100TM spoke to Christopher Staggs and discussed building sustainable cities and how he will achieve this with 100 Thousand Million.
What is your background?
I have been an architect, urbanist, and property development professional for 35 years, running my company, but I do so much more. I consider myself an urbanist – designing all types of urban projects from the ground up and across the world.
I served in the US Navy and am married with four children. Although I'm in the USA, I have spent a lot of time traveling and living internationally, which has given me a sense of responsible internationalism, and multiple, cultural perspectives, leading to work on projects that make a difference to others.
Any projects that stand out for you?
Although I lived and worked in Italy, China, across the USA, etc, I would have to say working on London's new Wembley Stadium was a unique and very fulfilling experience.
What is your role at 100 Thousand Million?
My role is development director and designer of earth cities, I do not do this alone. We have a team of designers and architects at AriaTouch. Our design and engineering team of people are exploring ideas for the new earth cities every day, and we see our role is building new cities and directing development.
Directing property development is an enormous task. We take ideas, put them together, and make them into a buildable city, with an emphasis on the human experience and quality of life.
Our role is a lot more than being merely architects and building buildings or houses. The challenge of developing cities from scratch involves exploring, designing, and engineering from the ground up, from streets, infrastructure, places, and all city architecture. We are not the only ones doing the design – it is a group effort.
Once the first cities move forward in conceptual design, we'll invite others to assist in laying the framework.
What attracted you to partnering with 100 Thousand Million?
I met the 100TM guys through a different avenue of life about a year ago. Their mission sounded hugely attractive as they began describing what they hoped to achieve. With my background and experience as an architect and developing property, these discussions shifted from "what if" to "how".
We began to meet weekly to discuss initial ideas and developed into a friendship and shared vision to build new cities – which for me, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved.
Why is building sustainable cities important? Isn’t it just a fad?
It essentially is a fad depending on who you talk with.
Many groups worldwide talk about greenwashing. We must take our living on Earth more seriously than the environment. This means a return to a basic lifestyle where we have less impact on our planet.
Thus, building sustainable cities is definitely not a fad. We understand that the human impact on the earth and our environmental footprint are evident now and that the past 100+ years have been very negative. Interestingly, we know what we can do to reverse it, and in doing so, the Earth will heal itself.
How do you plan on achieving this?
We are going to build the above framework into new earth cities.
We will achieve this by exploring ideas, pushing boundaries, and returning to more elemental design – this is building with renewable materials that are far less impactful on the earth. Cities use a lot of power and energy, and we aim to use one-third less power than usual, with 100% renewable energy sources.
If every city were like this, we would reverse the negative trend.
Is this why Earth cities are getting more and more attention?
We are at a tipping point right now, and people are searching for an answer. I believe our approach is unique because we are not reinventing the wheel.
Over the next decade, we'll see many more solutions, but our approach is different. People are looking for an approach, especially the younger generation, of a simpler and readily available lifestyle that considers, for example, fewer cars and better public transportation.
Do you see a greater role for private enterprise in creating a sustainable planet?
The role of private enterprise is significant.
Bringing all the current tech and innovation with a broader vision for new cities is crucial. Yet, we will also need to work with the public sector to aid us in implementing our solutions, but initially, the exploration and innovation will be provided by private enterprises.
Over time, I have seen the public enterprise go from a driver to now the private sector leading in getting things done.
What has been the greatest challenge in convincing others so far?
It seems in my past years of experience convincing a broader audience that the human experience of cities and in general is exceptionally important – hand in hand with sustainability.
Our lives are too often only about capital and cost. There is so much more.
One of our earliest challenges was answering the question "why would I live in a newer city?".
We are starting to understand the answers – the pull factors. For instance, a new city is different from any other place. The Earth city will use one-third less energy, be built from renewable materials, and generate its own economic engine. Residents will have a job (local or remote) and live in the city, where their children will have a better education and quality of life.
Today, you can get some of these pull factors in existing cities, but these new earth cities will have all of them.
About Christopher Staggs
Christopher (Chris to friends and colleagues) considers himself an urbanist – designing all types of urban projects from the ground up and across the world.
He runs a visionary development company AriaTouch in Portland, Oregon, working with like-minded investors and communities to make places that touch the human spirit.