The Green City: defining and measuring performance

IHS staff Dr. Ogenis Brilhante  and RSM alumnus Jannes Klaas have recently published a paper on green cities, which streamlines more complex ways of looking at urban growth and sustainability. 

The rapid growth of our cities and evolution of our production methods has had an immense impact on how the urban world has developed. The growing popularity of the dispersed city model in the 20th century not only contrasted highly with earlier, more compact cities of the 19th century, but also created negative consequences on infrastructure and resources. In response, growth solutions with less environmental impact were sought out. Even though various theories related to sustainability and the environment have emerged, important questions remain open for debate.

Cities evolve under very complex patterns of urban development, with spatial, cultural, environmental, and socio-economic characteristics that are very hard to pinpoint through a small set of indicators. This paper recognises these complexities and the fact that it cannot address all the different elements of the urban development process. Therefore, the selected sectors and indicators of the index developed only reflect a fraction of local reality. The paper attempts to simplify and measure this complexity, by offering a simple umbrella framework to define a green city and developing a method to calculate green city performance over time.

While the compact city concept was proposed in an attempt to solve the issues of urban expansion and resource efficiency, the Green City Concept (GCC), is a more recent response to the problem of creating denser, greener and more liveable cities.

The paper introduces a Green City Conceptual Framework (GCCF) and two tools: one tool to measure city Environmental Performance (EP) over time(IHS-GCI), and the other is a Green City Action Planning methodology (GCAP) which contains innovative approaches to improve the city’s EP for a chosen timeline. The IHS-GCI tool can be used to measure EP, to explain possible factors influencing the calculated EPs over time, set targets, track achievements and help in the preparation of a city’s GCAP.

The paper addresses a range of gaps in the green city field and consolidates prior research into one actionable conceptual framework and tools, adaptable to various cities and needs.

In the end, this paper was able to define a green city as “a city that promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy in all its activities, extensively promotes green solutions, applies land compactness with mixed land use and social mix practices in its planning systems, and anchors its local development in the principles of green growth and equity.” Unlike other definitions for green cities, the above definition distinctively includes energy efficiency as a key feature. Furthermore, it was proven that GDP has a positive influence on Green City performance, population size has a negative impact, and that the most influential factors are sanitation and air quality.

The IHS Green City Conceptual Framework