In nature, symbiosis is often defined as "any relationship between individuals of different species where both individuals benefit." In urban design, a Symbiotic City is...
...a city that has reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationships with its macro and micro ecosystems. It produces ecosystem services that are equal or greater than its net use of those services. The regenerative transition to a symbiotic city requires a societal recognition that we are embedded in and dependent upon our ecosystems. A regenerative symbiotic city maximizes biodiversity, optimizes economic development, and enhances quality of life.”
That is the definition from the Symbiotic Cities Network, where architects, urban planners and urbanists " aim to explore new ideas in regenerative urban planning, design, engineering technology, and policy which both recognize that we are dependent on, and embedded within our environment, and provide possible opportunities for our cities to become positive rather than negative ecological contributors."
It's an idea presented by architect Craig Applegath at the Green Building Festival in Toronto. They propose seven "rational and practical" transformations that will change our cities from parasitic models to symbiotic:
- Transformation to Net-Zero Carbon Energy Economy
- Ecosystem Services Infrastructure Development
- High-density, Complete Community Planning
- Regenerative Building Fabric Transformation
- Local Urban Food Production
- Infinite Material and Resource Recycling
- Socio-Economic Transformation
There is a lot of interesting stuff here. The building design section alone provides a well thought out set of proposals that include reducing glass to wall ratios, more green walls, rainwater retention, human waste treatment and use of more wood in construction.
The Community Planning section goes for density, noting:
High density, mixed-use, complete community planning is an essential ingredient to creating regenerative symbiotic cities. Planning and designing for dense mixed-use urban fabric not only reduces per capita green house gas emissions, but also reduces per capita resource use which in turn reduces the environmental footprint of cities and regional ecosystem degradation caused by low density suburban development.
It's a positive approach that looks at the ways our cities can deal with growing population, while turning them into engines for energy and food production without waste or pollution. It's not pie in the sky: "The transformations must be rational and based on facts and sound science." It has to happen quickly: " These transformations must be both "economically rational” and be deployable within a time frame that would allow them to begin to have real impact within the next decade."
This is seriously one to watch. Much more at The Symbiotic Cities Network.