Top 10 Smart Cities in North America

Today’s cities demand 21st century solutions to accommodate their growing populations in ways that not only maintain the quality of life, but also improve it. That’s where smart cities come in. Smart cities find ways to become more efficient, to deliver more services via mobile technology, to optimize existing infrastructure, and to leverage citizen participation to create better land-use decisions and to break down bureaucracy in order to stimulate a creative, entrepreneurial economy. Here are the top ten smart cities in North America:
smart city seattle
1. Seattle, WA
Seattle led the pack in Smart Economy and Smart Government rankings while coming in second behind Washington, D.C. in the Smart People category. Seattle is also home to lots of sustainability innovation and the home to the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, one of the world’s leading master’s program dedicated to sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship.

2. Boston, MA
Boston has an incredibly smart and innovative population, boasting more than 70 universities and leading North America in both patents per capita and venture capital investment per capita. Boston’s former mayor Thomas Menino was a big driver in the innovation agenda through the launch of the Innovation District, the creation of the Office of New Urban Mechanics, and support for acceleration programs, like the MassChallenge.

3. San Francisco, CA
The Bay Area entrepreneurial ecosystem is moving away from Silicon Valley and towards San Francisco itself. Much like Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, San Francisco has a mayor’s office dedicated to civic innovation. Of course, for years San Francisco has been a leader in embracing sustainability and smart urban development as evidenced by their regular spot in the top of North American green cities rankings. San Francisco reports having 302 LEED certified buildings, which would place them in the upper echelon of North American cities.

4. Washington D.C.
Experts in the smart cities seem to agree that smart mobility is critical to improving the quality of life for citizens while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from the transportation sector. D.C. came out in second behind only New York in the use of biking, walking, and public transit (54.6%) for daily commuting.

5. New York, NY
New York has pioneered the adoption of electric vehicles, embraced green and smart urban regeneration, and fostered a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem (Silicon Alley). New York has a significant number of universities and university-educated population and has been a leader, through outgoing Mayor Bloomberg’s commitment to initiatives like C40, in promoting the low-carbon economy.

smart cities

6. Toronto, CANADA
Toronto continues to be a leader in Canada across several fronts. Like other major cities on this list, Toronto has continued its commitment to smart densification with its ongoing transformation of its previously contaminated waterfront area.

7. Vancouver, CANADA
Vancouver recently developed an ambitious $30 million plan to become a major player in smart cities by focusing on nine key priorities ranging from more open data and increased digital services delivery to the launch of an ICT incubator.

8. Portland, OR
Portland has long been a leading player in the green cities arena, with innovations such as green roof standards, home an office of the paradigm shifting Living Building Institute, and also pioneering the development of eco-districts. On the mobility front, they have a fantastic set of clean, accessible public-transit options, particularly within the city.

9. Chicago, IL
Chicago is dedicated to being a green building leader, and with 405 certified LEED buildings, they are putting their money where their mouth is. Chicago also has an ambitious bike-sharing program, with 4,000 bikes and 400 solar-powered bike stations.


10. Montreal, CANADA
Citizen engagement is critical to smart cities. In 2010, Montreal passed a bylaw which allows anyone who obtains 15,000 signatures to trigger a public consultation process on any topic. The first group of citizen activists to leverage this process obtained 25,000 signatures to generate an open public debate about how to support the increasing use of urban agriculture.

Source: FastCoexist

UK’s Urban Mushroom Farm Uses Recycled Coffee Grounds

The UK has its first urban mushroom farm that grows oyster mushrooms using recycled coffee grounds.

Mushroom Farm

According to GroCycle, a project launched by Fungi Futures CIC, a social enterprise based in Devon, coffee grinds represent a huge waste stream and recycling them to grow protein-rich Oyster mushrooms is a showcase for how food can be grown sustainably.

GroCycle explained that approximately 80 million cups of coffee are drunk every day in the UK, yet less than 1% of the bean actually ends up in the cup. The vast majority of the remaining grounds are buried in landfill where they decompose to produce methane.

Pink Mushroom

“It’s crazy that most large cafes are throwing their coffee waste away,” said Adam Sayner, company director. “It is still packed full of nutrients which can be turned into delicious Oyster mushrooms. We are making it possible to grow gourmet food from it instead!”

The GroCycle Urban Mushroom Farm in Exeter is based in disused office space, the farm takes coffee grounds from local cafés and uses them as a growing medium to produce Oyster mushrooms.

The project also noted the mounting evidence of the environmental impact of meat production, and said that the low impact method it has devised may also present a solution to produce protein-rich food more sustainably.

urban farm

“Growing mushrooms in this way is absolutely ideal for Urban Agriculture,” commented Eric Jong, company director. “It is where both the waste and demand for food are highest. We hope our farm will serve as a flagship model for more urban farms in the future.”

GroCycle also produced an online video course. The course is made up of 5 main modules and teaches the process of growing mushrooms on coffee grounds. It’s combined with a forum to connect members and features regular Q&A webinar sessions. The course has gone global as it has members from 23 countries around the world.


Floating Bamboo Domes Provide Growing Space For Urban Farms

bamboo dome concept in Jamaica

Jamaica’s agriculture sector suffers from many woes, including natural disasters that caused $14.4 billion in losses between 1994 and 2010, according to Dinesh Ram, the designer of this innovative floating bamboo dome concept. A noteworthy entrant in Inhabitat‘s recent Biodesign Competition, the Hope Waters Dome is designed to combat the twin dangers of rising sea levels and food scarcity in the water locked nation, and it could be built using locally available materials such as bamboo and plastic.  This is a unique way of bringing urban farms to a well-populated area.


The bamboo geodesic dome is designed to provide multiple functions, including growing space and meeting space. The bamboo frame would rest on a platform made with recycled plastic bottles for buoyancy, addressing Jamaica’s burgeoning problem of overstuffed landfills. The upper floors are designed to operate as an “urban agriculture learning center” where food can be grown without risk of inundation from rising seas.  The use of bamboo is also a great way to replace wood, concrete, and steel, as a building material resource for construction.  Entire stalks of bamboo are used to create latticed edifices, or woven in strips to form wall-sized screens. The effect can be stunning, and also practical in parts of the world like Jamaica, where bamboo thrives.

bamboo dome concept

“This icon of sustainable development is pre-fabricated, towed to a site, and can return the location back to its original state,” according to Ram. “Cost to build is roughly half compared to a traditional building of similar dimensions.”


Albeit just a concept at this point, the design recognizes that over the next few decades, we are expecting to see a one to two meter rise in sea levels. Given how much Jamaica, in particular, depends on its coastline for its economic well-being, now is the time to begin devising thoughtful solutions to build the country’s resilience.

Source: Inhabitat