Aguaduna, the sustainable city concept that wants to set an example for the world
There has been a trend for several years now to find perfect cities that offer friendlier and more positive environments to their inhabitants. This desire to move away from the concept of urban design that held sway in the 19th and 20th centuries is primarily the result of the emergence of new technologies that help make it possible.
“Cities are living organisms, and for them to be healthy, dynamic and long-lasting they must be developed and managed like a balanced ecosystem. To improve the quality of life of our own and future generations, we need to rethink the society-nature symbiosis and make use of technology and knowledge as a means of achieving more habitable, resilient and sustainable cities,” explains Tarek Al Masri. Al Masri is a partner at Seed Global Advising (SGA) and is responsible for developing a project that he wants to be a turning point for urban planning models.
“Aguaduna is an innovative city model, which maximizes the role of people, society and nature,” he added as he presented the initiative that is being launched in northeastern Brazil. The project has a planned investment of 250 million euros in its initial phase and aims to lay the foundations of what it is hoped will be the city of the future, something that can be replicated in other parts of the world.
Brazil, the chosen location
Aguaduna aims to develop the groundwork for a city that goes beyond the concept of intelligent or smart cities, a base from which we can build urban centers that are totally sustainable in social, environmental, and, of course, economic terms.
This project, which is backed by the work and capital of the Matutes Mestre and Espallongas families from Spain (who are shareholders in the company Naurigas Emprendimientos), will be launched in the Brazilian town of Entre Rios in the state of Bahia. The expectation is for it to have a hugely positive impact on the local population at all levels.
Regarding the project’s impact on the people living in Aguaduna and neighboring towns, the purpose of the new city is “to restore the balance between society and nature to improve the quality of life of its inhabitants and preserve the natural environment.”
And to achieve this, the plan is to combine the provision of primary residences with the fostering of innovation—coupled with the creation of jobs linked to sectors like the Internet of Things and Big Data management on a large scale—and the development of education and training areas. The intention is that the city will eventually have 36,000 residents, but will also benefit the inhabitants of Entre Ríos, which currently has a population of around 380,000. In fact, the forecasts point to the creation of over 30,000 job positions for non-resident workers in the fields of services and sales, science, technology, health, education and the agro-industry, alongside the capacity to receive 5,500 tourists daily.
One of Aguaduna’s central pillars is sustainability and respect for the environment. Because of this, only 14 percent of its area will be covered by roads and buildings, leaving the rest of the land as permeable surfaces, of which 37 percent will be protected parts of Mata Atlântica, natural lagoons and dunes, with the remaining 49 percent being occupied by urban green spaces, parks and other green areas.
As a result, these natural elements will have a positive environmental impact in this restricted emissions zone. The major commitment here is the development of a circular economy model, with which it is possible to reduce pollution and waste, prolong the useful life of products and use renewable energy.
One of the most polluting elements in large cities is transport, especially motorized transport. To reduce this problem, the Aguaduna project will prioritize alternative forms of transport and will encourage autonomous, shared and non-polluting means of transport.
The company organizing the project explains that mobility will be centralized in an intermodal terminal, which will act as an interchange for non-residents. In addition, the entire mobility system will be managed using specially designed software to optimize travel. Obviously, the aim in Aguaduna will be to make regular daily journeys short, encouraging people to use bicycles and walk as often as possible.
Another aspect that determines how sustainable cities are is energy management. Aguaduna’s goal is to create its own centralized generation, distribution and control systems, including the use of renewable energy from a diversified matrix of solar, wind and biomass energy.
When the Aguaduna project was first suggested, the people at Naurigas Emprendimientos were clear that a city must have enough economic muscle to sustain itself. No matter how attractive an initiative of this kind is, it is very difficult to bring it to fruition without the necessary financial support behind it.
To achieve this, a business model has been chosen that has technology at the center. For that reason, the project is aiming to attract large benchmark technology companies. Siemens has been the first company to come on board. “Our collaboration with Siemens demonstrates the size and importance of the project and has attracted the attention of many other large companies who have contacted us about participating in and becoming partners in this innovative project, which will, of course, represent a turning point in the development of smart and sustainable cities and as a result create a new generation of them. Aguaduna is our first creation. Nevertheless, it’s a model that can be replicated and which has a long future ahead of it, as we want to build at least one city of this kind on every continent,” explains Al Masri.
One of Siemens’ main tasks will be to put its experience in digital services and the use of Big Data into practice, as data analysis will be key to Aguaduna’s progress. It goes without saying that it will be vital in the areas of electrification, waste management, safety and mobility.
In relation to his company’s participation in this project, which will begin in 2021, Fernando Silva, CEO of Siemens Smart Infrastructure in Spain comments that, “at Smart Infrastructure Spain, we are working to make cities more efficient and sustainable thanks to the development of grid edge solutions, which involves the integration of buildings, renewables, electromobility and smart electrical networks. This technology already exists, and solutions that favor the circular economy and energy efficiency in cities, accelerated by digital transformation, are going to gain fresh impetus thanks to the EU Green Recovery Plan.”