The future is green. Concern for the environment isn't just a passing fad — it's going to inform all the major projects our civilization undertakes from now on. Tomorrow's building tools aren't just brick and mortar; they're solar cells and recycled materials.
But it's one thing to take into account ecological impact and energy efficiency in new projects, and it's another to have an incredible vision that amplifies these concepts to a massive scale. Scouring the Web, we found the 10 best examples of green future cities from design visionaries, each one encompassing innovative and sustainable construction techniques, green energy technology, and creativity from your wildest dreams.
Follow the jump for the list.
1. Crystal Island
Here's a green city-within-a-building on a grand scale. This $4 billion structure, planned for Moscow, will be 1,300 feet tall, with a total of 27 milion square feet of floor space. Powered by thousands of solar panels, and with spinning wind turbines throughout its conical party-hat spire, the building's interior will contain numerous wide-open atrium spaces. If built, it could be the largest building in the world.
2. Power Centre
These beehive-like structures could be home to 77,000 residents if they're built south of Seoul, Korea. Designed by the Netherlands-based MVRDV, the design won Korea's Gwanggyo Power Centre Competition. Each of the structures consists of a series of rings, with an atrium inside each one that allows plenty of light to stream in from all directions. The result is a gorgeous vertical park that's said to improve ventilation, and reduce energy and water usage.
3. Chicago Eco-Bridge to 2016
Chicago has high hopes of snagging the 2016 Summer Olympics, and in an attempt to lure the games to the Windy City, Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architects designed a spectacular semicircular island to be built off the shore of Lake Michigan. Placed on the island would be dozens of vertical wind turbines, as well as walking trails, an electric trolley, and an iconic observation tower in the middle that would house the Olympic flame.
So what if the rest of the world is underwater by the year 2100? Designer Vincent Callebaut is ready for that and more with his Lilypad. This solar-powered and recyclable Garden of Eden will be half-submerged, and will run on solar power. With its main design revolving around aquaculture, this might also be a great place to tap into some serious wave power.
5. O'Neill Cylinders
Here's the spaciest city of the future, dreamed up by physicist Gerard K. O'Neill in his book The High Frontier. His space habitat would consist of two huge counter-rotating cylinders, and you could walk 20 miles around the biggest one's interior before you got back where you started. Built of materials mined from the moon, this fanciful idea is completely self-contained, run by solar energy and interior plants supplying its own environmental biosphere. The biggest problem? Moving all those people and materials from the earth and moon to get this thing built, which would hardly be energy efficient.
6. Babcock Ranch
This tiny city near Fort Myers, Florida is designed from the ground up to use solar power throughout. The buildings of Babcock Ranch will be situated close enough together so that most destinations are within walking distance, and those that aren't can be reached by electric cars. Even the power company's involved, with Florida Power & Light set to build a 75-megawatt solar power station. Now all the ex-NFL player who dreamed up this idea needs is a large group of people willing to buy houses.
7. Singapore's green city-within-a city
This award-winning design spans a city block in Singapore, covering the open areas with an undulating, solar film-covered canopy, punctuated by wild-looking asymmetrical buildings consisting of multiple vertical louvers that filter the sun. It's peppered with greenery throughout, and the buildings are shaped to funnel air down to the internal streets, keeping everything breezy and comfortable. It uses multiple energy sources, such as geothermal heating, and an unusual ice-storage system to keep things cool on the hottest days.
8. Eco-island City
Designer Wolf Hibertz created a nautilus-shaped vision of the future with his Eco-Island City, rising up from the ocean floor using techniques similar to the way coral reefs are formed. Sunlight turns seawater-borne minerals into limestone, while solar panels supply the low-voltage power for the entire complex. Hibertz plans to build his eco-friendly island off the coast of Portugal.
9. San Francisco in the 22nd Century
This winner of the History Channel's City of the Future contest could be San Francisco 100 years from now, if IwamotoScott Architecture has anything to do with it. Its geothermal mushroom structures extract subterranean heat and water, and those kooky twisted towers are "fog flowers," extracting moisture from the air and growing algae that creates hydrogen for fuel. Maybe all that future-forward paraphernalia will create enough energy to also keep those little cable cars running.
10. Skyscraper Competition winner
Winner of the 09 Skyscraper Competition, NEO ARC is a city-within-a-building packed with green tech. Its thin-film photovoltaic surface generates electricity to create hydrogen for fuel cells, and at the same time channels rain, using it to water plants that generate oxygen. Check out that fantastically futuristic facade. No wonder it's a winner.