I am amazed by this illustration of how to squeeze a mini-creek into a San Francisco sidewalk (from the wonderful Streetsblog). Faced with an aging sewage infrastructure at risk of failure, San Francisco’s water utility is experimenting with bold, low-impact designs, including green roofs, daylighted creeks, rain barrels, and permeable pavement.
The obstacles to this change are enormous. For decades, urban water management has meant removing green space and channeling water into treatment plants. But if successful, mini-creeks and urban watersheds can significantly reduce sewage discharge to the city’s bay and rivers, with estimates ranging from 28% reduction to 91% reduction in water pollution.
In addition to the functional benefits of reduced pollution, mini-creeks will add beauty to what are now life-less streets, and attract wildlife and nature. Restoring creeks will provide a greater connection to the natural environment and urban history.
Japanese corporations are funding innovations in urban ecology. Suntory, one of Japan’s largest beverage companies, has a subsidiary called Suntory Midorie that creates green roofs and green walls. Examples of their work are on display in Shibuya and used on Suntory’s Tokyo headquarters.
Gaia Initiative is a non-profit that brings together corporate leaders and academics to promote environmentalism. They are currently sponsoring anthropologist Takemura Shinichi’s Tangible Earth, a giant globe that provides live data about global warming, climate change, and disaster prevention. The adviser list includes CEOs of leading companies such as Benese, Pasona, Mitsui Fudosan, Doutor Coffee, and Asahi Breweries.
A great source for news in English on Japan’s corporate eco initiatives is CScout Japan, a trend research company. Check out their blog’s “eco” tag.
I wonder if there is this much corporate activism in Europe and the United States. And in Japan, I wonder how corporations can best work with ordinary gardeners to transform cities into urban forests.
Mitsubishi Estates, one of Japan’s largest real estate companies, has created a comprehensive plan for the downtown business district of Otemachi-Marunouchi-Yurakucho, where it owns one third of the land.
Mitsubishi Estates’ size and ecological principles lead the company to think beyond the scale of individual buildings. District heating, cooling and hot water systems provide energy efficiency for 65 buildings. Rooftop greening lowered summer temperatures 25 degrees celsius compared with concrete slab roofs, mitigating the heat island effect. Other efforts to lower the summer temperatures include sidewalk sprinklers, street trees, vertical gardens, and permeable sidewalks and roadways.
I am impressed that Mitsubishi Estates is not only improving the environment and efficiency of its own buildings, but taking a leading role in improving the city’s environment. Working on the district level, Mitsubishi Estates relates their greening efforts to a larger goal of using their district to connect cooler breezes from Tokyo Bay across the office towers and into the Imperial Palace grounds and other parts of central Tokyo.