Building Sustainable Cities

The Build4People project is advocating the creation of sustainable and green urban hubs, which are essential for future city planning to reduce carbon emissions
Boats carrying sand seen in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Boats carrying sand seen in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa

The Build4People project is enhancing Cambodians quality of life through sustainable urban transformation, it revealed during a workshop to share its ongoing sustainability urban project with the public.

On Thursday, the Build4People project, which aims to promote sustainable buildings and people-centered integrated urban development, conducted the WP4 Science Workshop "Urban Green Infrastructures in Phnom Penh", hosted by the University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde, Germany, together with the Royal University of Agriculture.

Michael Waibel, Build4People Consortium Leader, said carbon emissions is a serious problem globally, and the building sector is a major contributor to carbon emissions.

“CO2 emissions from building operations have reached an all-time high and become particularly problematic. An example is the case of mechanical cooling [use of AC] and issues of users’ behaviour,” he said.

A United Nations Environment Programme report in 2022 illustrated that the building sector accounts for 37 percent of carbon emissions worldwide.

“A quick transition from conventional construction methods to more sustainability is required,” Waibel added.

He mentioned that the building sector has been Germany’s most successful policy field in terms of reduction of carbon emission due to a holistic governance approach.

Jan Peter Mund, work package leader of “Urban Green Infrastructures”, talked about WP4’s ongoing activities, with three milestones. These are updated bibliographic research and literature, the conceptualisation of an urban neighbourhood green index (UNGI) and data collection, and UNGI parameter operationalisation and spatial verification using mobile devices (Input App and UAV).

Mund said that upcoming research and studies has taken place in Phnom Penh using long-time series analytics of thermal satellite image data in Phnom Penh. Some of the initial results were presented at the workshop from Chbar Ampov.

Sanara Hor, lecturer and researcher at the Royal University of Agriculture, said between 1973 and 2020, the urban footprint has increased significantly and green urban spaces have been replaced with developed areas in Phnom Penh.

“The losses of urban green spaces, the most important components, could affect the urban environment as an example of increases in urban temperature,” Sanara mentioned.

He believes that urban green spaces play a crucial role in alleviating carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

The Cambodian government has also committed to making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable by implementing green growth policies and establishing land use master plans across the country, he said.

Therefore, the urban forestry should pay high attention to neutral carbon urban design to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 11, "sustainable cities and communities". This is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, Sanara added.

“We should consider meeting the sustainability goal of the government and United Nation to make people live healthier and well being,” he added.

The Benefits of Urban and Peri Urban Forestry

Sanara has shown the benefits of transforming from urban to green urban areas which is going to bring benefits for both socio-economic and environmental benefits.

For socio-economic benefits, the green city will enhance food security by providing consumable goods such as fruits, clean water and air, mitigate energy and material shortages by providing wood fuel and construction material, reduce urban poverty by creating jobs and increasing income, improve physical and mental health of residents, increase the available green space and provide opportunities for recreation and environmental education.

For the environmental benefits, the urban forestry will help to beautify urban landscapes and increase land and property values, prevent soil erosion and landscape degradation and remove air pollutants and buffer urban noise, reduce hourly ozone, Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter and remove large quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen, preserve and increase biodiversity and provide habitat for urban wildlife and provide shade and shelter, reduce exposure to sun, wind and local overheating (heat island effect).

Set Urban Forestry into Municipal Planning Procedures for Actions

Increase the numbers of green spaces and them close to all residential areas, strengthen on land development sub degree. Trees are significant elements for municipal planning and ensure at least 100000 inhabitants. The urban old growth forest around Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh is well integrated in the municipal plan for green spaces.

Ensure all urban residents access to urban green spaces by accessing the existing urban tree cover applying the 3-30-300 rule to identify priority areas for urban green development.

“30% should be covered by trees in each community, every tree should be cultivated within 300 meters,” he said.

Green Buildings are constructed in a variety of ways that lessen their negative effects on human health and the natural world focusing on energy efficiency, green and net-zero carbon buildings.