Urban Systems

Research Highlights

In the present context it is only possible to report on a few select projects and activities within the Main Research Area. An outstanding feature of the research in this area compared with other centres for metropolitan research remains the strong role played by the humanities. Since the extensive activities of the humanities in urban and metropolis research were reported in detail in the 2012 Research Report, they are not included again here.

Sustainable urban land management

One noteworthy example of interdisciplinary cooperation in the Main Research Area Urban Systems is the “KuLaRuhr: Nachhaltige urbane Kulturlandschaften in der Metropole Ruhr” consortium project, which is funded under the “Sustainable Land Management” funding line of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and addresses the opportunities and instruments in sustainable future land management. The five universities coordinated under KuLaRuhr at the UDE’s Centre for Water and Environmental Management (Duisburg-Essen, Darmstadt, Kassel, Braunschweig and Bochum) and the Hochschule Ostwestfalen-Lippe, RVR, the Landwirtschaftskammer NRW Provincial Chamber of Agriculture, Emschergenossenschaft und Lippeverband, the City of Bottrop and the Rechtsanwaltskanzlei Heinemann & Partner legal firm are working together to strengthen and raise the competitiveness and attractiveness of the Ruhr metropolitan region through combined and sustainable management of land, water and energy resources. The partners are developing sustainable scenarios for the use of decommissioned mining sites as well as sustainable technical solutions for the use of water and energy resources. Their proposed alternatives and technical innovations are subjected to rigorous economic, ecological and aesthetic assessment. One of the main focuses of KuLaRuhr’s interest in this context is the Emscher Landschaftspark (ELP).

Here the first pilot facilities have now been commissioned, the first practical stages already implemented and the legal issues under current legislation dealt with. The subsequent implementation stages were based on a definition of “urban agriculture”, which includes farming, horticulture and the ­aspects of heterogeneity and multifunctionality in this context. The project also analysed research on cultural landscapes in relation to the ELP and defined the qualities and potential of the ELP as an urban cultural landscape. This included exploring possible ways of developing the ELP as a cultural landscape in connection with the regional planning and other instruments of the RVR ­(Regional Association Ruhr). Another of the research project’s tasks is to monitor and support the “Regional Discourse”, an informal process to accompany formal planning, introduced by the RVR under the new regional plan.

Innovative technologies for energy storage in urbanised mining regions

Another pioneering project, funded by the State of NRW under the “Ziel2” programme, brings ­together energy research, geology and geotechnology with water engineering and water management to investigate the economic and technological potential and general feasibility of underground pumped storage plants. As renewables make up an increasing part of the energy mix, the need to compensate the associated fluctuations in wind and solar power supply in the long term is also growing. The problem of storage nevertheless remains unsolved to date. In addition to innovative storage technologies, underground pumped storage plants are a further interesting option.

Five departments at the University of Duisburg-Essen are currently working with three chairs at the Ruhr University Bochum, the mining ­operator RAG AG, mining specialist DMT GmbH and the Rhein-Ruhr-Institut für Sozialforschung und Politikberatung e.V. (RISP) on a feasibility study on the subject. The project is headed by the Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and ­Water Resources Management at the UDE under the management of Prof. André Niemann. The ­initial findings have so far produced no technical KO criteria. A survey of the population conducted by RISP also showed a relatively high level of awareness of the project and a generally ­increased level of acceptance for the use of ­decommissioned mining facilities and land for energy storage (for further information ­cf. www.upsw.de).

IWaTec – Integrated Water Technologies

Many UDE research groups working in sustainable water research and external partners such as Emschergenossenschaft und Lippeverband are taking part in this project under the DAAD’s call for “transformation partnerships with Egypt and Tunisia”. The UDE’s main partner here is the Egyptian Fayoum University, but numerous other partners from Egyptian research and industry are also involved in IWaTec. Under this binational cooperation, eight students from Egypt will be educated in sustainable water research every year. In 6-month research projects with the German partners, the junior researchers not only gain theoretical knowledge but also a wealth of practical experience with which they can contribute to solving the many problems associated with this valuable resource in their own country. In the megacity Cairo especially, where the Nile is the only source of water, efficient and integrated technologies are needed to secure the supply of water to the population without overburdening the system. The highly successful cooperation in IWaTec has so far led to several joint publications, as well as other research and exchange projects such as “SUSWADialogue”.

The city and climate change

As part of the BMBF’s “Energy Efficient City Competition” funding initiative, the Institute of City Planning and Urban Design and the Centre for Logistics and Traffic are working with the City of Essen, the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI Essen) and TRC GmbH on a pioneering project entitled “Climate Initiative Essen – Action in a new Climate Culture”, focusing on energy efficiency issues in urban development, mobility, buildings and renewable resources. Central to this project is the understanding that a city’s climate compatibility is determined by a complex system of top-down and bottom-up ­approaches, i. e. technology, economics and politics relating to urban development, but on a complementary level also by the dynamics of social and cultural processes. The goal is to cut CO2 emissions by 40 % by the year 2020 (measured against 1990 levels). New service offerings and networks will be supported by innovative tools with which to develop decentralised neighbourhood energy concepts, and a communal energy register will provide a basis for consultation with and activation of citizens and stakeholders in the community. Temporary interventions and real experiments with urban space and mobility are planned for the coming years as a way of making the benefits of sustainable, climate-compatible mobility within a share economy visible and tangible to the public.

The city and mobility

Various projects have been added to the field of urban mobility at the Institute of City Planning and Urban Design. The “Neue Mobilität für die Stadt der Zukunft – Stadt-Verkehr-Lebensstile/New Mobility for the City of the Future – City-Traffic-Lifestyles” project, funded by Stiftung Mercator and conducted in cooperation with the KWI and TRC GmbH, has undertaken an interdisciplinary study on intermodal urban mobility and developed complementary strategies based on its findings. According to the study, it is only possible to move away from stagnant traffic policies with a mixture of changes in behaviour, efficient and post-fossil engines, urban spaces that encourage local mobility, and intelligent networking of ­ecomobile transport. The project “Fahrzeugkonzepte und multimodale Mobilitätskonzepte für eine New Smart E-Mobility – das Design-Studio NRW/Vehicle Concepts and Multimodal Mobility Concepts for a New Smart E-Mobility – Design Studio NRW” (funded by the NRW Ministry of Economic Affairs, Energy and Industry), was conducted in an interdisciplinary cooperation between Mechatronics, ­Cognitive Psychology, Business Administration and Automotive Management, City Planning and Urban Design as well as Industrial Design/Strategy and Vision (Folkwang University). The central theme is the future of urban E-mobility from the user’s perspective: vehicle design, the 2030 urban environment in a drive simulator, and the explicit wishes and reactions of customers were the critical parameters in this project with designers, economists, psychologists and engineers. As part of ­intermodal concepts and combined with car sharing, electromobile transport can ­influence the future of the urban environment.

Schools in urban space

Under the title of “Schulraum und Schulkultur. Studie zur schulkulturellen Bedeutung der Entwurfs-, Handlungs- und Strukturdimension von Raumordnungen”, the Institute of Pedagogy (Faculty of Educational Sciences) is considering the role of space in shaping and changing school culture. This DFG-funded project draws on a comparative study of schools with the most extreme differences between open and closed concrete spatial order and considers the differentiating ­effect on spatial order of design, practical and structural factors. It examines the tensions and interplay between the design of school spaces, everyday spatial practices of the relevant groups, and the school architecture in material terms. The project aims to extend the spatial dimension of school culture theory and contributes to the empirical basis for dissolving or creating boundaries in schools as an educational space, which is growing in relevance as educational demands and processes are globalised, mediatised and informalised.

The DFG follow-up project, “Schulische ­Standorte. Studie zum Schulraum im urbanen Wandel des Quartiers”, has been approved for the period July 2012 to June 2015 and examines school space and its role in urban neighbourhood transformation. Comparing four chosen school locations, the relationship between settlement structure, location factor and school segregation is examined in order to identify neighbourhood-specific (crisis) potential and relate it to spatial dimensions of school culture. It shows to what extent neighbourhood-typical school segregation is an effect of urban change and what role the concrete location of a school plays in creating its profile. This project for the first time ties to­gether previously unrelated areas of research on school culture, neighbourhoods and urbanity.

Integrated logistics research in urban systems

Logistics issues in urban systems not only affect transport or traffic-related developments but all aspects of supply, internal material flow and reverse disposal in urban areas. Here, concepts of sustainable urban mobility (passengers and freight), the urban circular economy (closed loop supply, “Cradle to Cradle”) or Smart Cities (enabling new management and development prospects in cities through information technology) are important interdependent frameworks which can be integrated by modern logistics. Logistics is therefore concerned overall with research relating to highly efficient, sustainable city operations systems for materials in production or recirculation, industrial or consumer goods, personal mobility and the information, energy and financial flows associated with them. The possibilities for appropriate infrastructures and new services are part of a future-oriented logistics portfolio.

In the context of the first German leading edge cluster for logistics, the EffizienzCluster Logistik­Ruhr (winner of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research’s leading edge cluster competition) in particular, the University of Duisburg-Essen has been working since 2010 with science and corporate partners on relevant research questions in a total of 10 individual projects. Important ­research results and new research perspectives with high innovation potential for cities and urban socioeconomic systems have been delivered by many of the projects. “Dynamics in Navigation”, for example, developed new intelligent adaptive navigation systems for the end user in urban traffic. New self-learning knowledge bases incorporating social and ecological parameters for intermodal transport chains are also helping cooperating companies with urban supply issues (“Organizational Innovations with Good Governance in Logistics Networks” project). “Scientific Further Education in Logistics” presents the latest findings on the resulting qualification frameworks for the logistics industry. How companies can implement sustainability strategies in their complex partner and customer networks was demonstrated by the “Corporate Responsibility in Logistics Networks” project. The research consortium worked on many new research questions that are highly significant precisely for urban consumption patterns and lifestyles (for example in relation to the increased use of internet shops).

On the basis of the many research findings and cooperation structures, the University of Duisburg-Essen together with the Port of Duisburg and other companies in the Rhine-Ruhr region founded DIALOGistik (www.dialogistik-duisburg.de) in 2012, which consolidates the joint research and development perspectives at the centre of this metropolitan area and fosters exchange between science and industry.

Urban Disaster Management

Following the many successful research projects relating to passenger flow simulation/evacuation in the event of disasters, humanitarian logistics (task force deployment, relief supplies, adhoc ­infrastructures) (including funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and of Transport, Building and Urban Development), sensor technology, mobile devices and information processing (e. g. COMET: Cooperation Objects Network of Excellence in the 7th Research Framework Programme of the EU) as well as intervention strategies in crisis situations, security cultures/safety communications (funded by the German Research Foundation and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research), in 2012/ 2013 the research work on preventive and remedial ­disaster management and on supporting technologies was brought together at the Centre for Logistics & Traffic as an interdisciplinary research focus specifically targeting urban systems. Its ­interdisciplinary scope covers geosciences, urban epidemiology, logistics, operations research, computer science, communication science, and organisational psychology. The Integrated Disaster Response and Resilience Management Approach (InDiRA) developed here provides a comprehensive scientific model and control concept for ­disaster management in (smart) urban systems. Innovative technologies, operations, organisation and communication principles are integrated in or extend the wider conceptual framework of smart cities. Strategic partners of InDiRA ­include the European Center for Ubiquitous Technology and Smart Cities (UBICITEC), the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics (FKIE) and the Istanbul Metropolitan Planning and Urban Design Center (BIMTAS).

A number of further projects in all the relevant disciplines address a range of topics, from waste management issues and problems with ­environmental pollution of contaminated brownfield sites, urban water management issues, urban health, electromobility and innovative traffic concepts, to political, social, cultural and technological ­aspects of urbanisation in East Asia. The latter is addressed by the IN-EAST School of Advanced Studies, in which representatives of the Main Research Area play a pivotal role (see details of the project in the section on the Institute of East Asian Studies in this research report).