British engineering and design consultancy Arup has signed a contract with Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC) to plan the world’s first sustainable “eco-city” – at Dongtan, outside of Shanghai. The new city, which will be three-quarters the size of Manhattan, will be built on the eastern end of Chongming, a large island that sits in the mouth of the Yangtze river delta a few miles northeast of the city centre, close to Shanghai?s new airport.

At the moment the site is mostly agricultural land, bordering on wetlands. The Eco-city aims to develop a comprehensive energy strategy incorporating large-scale renewable energy technologies, which will reduce damaging emissions, and bring the city as close to carbon-neutral as possible. Other environmentally sensitive aspects include the development of a process to capture and purify water in the landscape to support life in the city. Community waste management recycling will generate clean energy from organic waste, reducing landfills that damage the environment.

Arup expects to have its master plan approved by October 2006, and anticipates that construction will start immediately after. The first phase will be completed by 2010, just in time for Shanghai?s hosting of the World Expo.

If this project ends up being as eco-friendly as is currently outlined, it will be a model of urban design.

What Dongtan currently looks like.
Via The Times Online


or your inhabitat account below


  1. urbanlegend October 9, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    I agree with LeslieM\’s first post, and have a few comments to make specifically about city design in general. Our goal as humans, at this point, should be to preserve as many of the fragile ecosystems that we can, because that would be the mature way to take responsibility for our actions thus far. I think the new city model idea is great, but the placement and action is wrong – why can\’t we make the cities that we live in \”sustainable cities\” instead of making new ones? Imagine a fragile and diverse ecosystem that can help clean up our mess, in an attempt to remain balanced in a world of growth and pollution – would we turn and build onto it and replace the natural bioremediation systems with man made remediation systems, to replicate an environment that was pre-existant? This would be like building a new sustainable city in the Florida everglades – which we know is responsible for keeping Florida\’s ecosystem clean and cool.

    It would be more productive to figure a way to create a model for city-wide renovation, to allow for ecosystems (that we depend on more than some would like to believe) and biodiversities to thrive in conjunction with mankind. The best leap forward is to change everything from inefficient and unsustainable to efficient and sustainable. If we don\’t make changes now, it will be too late to make the changes. We can\’t continue to build into the systems that help us remain a thriving culture, soon it will be one sided and too expensive to import/export water, food, clothing, and energy ( as we are seeing now)

    Here is the deal, our current social and economic structure is obviously failing, and instead of continuous sprawl, we should consider extreme renovation, job creation through innovation, and incorporating these green ideals into the city centers that are clearly lacking the \”greenery\” to clean the air and water that we are diluting with chemicals and off-gassing from almost every activity that we do. We should alter the surroundings that are dead and concrete, into green and clean. We need these organisms to survive more than we need to sprawl, because we have the technology to build vertically. These cities have already had enormous urban expansion and will continue, but they also needs these natural environments to help mitigate the damage that is aggressively warming our globe.

    The most important challenge we should all approach is to take our cities and convert as many abandoned, unused, industrial, and \”brown\” sites into this ideal image of Dongtan. It isn\’t so impossible, it all starts with recognizing our given resources and how to manage them in a natural way, therefore managing our wastes in a natural and non-energy intensive way.

  2. peter September 13, 2005 at 5:19 pm

    I would love to see this technological step taken here in the US, but alas, much like a mega-corporation that beats down the entrepreneurial spirit of innovation, our country is paralyzed by short-sightedness. I applaud China for taking such a wonderfully, long-sighted step towards true stewardship of our world.

    Our goal as humans should not be to preserve all lands, air, and water on this planet, as elluded to in the first posting. This expectation is completely deluded, and fails to grasp that by our very existence, we alter our surroundings, as does every other organism on this planet. No, our goal should be to take responsibility for our impact, and understand that we are the most massive force on this planet, and as such, must act with care and maturity, for the entire globe is indeed our home.

    One aspect of globalization that has yet to be considered widely is how innovative and forward-thinking some of the less industrialized countries will be, and being less invested in the current-state, will also be much better positioned to leap forward.

    The next revolution of innovation will not be an American one, but hopefully we can all embrace it as a human one.

    That is my greatest hope for the new millenium. Peace.

  3. kr September 12, 2005 at 10:48 pm

    With regards to the previous comment – Shanghai is one of the largest, fastest-growing cities in the world. Expansion onto Dongtan seems like a very natural (and somewhat inevitable) extension of that development. Your point about the effect of urban expansion on the local environment is well taken, but it’s far out weighed by the benefits a development like this could reap for China and the world at large.

    I think the Chinese Govt. deserves serious praise for taking up a project like this. The design and production of a city that functions in a sustainable way and minimizes environmental impact is a massive step forward, especially in the country which will be experiencing tremendous urban expansion in the coming century.

  4. LeslieM September 12, 2005 at 2:05 pm

    This project might be sustainable for *people* but certainly not for the rest of the inhabitants (animals, plants, bugs, etc.) of the island. The photo of what Dongtan looks like now is absolutely stunning and I think it would be a crime to build human habitats on it.

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home