Smart Sustainable Cities

A new promising investment theme

By  Sunniva Bratt Slette

Cities consume 80% of global energy and emit 70% of global carbon emissions. Last week I attended a digital conference on Smart Sustainable Cities, Transportation and Buildings in Toronto to learn more about recent innovation within sustainable urbanization. Virtual attendance, of course. My key takeaways from the conference are the following:

  1. Cities need to be constructed to set human well-being in the center, circular economies as a starting point, and integrate nature-based solutions as a key to climate resilient urban development.
  2. While good internet quality is convenient, access to digital services can not be taken for granted in all cities worldwide. Researchers from Lubumbashi, the second largest city of The Democratic Republic of the Congo, explained on a fuzzy line how the high cost of internet led them to program a new videoconference tool¹.
  3. How can we reduce the 40% of energy consumption is attributed to the building sector? Indian researchers showed how targeting heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) is a good start. HVAC consumes significant amounts of energy and is likely to grow explosively towards 2030 due to higher temperatures worldwide. An eye-opening technique is to use nature-based solutions like Natural Ventilation (NV). NV in building design means natural wind passages that reduce the need of electric ventilation, which saves energy.
  4. Utilize local building materials. Why not use sand from the Sahara Desert to get building materials and reduce desertification simultaneously? By mixing one third plaster and two-thirds dune sand, the researchers in Algeria produced a new and useable brick type².
  5. eHealth is a rapidly growing technology which enables user friendly access to health services and enables elderly to live at home for longer. Researchers from Hong Kong presented how simple sensors and Transfer Learning, a Deep Learning technology, could classify human activity with a 91.64% accuracy³.


From an investor perspective, it is important to get an overview of the technologies and potential growth areas within promising investment themes. Sustainable cities is one of four investment themes in the fund Storebrand Global Solutions. The fund already invests in companies that typically operate in sustainable building materials, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), urban planning, sustainable transport and energy efficiency. The International Conference on Smart Sustainable Cities provided new examples of innovative solutions within building technology, urbanization, communication, transport and healthcare. It showed that there are technologies and techniques that enable use of local building materials, prevents use of unnecessary resources and reduces energy consumption. There are crossovers between sustainable cities and empowerment, since access to digital services, financial services and health services are central enablers for societal participation and well-being. Going forward, investments need to find companies that enable cities to be constructed with human well-being in the center, set circularity as a starting point, and the integration of nature-based solutions as a key to climate resilient urban development. In spite of a global Covid-19 lock-down, the digital conference demonstrated that knowledge can easily cross borders.


¹Blaise Fyama, Elie Museng, Grace Mukoma, Conference Proceedings, Toronto Canada Jun 18-19, 2020, Part XI


²World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology International Journal of Civil and Architectural Engineering Vol:13, No:6, 2019


³Bruce X. B. Yu, Yan Liu, Keith C. C. Chan, Toronto Canada Jun 18-19, 2020, Part IX, Vision Based Daily Routine Recognition for Healthcare with Transfer Learning

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