Archive: September 2012

September 15th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

The city, the future and you – including nature

This is Part 2 of Chapter 4 of our book on the future of cities, being written with  Dennis Walsh. Our plan is to publish a new book blog nearly every day for the next couple of months. We will publish them both here on futurist.com and on dothefuture.com. Later we will compile the blogs into an e-book.

We are debating the eventual title. We started with two choices: “Downtown” and “Shine…The Rebirth of American Cities.” Which do you like? We hope you will find the subject of interest and follow this book in serial form. A reader has suggested, “City Transformation?” So far, “Downtown” with a subtitle is leading. What do you think?

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CHAPTER FOUR – Part 2
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

There is no single formula for achieving more sustainable cities. It’s not just a technical matter. Social sustainability and a healthy community need to be part of the vision. Great cities need to maintain a unique identity, diversity and authentic character. That’s a given. But, when it comes to green or new urbanism, the question is, “How do we tackle the enormous challenge of transforming neighborhoods, districts and communities? How we can re-think the way we design, build and operate in future?

Your future will be a different world. You will change it. The system is failing. You know it and you have no interest in propping it up. To be truly great cities will need money and talent. They will need you because the acquisition of talent leads to investment and investment creates jobs.

A new report from the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) confirms that denser, mixed-use cities are greener and more productive at less cost to the tax-payer and the environment. Co-produced by academics from the London School of Economics and Political Science, the report argues investing in the Green Economy will trigger greener, smarter economic growth. Greener cities will, in turn, deliver more jobs, increased social equity and a better quality of life. In the midst of all the chaos that has become “life”, quest for meaning and for spirit are alive and well.

The notion that “city is city and nature is nature and never the twain shall meet” is one of the worst en vogue ideas in architecture and city planning circles. If the biggest things we build are our cities, then it is one of the biggest mistakes we can make to exclude the experience of nature from people who live in them. There is growing evidence of an innate human need for contact with nature.

Urban brains are susceptible to stress, particularly social stress. City dwellers have high levels of anxiety and can suffer mood disorders. It’s a cause-and-effect relationship between environment and mind. Nature and natural settings in cities promote social interaction, physical activity and mental health. People enjoy nature in cities, especially when they have been extensively deprived.

We are in trouble with nature, as evidenced by global warming and species dying. It will only get worse if we continue to banish nature from the city. If we do not dramatically celebrate nature, there will be serious consequences. But if we can learn from nature and come to understand our cultural foundations in nature, we will begin to understand how to design sustainable cities. Great cities know that a clean and healthy environment is critical to quality place. The design of quality places balances environmental, economic and social considerations.

Quality places preserve open space and increase property values. That’s nothing new. Kansas City, Missouri, landscape architect George E. Kessler, predicted that new parks and parkways would increase real-estate values. In the late 1800s, city officials took Kessler’s advice and made new parks and connector boulevards the main organizer in this Midwestern city, a choice that was never regretted. Designers and developers of golf courses know that people will pay more to live near open space.

The Wall Street Journal reports that developers building golf courses these days do so primarily to attract people to high-priced developments. Merely being in a golf-course community, even without a direct fairway view, can add more than 20 percent to the value of a home site … being located next to the golf course can add another $15,000 to $20,000. And if the view includes a pond tack on another $15,000. Future cities will create golf courses, greenways, and urban waterfronts to attract businesses and tourists while increasing real-estate values.

Successful greenway projects across the United States have already served as new “main streets” where neighbors meet, children play and community groups gather. Reconnecting the city to the waterfront is a major future opportunity for cities and towns.

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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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September 14th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

The city, the future and you – how to compete

This is Part 1 of Chapter 4 of our book on the future of cities, being written with  Dennis Walsh. Our plan is to publish a new book blog nearly every day for the next couple of months. We will publish them both here on futurist.com and on dothefuture.com. Later we will compile the blogs into an e-book.

We are debating the eventual title. We started with two choices: “Downtown” and “Shine…The Rebirth of American Cities.” Which do you like? We hope you will find the subject of interest and follow this book in serial form. A reader has suggested, “City Transformation?” So far, “Downtown” with a subtitle is leading. What do you think?

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CHAPTER FOUR – Part 1
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

BLOG ONE CHAPTER FOUR

Cities are at a crossroads. It’s time to step into the future. For some, the challenge is great; for others, insurmountable. The question now is, “Where do they go from here”?

Cities are in competition. To be successful, cities have to be competitive. They have to compete for people and for jobs. And to be competitive they have to be great: That is the theory anyway. Greatness – you guessed it – means making choices. To reach up for the new, you must let go of the old. Like an Olympic athlete, it takes a world of sacrifice and a willingness to change; to fix what doesn’t work. And these days that is a problem.

Sometimes it seems like cities are much more interested in survival than coming out on top. Success means adapting and constantly changing. Failure to adapt leads to disappointment and missed opportunities and that is not sustainable. If you are going to succeed, you have to enter the race. Survivalist cities avoid collapse, entering the race through innovation; innovation that has to happen faster and faster all the time, hoping to transition into the next wave of growth.

Seattle, Washington did that some time ago, committing to Kyoto goals and persuading 590 other U.S. cities to do the same under the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Soon after that, San Francisco became a leader in green building. Austin became a world leader in solar equipment production and made great strides in preserving open space. And Chicago invested hundreds of millions of dollars to revitalize its parks and neighborhoods, building some of America’s most eco-friendly downtown buildings and becoming a leader in green roofs. But New York City – with densely packed housing, reliance on mass transit and walking, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s green policies – may have made themselves the greenest of all. When it comes to economic growth and the creation of jobs, the denser the city the better.

What does a great city look like? Like it or not, the trends tell us the future belongs to town centers, main streets, and mixed-use development. And national chains are listening. Wal-Mart and most of the other big box stores are planning new urban stores in cities all over America, while as many as 400 former Wal-Mart stores and other big boxes sit vacant on commercial strips across the country.

In great cities, Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is a growing trend. Designed as a neighborhood community and organized around a pedestrian spine that extends out toward a grid of walkable tree-lined streets and parks, these developments promote a walkable, pedestrian-friendly community. Downtown-centric rail transit networks increase mobility and easier access to jobs. The Urban Land Institute predicted in its 2011 emerging trends report that any new development in the United States will focus on infill. The new norm is small infill projects with access to public transportation and retail stores. And for that reason, most analysts agree that cities and urban neighborhoods are the new land of opportunity for retail.

Such ideas are a reflection of the New Urbanism, which was born in Miami decades ago, at the hands of the city-planning duo Ms. Plater-Zyberk and her husband Andres Duany. Architects Duany Plater-Zyberk’s (DPZ) designed the island community of Aqua in Miami Beach, and master planned some of the city’s older areas. Challengers argue that, “density is not the cure-all and that wealth can’t be created just by crowding people together”. They say if density was the cure all then the super-dense metropolitan areas in emerging Asian countries would be richer than American cities.

It isn’t an easy transition. Cities still struggle to get the “mix” right. But they have an incentive. In America, at least, multi-phased redevelopment projects can make cities more resource efficient. Mixed-use development ties into efforts to revitalize America’s downtowns. Changes to city centers are being made one block at a time and they are becoming profitable places for businesses to locate.

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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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September 13th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy, Innovation, Science & Tech | Comments Off

South Africa, the future and big data

It was a whirlwind tour in Johannesburg, South Africa this week, one that I hope is repeated sooner than later. Two impressions of this trip stand out.

First, the client that invited me to Johannesburg, SAS South Africa. SAS is a company focused on high performance analytics of what is called, these days, big data. They are quite an amazing company, started some 35 years ago a University consortium led by UNC, still headquartered in North Carolina, but now with offices around the world. Historically they have done business analytics, such as watching for credit card fraud, or assisting large retailers in assessing and predicting sales patterns. The story they told at this Executive Forum quite literally changed my own image of the future. Vice President for Platform Research and Development Paul Kent described the new architecture to which they have migrated their analytics, from essentially single computers to parallel processing, meaning racks of so-called “blades” of computers. Parallel processing is nothing new, of course. But, when Paul illustrated how processing times for various analytics have come down in the last 18 months from two days to a few minutes or from 4.5 hours to 60 seconds, I knew the world has indeed changed. Imagine, he said, a room of company decision makers wishing to run various sales forecast simulations. Formerly they could re-set assumptions and hit run, and come back the next day to see how it looked. Now they can re-set parameters, hit run, and see the results in a minute, thus enabling them to run many simulations in a single meeting. Pretty mind-blowing stuff.

Second impressions, the city, the country, the people. I was fascinated and not completely surprised that what people, from the many press events we did to the executive audience to every taxi driver, wanted to talk about the future of the country. On the one hand South Africa has joined the MBRIICS countries considered to be the global leaders in growth in coming years. Hope has run extremely high since the revolution of 1994, and South Africa is indeed still the leading economy in Africa. They have been hit quite hard by the global downturn, however, with a growth rate that has fallen by more than half, though they are still growing. But the number one issue on everyone’s mind is what to do about the very extreme wealth gap in the nation – they are ranked among the most severe in the world in terms of the gap between the top and the bottom. Readers of mine know that I have been speaking on the growing wealth gap in the United States, something I first noted in my book in 2006 as a major issue for the future if not addressed.

A fundamental challenge in South Africa, as in the United States these days, is how to build an economy that ignites, or re-ignites the growth of a middle class – with more people joining the middle class and middle class wages increasing again, something that has happened only sporadically in the U.S. over the past 30 years and has barely happened in South Africa. This is neither a simple, nor a trivial matter. The success of democratic capitalist societies depends on growth in opportunity, not its opposite. We had many discussions of these issues, as compared to the standard future trends listing that is typical of many of my engagements. I found it refreshing and challenging.

A final impression. I was struck by the beauty of Johannesburg – varied neighborhood districts spread over a hilly countryside. And I was more struck by the determined optimism of the people I met, an eagerness to take a significant role on the global economic stage. As I pointed out to the audience, in the states people mostly ask me, “are our best days behind us?” In Johannesburg, from the press to the client to others I spoke with the dominant question was, “How can we build the future?” Despite deep frustrations in the country with the slowness of change (highlighted by the mine strikes going on while I was there this week), still the dominant mood that I felt was a palpable energy for tomorrow.

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September 11th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy | 2 Comments

On CNBC Africa, Glen Hiemstra

Right now I am in Johannesburg, where I am to speak to the SAS South Africa Executive Forum on high performance analytics and big data tomorrow, Sep. 12, 2012. While here SAS has arranged a number of media appearances including this interview on CNBC Africa last night.



Glen Hiemstra is a futurist, author, speaker, consultant, Founder of Futurist.com, and founder and Curator of DoTheFuture.com. To arrange for a speech, workshop or consultation contact Futurist.com.

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September 10th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

The city, the future and you – new models

This is Part 4 of Chapter 3 of our book on the future of cities, being written with  Dennis Walsh. Our plan is to publish a new book blog nearly every day for the next couple of months. We will publish them both here on futurist.com and on dothefuture.com. Later we will compile the blogs into an e-book.

We are debating the eventual title. We started with two choices: “Downtown” and “Shine…The Rebirth of American Cities.” Which do you like? We hope you will find the subject of interest and follow this book in serial form. A reader has suggested, “City Transformation?” So far, “Downtown” with a subtitle is leading. What do you think?

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CHAPTER THREE – Part 4
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

Imagine for a minute that it is all up to you. Work with us on this. What if we really are at the beginning of an economic and social transformation? Are there technologies available to make that transformation? The good news is there are and some of them make economic sense.

When it comes to cities, modeling whole systems is problematic. The challenge is complex, even overwhelming, though becoming easier as computing power increases. But what if you could break that challenge into groups of smaller, less complex, challenges.

The challenge is to find the best technologies and integrate them into high performance products. That could be a good business opportunity, but that would take collaboration. Universities, government and the business community would have to be involved. Everyone would bring an entrepreneurial spirit to the party. That doesn’t happen very often. That’s where you come in. Think about it. If you had the vision, you could seize the opportunity and help to create new opportunities.

South Korea is showcasing the world’s first zero carbon business building in Incheon, near the capital, Seoul. It was built at a cost around $8 million U.S. dollars and uses 66 different technologies, including solar and geothermal. The new Bullitt Foundation headquarters in Seattle seeks a similar goal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a mission to develop U.S. military based to be net zero in energy and carbon emissions – with no net energy imports and no carbon output.

An even bigger dream, near Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, consists of six main buildings, one street, 101 small apartments, a large electronic library, and the Masdar Institute. This is Masdar City, an eighteen billion dollar project right in the middle of an Arabian desert. A few hundred people live there traveling in driverless electric cars, along shaded streets cooled by a huge wind tower and a Big Brother-style “green policeman” monitoring energy use. Eventually if the economics can work the dream is to house tens of thousands in Masdar, and to act a model city of the future. Showcase cities are critical in the important process of culture change toward sustainability.

In the near future, you will work in offices embedded with sensors to monitor and maintain the environment. Most offices will be outfitted with wall-sized screens that project 360-degree views of videoconference participants. How cool is that? It’s coming. Billions of dollars are going into making sustainable offices and the greener, the better.

Green and sustainable also has to be attractive – why live in a green city if its dull and boring? When you think of any successful city – London, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Sydney – what do you think about? You think of fun, exciting, inviting and economically vital places to live, work, and play – and oh by the way if they sustainable then all the better.

A high-speed ferry service runs every 20 minutes between Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. The ferry blurs the boundaries of the five boroughs and integrates the city. Economic incentives will revitalize Pier 6, which remains the largest port on the American east coast and provides seven billion dollars in business revenues. Pier 6 is being transformed it into a park where Brooklynites will watch open-air films on summer nights or stroll up to Brooklyn Bridge, where the waterfront has been converted into glorious green public space.

Canada’s west coast Dockside Green is in the forefront of global urban planning. Located in Victoria, British Columbia, some say Dockside Green is the eco-community the world is talking about; a showpiece of sustainable design and technology. This is a new-generation, 15-acre mixed-use waterfront community designed to reflect a more responsible approach to the environment. Dockside Green is a triple bottom line development with shared focus on economic, environmental and social goals. (The xyz triple bottom line means the development is successful economically, environmentally and socially.)

With a total of 1.3 million square feet of residential, office, retail and commercial space planned, it raises the bar for the future of sustainable harbor front communities. Dockside has won awards for their development including residential, live/work, retail, office, light industrial uses and extensive public play areas and cultural centers.

There is only so much water in the world; only so much topsoil; only one atmosphere; and only so much CO2 that can be stuffed into that atmosphere. We need a new vision for the planet. One that is socially vibrant, ecologically restorative and economically sound. Dockside Green redefines sustainable waterfront living as we know it. Superior building practices have transformed the site from a contaminated industrial wasteland into a healthy, lively community. It is truly unique, created around the principles of smart growth, green building and sustainable community design in harmony with nature. Imagine that.

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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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