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Focusing on the future of cities.


By the 2050s, more than 75% of the world's population will live in cities, according to Ton Buchner, CEO of AkzoNobel. That figure is very important to the company, because approximately 60% of its products find use in the building, infrastructure, and transportation sectors--all of which are directly related to the design and growth of cities. "With so many of the materials we produce finding their way into new buildings, roadways, bridges, and other important city infrastructure, AkzoNobel has the opportunity to have a positive influence on the urban transformation process," Buchner says.

Such an opportunity also brings responsibility, which the company takes very seriously. It has responded with the Human Cities Initiative, through which AkzoNobel Intends to use Its expertise to make city life more energizing, inspiring, and vibrant for people across the world, explains Buchner. "We want to go beyond the purely functional aspects-whlch is what most people think about--and help cities and their citizens to connect on an emotional level," he adds.

The specific issues that AkzoNobel thinks cities should be focusing on in order to create more "human" urban environments are outlined in the

company's Human Cities Manifesto, which includes sections on color, heritage, transportation, sports, education, and sustainability.

According to the company, the use of color can make cities more exciting and vibrant; have a positive effect on health and well-being; and give people a sense of place, space, and Identity. "As urbanization continues to occur rapidly, it is critical that we don't lose the ability for self-expression, and color is key to achieving that goal, and can even help revitalize communities that are seen as dull," Buchner says.

In June 2014, AkzoNobel entered into a partnership with leading architecture firm OMA to conduct global research into the link between color and economic development. The study will focus on the extent to which making an area more visually attractive can influence economic growth. Separately, in November 2014, the company launched a new range of paint colors inspired by 10 of Vincent van Gogh's best-loved works. The colors were developed in conjunction with Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum; the company supports the museum's restoration workshop where the artist's paintings are preserved.

As important as color is the need to retain aspects of a city's heritage and balance the preservation of history with innovation and modern architectural layouts and designs, according to AkzoNobel. "We believe that planners and architects must incorporate a city's heritage so that the past can become a part of the future," explains Buchner. He also notes that the company's involvement in a restoration of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum and various UNESCO projects has proved the value of heritage sites in

attracting tourists and acting as anchor institutions for local communities, stimulating additional local developments.

People and goods must also be able to move easily through the different areas of a city to ensure that it remains vibrant. Not only must roads be maintained, but as populations increase, it is necessary to improve all modes of transportation with respect to safety, affordability, sustainability, and enjoyment, according to the company. People must also have places to enjoy outdoor recreation, from sports to walks in the park, because people cannot be confined and restricted and also should be encouraged to adopt a healthier lifestyle. "Community spaces are also very important areas for interaction across social hierarchies, which is imperative if cities are to thrive," Buchner states.

Supporting the intellectual growth of people that live in cities is also vitally important if the above goals are to be met. "Innovation lies at the heart of creating cities that will be healthy and thrive going forward, and education is the cornerstone upon which innovation takes place. Therefore, education of young people must remain a fundamental objective for all cities," Buchner comments.

Finally, as city populations increase, sustainability issues will become ever more important and challenging. For cities to become better places to live and work, they will need to find ways to be more resource efficient, which again will rely on their ability to be innovative.

As part of its Human Cities Initiative, AkzoNobel in September 2014 made a commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative, which encourages global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.

Specifically, the company established a partnership with the 100 Resilient Cities program pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, through which it will compile an urban resilience guide for cities, undertake special projects in four of the 100 cities, and make its expertise in paints, coatings, and chemicals available to the program's advisory committees.


AkzoNobel has also partnered with the Economist Intelligence Unit, the business research arm of The Economist Group, to explore what makes urban areas sustainable and examine how cities can become more liveable, according to Buchner. A report is expected in early 2015.

The Human Cities Initiative also builds on a number of AkzoNoble's existing programs, including its employee-led Community Program, Let's Color program, and Art Foundation.
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Title Annotation:Coatings Xperience
Publication:JCT CoatingsTech
Date:Feb 1, 2015
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