VEGAS2015: Retrofitting Brisbane in response to climate change

Kate: Can we retrofit Brisbane to decarbonize food production in the city? This was a topic discussed this week at one of Brisbane’s CitySmart Innovation Festival Events, VEGAS2015: The Brisbane Retrofit Project, that explored options for retrofitting Brisbane in response to climate change. Connecting food production with city consumers through better urban-rural linkages and city based production (e.g. in community farms, on roof tops and in new urban agricultural centres) is a key part of the solution according to ARUP’s Mike Velders. However reducing the distance food travels by focussing on making us ‘locavores’ (see last weeks blog) is only part of the solution. Food Miles apparently only account for on average around 10% of the carbon produced in food production (However this is based on research done in the US market and transport may be more significant here). The big contributors to food carbon are the inputs from fossil fuel based fertilisers and greenhouse gasses produced during production and wholesale/retail of food. Mike highlighted some innovative approaches to city based food production that Brisbane might consider including farms powered by energy from, and fertilised with by-products of, domestic waste processing plants. Incorporating food production into urban development projects is an international trend and ARUP, obviously seeing a burgeoning market for the same projects here, has recently established a ‘Food and Agriculture Centre of Excellence’ in Brisbane.

Other ideas for decarbonizing Brisbane discussed at VEGAS2015 included transit system retrofits to encourage mass uptake of low carbon transport. This might involve installing computer controlled aerial pods (I had visions of The Jetsons), powered by renewable energy, that take you whererever you want to go within the city centre with ease. These have apparently already been piloted overseas according to Rupert Posner, Australian Director of The Climate Group. For larger distances, rapid uptake of electric cars, powered by renewable energy, may soon be possible. ‘Better Place’ are apparently close to releasing electric cars supported by a network of renewable energy power sources in Australia.

Two of the key messages promoted at VEGAS2015 were that 1) The technology for retrofitting sustainable cities already exists and 2) That an ‘urban acupuncture’ approach might be adopted. This is where suitable technologies are used to address particular problems in high density pressure points (e.g. a sewerage farm located in an area with high population density and concentrated nutrients and water).

VEGAS2015 was produced by engineering firm ARUP as an industry workshop for Brisbane’s contribution to the Australian Innovation Festival, The CitySmart Innovation Festival 2009. This festival features over 70 events exploring innovative opportunities to promote greater sustainability in Brisbane and Southeast Queensland.

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