What will the cities of the future look like?
We at BASF have been working on answers to these questions for 150 years.
Cities draw people seeking work, prosperity and culture. The year 2008 marked the first time that more people worldwide were living in metropolitan areas than in the country. Estimates suggest that, in 2050, over 70% of the world’s population will call cities home.
But how will our cities look and sound in the future, what will it be like to live there? How can more and more people find living space and quality of life? How can we create intelligent transportation systems? And will there be enough resources, such as water, for everyone?
We at BASF have been working on answers to these questions for 150 years: by identifying the needs of our customers and partners, exploring the as-yet undiscovered, and making innovations available to as many people as possible.
Examples include the special concrete admixtures used to construct the world’s tallest buildings or an earthquake-proof tunnel under the sea. Or thermal and acoustic insulation materials that make riding the subway more comfortable. Or membranes that allow saltwater to be transformed into drinking water.
Making room where space is scarce
Big cities the world over are facing enormous challenges. With urban populations constantly growing, living and workspace needs to be found for more and more people. And yet space is limited. That’s why the trend is to build upwards – as demonstrated by skyscrapers like London’s The Shard. Completed in 2012, the building’s 310 meters are only topped in Europe by the Mercury City Tower in Moscow. Taller still is the Burj Khalifa: with its more than 160 stories, it stretches 800 meters into the skies over Dubai, making it the tallest building in the world.
BASF’s products assist in construction. The Shard, for example, employed a specially developed blend of BASF’s MasterGlenium® Sky concrete admixture: Construction projects of this sort require particularly fluid concrete that can be easily pumped up great heights. MasterGlenium® Sky also helps concrete dry quickly, so that building can proceed without too long of a pause. MasterGlenium® superplasticizers not only improve the construction properties of concrete, they also lessen its environmental impact. For example, slag or fly ash can replace some of the cement, avoiding the carbon emissions released by the energy-intensive cement production process.
“Things have to move quickly in cities like London. The entire foundation slab for The Shard was poured on a single weekend, because causing traffic snarl-ups with the construction vehicles was out of the question.”
Brian Williams, Sales Manager, BASF’s Construction Chemicals division
With more than 8 million inhabitants, New York is the most populous city in the United States. Living space is extremely scarce, not to mention expensive. That’s why creative solutions are in demand – especially in the densely populated center. 432 Park Avenue is not only a swank address. It is also the name of a spectacular building being erected in the heart of Manhattan: a new skyscraper that will stand on an area measuring only 28 by 28 meters. The residential building will rise 426 meters into the air. Helping accomplish this feat is BASF’s Green Sense® concrete technology, which was also used in the construction of the One World Trade Center in New York. Green Sense® concrete technology is a BASF performance package that manufacturers can use to improve their concrete in terms of durability, processing characteristics, longevity and environmental impact.
Urban life is criss-crossed by many different forms of transportation. Streets, rails, tunnels – these are the veins and arteries of a city. Commuters especially rely on fast, dependable connections. In Istanbul, for example, the Marmaray Tunnel running under the Bosporus Strait makes it possible for a train to go from Europe to Asia in only 4 minutes. The underwater tunnel is therefore not only an environmentally friendly alternative to the busy Bosporus Bridge highway, it also saves time, along with reducing traffic noise and exhaust emissions in this megacity. BASF’s expertise and solutions were called for here, as well: For example, a special injection foam to prevent water ingress and a concrete formulation to earthquake-proof the tunnel both contributed to its construction.
“Constructing the Marmaray Tunnel was a huge challenge: Its deepest section lies 56 meters below the water’s surface. Also, the tunnel must withstand up to a magnitude 9 earthquake on the Richter scale.”
Suat Seven, Regional Manager, BASF’s Construction Chemicals division
Commuters on their way to work in the Canadian city of Montreal have also enjoyed a nicer ride since the beginning of 2014, when new subway cars featuring special thermal and acoustic insulation were introduced. The Bombardier-made cars have ceilings equipped with BASF’s Basotect® melamine resin foam. By 2018, 468 of these new cars are expected to be in circulation, making noisy and uncomfortable subway rides a thing of the past.
Cities demand great quantities of resources, like water. And yet much of the existing water supply infrastructure in congested urban areas is already being stretched to its limit. Places where many people share close quarters are places that require countless liters of water every day for drinking, cooking, washing, hygiene and industry. How can we quench the thirst of cities?
Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water – most of it saltwater. Desalinating seawater makes this valuable resource available for consumption. One such plant is located in the Spanish El Prat de Llobregat.
It supplies drinking water to around a quarter of the population in the greater Barcelona area. And in Nungua, about 12 kilometers from the Ghanian capital of Accra, desalination will soon be able to provide drinking water to roughly half a million people.
Potable water is a scarce commodity on Cyprus, too. Water scarcity can at times mean drastic restrictions for the island’s inhabitants: It has happened that, during periods of drought, the water supply was reduced to 36 hours per week. Here, too, people now count on seawater desalination.
Famagusta, Cyprus, uses the ultrafiltration technology of inge GmbH, a subsidiary of BASF. Membranes made from Ultrason® high-performance plastic prepare the seawater for desalination by intercepting undesirable particles like sand, clay, algae, and even pathogens.
Seawater desalination is an opportunity for coastal cities around the world to secure their long-term supply of water. According to the forecasts of sector specialists Global Water Intelligence, three times more people will meet their water needs through desalination technologies in 2030 than do so today.
“We produce around 7,000 cubic meters of potable water for Famagusta daily. If water means life, then we’re giving this city life.”
Aydin Celikbas, Desalination Plant Manager in Famagusta, Cyprus