Two-Acre City: Urban Living Into the 21st Century

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The cities of the future are going in one direction: up. With little livable space left across the world, and less and less of it every year because of climate change, we’re going to have to find a way to cram more people into what we already have available. Population growth around the world also doesn’t help.

Other problems of a growing population with increasing space needs include longer commutes and more reliance on cars, more energy needs to light and heat all the new houses, and more pollution and waste.

The Chinese, with the biggest population in the world and increasing pollution, energy and space problems, have been thinking about this problem for a while now, and they seem to have found a viable solution: the 2-acre city.

Enter Sky City

Sky City is a one-building city project based out of Changsa, China. The company, Broad Sustainable Construction, has a well-known concern for green living and sustainable spaces.

Here’s Sky City in a nutshell: 220 stories on 2 acres of land, 4,450 households in apartments ranging from 675 sf to 5,000 sf (a comfortable living space for large families). The building will contain school, office and hospital space as well as parks, recreation and culture spaces. There will also be 930,000 acres reserved for vertical farming. The power for the building will come partly from burning the natural waste produced by the population. Inhabitants will travel vertically either through one of the 92 elevators (the most energy-efficient means of transportation ever invented) or by walking up and down a ramp.

I read a lot of science-fiction, and this kind of building is often imagined as sky stations or ship-cities floating in space. But the concept works just as well on Earth: you can put about 30,000 people in a space as small as 2 acres, comfortably and sustainably. This kind of development, I believe, deserves a lot more attention than it has received.

Basically, Sky City has everything you find in a city, but all in one building, including food production. This is truly a sustainable, almost fully self-sufficient building.

It’s happening now

A dream of the future? Think again: the company will begin the construction in June 2013. The construction process itself is interesting: it’s a pre-fab building.

What this means is that most of the modules will be built off-site and assembled up in Changsa. This improves construction speed and reduces energy consumption at the construction site. The company has actually been successful at building two hotels at amazing speeds: a 15-story building in 6 days, anda 30-story building in 15 days.

So, I won’t be surprised if the first inhabitants of Sky City move in sometime in 2015, even late 2014. I wonder how fast this concept will make it to North America?

2 acre city

What it’s like to live in Sky City

Well, I can’t claim to know what it will be like to live there, but here’s what I imagine it looks like:

You get up in the morning and look outside from your 90th-story apartment. The sky looks clear: there will be sunlight today. After a shower and a breakfast, you get dressed and head out the door. You begin work in 15 minutes, and that’s more than you need to ride the elevator down to the 3rd floor, where your job is located. On the way there, you stop by the coffee shop for your morning fix and buy some treats for your colleagues.

At lunch, you head outside to enjoy the beautiful parkland surrounding the building. Well-groomed paths and picnic tables are busy with workers taking a break, teenagers on recess and young families enjoying the outdoors.

After work, you head to one of the outdoor plazas for a game of tennis with a neighbour. As a warm-up, you walk the ramp up 15 floors instead of the elevator. After the game, a quick elevator ride takes you back up to your apartment.

Tonight is date night, and you and your partner get dressed and head up to a higher floor for a romantic dinner at a fancy restaurant. The view of the setting sun over the horizon is especially beautiful from up high.


As we look for a more sustainable and ecological way to keep on living our human lives on this planet, the vertical city will probably become a viable alternative, as space grows more scarce and the population keeps increasing. Although most North Americans have always had a good amount of space at their “disposal” (Ed: that’s one term we need to cut loose when it comes to our planet!), this space comes with an ecological cost that  cannot be sustained for much longer while still using 20th century methods to plan 21st century cities.

Would you move to a vertical, self-contained city or do you prefer the way our cities are built now? Share your thoughts about this development in sustainable living in the comments!

Thanks to Lloyd Alter at Treehugger for the original story. 


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Anabelle Bernard Fournier

Anabelle is a freelance writer, writing teacher and blogger. She spends a lot of time at home, so she likes to make sure that it's cozy and nice, especially in her reading nook. In her free time, Anabelle knits, walks and learns how to write stories.