More than 100 top designers, building and planning experts have put their minds together to conceptualise low carbon living cities of 2040, the precursor to considering how the dreams can become a reality.

Workshops recently took place in Melbourne and Sydney as part of a national series being held as part of the Visions and Pathways 2040 Project funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living .

The project’s objective is to engage key built environment stakeholders and the community to provide clear pathways towards designing new buildings, precincts and cities that are sustainable.

Overall 120 participants took part – 35 in Sydney and 75 in Melbourne.

The workshops were split into teams which then briefed design sub-groups who produced concepts for the cities, viewed from three scales: the experience of a resident; the nature and form of a community/precinct/suburb; and city-wide infrastructure.

While what was imagined varied widely, significant core visions emerged, in particular that de-centralised and more socially engaged precincts where people actively participate in government will create better energy efficiency, self-sufficiency and sustainability.

In Sydney this week, designers presented some of their visions for the future, with ideas spanning amazing new technological advances in building materials and communication technologies, as well as major changes to the way precincts and cities are planned and modes of transportation.

On screen presentation in Sydney this week. Final ‘glimpses’ of the designed concepts will be released later by the Visions and Pathways 2040 Project.

Project leader and director of the Victorian Eco-innovation Lab (VEIL), Professor Chris Ryan said they were surprised to see Sydney and Melbourne urban leaders agreeing so strongly on their vision for the future.

“As researchers we find this very exciting as it confirms other modelling research we have been conducting that to be resilient to extreme weather and low-carbon we need to move away from the centralised management under which these two cities currently operate,” he said.

“The key nature of these workshops was to allow major stakeholders – from the construction and design industry to the community – to dream of a city in the future and identify areas of innovation that could achieve increases in well-being with decreases in energy and resource consumption.

“This group vision also saw technology playing an increased ‘enabling’ role – particularly the Internet which is needed to support so many of the innovations,” said Ryan.

Much discussion also focused on the effect of climate on building, precinct and city design and the infrastructure that provides energy, food, transport and water for city life.

Ideas were generated on the basis that city designs will need to change so that buildings collect and recycle water, create energy and grow food.

Participants considered how innovative built environment solutions might build on a growing economy of efficient sharing of things and resources.

Sharable items spanned from multi-purpose building and community spaces, cars and consumables like power drills through to solar electricity and recycled water.

The reduction in the use of fossil fuels by conserving energy and dramatically increasing the use of renewable energy was also on the table, particularly in relation to changing public transport to a completely renewable electrical system.

“Overall the vision for Sydney and Melbourne is to have better connected communities, ones that work together, not against each other. A vision where buildings and precincts are built with food, water, energy and technology in mind and which are shared - resulting in better, more connected communities than currently exist,” said Professor Ryan.

“Ultimately social networks will be different as we will change the way we build and operate as a society – which will be more networked and localised with decentralised systems of transport, energy, food, and water supply with localised economies.”

Professor Deo Prasad, CEO for the CRCLCL said the project was of major importance in creating a vision for a sustainable urban future.

“Ultimately the project team and the stakeholders’ jobs are to dream about what a low carbon living city may look like in 2040 then work out how these dreams can become a reality. They need to have visions during this process which may also flag disruptive innovations that, like the steam engine, could completely change the way we live. It is an extremely exciting project with many possibilities,” said Prasad.

“This visionary process will provide a better understanding of how our cities will evolve and what the research, capacity building and policy needs are required to make this transition.”


Visions and Pathways 2040 Project partners include: AECOM, HASSELL, Brookfield Multiplex, City of Melbourne, City of Melbourne, City of Sydney, Sydney Water, Aurecon, International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), The University of Melbourne, the University of New South Wales and Swinburne University of Technology.