The Green Journal is featuring three Low Carbon Model Towns (LCMT) in Asia-Pacific based on the feasibility studies conducted by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) with headquarter in Singapore. This is the third instalment of the series.

Tianjin Eco-city in China is set within the Tianjin Binhai New Area, about 45 km from the Tianjin City Centre. It occupies a land area of 30 sq km and is being developed as an LCMT that will accommodate 350,000 residents.

Tianjin's futuristic urban design (Photo: Inhabitat)

Developing Tianjin into a green and sustainable city has made significant progress since the APEC Energy Working Group did  its initial feasibility study  in 2011.

Dr Shinji Yamamura, executive general manager of Nikken Sekkei Research Institute (NSRI), who is assisting Tianjin Yujiapu with the implementation phase, said the new green city is well on track and it is expected to be inaugurated on time in 2020. He noted some major groundwork started this year.

Tianjin green city has been attracting attention from other parts of highly urbanised China. Dr Yamamura said the initial stages have already helped promote the concept of LCMT to other interested towns to follow suit.

The Eco-city is planned as a compact city with good mix of uses, including public amenities juxtaposing commercial facilities that are located close to residential areas, similar to new towns that are being planned in Singapore.

The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Investment and Development Co., Ltd (SSTEC) is the master developer in a 50-50 joint venture with Chinese Consortium led by Tianjin TEDA Investment Holding Co., Ltd and a Singapore Consortium led by the Keppel Group.

The Eco-city is a flagship bilateral project between China and Singapore to create a model of sustainable urban development. The heads of both governments signed the framework agreement in November 2007 and they are closely involved in driving the city’s  development.

An introductory excerpt written by a professor at the Urban and Regional Economy Research Center at Nankai University notes that this national pilot program is being promoted by the two governments “in accordance with the principle of ‘duplicable, functional, propagative’. It is the first national ecological city program in history, will help to establish a reference standard for the construction of ecological cities and low-carbon cities, and will become a model for the construction of low-carbon cities in China.”

The master plan includes 26 Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to measure success.  SSTEC said “the pilot project is more than just about deploying cutting edge technologies or having  iconic buildings. It is about practical and well tested solutions. It is about the city’ s spirit, civic values and community development, creating a sustainable lifestyle without compromising the residents’ daily needs.”

Fam Tours in Tianjin

Tianjin Eco-city is designed to become a model for sustainable urban planning. (Photo: Inhabitat)

Gaia Vince shared her experience through BBC when she visited the Eco-city last year. She noted:

The first 60 families moved into the city’s residential buildings, all of which are designed to a minimum green buildings standard, including water-saving sanitary fittings, insulated walls and double-glazed windows, as well as a south-facing orientation to optimise passive heat…

The city is setting itself up as a hub for green tech enterprise and creative industries. Six hundred companies have already set up shop, including an animation studio that is powered by its own energy station, incorporating solar PV walls as well as roof panels.

Jonathan Kaiman also wrote at The Guardian this year:

Over the past year, he (Ho Tong Yen, chief executive of the city’s master developer) says the project has made strides, selling about 400 housing units a month – a rate which Ho describes as “healthy”. President Xi Jinping visited last May; in January, the city’s developers presented to the United Nations in New York.

“If you ask me what is most unique about Tianjin Eco-city,” Ho adds, “it is the comprehensiveness with which we are tackling the question of sustainability in the development of a city.”

APEC releases guidebook

Summing up the progress of three LCMT presented in this series, Dr Yamamura said the results and lessons learned from these three low carbon towns have also been compiled into a guidebook to be used by other interested towns in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We are also currently developing an indicator system for the guidebook to evaluate and monitor the progress of low carbon towns which will help with implementing low carbon development plans,” said Mr Shinichi Kihara, Director of International Affairs Division, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in Japan, who is managing the multi-year APEC project.

The concept is now moving across the Pacific to San Borja, Peru, a residential district, the next APEC town to conduct a low carbon feasibility study.

“The intention of the APEC LCMT project is to provide real-life model towns that will be viewed as good examples of low carbon town development planning,” said Mr Kihara. “These towns will last for many decades and be open for anyone to see,” he concluded.

APEC released its publication on LCMT here.