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Brainstorming urban best practices for better life

AS the world urbanizes, cities worldwide are brainstorming ways to overcome major problems caused by urban migration and to create better environments for better lives.

Just a few of the problems are overcrowding, depletion of resources, lack of open space and parks, air and water pollution, traffic congestion, solid waste disposal, loss of heritage architecture and loss of contact with nature.

The World Expo 2010's Urban Best Practices Area (UBPA) in Puxi features more than 60 cases of the best, the most creative and eco-friendly thinking in tackling urban problems in practical ways. Some are replicated and some are showcased by models, audio-visual and interactive exhibitions.

Here, we visit 10 bright ideas.

Shanghai eco

Shanghai's Eco-House is a virtual low-carbon consumer that contains some aspects of a traditional shikumen (stone-gated) house for which the city is famous.

The four-story structure with eight residential apartments uses the natural ventilation system of the old house, such as opening skylights, to help keep it comfortable and airy.

It also exploits geothermal heat and uses solar and wind power and LED lighting. It collects and uses rainwater to water plants. Plants help cool the building.

The Eco-House was inspired by an environmentally friendly office building in Shanghai's Xinzhuang area, Minhang District.

Odense bike

The city of Odense, Denmark, simulates a city block where visitors can ride bicycles. The exhibit, called "Revival of the Bicycle," showcases the efforts of the country's third-largest city to encourage cycling to reduce carbon emissions and improve public health and safety.

Odense, home of Hans Christian Andersen, has built a 550-kilometer network of bicycle lanes, and bicycle ridership is increasingly the preferred mode of travel. It has many special facilities for cyclists, lots of parking, drinking fountains, places to get tires repaired, among others.

Rhone-Alpes light show

Many urban residents enjoy a colorful night life and visitors to the Rhone-Alpes Pavilion at night can enjoy a light show produced with an advanced energy-saving lighting system from 7:40pm to 9:50pm every day.

The system, which is used in the Rhone-Alpes region of France, produces beautiful effects of fireflies flitting across the pavilion exterior.

The object is to produce the best possible effect with the least amount of energy.

In front of the pavilion is a rose garden, planted with flowers from China and Lyon - those famous in ancient times and those developed today.

Xi'an save

Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, features the dramatic case of historic reconstruction and preservation of the renowned Daming Palace, center of politics, economics and culture in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

The palace built in the UBPA is on a 1:1 ratio based on Qifeng Pavilion, the structure west of Hanyuan Palace, which is the main palace of the Daming Palace compound. The Xi'an case explains the measures taken to protect Daming Palace, and tells the story of historic and cultural preservation in the city. It also highlights how the preservation has benefited the overall environment and the lives of local people.

In a 3-D cinema, visitors visit the splendid Tang Dynasty as well as modern Xi'an and the cultural park containing Daming Palace.

Macau pawn

Nearby is the replica of Tak Seng On Pawnshop from Macau, which showcases its example of the restoration, management and operation of cultural relics.

The restored building looks exactly as it did when the pawnshop opened in 1917. Visitors can imagine scenes of bargaining over a jewel.

The pawnshop was turned into a museum and opened to the public in 2003 in the special administrative region.

The second floor is devoted to the life and works of writer Louis Cha, famed for his wuxia or martial arts and chivalry novels.

Chengdu watercase

The Expo features a miniature version of Living Water Park in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province.

It is not only a park for relaxation, the trees, plants, soil and other ground layers are a water purification system that can treat 15 tons of rainwater and sewage. Instead of chemicals commonly used for water purification, here plants are used to make the water clean enough for swimming.

Around 10 kinds of plants, including reeds and water bamboo, are the purifiers.

Hong Kong card

Hong Kong showcases its smart card, installed within citizens' ID cards.

With this card, residents can book an air ticket, borrow books at libraries, ride the Metro, find a lost pet, buy commodities in convenience stores and do many other things.

Each visitor entering the Hong Kong site will receive an electronic bracelet at the entrance. It opens the pavilion door and with it visitors can explore the many services that smart ID users enjoy in the special administrative region.

Madrid air tree

In these days of hot, humid weather, visitors can cool down in the Air Tree, a cylindrical structure displayed by the city of Madrid, the Spanish capital. It's refreshing to stand under the "tree," which is fitted with a series of electricity-producing mini turbines and a giant fan powered by the sun.

Programmed like a robot to move with the sun, it modifies its external shape according to the sunlight. It has an ultra-modern system of audio-visual projection and three layers of curtains that wrap around the entire structure, acting as screens.

During the day visitors can watch Madrid city scenes and at night the scenes are projected on the exterior of the tree.

Madrid also displays its environmentally friendly Bamboo House, a public housing project for low-income people.

Hamburg home

Hamburg House, a "passive" energy house, is a prototype of H20, a building in HafenCity, Hamburg, Germany. It's a perfect office environment at 25 degrees Celsius.

Hamburg House is termed "passive," a non-consumer of non-renewable energy. It uses renewable energies, such as solar, wind and geothermal, for cooling, heating and power.

In it there is a "magic mirror." When visitors look into it, they seem to be riding in a truck, passing through the streets of Hamburg. A terrestrial globe explains what the world will be like in 2100 if C02 production is not reduced.

London food

Visitors who feel hungry after walking around can try the food - and that's not all - at London's UBPA exhibition. Everything served in the restaurant is edible, including plates and cutlery, which is made of organic biscuits.

Inspired by the Beddington Zero-Energy Development, an environmentally friendly housing development near Wallington, the case also demonstrates energy-saving and emissions-cutting technologies and a healthy lifestyle. It features a system whereby people can calculate the emissions of C02 generated by various activities. It's said to be the first in terms of specificity.

The exhibition also features zero-energy fashion shows, an art festival and cultural festival demonstrating ways to tackle climate change.


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