The quality of urban life also depends upon having the right advocates for the environment. Ideas may flow in from so-called “think tanks”, cross-disciplinary teams in non-profit organizations or academic research centers, from anywhere. The MIT Media Lab, for example, has come up with an electric, stackable city vehicle for car sharing in urban settings. Sustainability degree programs and multi-field research teams can now also be found in universities around the world. Further support can come from standards and voluntary certification programs, which bolster the image and visibility of sustainable design. Furthermore, the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Certificate is a green building certification program that recognizes buildings for efficient energy consumption, water usage, recycling practices and air quality. International and regional certifications recognize businesses for going beyond the legal requirements. In return, companies can improve their image by showcasing their high standards of sustainability.
Ultimately all of this stuff can come together, a new model for mobility, a new model for housing, a new model for how we live and work, a path to market for advanced technologies, but in the end the main thing we need to focus on are people. Cities are all about people. They're places for people. There's no reason why we can't dramatically improve the livability and creativity of cities.
There are many initiatives that lead to smarter cities. They can involve construction, building management, urban planning, revitalization, mass transportation and city administration, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Renewable energies from wind, solar and thermal sources play a major role, because, among other things, public health depends on a healthy environment. Renewable energies support reduced fuel consumption and cleaner air, but cities will also have to learn to use energy more efficiently to really go green.
Buildings, for example, are responsible for 40% of the world’s energy consumption, making them an obvious target for cities that aim to reduce their carbon footprint. Buildings are ripe for the age of smart cities, with an expanding web of development across myriad fields: green roofing, combined heat and power, solar tech and much more. Even more exotic and innovative ideas like power-generating elevators are gaining ground, as well. Smart technology can also improve city living at the personal level. E-governance programs offer a direct link between citizens and public administrators. Smartphone apps may address public health, help people improve their energy efficiency or even just find the nearest parking space or ride sharing opportunities.