In 2008, the proportion of people living in towns and cities hit 50% for the first time in the history of mankind. And this trend shows no sign of stopping. ‘Megacities’, which have more than ten million inhabitants, are growing at a particularly astounding rate and the effects of this development are already being felt the world over, including here in Germany.
There are plenty of reasons why more and more people are choosing to live in towns and cities. And these differ depending on the level of development within the country in question. We are seeing metropolitan areas grow at an extremely rapid rate above all in ‘emerging countries’. Clearly leading the way on an international scale are Shanghai and the Pearl River Delta, Delhi and Mumbai, and Lagos and Luanda. To put this into context, according to the UN world population report, the number of inhabitants in the Indian capital is set to increase by another 11 million over the next 15 years, putting the total population there at 36 million people. The UN has even given this global shift its own name: the urban millennium.
It should come as no surprise that this mass migration to urban areas comes with consequences. Limited living space, congested roads and an adequate water and power supply are just some of the main topics the construction and utilities industries are going to find themselves faced with before too long.
people are expected to live in urban areas by 2050
But what is causing this trend? After all, it’s nothing new. People have been increasingly shifting to towns and cities for over 150 years now. However, the current attraction of these urban areas is far surpassing anything we have seen before. Cities are booming in Germany, too. One clear reason behind this is our increasing life expectancy. We are an ageing population and at the latter stage of our lives we are drawn to everything city life can offer us, including the interconnected infrastructure there.
The demand for living space is increasingly on the rise in Berlin, Munich and the Rhine-Main region alike. The rent and property prices, which at times can be astonishing, are a classic indicator of this. But even the higher price of living in the city only offers limited scope for managing demand. The truth of the matter is that we are short on space. Sooner or later we are going to have to consider new concepts of living, with a view to fundamentally changing the way we live in urban areas in the future. The traditional detached family home is being replaced by modular buildings that can be flexibly adapted to suit occupants and specific needs. The apartment buildings once looked down on in the outskirts are now giving us new direction. Building up high has become the motto of urban construction projects, having distanced itself almost entirely from those buildings associated with socially disadvantaged areas in the past. New technologies, efficient composite systems and innovative living and usage concepts are opening up this possibility.
Converting existing buildings, adding more levels and building extensions are all set to be strategies we see more of, whilst a clever approach to using resources is going to result in lasting changes to architecture and urban development.
The German Federal Agency for Civic Education
Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs