Around the turn of the century, new technology helped cities grow rapidly. This included steam engines that allowed factories to move closer to urban centers, away from rivers which had been vital for both power and transportation. The invention of electric lighting also allowed factories to run at all hours of the day and night, increasing demand for workers. Cities grew and expanded, attracting workers from rural areas in the United States and Europe.
The rapid growth of cities prompted the development of new ways to manage them. For example, public health departments sprang up in many cities to reduce preventable illness and death from poor sanitation, living conditions, and food and water quality. Likewise, railways were built to speed up travel time between cities and allow more people to live in the same city.
Another vital technological advance, the elevator, made it possible to build taller buildings. Engineers were already able to use steel construction techniques, but the elevator enabled them to go much higher. Workers completed the first skyscraper, the ten-story Home Insurance Building in Chicago, in 1885. The craze for taller buildings was encouraged by the prestige that such structures carried for the businesses that occupied them.
Today, cities are growing even faster than they did around the turn of the century. They account for two-thirds of global energy consumption and 70% of carbon emissions, but the world’s cities can still make great strides in sustainability if they implement digital solutions to increase efficiency and decrease waste.