Moore Ruble Yudell (MRY) Architects & Planners recently beat out eight other design firms, winning a commission to build a “low impact” city containing its own farming infrastructure in China. The developer of the project is COFCO, China’s largest food importer and exporter. ARUP will be Sustainability and Engineering Consultant for the $300 million project; and MRY is now entering the master planning phase.
Located about 30 miles outside of Beijing, the 2,834-acre “Agricultural Eco-Valley” will eventually be home to between 80,000 and 100,000 people, combining residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural development. The idea, pointed out James Mary O’Connor, a principal at MRY, is to demonstrate a “closed-loop” approach toward resources like energy, water, and waste on a single site. Its local focus and agricultural model, he added, “suggest ways to go beyond the increasingly unsustainable march of globalization.”
The project will consist of four zones—research and development, agricultural production, residential, and social housing. Agrarian uses will include both farming and livestock, while residential units will be configured as “sustainable hill towns,” on raised mounds bordering the farmlands.
By teaming up with COFCO, the firm hopes to create a net zero-carbon zone. Although local government will most likely direct the relocation of existing villages, the Chinese government will be reviewing and approving each phase as Eco-Valley rolls along.
The project is to be organized around a multi-modal transport loop called the “Ring of Discovery” that will connect all the development zones, accommodating pedestrian, bicycle, and bio-fuel-powered buses. It would also link to a smaller loop for programmable Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) vehicles to move around the main commercial and tourist hub of the Eco Valley. The Ring would also connect to a series of “Discovery Pavilions” that would display educational materials and programs related to developing technologies for agricultural, farming, and residential uses.
Phase 1 of the project focuses on the agricultural zone, and includes an Agro-Botanical Garden and Greenhouse plus demonstration plans for a light rail train station. It is slated for 2013 completion. Overall completion is unlikely before 2020.