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Caidian eco-city

Since the first Sino-French agreement promoting cooperation in the field of sustainable development, China has made environmental protection one of its priorities. AREP Ville experts have assisted the city of Wuhan and Caidian district to conceive a sustainable city, the Caidian eco-city. Future home to some 500,000 residents, the eco-city is located in Wuhan, a metropolis of ten million inhabitants in central China.
View of Caidian sitemap

The project deals with all the urban issues faced by large cities across the globe (congestion, pollution, urban sprawl, etc.), among which China is an emblematic example of a fast-growing city. In the highly-competitive environment of the Chinese real estate market, the attractiveness of the eco-city was one of the strengths of the project.

Funded both by China and France –via the French Development Agency (AFD)-  the strategic urban master plan developed by AREP Ville in close collaboration with Chinese stakeholders falls within the broader context of providing French expertise in the field of sustainable urban development. In 2014, Martin Aubry, then special representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the partnership with China, pointed out:  “This will be an extraordinary opportunity to showcase the French expertise in sustainable city construction”.

 

A comprehensive approach to sustainable city

Conceiving a strategic urban master plan involves a comprehensive approach of sustainable development taking into account ecological, geographical, historical, economical and sociological data with respect to the future eco-city. The first question to ask was the following: What should a sustainable city look like in China, and in particular in Wuhan? The answer brought together the visions of both Chinese and French stakeholders in order to outline the future eco-city.

 

Urban life relying on human scale

The project set the rules for a densely-built though human-sized city where blocks are smaller than the average urban block in Chinese cities (e.g. 200m x 200m against 800m x 800m), main streets are lined with buildings, buildings are lower than average, etc. In parallel with the already developed rail and motorway infrastructure, a fine mesh of routes is being implemented on a city, district and block scale. The open-block form allows active means of transport to cross through while the role of private motor transport is being reduced because of the increased density of public means of transport, such as trams, buses, taxi boats, etc.

 

Mixing cultures…

The Caidian project involves the creation of several facilities (cultural amenities, universities, centres for research and innovation, etc.) and the arrival of Chinese and French companies. The modern and innovative cultural amenities (Civilisation museum, museum on large rivers of the world) will highlight the city’s history and local traditions, both being incorporated in the strategic urban master plan in terms of uses, programmes and lifestyle within the eco-city.

…and programmes

A detailed analysis of the programme was necessary to ensure that this extremely vast project would be sustainable. Several questions had to be answered, such as “How many people will settle in?”, “In what social groups will they belong?”, “How many jobs will be created?”, “What type of urban hubs will be provided (business centre, multimodal transport hub, etc.) and how will they be laid out in the city?”.

The project features an unprecedented social and functional diversity which contrasts with the usually sector-based development in China, and proposes the creation of neighbourhoods bringing together different types of housing, job-creating activities, retail outlets, services, etc.

 

Making green spaces the matrix of urban organization

The geographical and topographical features of the site guide the urban development process and the overall development plan, which is primarily the outcome of environmental protection considerations. Actually, Caidian district and the eco-city site feature a set of green spaces with high ecological and heritage value that urbanization preserves and highlights.

Green spaces play a major role in the project in order to optimize ecosystem services (i.e. the benefits people obtain from nature) and ecological connectivity (functional connectivity between landscape elements). The banks of Han River, the Houguan Lake, the Mountain Maan form the green and blue infrastructure of the eco-city, ensuring ecological continuity for land and aquatic species. The existing landscape matrix is thus preserved, favouring leisure, relaxation and farming.

 

Developing the eco-city through urban agriculture

Local farming, which had already been practiced on the site, has become one of the major elements of the urban development project. Growing spaces throughout the city, both in built and unbuilt areas, form biodiversity reserves, provide residents with short food supply chains and additional income, help limit or control land speculation and fight against urban sprawl. The technical requirements and appliances involved in the development of urban agriculture justify the creation of a dedicated research and innovation centre with international exposure.

 

Obtaining sustainability through effective cost management

The creation of the eco-city is structured around the capacity to manage operating costs over the long term. For this reason, urban service suppliers have been involved in the project from the conception stage.  A comprehensive study of all the functional components (transport system, energy costs, etc.) allowed to develop joint solutions, both on the scale of public spaces and buildings. A set of “green” reference values was incorporated in the call for tenders. It relies on a system of some 150 accurate indices assessing environmental performance over the long term on the basis of several parameters. Caidian eco-city has been definitely designed with a view to ensuring lasting sustainability.