Sustainable City: Tijuana, Mexico

For many, the very mention of Tijuana conjures up images of debauchery, drunken 18-year olds, and Montezuma’s Revenge. What it might not conjure is a vision of sustainability. Especially when it’s in terms of tract housing developments. Yet Urbi, one of Mexico’s premiere housing developers, is attempting to create just that.
Working in concert with Conavi, Mexico’s equivalent of the National Department of Housing, Urbi’s Valle Las Palmas that was announced last year is planned as a satellite city with aspirations of being a completely self-sufficient community. “It’s practically a doctoral thesis,” said Evangelina Hirata, General Sub-director of Conavi, referring to the scale of the project, one that will create an independent, “ordered and sustainable” municipality for 1,000,000 inhabitants, complete with energy-independence, industry, and services. Though the developers intended to fill 10,000 homes as early as last October, the satellite city project isn’t envisioned to reach full completion until 2030.


During a recent “net-zero” energy week sponsored by Urbi and Conavi, in alliance with Natural Resources Canada, some of the sustainable attributes of the community’s design were highlighted. Located in a region with many energy problems, the development took energy as the highest concern. Taking advantage of government incentives for using renewable technologies, Urbi will be able to fund the massive project using both private and public funds. Houses will be outfitted with photovoltaic cells to generate their own electricity, and several wind energy systems will also be incorporated into the community.
“The impact of the social, economic, and environmental benefits are really incalculable,” said Robin Sinha, the sub-director of science and technology for the international projects and communities division of Natural Resources Canada. “The results of this test could mean a 50% energy savings for Mexican consumers.”
Though many within the Mexican government and groups like Natural Resources Canada are applauding this venture, there are others in the community who are not so elated. Embedding images of Edward Munch’s The Scream and the famous shower screen shot from Psycho, the culture blog D. Laber√≠ntico thinks this planned immense planned “utopia” will be an “architectonic failure of the same magnitude.” In addition to the design complaints of an entire city of tract homes, critics of the community on a forum on skyscrapercity.com indicted the community for being filled with upper-middle class level homes, which will largely be unaffordable for the majority of the people who live in that part of Tijuana.
In an area known for notoriously poor water quality, Urbi also plans to implement a water recycle system for Valle Las Palmas. Though planners mentioned looking into to the feasibility of an economic desalinization system, not much more was said about what the water recycling system would entail.
(Note: With the exception of Natural Resources Cananda, all links direct to websites in Spanish)

Ashwin is an Associate Editor of Triple Pundit. He recently returned to the Bay Area after living in Argentina, where he wholeheartedly missed the Pacific Ocean. He is a freelance editor and media and marketing consultant.After a brief stint working in the wine world, when not staring blankly at a computer screen, you'll find him working on Anand Confections or at 826 Valencia, where he has been a long-time volunteer.