About: Waste, water, materials, and energy: these are the essential ingredients of any urban environment. And yet, as cities become increasingly popular places to live, we have lost sight of these important vectors of our urban ecosystems. How can we create a truly sustainable city that takes into account not only how people live, but also what they produce, consume, reuse, and waste?
Programme: Due to their environmental impact, cities play a crucial role in the transition towards sustainable societies. Despite the fact that they occupy only 3% of the global terrestrial surface, cities house more than half of the world’s population, consume 7% of its natural resources, and are directly and indirectly responsible for 60 to 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions (UNEP, 2012). The urban environment thus acts as a nexus of material flows and nodes for energy, water, consumption and production. Cities are key leverage points that demand our focus if we are to accelerate the necessary transition to circular and sustainable systems, both locally and globally. Learn how to connect urban material, water, and energy flows to build a truly sustainable city. This programme is developed in collaboration with Metabolic, a consulting and venture building company that uses systems thinking to tackle major sustainability challenges.
In this course, students are taught how to leverage the potential of cities via a new paradigm for urban planning and design: urban metabolism. While this concept has been around for over 50 years, recent interest in it has rejuvenated the fields of urban studies, industrial ecology, and architecture. Urban metabolism can be defined as the sum total of the technical and socio-economic processes that occur in cities, resulting in growth, and production of energy, materials, and waste. The city is viewed by its ‘material flows’, generally defined into water, energy, materials (including food), and waste. These flows consist of inputs (local, regional, and global inflow of resources), throughputs (energy required to transform these resources and waste produced by any process), and outputs (the material outcome of this process).
This three-week interdisciplinary and hands-on course unravels the complexity behind truly sustainable urban development. The programme uses Amsterdam as case study for analysis and action. While immersed within this innovative city, students will learn about several aspects of urban resilience from ecological, economic, and cultural perspectives. Through the use of different tools, scientific methods and analysis, students will experience experimental urban design and planning firsthand. Inspired and equipped with the right tools and knowledge base, students will return to their home cities ready to step up to the challenge and transform their cities.
Directors: Dr. Mendel Giezen, UvA; Drs. Gerard Roemers, Metabolic
Website: For more information on the programme, visit our website.