Cities compete, right? For business, investment, talent, and for bragging rights in the pecking order of indexes comparing livability, creativity, smartness, and green credentials.
Yet, whilst competitive spirit drives much of the policymaking and economic development tactics of cities, there is a very real sense that appetite for collaborative endeavour is on the rapid assent. Faced by many common and inexorably linked issues, city leaders across the world appreciate increasingly that collective dialogue and partnership working between cities is key to tackling the challenges that threaten the wider economic system on which their success and competitiveness rely.
Cities are, after all, the engines of the global economic growth and productivity which continues to prevail as the predominant paradigm at the centre of macro-economic thinking and policy. It follows, therefore, that the resilience of cities (and the businesses and communities located in them) to growing environmental threats such as climate change, resource depletion, and environmental toxicity, is central to their durability as economic centres.
Next week, a select group of city leaders, architects, policymakers, developers and property companies, financiers, and other experts will gather in Hong Kong to address a number of the key questions which cities in the Pacific Rim are facing, particularly in the context of continued and rapid urbanisation. (Among the invited guests are Nicholas Brooke, chairman of the Hong Kong Harbourfront; Tian Feng, district architect of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART); and Jane Henley, CEO of the World Green Building Council, among others.) It's an inspiring prospect. Not only does the Forum, entitled Tomorrow's Cities Today, provide a platform for policy and technical exchange, it allows for the fusion of different cultural perspectives on the challenges and opportunities, a critical ingredient to successful outcomes in an ever more cosmopolitan, urban world.
Given the complexity of city ecosystems (in the broadest metaphorical sense of the term) and the different dynamics of "legacy," "transitioning," and "new" cities, there's no doubt that the debate will touch on myriad issues. For me, the essence of the dialogue needs to boil down to addressing the following key questions:
- How can the challenges of urban transition and retrofit in North America (and Europe) yield transferable solutions, skills, and experiences to support the delivery of resource efficient and climate-adapted built environments in the context of rapid urbanisation in key parts of Asia, and vice versa?
- Within this context, what are the "big ticket" issues that need to be better understood from a civic, commercial, and academic perspective, and which demand closer attention in both the East and the West? For example, do we understand sufficiently the optimisation of urban densities to drive commercial value and facilitate the efficient movement of people, goods, and services, whilst simultaneously fostering adaptive capacity, strong communities, and livable environments?
- What cross-border trade, investment, and financing models stand to be most effective in driving the socio-cultural, economic, and environmental sustainability of cities?
- How can we draw cultural inspiration from different regions to support the establishment of effective institutions, governance frameworks, social networks, and ownership models to deliver sustainable outcomes?
For now, I present these questions to the community in hopes that they'll spark a lively dialogue. I look forward to sharing insights and outcomes from the PCSI Forum in the coming few weeks and welcome your comments and insights to feed the debate in Hong Kong.
— Jon Lovell is a Director of Deloitte Real Estate and leads Deloitte's global Community of Practice on Sustainability & Real Estate. For daily insights from the PCSI Forum (18-20 February) follow @Lovell_Jon or #pcsi on Twitter.
The Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative is joint program of the Asia Society and the Urban Land Institute which seeks to showcase and share solutions that emphasize livability for urban citizens and that ensure today's and tomorrow's cities are designed, built, and governed around the needs of all its inhabitants.