tables and river systems, which is where most people in Central Florida get their drinking water from.

The Orlando area's population is expected to double in the next 20 years, which will put immense strain on our water supply. Cities and counties all across the United States would benefit from creating tax incentives for installing rain sensors in new and existing properties. It would save a lot of water and a lot of money, and it would help the environment.

Daniel Appell, Lifelong student of the subject:

How do we make anything more efficient?

Increased efficiency is the result of one or a combination of all the following conditions: increased productivity, reduced consumption and reduced waste.

This means all decisions regarding urban planning can be applied to increasing the efficiency of a city. Even small, seemingly, insignificant decisions can improve the efficiency of a city. If you decided to walk to work instead of driving, you are improving the efficiency of your city. Since walking is  productive (gets you there with health benefits), consumes little and wastes almost nothing it is a much more efficient form of transportation than the car. Too make a more efficient city an urban planner needs to design communities to encourage walking over driving (narrow roadway, wider sidewalks, shorter distances from home to services and work, and interesting street-scrapes).

Every urban system can be made more efficient through land use planning, neighbourhood planning, social planning and strategic planning. The only value there is to planning (other then protecting health and safety) is to find improvements to the efficiency of urban systems and argue for their adoption. Any innovative technologies that can improve productivity without increasing consumption and waste increases efficiency. If we can maintain productivity while reducing consumption and increasing waste recycling then efficiencies are created.

The effect of improved efficiency is a city that is easier to live in. Wages are higher relative to the cost of living. Relative to less efficient cities wealth is easier acquire, capital is easier to raise, and productive sectors are more competitive. The more efficient the city is the easier it is to sustain.

It is very important to understand that an efficient city is the result of multiple decisions made over time. Not all those decisions require technology. Walking, for example, requires no technology. Some existing technologies need only be redesigned and redeployed to create efficiencies, for example; the exciting bus system can be transformed into a "rapid bus system". The most important improvements we can make are the collective result of individual choices. If we use all of a cities communication systems to collaborate, then efficiency can be improved rapidly. Since the city is our most sublime and powerful communication technology, then I think it is safe to say that the city is the most powerful technology we have to improve the cities efficiency.

Comly Wilson:

Energy audits and retrofits for commercial buildings.

Only problem is that even when a building owner or manager goes through the process of an audit and retrofit, results can be inaccurate and inconsistent, especially when compared across an entire portfolio.

So, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is combining a few different softwares and technologies to create a tablet-based software, called simuwatt Audit, that can actually build an energy model during the energy audit (they are doing the same thing for solar called simuwatt PV).

The Department of Defense’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program has announced that it will demonstrate simuwatt Audit on a number of facilities, including West Point and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

If simuwatt Audit can actually reduce the cost of the audit and provide scale to the energy auditing industry, the massive potential of building energy efficiency may actually be realized.

Source: http://www.greentechmedia.com/ar...

Richard Tabassi:

Energy Efficiency:

  1. Upgrade HVAC and cooling to reduce peak cycle.  Especially effective in large malls.
  2. Traffic Light Timing to minimize start stopping between lights.  This also is a bonus to time utilization efficiency
  3. Smart timers to turn off HVAC/Lighting/Facilities (boilers, furnaces etc) during off use hours.
  4. Solar Panels or wind turbines or energy capturing devices on roofs of building.
  5. More robust public transportation.
  6. Nuclear power (look into thorium reactors)

Water/Waste:

  1. Water collectors on roofs of buildings and centralized cisterns (would also reduce energy, pumping to building, pumping to top of building)
  2. 100% waste recycling and reuse.
  3. 100% production of recyclable goods.  Electronics, household chemicals, etc..
  4. increased drop off points and collection of hazard chemicals/batteries/heavy metals with incentives.
  5. Localized recycling (potentially, economy of scales probably outweighs currently)

Time:

  1. Cities on an ERP type system.  Increase accountability and productivity, facilitate city govs in a common database and process, reduces paper pushing operations and filing. Move it to the cloud.
  2. Customize city traffic flow, city transport, and street direction to optimize traffic flow and people movement.
  3. Broadband WiFi every where free.  Let people do business anywhere, anytime without hassle.

In Japan, there are many rooftop gardens and water collectors in major cities.  Many power companies are using federal incentive programs to improve the power usage of large buildings, which in turn is decreasing the demand for new generators and the pressure on the existing grid.

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