In an unprecedented move, Panasonic has extended itself into private construction in order to rebuild post-varied-disaster Japan into a model of sustainability and smarts. The company, working in conjunction with eight others, is turning one of their former factory sites into a “Sustainable Smart Town.”
Like the working relationship of the companies themselves, the goal is to show a global audience what can come of having different green technologies working together to create a power-generating and power-saving town. Some examples:
- Every roof will be fitted with state-of-the-art solar panels that power the house and bank unused energy in a home-based storage battery.
- Transportation infrastructure will be created with electric vehicles in mind.
- Networked sensors all over the town will coordinate to control things like public lighting, making sure no energy goes to waste.
Panasonic’s goal is to apply this building and business model to surrounding towns that are being rebuilt from the ground up and eventually sharing this green-living model with other countries. The goal is to open the town’s doors, so to speak, by spring of this year, filling all of its homes by the end of construction in 2018.
The planned area is about 47 acres and will support around 3,000 people (1,000 homes). Operating with the slogan “Bringing new energy to life,” Panasonic is offering eight different “smart services” as a part of the town’s design. According to their website, they will be “Bringing new energy…:”
- From the sun by managing local energy generation for ‘self-creation and self-consumption’ of energy using a hybrid of advanced technologies
- To safety and security through a new security service called “Virtual Gated Town”
- To mobility by providing mobility lifestyles that enable non-drivers to become more active and drivers to become more eco-friendly
- To community ties via a one-stop portal site that supports community life and encourages person-to-person networks
- To healthcare by providing a lifestyle that will naturally improve the residents’ health on a daily basis
- To social interaction by providing communication support services to the entire town
- To finance by bringing a variety of financial support, including unique loans for environmentally-friendly homes
- To asset management by sustainably providing environmentally-conscious services, such as town greening, that enhance the value of the town over time.
By bringing “new energy” to their home country, Panasonic and friends are paving the way for greener communities on a global scale. What could this mean for other countries? Most European countries are already on the conservation bandwagon, and Europe itself has many of the “greenest” countries in the world, like Denmark and Germany. I don’t think there would be any European resistance to adopting this model, however, the history of the continent may pose a problem.
While the Panasonic smart-community model is genius for ground-up construction, the requirements of its infrastructure and power-grid do not mesh well with existing architecture; the communities would literally need to be built from scratch. So while Europe is likely to model new communities after the Japanese example, Europe’s many historic communities will certainly not be torn down, and many of their main cities are already tightly packed as it is. With regards to European usage, this type of conservationist community would really only be effective in suburban expansion.
America, however, should take note of these practices and eagerly adopt the company’s model. American suburbia is constantly expanding, often with unnecessarily large, inefficient houses in sprawling neighborhoods. Despite the legislative requirements that come with the label “energy efficient,” most homes of that kind don’t even come close to being practical in terms of energy usage.
More and more Americans are wanting to minimalize a little bit, looking for more self-sufficiency that’s just not being provided in our constantly creeping suburbia. If we could manage to make our new construction sustainable smart towns, not only would it give many Americans the lifestyle they’ve been looking for, it would lessen our expansionist effect on our already weak and antiquated power grid. If we can manage to do that, we could then set our sights on upgrading our existing structures with alternative technologies.
We have the potential to, as a country, actually produce more energy than we use, saving our citizens from the imminent collapse of our power substructure, if only we had the foresight and the vision to let go of our historically decadent ways. (Images: panasonic.net)