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A New Sustainable City Rises In Bangladesh

One of the most crowded and polluted cities on the planet, Dhaka might not seem like a place for a massive new clean development. And yet, Green Leaf–a new “sustainable garden city”–is currently under construction there.

With more than 16 million residents, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is not only one of the world’s largest cities, it’s also the fastest growing. Half a million new migrants arrive each year. The U.N. predicts that, by 2025, Dhaka will be larger than Beijing, Shanghai, and Mexico City.

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That incredible growth has come with problems. The city has struggled to provide safe housing and keep air pollution under control.

Image via: JET Architecture

But if Dhaka exemplifies the challenges of a booming megacity, it can also pioneer solutions. One might be Green Leaf (or Shobuj Pata in Bengali), an enormous new “sustainable garden city” that will integrate architecture and nature to provide low-energy, high-density housing.

Green Leaf is a collaboration between three Toronto-based architecture firms—JET Architecture, JCI Architects, and Terraplan Landscape Architects—and a Bangladeshi developer. It will have 2,300 to 2,400 housing units, along with a convention center, a mosque, a school, and retail space.

Image via: JET Architecture

But what makes Green Leaf so exciting is the way it integrates with the environment, using Bangladesh’s climate and local vegetation to save energy. The development has ample greenspace and courtyards to combat the urban “heat island” effect, but that’s just the beginning. Local vegetation also covers the buildings themselves. These green walls and roofs help filter the air and cool both indoor and outdoor spaces.

To manage Dhaka’s heavy rains, bioswales line the street edges, filtering and retaining excess rainwater to be used for irrigation for all those plants. And the thin profiles of the buildings maximize daylight within the units, reducing energy needs. All the parking for the development is underground.

The architects call the project “a hybrid habitable space combining architecture and nature.” It’s not particularly high-tech–there aren’t solar panels or wind turbines–it’s just smart design that works with the environment.

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Development of the Green Leaf project is expected to begin this year and be ready for 10,000 residents by 2015. It won’t solve Dhaka’s housing problems on its own, but it might provide a model for new development in South Asia’s booming cities.

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