Ep 8: How Cities Survive and Thrive

Eric Schmidt
October 13, 2020
41
 MIN
Listen to this podcast on your favorite platform!
October 13, 2020
41
 MIN

Ep 8: How Cities Survive and Thrive

How should cities and public spaces evolve to prevent the spread of pathogens around us?

Three experts offer their ideas for the future of urban life and shared space: Microbiologist and immunologist Michael Schmidt discusses the powerful antimicrobial properties of copper, architect Joel Sanders explains how different spatial designs can make healthier behavior more intuitive, and Alice Charles, leader of the World Economic Forum's Cities and Real Estate work streams, analyzes trends and ideas that will shape cities for decades to come.

Episode Transcript

Alice Charles (00:02):

I think some very difficult choices have to be made. And that will mean cuts right across the board. It will mean cuts in transit services. It will mean cuts in education. It will mean cuts in sanitary facilities and policing, et cetera, because the numbers are simply so vast.

Eric Schmidt (00:23):

The coronavirus pandemic is a global tragedy, but it's also an opportunity to rethink the world. To make it better, faster for more people than ever before. I'm Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, and now co-founder of Schmidt Futures. And this is Re-Imagine, a podcast we're trailblazing leaders imagine how we can build back better.

Eric Schmidt (00:59):

In 2007, humans quietly passed an important milestone in our history. The world's urban population exceeded its rural population for the first time, until COVID caused many people to leave cities and seek refuge in less dense environments, this trend did not seem to be changing much. Over the longterm, we know it will continue to accelerate toward cities. In fact, an estimated 7 billion people could live in urban centers by 2050. Deadly pathogens aren't going anywhere. In fact, epidemics and pandemics are growing more frequent. What does this mean for cities? In this episode of Re-Imagine we'll look at how design and technology can enhance health in urban and public spaces. You've seen the photos of empty avenues and deserted buildings. We've all had to ask how to protect ourselves in communal spaces and on public transit. We can't let that happen every few years. We have to make our cities and public spaces safe again, to create a prosperous sustainable world. In this episode, we'll speak to three people who have ideas about how to do just that.

Eric Schmidt (02:07):

Our guest today is Michael Schmidt, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina. Professor Schmidt is one of the world's top experts on preparedness for medical disasters and healthcare associated infections. His research has focused on preventing the spread of infectious diseases in hospitals and clinics through simple design interventions, like increasing the use of copper. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic as restaurants and schools and clothes alter their designs to try to limit the transmission of disease, Professor Schmidt's expertise could inform the way we change our public spaces. And frankly, I think we should just do it. So, Professor Schmidt, thank you for being here with me today.

Professor Michael Schmidt (02:45):

Well, thank you.

Eric Schmidt (02:46):

I was studying the cholera epidemics in a 1850s and as you know, it was fascinating that the discovery essentially of bacteria came out of that particular waterhole, a water faucet in London.

Professor Michael Schmidt (03:03):

The famous pump.

Eric Schmidt (03:05):

The interesting thing about that period, this is before they had sewers and the calculation had been made, if I may, that at the rate at which horses were being purchased, the horses output would exceed the ability to store the horses output in the city. So, they had to redesign the entire city around what became, what we know of as sewers. And, of course, that then led into transportation and eventually cars and so forth and so on. Are we going to see the same thing today that at the end of this pandemic, which is going to go on for a very long time, we're going to actually redesign our buildings because of this pandemic?

Professor Michael Schmidt (03:43):

I believe we're going to redesign our buildings. We have to because this pandemic is just the first of many that are going to come in our future because as we begin to increase the population density on our planet, we're going to begin to force the animals into tighter and tighter quarters. And so, we're going to interact with animal populations on a more routine basis. And so, the zoonotic infections, the infections that only traditionally infect animals are going to have a higher likelihood of jumping to people. And we know that 80% of the infections that humans develop are a consequence of touch. If you watch the average individual, they're continuously going to their face, whether it's they're adjusting their glasses, rubbing their nose, scratching their eye, they're always interacting with that facial zone. And consequently, we're continuously introducing foreign agents into our system.

Professor Michael Schmidt (04:58):

And some of these can be bad microbes that we've never seen before, which is the case of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the disease, COVID-19. And we as a race have never seen the SARS-CoV-2 virus. And the consequence of that is the devastation that we're seeing as it literally circles the globe. And so by improving our buildings and we're going to have to make this an interdisciplinary activity where we bring the best and brightest heating and air engineers into our systems to effectively understand the number of air flow changes we need in commercial office buildings. The number of air flow changes that we need in commercial restaurants. The touch surfaces that we put into these facilities. The ideal aspect of copper, is that it's a continuously active anti-microbial material for which the microbes haven't figured out how to become resistant to.

Professor Michael Schmidt (06:16):

They, in the form that I study, which has metallic copper, there has never been an organism that has been able to be isolated by man that is resistant to metallic copper. When a bacterium or virus seems to land on this surface, it dies, simply because of the inherent quantum mechanical properties of the metal itself. Copper is in that sweet spot, in the transition elements. It's not a heavy metal it's in that transition elements and that's its beauty. The same reason we use copper to move electrons to charge our digital devices is the same reason copper kills microbes. It's that electron that is trying to continuously move in the metal. And when it interacts with our oxygen in our atmosphere, it effectively dumps in electron into oxygen. And then the oxygen literally becomes a grenade and that grenade goes off and inactivates the SARS-CoV-2 virus and it inactivates other really nasty viruses out there like norovirus, that many of your listeners probably appreciate as the cruise ship illness.

Professor Michael Schmidt (07:45):

And so, we just have to figure out the proper placement of these tools that we have discovered in concert with changing the air, increasing our ventilation, so that we can effectively protect ourselves from these inadvertent exposures to new pathogens that mother nature seats seems to be keep on cooking up for us.

Eric Schmidt (08:13):

It's interesting that you did some research where you said that if you just improve the surfaces 10% copper in hospitals, you would save, God knows how much money per day and an awful lot of lives. But, hospitals are very slow to react. Why do I not have copper all around me right now? I want it on my hand rails. I want it on the elevator button, right? I want in everywhere where there's multiple touch services and I want it now, why not?

Professor Michael Schmidt (08:39):

The answer to that question is medical economics. Simply, it's an issue of this is a revenue sparing technology. What I was asked one time by an esteem Senator of the United States says, "What's your ask? What do you want?" And I said, "Senator, I want you to incentivize the healthcare industry to reduce infections. Not reward them for not, but to incentivize them, so that the best and brightest of our engineering teams, our healthcare teams and our medical professionals all get together and we come up with a solution to significantly address this problem." But, we've had a generation of CEOs go into healthcare that are opting to purchase revenue generating machines, ones that they can immediately see a benefit to the bottom line.

Professor Michael Schmidt (09:42):

The average hospital room in the United States, and the United States has mostly gone to single patient hospital rooms because we know that that leads to improved outcomes. So, there's only one patient in the room. The average room will get between four and five healthcare associated infections in one year. And the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that an infection costs you and I, the taxpayer, approximately $46,000 in 2004 money. So, we all know that costs and healthcare have gone up exorbitantly in the last 15 years. And so, consequently, it's got to be more than 46. So, multiply 5 times 46 and we get about $200,000 in savings just by enhancing the safety in that room. But that's money saved, it's not money earned. And so, that's why they're effectively buying a new MRI machine, they're buying a MALDI-TOF to quickly diagnose things and they're not investing in...

Professor Michael Schmidt (11:03):

... And they're not investing in solutions that would lead to improved outcomes. But rather, they're investing in solutions that lead to a better bottom line for the healthcare system. Simply because our healthcare system has a distributed billing system. Everybody is paying a little bit of the bill and we really don't appreciate that if we had invested a modest amount of money in outfitting the patient room, we could have saved a substantial amount of money as a result.

Eric Schmidt (11:41):

So today, are there products that I should be purchasing that in the normal day-to-day of my office and my home, that are copper-based? Should I buy the equivalent of a copper pillow?

Professor Michael Schmidt (11:53):

In your home, you need not worry. Because for most of the situations the routine that your mother or grandmother taught you when you first went off to college to clean your dorm room, soap and water works. And that will inactivate the majority of the microbes on surfaces. You don't have to go out and spend a fortune on your home. It's in those communal areas where your family unit is not interacting with the objects and you cannot anticipate a routine level of cleanliness. So it's out in public spaces. There are indeed anti-microbial surfaces that you can purchase. There are drawer pulls out there that are in the marketplace already. There's door hardware. And in fact, in New York City, we did a study in which we evaluated the hand rails in Grand Central Station. Grand Central Station was built at the turn of the last century.

Professor Michael Schmidt (13:01):

And it's got these beautiful copper fixtures in it. And there is anti-microbial today as the day they were put in over 100 years ago. That's why we use copper in our circuitry for our personal digital devices. It's why copper is used in the transmission of electrons in our walls. We use it because of its inherent property. It's just taken the medical community about 100 years to figure out how it's working. And so now we have to take the empiric wisdom from our great, great grandparents and fast forward it to the 21st century.

Eric Schmidt (13:51):

Well, professor Smith, thank you so much for taking the time and I wish you the very best on this.

Professor Michael Schmidt (13:57):

Well, thank you, sir.

Eric Schmidt (14:05):

Joining us now is Joel Sanders. He is one of the most forward thinking people in the world of architecture today. Joel is the principal of both Joe Sanders Architecture, his own firm, and also MIXdesign, a hybrid think tank consultancy that works to make buildings more welcoming to people whose needs are often overlooked. He also teaches at the Yale School of Architecture. At a time when familiar places, such as bars, restaurants, and houses of worship now feel dangerous. Joel's expertise is as valuable as ever. Thank you, Joel, for being here with me today.

Joel Sanders (14:38):

Thank you for having me.

Eric Schmidt (14:40):

So you've just recently started to design a new residential college at Princeton. This is the structure of Princeton undergraduates. I was an undergraduate there. You also taught there. Two things are certain about college dorms. First, they must accommodate people of different races, genders, ethnicities and needs. Obviously. Second, they can function as Petri dishes for viruses and bacteria's. in light of these things, how do you propose to address the design?

Joel Sanders (15:04):

The answer in a nutshell was human density. We, like many of my respected peers, would incorporate design elements that fostered casual, chance, face-to-face encounters between people. However, now the pandemic poses a huge challenge, how to balance this desire for human connectivity. The need for people to engage with one another and their surroundings. While at the same time, considering the public health imperative to restrict individuals from having physical contact with each other. We call it social distancing. But also from touching the contaminated surfaces of the built environment. And so the short answer to your question is that I, right now, through my firm, JSA MIXdesign, we're working with medical clinicians and public health experts. And we're in the process of developing design recommendations for social distancing and touch that we hope to apply to the Princeton [inaudible 00:16:11] project. And they include what other people are doing.

Joel Sanders (16:17):

Space planning metrics that take into consideration quantitative factors developed by epidemiologists. Like the volume of the space, how many people, our relative exposure time, airflow, and even coming up with anti microbiome materials. And that's important. To give you some tangible examples of what we're thinking about. It might look like this. For example, we're doing a study that we hope to apply to Princeton, a study of building entry spaces. But the sequence that we all do from moving from the sidewalk into a building, and maybe up an elevator to get to our destination. For example, the vestibule might now have a hand sanitizing station before you enter the building. There might be essential planter that differentiates entry and exit circulation aisles to prevent people from unwanted [inaudible 00:17:13].

Eric Schmidt (17:14):

It seems to me that you would also start with touchless surfaces.

Joel Sanders (17:18):

Yes.

Eric Schmidt (17:19):

And we know how to sort of make elevators be touchless. It also seems like if it feels more open, as opposed to dark, as you said earlier, so open, touchless and these new microbiotic surfaces that prevent infection. You could label them. People would feel much more comfortable.

Joel Sanders (17:37):

Absolutely. Yeah. And I think that's a lot of what we're trying to do is actually make people aware, almost educate them, so that they know even before they enter a building. And as they're in the building, what to expect in terms of surfaces, everything that you've outlined.

Eric Schmidt (17:53):

Is there a doctrine that's well-established in architecture on this? Or are you inventing it?

Joel Sanders (17:59):

A good question. I like to say that as the old saying goes, there's nothing new under the sun. But what we're really doing is building on the foundation of work done by others. As I mentioned to you before, there's already a lot of work that's been done by scientists and epidemiologists, that are translating into some of those examples that you and many others are familiar with. Again, I think that we're maybe re-inventing, it's this idea of thinking about things to reduce environmental stressors from spatial awareness, and that we're learning from the experts at MIXdesign, who have expertise in, again, what I call non-compliant bodies. In particular, we're trying to learn from different types of people.

Eric Schmidt (18:49):

This is wheelchairs, the blind, autistic people, people who have some kind of a struggle that they have, right?

Joel Sanders (18:57):

Exactly. Yeah. Exactly. We're trying to look at COVID to design for a more compliant body. Why? Because we've learned, through the valuable work of my colleagues, people like Quemuel Arroyo, who's a disability specialist, who up until recently worked for the Department of Transportation in New York. Someone named Hansel Bauman, who's the author of DeafSpace guideline. Another woman named Magda Mostafa, who's an autism expert. And we would get on Zoom calls together, scratching our heads a little bit.

Joel Sanders (19:35):

And a light bulb went off because everyone, almost at once, said, "You know what? Each of these end-user groups that we've worked with have always already developed powerful behavioral and design strategies that foster spatial awareness to meet their unique needs." And so what we've been really doing is studying the specific needs of each of these end user groups. In this case, as they perform these activities, come into lobbies, like circulating, going to a reception desk, sitting in a lounge or cleaning in the bathroom. And we're doing a kind of comparative analysis that allows us to come up with shared design interventions that would not only meet their overlapping needs, but that could be applied to the general public.

Eric Schmidt (20:22):

You mentioned the use of technology as well. You've been working on the idea of using smartphone apps essentially to keep people away from crowds. Do you think that that's going to become a part of all of this, navigating buildings where the app says go left because there's too much of a crowd on the right?

Joel Sanders (20:39):

Well, yes. I think that could be. And actually, it's an idea that actually I've studied people on the autism spectrum say. That so many people with autism, for example, are reluctant to go into public space because of these unwanted interactions. But if they had an app that would allow them in advance to study that building, or once they're there be able to monitor levels of crowds, or even noise, or even light, it would not only benefit potentially people on the autism spectrum, but for many of us who are feeling that kind of anxiety in public space.

Eric Schmidt (21:17):

Interesting that your work, you're quoted as saying, "I love beautiful things, but I'm not interested in form for its own sake. What counts is human experience and human interaction." And yet, COVID is forcing us to rethink human interaction. How will people meet each other, that they don't know each other? How will people to go to shared events where they don't know each other? This is the indoor basketball game problem. How do you think society will sort this out as a designer?

Joel Sanders (21:46):

The idea is that I believe that if we start implementing these measures, that increase space awareness, it will be immediately beneficial in the time that we're living in. But it would even be beneficial in a more hopeful time when the-

Joel Sanders (22:03):

But wouldn't it be beneficial in a more hopeful time, when these measures are lessened? I don't know if that makes sense. So in other words, what we're trying to do is come up with creative ways of introducing interventions in the environment that in a subtle way allows people, depending on the time that they're living in the choice, the opportunity to social distance or not, but no matter what, to be aware of their surroundings, the presence of others and their relationship and social space.

Eric Schmidt (22:34):

I think what you're really trying to do is to make the intuitive signals that people see in an architectural space, be the correct ones in the time of COVID.

Eric Schmidt (22:45):

Joel, thank you so much for all your work and your pioneering architectural approaches to the COVID crisis. Thank you very much.

Joel Sanders (22:57):

And Eric, thank you so much for inviting me to be on your program. It's been a pleasure.

Eric Schmidt (23:09):

Joining us now is Alice Charles. She's an expert on cities, and is currently the world economic forums project lead on cities, infrastructure, and urban services platform. Alice has worked in areas such as urban planning, real estate construction, climate change, and public policy so she has a wide ranging view that will need to re-imagine something that's complex and interconnected to cities. Alice, welcome.

Alice Charles (23:33):

Thank you very much for having me.

Eric Schmidt (23:35):

It seems like work from home will allow at least the high income workers to live in the suburbs around the world, or at least have a different kind of experience with the city they won't be in quite as often. What's the prognosis for cities, during and after the pandemic?

Alice Charles (23:53):

Evidence shows that disease has shaped cities. And I'm an urban planner by background, and urban planning really took off in London because of disease outbreak, and ultimately that brought together architects and public health officials to try and plan London in a much better way to prevent the spread of disease. And of course that was in the 1800S when it was the largest city in the world. And ever since we've seen that shape many cities around the world, so that we know. But where we are right now, yes, I am worried about the center of our cities. So in that regard, I'm concerned about retail. I'm concerned about retail because already, there was quite a move towards omni-channel retail before the pandemic, and that has really moved to the fore. But also, we probably had an oversupply of retail in many parts of our cities around the world.

Alice Charles (24:53):

So I think in that regard, we're probably going to go more towards what we've seen in China for the last number of years, where you have offline experiential retail, where you can go and experience a product. But actually, we probably will buy the bulk of our goods online. So I am concerned about retail. In relation to offices, the jury is OUT. So on the one hand, I think in the short term, you will see quite a lot of companies saying, "Okay, we're going to move to 100% working from home." But I think in the longer term, we are going to see the return of the office and that is... Why do we come together in an office in the first place? It's because people need to come together to break down silos and to innovate. So there is some research which MIT is actually working on at the moment.

Alice Charles (25:46):

I'm looking forward to its forthcoming publication, but that's essentially looked at communication within MIT before COVID, and communication within MIT after COVID. And what they're finding is if you're sitting in the architecture department, perhaps you are engaging with the agriculture department before COVID, but post-COVID you're engaging with your more formal connections. Those informal connections are gone. So you're engaging within your architecture department, but you're not connecting with the agriculture department, for example. So, I do think that companies will seek to bring people together. The other side is that we had moved to a culture of having less space for people in offices before COVID. And with the social distancing restrictions that we require to have in place, that requires more space for people. So the overall impact in terms of footprint may not be as bad as we think. So I think, in the real estate industry, wider industry, that the jury remains out in relation to offices.

Alice Charles (26:58):

In relation to hospitality, I think that margins were already very tight in respect of the hotel industry. And obviously if they're not getting the level of occupancy that they require, then that puts their businesses into jeopardy. So I do think again, there will be some distressed assets in the hotel sector, but they are assets that are capable of being repurposed for alternative uses. So residential, for example, is one. And food and beverage is also in big trouble. So obviously food and beverage, where it could, has moved to home delivery, but the cost of [inaudible 00:27:38] of the Uber eats services of this world means that they're no longer able to generate the profits that they could before to keep them operational. And in the absence of that, some large real estate companies are actually seeking to create their own platforms to keep their food and beverage businesses and operations. So they would provide the delivery platform for them, and we're certainly seeing that in Asia. For example, in Hong Kong, we're seeing that. So I think that in relation to real estate, we will see multiple outcomes, but I am concerned about our central business districts.

Eric Schmidt (28:14):

I've come to the view that managing a city is one of the hardest things in the world. They're so complicated. They're so decentralized, and there's so many power points, power pressures, whether it's the unions who represent the public workers, the citizens themselves, the real estate people, the political pressure, and of course, the media, which is ever present. Do you have an opinion about how to make the trade-offs that cities have to make? Part of the reason that cities are so brutal is because the trade-offs are zero sum. They really only have so much taxing authority, really only have so much money. They have to make very difficult trade-offs between, for example, public schools and public safety. You can't sometimes have both.

Alice Charles (28:55):

Super interesting question, and I think that's going to become even more difficult in the next years. So, if you look at New York City in terms of its financial position right now, and it's probably one of the best, worst examples, if you like, in this regard in terms of the financial position it's in. So in the case of New York due to COVID-19, you have seen revenues plummet. So they relate to transit, they relate to property taxes, they relate to sales taxes, they relate to returns on investments. But on the other hand, you have seen expenses go through the roof in terms of health and sanitation, feeding families, which just became a reality because schools are closed, and et cetera. So, their expenses have increased, their revenues has decreased, and they're looking at a budget deficit of around 8 billion. So in that situation, you're obviously looking at cutting services when they're needed most and they're reliant upon national government.

Alice Charles (30:02):

Most cities around the world are reliant upon national government to try and provide them with some of their revenue because they haven't come up with imaginative ways of generating revenue. Most of them would generate revenue from parking charges, from sales taxes, from property taxes. And with increased vacancy, will that come back? Are people going to be parking in the cities? So they have to come up with imaginative ways of trying to rethink revenue. That's one, and I think in that regard, if you think about taxation that relates to climate change, that would be sensible.

Alice Charles (30:39):

The second thing is, is government going to bail them out? Is national government going to bail them out? I think that where politics is different between a national government leadership and a city government leadership, there may be a reluctance to do so. So I think some very difficult choices have to be made, and that will mean cuts right across the board. It will mean cuts in transit services. It will mean cuts in education. It will mean cuts in sanitary facilities and policing, et cetera, because the numbers are simply so vast. Even cities that traditionally would have brought in a budget surplus are now looking at a very significant budget deficit. So, I think it's a very difficult time to be a city leader.

Eric Schmidt (31:24):

What do you think that cities will look like in 2030, 2040? Let's imagine more than 10 years from now, cities have always, at least in my memory, become more and more crowded for all sorts of reasons. Is that going to continue? After the pandemic, will skyscrapers start up again? Will the investment and the sort of excitement in cities come back, and in what form?

Alice Charles (31:55):

So I think there's a developed world and there's a developing world situation. In the developed world for the larger cities, we had seen that the larger cities were starting to hollow off in population, even before COVID-19. In the global sites, particularly Asia and Africa, we were seeing the rise and rise and rise of cities and urbanization. And I think that the opportunities are still within those urban environments and those locations. And in fact, the opportunities will be in cities generally around the world because we, as people, come together. There are agglomeration effects of having businesses associated in larger urban centers. You can attract the talent that you need. But I think that we're going to deliver different types of cities, so if we think about many of the cities in the global South, we've seen rapid urbanization, but we have not seen infrastructure and services being provided in tandem with that rapid urbanization. And the last time I was in Delhi, I was chatting to the driver who picked me up from the airport who was telling me that he worked 12 hours per day, but it took him three-

Alice Charles (33:03):

... telling me that he worked 12 hours per day, but it took him three hours to travel from where he lived to his work. So, that was a very sizeable chunk of his day. When was he actually going to sleep, was the question that was top of my mind. And he is like so many others and in a city like Delhi, having to travel really, really long distances.

Alice Charles (33:22):

So the affordable housing, the housing that they could afford, was located so far from the city core that they were having to travel these very extensive distances to work. And I think in that context, we are going to have to rethink our cities, and provide public transit to get people from A to B. But also one of the difficult things that they have to deal with in India for example, is how do you provide mixed developments?

Alice Charles (33:52):

So how do you provide housing that is much closer to people's place of work rather than being three hours from where they're working. But that means agreeing to provide social and affordable housing within the city core. The other thing that is missing from many rapidly developing cities is green space, green lungs. We learned in the case of Tokyo and in the case of London, when we start cities for health, we provided green spaces to act as green lungs.

Alice Charles (34:26):

In some cases, the squares, for example, in London, were put in place to stop fire spreading, stop disease spreading. And they also provided vital spaces, of course, for people to exercise. So we are going to see, I hope, cities that will have vital green spaces. It's good for our mental health. It's good for our physical health, and it's good for our air quality.

Alice Charles (34:49):

I'd like to see cities that have multimodal transportation, that's access to walking, cycling, public transport. We were seeing a lot of conversation at the moment around what the Mayor of Paris is putting forward as the 15 minute city. And in the 15 minutes city, she is saying that within 15 minutes of where you live, you will be able to access everything that you need to live, work, and play. And that's something that Melbourne has been concentrated on for quite some time.

Alice Charles (35:18):

They called it their 20 minute neighborhood. But either way it's that the services we need are within a short proximity to where we live. And we can avail of those services by accessing public transit, by walking, by cycling. And I think that that movement is really going to grow and grow in cities around the world. We're already seeing other city leaders saying, "I'm going to do what the Mayor of Paris is doing to, to rethink my city post COVID."

Eric Schmidt (35:46):

Every city I know has a strong agenda around inclusion, some do better than others. What's the update on best practices for inclusion?

Alice Charles (35:55):

So I think it's something that cities have really struggled with. And it can go right back to the politics associated with the zoning of land, that nobody wants a particular group or type of individual in their backyard, and they politicize zoning. So I think what I'm hearing from cities is to overcome this problem, on the one hand, you need to go right back to how you zone land within a city. And try and find a more objective way to zone land so that you're not politicizing the zoning of land, and it's done in a much more inclusive way.

Alice Charles (36:37):

The other side is that COVID-19 has very much brought to the fore that we can deliver buildings and cities, for example, to combat climate change. But we can also have added co-benefits in terms of health, in terms of society. So in terms of designing the buildings of the future, they're very much coming from the perspective of universal design.

Alice Charles (37:03):

So designing buildings for people of all ages, all abilities. And I think that will be very important in terms of creating more inclusive spaces that people of all ages and abilities can access. Also, of course, we do know that a recession will create extreme difficulties in relation to social housing. People lose jobs, they lose their homes, as I mentioned earlier, which increases the demand for social and affordable housing.

Alice Charles (37:33):

So I think it will start to bring the conversation back to the fore around who is responsible for providing social affordable housing? The best examples that we have gathered in the World Economic Forum of where social affordable housing has been provided, is where it's fully integrated and not segregated. And for example, if you see a social housing unit, it looks exactly the same as the private housing unit. And when you mix those tenures together, you have much better societal outcomes. So again, these are some of the things that cities are starting to think of in terms of addressing the inclusion agenda,

Eric Schmidt (38:14):

Alice, with your leadership, we will get there. Thank you so much.

Alice Charles (38:18):

Thank you very much.

Eric Schmidt (38:23):

So where are we now? As the global population increases, and as the developing world in particular continues to urbanize, humans will be pushed into closer proximity to each other. We will continue to be challenged by novel viruses and new pathogens. I'm a great fan of cities. During COVID, we could have done better. We could have figured out a way using rapid testing to open up all those skyscrapers to bring people back to work sooner.

Eric Schmidt (38:49):

That would have provided a great deal of tax revenue for the cities, and they really need it. We could've figured out a way to use rapid testing to get our schools open sooner because without kids in schools, the parents can't work, and we need them to be working again to pay the taxes, to fund the services and cities.

Eric Schmidt (39:06):

We've now created a secondary crisis, which is a huge financial crisis in the cities around the world, because they're dependent upon the one thing that the COVID has prevented, people working, people and taxes, and so forth. And as a result, tremendous numbers of services will be cut. And in particular, the people who are providing those services will lose their jobs, which continues the cycle of poverty.

Eric Schmidt (39:26):

The most important thing is to figure out a way to get broadband available to every single citizen in every city. And the reason is that broadband used to be optional and used to be the province of people working. But today it's essential, and it's essential for people who are poor, because it's the only way where they can participate in the economic lives of our country. It's also the only way in which their children can get educated. I can't think of two more important things.

Eric Schmidt (39:51):

The reason cities are so hard to govern is that everyone is locked in a particular win-lose situation. Whoever is the beneficiary of something, there is also a loser. And the losers are organized and they're organized with lots of domestic policies, and also lots of support from the press. It takes great leadership out of the mayor, the city council, to do that. Cities that have a strong mayor ,or a strong federal involvement supporting a mayor, are probably able to make these changes. But without a sort of strong mayor model, you won't get much progress in cities today.

Eric Schmidt (40:26):

But as our guests have shown, we have ways to make the spaces we live and work in safer and more resilient when it comes to public health. We can make cities more walkable, so fewer people have to cram into crowded public buses and subways. We can alter the design of buildings and improve ventilation to make indoor spaces healthier. And we can create everyday items with anti-microbial materials, such as copper, to kill bacteria and viruses on high touch surfaces.