Smart Cities—Green Solutions for Housing & Traffic

The US-China Collaboration Symposium in Silicon Valley discussed how the two countries could learn from each other to solve housing, traffic and environmental problems by building smart cities.

A lush park surrounded by highrise buildings provides recreational activities for office workers and residents. Beneath the park is a shopping center with all kinds of stores and restaurants.

This was the picture of a smart city painted by Jeffery Heller, president of Heller Manus Architects, at the US-China Collaboration Symposium in Silicon Valley last Friday.

The symposium was organized by the Bay Area Council to promote the establishment of smart cities on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

"Smart buildings are not enough," said Heller. "Global sustainability must happen at the city level."

Lewis Knight, senior associate of Gensler, elaborated on Heller's view. He pointed out San Francisco as the second most dense city in the United States, and said, "There will be 2,000 new San Franciscos by 2050."

One of the new San Franciscos is expected to be San Jose, which will absolutely affect all its neighboring towns in Silicon Valley, including Cupertino, which is expected to see its own growth in traffic and housing with the new Apple campus, Main Street project and an office parks at the former IHOP site on Stevens Creek Boulevard.

San Jose is planning for over 120,000 residents by 2040, according to Andrew Crabtree, the city's division manager of environmental review and sustainability.

The San Jose General Plan targets a 301 percent increase in rapid bus trips, a 648 percent increase in light rail trips, a 694 percent increase in all transit trips (including BART), and a 15 percent decrease in driving.

To discourage driving, Heller brought up the success of high speed rail in China. One audience member added that China also has five million electric bikes, but the improper disposal of discarded batteries still causes pollution.

The symposium later had a panel discussion on clean energy in America and China. Panelist Jeffery Ball, scholar-in-residence of Stanford University, said he sees "a dichotomy"—while clean energy is politically involved with trade issues between America and China, there is cooperation between the two countries.

The dichotomy also came up in the closing keynote speech by Jon Huntsman Jr., former governor of Utah and US ambassador to China. Huntsman called private citizens' and local governments' cooperation "the real relationship between the US and China."

Huntsman advised to "humanize" the US-China relationship. He said, "We have to bring it down to earth where everyone can see their immediate interest."

Huntsman encouraged city-to-city dialogues between America and China.

While Cupertino is still considering whether to become sister cities with Kunshan, China, Palo Alto and the Yanpu District of Shanghai are now "partner cities."

At the symposium, Palo Alto Mayor Yiaway Yeh differentiated partner cities from sister cities by saying sister cities are usually just about cultural exchange, but partner cities collaborate on a wide range of issues.

Yeh and Vice Mayor of Yangpu Chen Yujian signed a Memorandum of Understanding last Thursday. The two cities will cooperate in various areas including economic development, environmental sustainability, and university relations.

Chen introduced Yangpu to the symposium audience as the origin of modern industry in China and a prosperous satellite city of Shanghai with prestigious universities and a high tech zone.

According to Yeh, Palo Alto will build a waste-to-energy facility with investments from Yangpu.




Frank Geefay October 03, 2012 at 08:04 PM
It appears that China is reaching out and trying to make their country more green and environmentally healthy. They seem to acknowledge that they have a serious pollution problem. I hope the US can lead the world on these matters though there are political forces within this nation that feel that being green and environmentally healthy are much lower in priorities. It would not surprise me if one day not too distant into the future that China may surpass US in their attention to the environment. They are already the leading nation in the manufacture of solar and wind power.


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