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Key Performance Indicators for Eco Cities in the Asia-Pacific Region

Low Carbon Model Towns (LCMT) are being designed and constructed in the Asia-Pacific region based on feasibility studies conducted by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), whose headquarters are in Singapore.

Tianjin Eco-city in China is one of them, situated within the Tianjin Binhai New Area, about 45 km from the Tianjin City Centre. It occupies a land area of 30 sq km and is being developed as an LCMT that will accommodate 350,000 residents.

The eco-city is a flagship bilateral project between China and Singapore to create a model of sustainable urban development. The heads of both governments signed the framework agreement in November 2007 and are closely involved in driving the city's development.

An introductory note to the agreement by a professor at the Urban and Regional Economy Research Center at Nankai University observes that this national pilot program is being promoted by the two governments "in accordance with the principle of 'duplicable, functional, propagative'".

Tinajin is financed by the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Investment and Development Co., Ltd (SSTEC), the master developer in a 50-50 joint venture with Chinese Consortium led by Tianjin TEDA Investment Holding Co., Ltd and a Singapore Consortium led by the Keppel Group.

The Accepted Eco-Cities


Samui Island Low-Carbon Model Town Project, Thailand

The Samui Green Island Project aims to reduce CO2 emissions as well as reduce and reuse solid waste.

Yujiapu Rendering

Yujiapu World Financial District, China



Ngu Hanh Son District in Danang City, Viet Nam

Danang City, Vietnam has proposed a LCT model for their Ngu Hanh Son District.



Turpan New Energy Demonstration District, China

Turpan new energy demonstration district, located in Turpan City, Xinjiang, is China's first commerc...


Guangming New District, China

Guangming New District is one of the seven districts of Shenzhen City in Guangdong Province.


Tianjin Eco-City, China

The world's first government-to-government level eco-city project between two countries.

Waterfront Cultural Town -Low-Carbon Yingge

Yingge - Waterfront Cultural Town, Chinese Taipei

Chinese Taipei is rebuilding the urban active function of the Yingge Riverbank.


Kashiwanoha Campus City, Japan

Kashiwanoha Campus City is a future-oriented town model that will set the blueprint for solving various socil and environmental problems.


Yokohama Smart City Project (YSCP), Japan

san borja

San Borja Low Carbon Town, Peru



King County Low Carbon Model Town, United States


muangklang factsheet

Muangklang Low Carbon City, Thailand

The Muang Klang Low Carbon Town project is an initiative of the municipal mayor, Somchai Chariyacharoe.



The planning and development of these eco-cities is guided by a comprehensive set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) set in 2007 covering its ecological, economic and social development. The KPIs were jointly formulated by experts from Singapore and China and endorsed by the Ministerial-level Eco-city Joint Working Committee. In formulating the KPIs, due consideration was given to the national standards in China and Singapore, and the higher of the two standards was adopted, wherever feasible. Prevailing best international practices and the local conditions in Tianjin were also taken into account. But as we shall see, these were not sufficient by today's standards and have been revsed.

There were 22 quantitative and 4 qualitative KPIs, applicable to both the start-up areas and the entire eco-city which were targeted for completion by end-2013 and 2020 respectively. 

The Eco-city KPIs

Good Natural Environment

  1. Ambient Air Quality: should meet at least China's National Ambient Air Quality Grade II Standard for at least 310 days. The SO2 and NOx content in the ambient air should not exceed the limits stipulated for China's National Ambient Air Quality Grade 1 standard for at least 155 days.
  2. Quality of water bodies: should meet Grade IV of China's latest national standards by 2020.
  3. Quality of Water from Taps: should be potable.
  4. Noise Pollution Levels: must satisfy the stipulated standards for different functional zones.
  5. Carbon Emission Per Unit GDP: should not exceed 150 tonne-C per US$1 million.
  6. Net Loss of Natural Wetlands: should be zero.

Healthy Balance in the Man-made Environment

  1. Proportion of Green Buildings: all should meet green building standards.
  2. Native Vegetation Index: At least 70% of the plant varieties should be native.
  3. Per Capita Public Green Space: should be at least 12 square metres per person by 2013.

Good Lifestyle Habits

  1. Per Capita Daily Water Consumption: should not exceed 120 litres by 2013.
  2. Per Capita Daily Domestic Waste Generation: should not exceed 0.8 kg by 2013.
  3. Proportion of Green Trips: At least 90% of trips should be in the form of green trips by 2020, i.e. cycling and walking, as well as on public transport.
  4. Overall Recycling Rate: At least 60% of total waste should be recycled by 2013.
  5. Access to Free Recreational and Sports Amenities: All residential areas should have access to free recreational and sports amenities within a walking distance of 500m by 2013.
  6. Waste Treatment: All hazardous and domestic waste should be rendered non-toxic through treatment.
  7. Barrier-Free Accessibility: The city should have 100% barrier-free access.
  8. Services Network Coverage: The entire city will have access to key infrastructure services, such as recycled water, gas, broadband, electricity and heating by 2013.
  9. Proportion of Affordable Public Housing: At least 20% of housing will be in the form of subsidised public housing by 2013.

Developing a Dynamic and Efficient Economy

  1. Usage of Renewable Energy: The proportion of energy which will be in the form of renewable energy, such as solar and geothermal energy, should be at least 20% by 2020.
  2. Usage of Water from Non-Traditional Sources: At least 50% of the water supply will be from non-traditional sources such as desalination and recycled water by 2020.
  3. Proportion of R&D Scientists and Engineers in the Eco-city Workforce: There should be at least 50 R&D scientists and engineers per 10,000 workforce in the city by 2020.
  4. Employment-Housing Equilibrium Index: At least 50% of the employable residents in the Eco-city should be employed in the Eco-city by 2013.
These are on the whole pretty conservative aims by modern standards (except for the one on accessibility, which wouldn be remarkable in most cities), and they have been updated earlier this year by a new set made by an LCMT Task Force. Its stakeholders believe that the LCMT project offers a very good opportunity for central as well as local government officials in APEC economies to refine and enhance their current low carbon town development plans.
The main metric now is the setting of quantitative low carbon reduction targets with a time frame for achievement. Most of the towns in the developing economies in the APEC region do not have such targets at present. Instead they have been actively dealing with air and water pollution, waste management, and recycling of used water with numerical targets.

For example in Tokyo, the percentage of CO2 emissions in industrial sector decreased from 18.1% to 9.0% during the period from 1990 to 2007. On the other hand, the percentage of CO2 emissions in the residential and commercial sector increased from 23.9% to 26.3%, from 28.9% to 38.1% respectively during the same period

CO2 emissions in Tokyo

The task force is looking at many different types of measures to mitigate CO2 emissions. They are divided into different types of measures:
  1. energy related measures which directly result in CO2 emissions reductions such as introduction of energy efficient equipments/facilities, use of renewable energy, etc. (shown in the left-hand circle of the figure below);
  2. other environment related measures which indirectly facilitate CO2 emissions reductions such as public transport, recycling, forestation, etc. (shown in the right-hand circle of the figure below).
different types of measures to mitigate CO2 emissions
The team then encapsulated these in a vision of what a low carbon town would be like:
a vision of what a low carbon eco-city would be like

It then developed the following four development stages to ensure they happen:

  1. The low carbon development project is coordinated or supervised by a relevant government authority of the APEC member economy. It is ideal if the LCT is under cooperation with othermember economies.
  2. A responsible entity for the low carbon town development project is identified, and the project is already on-going or has been committed to being implemented.
  3. The low carbon development project implementation plan has been developed. The plan should include major items, such as land use plan, transportation plan, energy plan, environment plan and area management plan.
  4. Organization and people responsible for the F/S have been identified, and committed to provide necessary information for the purpose of F/S. Member economy may need to prepare for necessary funding and human resources for internal use.
These are broken down as follows:
development stages of an eco-city
Proceeding methodically, the team then devised new indicators to measure progress as follows:

These indicators will also be used to measure the progress toward the targets in the implementation stage. There are several different indicators to measure CO2 reduction. The following indicators could, the team suggests, be used to assess low-carbon objectives directly:

  1. Reduction in CO2 emissions: t-CO2 / year, t-CO2 / year- floor space
  2. Reduction in CO2 emissions per GDP
  3. Reduction in CO2 emissions per person
  4. CO2 emissions reduction rate (%)
  5. Reduction in primary or secondary energy consumption: GJ / year

There are other indicators, which could be used complementarily so as to enable a multi-dimensional assessment of low carbon targets:

  1. Reduction in the amount of traffic;
  2. Public transportation conversion rate;
  3. Reduction in wastes produced;
  4. Water recycling rate.
The authorities in the region are unused to working in this fashion, but they are advancing fast with support in the team coming from Western countries such as Canada. What is really interesting to outsiders is the speed of development, enabled by top-down planning. We suspect, in the West, for example, that grass-roots cooperation is required, but these cities do not yet have many residents.
The first 60 families have only just moved into Tianjin's residential buildings, all of which are designed to a minimum green buildings standard, including water-saving sanitary fittings, insulated walls and double-glazed windows, as well as a south-facing orientation to optimise passive heat.

Dr Yamamura, executive general manager of Nikken Sekkei Research Institute (NSRI), has overseen that the results and lessons learned from these three low carbon towns have also been compiled into a guidebook to be used by other interested towns in the Asia-Pacific region.

The concept is now moving across the Pacific to San Borja, Peru, a residential district, the next APEC town to conduct a low carbon feasibility study.