Magacities 2030: equality against disasters

Sustainability and climate protection | Urbanization | As a technology group operating worldwide, thyssenkrupp is able to offer new products and services that will have a noticeable impact on the environmental footprint of future megacities. However, as no one can predict with precision what will happen in the next few decades, in the Foresight process thyssenkrupp always develops several scenarios that describe a variety of developments. One of them is the city of Pjongjong that inhabits 40 million people in constant fear of the forces of nature.

Living together sustainably? Making use of the free market?  In Pjongjong, the authorities are facing completely different challenges. Here, they are not concerned with investing as profitably as possible. Rather, the city’s 40 million inhabitants are seeking protection from increasingly frequent natural disasters and are counting on central coordination of all activities here by their government. There is no place for individualism or private investors. Having a home is not an expression of a personal lifestyle but a purely practical necessity for which the state takes responsibility. It provides living space, which remains public property and is allocated to people. The person in charge of this is Elin Park, who, as Minister of Housing and Infrastructure, administers a government budget worth billions for the reconstruction and expansion of megacities like Pongjong.

Equality means prosperity

A glance at the numerous photos on the walls of her underground office shows where the money has been spent in recent decades. Uniform residential and office buildings are laid out in rows as far as the eye can see: in the government’s view, there is no other way of achieving efficiency and durability. This explains why the words “Equality means prosperity” are also inscribed on the banners that hang over many façades. At this moment, Park and her experts are discussing the next major projects in and around Pongjong. In the south of the city, for example, it is planned to sacrifice a 70-year-old district to progress and to demolish it, with the surgical precision that has now become commonplace: in this process, robots dismantle the old buildings and recycle most of the materials immediately, at the scene. “How many apartments are we going to build below ground this time?” Park asks her assistant. “About 80 percent of 5,000, so 4,000,” the assistant replies. “We have only a few residential units above ground. There, we are going to accommodate mainly shopping facilities and offices.”

Protection against floods: In Pjongjong, neighborhoods on jacks sink into the ground in case of natural disasters.
Protection against floods: In Pjongjong, neighborhoods on jacks sink into the ground in case of natural disasters.

Automatic protection from natural disasters

This is a principle that has proven itself over the past 15 years: the standardized underground apartments offer the best protection when, as a result of severe climate change, the weather yet again turns wild and threatens the city with heavy storms and torrential rain. The latest generation of building complexes can be completely cut off from the outside world: as soon as the sensors detect an approaching storm, doors and windows are automatically locked and secured with steel roller shutters. Some engineers are even thinking about building neighborhoods on hydraulic jacks, which could be lowered into the ground when necessary. Of course, Elin Park herself understands that, in this way, they are combating only the symptoms, not their causes. “But what are we to do?” she murmurs to herself as she watches a dark cloud front on the edge of the city. “At the moment, our primary need is to ensure that all the city’s inhabitants survive the next natural disaster.”

thyssenkrupp – pioneer of the urban future

For now, the bionic buildings of Hongtsiu are still fiction. However, it is perfectly possible that they will be towering up into the sky in many places, especially in Asia, by around 2030 if the “S.I.M. City UNLIMITED” (Sustainable & Safe, Innovative, Market-driven) scenario developed by thyssenkrupp experts at Foresight workshops in Singapore becomes reality. After the future of work in production and last-mile urban mobility, “megacity upgrading” was the third topic in the Foresight series, which the Group is using to make early preparations for possible developments in about 20 years’ time. By comparison with today’s megacities, with their 10-million-plus inhabitants, future conurbations could have even larger populations – in China, for example, they are already thinking about urban clusters with more than 100 million inhabitants.

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