Transforming Infrastructures for Sustainable Cities

Developing sustainable cities strongly depends on socio-technical systems that provide energy, water, mobility, waste and communication services. These systems are difficult to change and set the default for many decades. An interdisciplinary team of researchers together with societal partners focuses on the key question: how do we envision and identify pathways to cities and infrastructures of the future?

How do we envision and identify pathways to cities and infrastructures of the future?

Changing urban infrastructures towards sustainability

Developing sustainable cities strongly depends on socio-technical systems that provide energy, water, mobility, waste, and communication services. The research hub 'Transforming Infrastructures for Sustainable Cities' sees urban infrastructures as key sites and vantage points of societal transitions to more sustainability transitions. However, those systems are highly path dependent and are interlaced with the built environments of cities, urban practices of production and use and embedded in a complex web of political interests and epistemic cultures. Changing urban infrastructures towards sustainability thus imposes exceptionally high requirements in terms of the transformation knowledge and practices for decision makers.

Cities of the world

The hub explores such pathways in a global perspective and engages with urban regions that represent a diversity of spatial settings, technological cultures, transformative practices and governance settings: Randstad, Berlin, Toronto, Los Angeles, Nanjing, New Delhi, Dar es Salaam, São Paulo and Melbourne.

Case studies of the hub. Click on an icon to show the transformative technique that is used in each of the case studies.

Objectives

The key objectives of the research hub are:

  • to explore and test transformative techniques and practices of urban ‘futuring’, urban experimentation, co-provision in cities around the world and their capacity to enable and sustain ‘deep’ transitions of multiple infrastructures
  • to understand the urban governance arrangements that shape the restructuring of urban and infrastructural transitions
  • to develop sustainability indicators and assessment tools to understand, evaluate and promote pathways to urban sustainability.
Share, validate, and co-create knowledge in ‘city learning labs’

Cross-domain analyses

The hub intends to stimulate empirical analyses and the development of transformative techniques and practices that look across sectoral and often ‘siloed’ systems (water, energy, solid waste, transportation etc.) within specific urban settings. We ask: what are the cumulative impacts of, and interactions between, urban transitions in different infrastructure domains with regards to circular economies, urban healthy living, urban resilience and inclusivity? The intention of such cross-domain analyses is to provide a broader basis for assessing urban pathways to sustainability.

Novel ways

The hub brings together the system-analytical, target, and transformation knowledge of leading researchers at Utrecht University and works closely together with stakeholders in novel ways to share, validate, and co-create knowledge in ‘city learning labs’ and transdisciplinary approaches.

Pathways to Sustainability conference
Interactive session at the Pathways to Sustainability conference 2019 organised by the hub.
Transforming Infrastructures for Sustainable Cities