Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) was recently awarded the contract to create a stunning new Central Business District in Beijing. The project will integrate into the existing downtown urban district and will improve transportation infrastructure while introducing energy-efficient buildings green public space. The plan also provides a framework for new sustainable growth that would result in eliminating 215,000 tons of CO2 per year, which is the equivalent of planting 14 million adult trees.

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SOM is well known for its architecture and urban design projects, and is also responsible for San Francisco’s Treasure Island Redevelopment Plan as well as the plan for Jumiera Gardens in Dubai. Their plan for Beijing’s new CBD calls for the creation of three new areas – the Cultural, Chaoyang, and the Gateway Districts, which will be anchored around new parks and green boulevards. The CBD will comprise a network of smaller, more walkable city blocks to encourage pedestrian travel and time spent in the expansive downtown parks system. Additionally, all of the streets will be built to accommodate safe bicycle travel.

A new streetcar system has been proposed to link all of the new areas with existing districts and popular destinations, providing commuters with easy access to high speed rail service. Updated transportation infrastructure will also include express commuter rail service between the Beijing Capital International Airport, the CBD, and high speed rail service to Beijing South Station.

SOM’s redevelopment plan also defines strategies for growth and expansion. They have created a framework for new infrastructure and high performance buildings that will enable the city to grow in a more sustainable manner. If implemented, the plan could reduce energy consumption within the district by 50%, reduce water consumption by 48%, reduce landfill waste by 80%, and result in a 50% reduction in carbon emissions.

SOM’s exciting new plan combines many of the necessary elements of a sustainable city – transportation, open space, pedestrian and bike friendly streets, and energy-efficient buildings. The Beijing CBD Administration Committee has stated that the plan would “enable China’s capital city to grow as a global center for commerce, yet be a green and ecological setting for healthy life.”