Inspired by experiences in South Korea and in the UAE, Smart City Laguna has a flooring that avoids forming heat islands, in addition to LED lighting, and is one of the most accessible in the world: units can be financed by a federal funding program

Croatá, which is part of the city of São Gonçalo do Amarante and located less than an hour and a half from Fortaleza, hosts the first 100% smart city in Brazil. In January 2018, Smart City Laguna became the first phase of a structure that aims to house approximately 25,000 people in an area of 330 hectares – 48 of these are green-dedicated, distributed throughout the urban area. The final phase will be completed in the first half of 2020.

Smart City Laguna is daring, says Susanna Marchionni, CEO of Planet Smart City, the group of English and Italian companies developing the project. “We want to turn it into a revolution. The idea is to change the way people live in cities and work the idea of smart city within the social context, so that it is within everyone’s reach,” she explains.

The definition of smart city is still unclear. Overall, the term related to the concept is “smart city” itself. The term was first used in 2007 to describe smart cities as places where human and social capital, as well as technology and information infrastructure, are linked to generate sustainable economic development and improve people’s quality of life.

As new smart city formats began to be implemented, the wider the concept became. Today, it involves sustainable economic growth, modern infrastructure, high quality of life and smart management of natural resources.

Cidade inteligente. Crédito: Divulgação/Smart City Laguna

What are smart cities around the world like?

In 2003, South Korea started to design an innovative city, called Songdo, which is located around Incheon International Airport, the largest airport in the country. Songdo was built according to environmental standards and lots of technology. There are green areas everywhere; underground sensors detect movement and generate information to organize traffic; sea water is used to supply channels for transport route, thus saving fresh water; bike lanes cover a large part of the city; and a pneumatic waste management system enables waste collection and recycling. It all cost US$ 35 billion.

The model became a world reference and received the title of “First Smart City of the World” by British newspaper The Guardian, in 2014. Its success attracts more and more inhabitants. Its 1,570 square kilometers were designed for a population of 40,000 people. However, 67,000 people lived in Songdo as early as 2013. The final phase is expected to be completed in 2018 and, within two years, 250,000 Koreans will live there.

In the United Arab Emirates, there is another smart-city model developed from scratch. Masdar began to be erected in 2006 and aimed to be a city with zero emission of carbon dioxide. Its estimated 50,000 inhabitants will consume 100% renewable energy. In addition to all buildings having solar panels on their roofs, there will be a solar farm with 87,000 solar panels capable of producing 17,500 MWh of clean electricity per year. It is enough energy to supply about 85,000 Brazilian homes during the period.

However, Masdar’s main innovation is in its PRT transport system, the “Personal Transit Rapid.” With this system, compact cars will be driven at high speed on underground rails, there will be a limit of conventional fossil-fueled vehicles, and it is expected to reduce 1 billion tons of CO² emissions every year.

Smart cities for people

Living in Songdo or Masdar is a privilege. For example, the price for a square meter in the Arab city costs approximately US$ 10,000. Compared to the most expensive square meter in Brazil, which is in Leblon, in Rio de Janeiro, price goes to BRL 21,000, according to the 2017 survey of FipeZap.

In Ceará, the promise is to keep prices fair to the purchasing power of the Brazilian middle class. The development sells properties of 150 square meters for BRL 30,000, and houses range from BRL 100,000 to BRL 150,000. The properties can also be financed by the federal housing program Minha Casa Minha Vida (My House, My Life).

“People always ask me: who is your target group? There is none. A smart city has a high standard of infrastructure and technology available to everyone. The way we work requires social inclusion,” says Susanna. “When you talk about smart cities, people think about technology, but the main thing is to be smart to people,” she adds.

There will be no restriction to gates and external access to Smart City Laguna. On the contrary, the expectation of the project is to attract and receive residents from the surroundings of the smart city for free activities. There is a building planned to be the headquarters of a cultural institute and that will offer an extensive schedule of programs as movie sessions, English classes and crafts and entrepreneurship courses – everything will be free and open to anyone living in São Gonçalo do Amarante.

Cidade inteligente. Crédito: Divulgação/Smart City Laguna

In public interest spots, such as the cultural center, squares and parks, 4G internet signal will be offered free of charge. According to Susanna, connectivity is a key aspect of promoting integration and well-being. “We created the “Planet App”, a city control panel in which residents can see everything that happens: party and events schedule, city cameras. Besides, they can take part in the shared-economy platform by offering and evaluating services,” the CEO summarizes.

Urbanism and infrastructure guided by sustainability

The organization of the 7,065 plots of land that make up Smart City Laguna is divided among 6,009 plots for residential areas, 920 plots for commercial and service centers, and 136 plots for technological and business centers. Organizers say the project has been designed so that citizens can mostly walk or bike the distance between their house and their work – by the cycling network that covers the urban area.

With a total investment of US$ 50 million, the urban project was developed from scratch. Planning began with earthworks and deep drainage of the area, followed by paving of streets with interlocking concrete floor, to avoid the formation of heat islands, and settlement of wide accessible sidewalks. 14.5% of the total area will be kept as green space and there will be a park or a square within 400 meters of each property.

Susanna states that all properties are delivered with household water and sewage connections, connected to the system provided by the municipality. Pipes and power connections are underground, and city lighting is based on LED bulbs, which use about 80% less energy than traditional incandescent.

However, the energy matrix is still hydroelectric – that is, it has an environmental cost. “Once the first residents come, we are partnering with a company that will sell energy from renewable sources [like solar energy],” she explains.

Cidade inteligente. Crédito: Divulgação/Smart City Laguna

A development center in Ceará

Smart City Laguna is located 70 kilometers from Fortaleza and 30 kilometers from Paracuru Beach, the nearest coast. However, the enterprise was not attracted by the beauty of the coast of Ceará, but by the powerful Industrial and Port Complex of Pecém, approximately 50 kilometers away.

“It is one of the most developed regions of the country. We identified a large area of 330 hectares that combined two conditions: housing deficit and economic growth,” explains Susanna, who has partnered with TIM, Enel, Samsung, Arup and StarBoost to provide services for the community.

Pecém is the twelfth largest port area in Brazil and has already been evaluated as the tenth best port structure in the country, with high strategic potential for exporting to the US and Europe. The complex also houses ZPE Ceará – the Processing and Export Zone, which works as a free zone and was chosen best in the Americas by the Financial Times. In addition, the region counts on the works of the steel plant of Companhia Siderúrgica do Pecém, an industry that should employ 23,000 people with estimated investment of US$ 5.4 billion.

What about you? Have you ever thought about living in a smart city?

Content published in July 20, 2018

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