Urbanisation is a major challenge for Asia Pacific, and cities are adopting smart solutions to balance economic growth with sustainability.
Asia Pacific is set to pass a major milestone in 2018: The United Nations predicts that more than half its population will be living in cities by then, meaning the region can no longer be regarded as predominantly rural.
More than 2 billion of the region’s 4.3 billion people already live in urban areas, and another 1 billion will join them by 2040. But already, many Asian cities are buckling under the stress of this unprecedented rate of urbanisation.
Slums, hazardous air pollution levels, mountains of unprocessed waste, and the dreaded practice of load-shedding — that is, intentional power cuts in some areas engineered to prevent a city-wide blackout — are just a few visible symptoms of the stress on the economic, transport, waste management, and energy infrastructure of cities.
Many policymakers and planners have turned to technology to overcome these challenges. From renewable energy to sensors and data analytics to cutting-edge engineering and hardware, cities are adopting a range of high-tech solutions to position themselves as ‘smart’ and sustainable.
Eco-Business takes a look at how three of Asia’s smartest urban areas are harnessing technology to future-proof themselves.
1. Shioashiya, Japan: A net-zero energy town
Tucked away in a corner of Ashiya city in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture, Shioashiya is a town designed and developed by PanaHome, a subsidiary housing company of Japanese electronics giant Panasonic.
Shioashiya, which houses 400 detached houses as well as an 83-unit condominium complex, is PanaHome’s first attempt to develop a smart city as an independent project. But this has not stopped it from setting the ambitious aim of wanting to be a net zero energy city.
Launched in 2012, Shioashiya spans about 120,000 square metres, and is designed to accommodate 9,000 people; every house and community facility, as well as the overall town layout, has been designed to reduce energy use and maximise opportunities to use renewable power.
Each house in Shioashiya is fitted with rooftop solar panels, energy storage batteries, and a home energy management system which uses renewable energy when possible, and enables excess energy to be shared with neighbouring homes. It also turns off household appliances when they are not in use.