Ecocity Insights Focus Labs

EcoCities vs. Smart Cities

Written by Jennie Moore

The second Ecocity Focus Lab will be held March 13 to 16, 2018 in Chennai, India. The focus is on exploring the differences and similarities between “ecocities” and “smart cities” and how these concepts can be leveraged for mutual benefit. Ecocities are human settlements modeled on the self-sustaining, resilient structure and function of natural ecosystems ( Smart cities collect and use data to manage resources efficiently (Hamblin 2015). Both share aspirations to reduce environmental burdens and improve human wellbeing. However, where ecocities give emphasis to citizen-led stewardship, smart cities revolve around the use of technology. As such, an ecocity approach lends itself to grass-roots initiatives that mobilize public participation efforts while smart cities lend themselves to passive adaptation of urban systems or behaviours at a mass-scale. During the course of the upcoming Ecocity Focus Lab, the similarities and differences between ecocities and smart cities will be probed with regards to questions of managing resource consumption and improving quality of life in the city of Chennai. The first day of this Ecocity Focus Lab will lay the ground work by providing in-depth introductions of both approaches, including considerations of how they are being applied in Chennai. The second day focusses on the question of resource consumption and will include a presentation of Chennai City’s urban metabolism and ecological footprint, followed by discussions about how an ecocity and smart city approach can intervene to improve efficient use of resources and reduce overall demand on nature’s services. The third day focus is on improving local quality of life in Chennai. Again the question of how an ecocity and smart city approach to improving local wellbeing and quality of life will be explored. The fourth day offers an opportunity for reflection and analysis of the different strengths and weaknesses of each approach and how they can best be used to achieve sustainability. For more information about the Ecocity Focus Lab that will be held in Chennai, please contact: Aparajithan Narasimhan (



Hamblin, Matt. 2015. Just what is a smart city? (

About the author

Jennie Moore

Dr. Jennie Moore is Director, Institute Sustainability at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Dr. Moore has extensive experience in the realm of ecological sustainability and urban systems including climate change and energy management, green buildings and eco-industrial networking. Prior to joining BCIT she worked for over a decade at Metro Vancouver as Manager of Strategic Initiatives. Her research explores the potential for Vancouver to achieve one-planet living. Jennie is a senior associate of the One Earth Initiative and a core advisor to the International Ecocity Framework and Standards.