Urban Systems

Research Highlights

Within the timeframe of this report, several significant research projects that were presented in detail in the last report have been completed successfully, while other important projects have been launched. A distinguishing feature of the efforts within “Urban Systems”, especially in comparison to other centres of metropolitan research, is the central contribution of the humanities to much of the work. This is because the main research area sees itself very much as a research platform that transcends disciplinary boundaries. There is a conviction that scientific engagement with urban systems must not only include analyses of the built environment and its technical infrastructures but also account for political, social, cultural, economic, and ecological conditions, problems, and consequences of urban life. Only this way can sustainable solutions for cities be developed. 

Cities, Energy, and Climate Change

Numerous projects deal with questions of urban systems under the conditions of global climate change (adaptation) and work on concepts of protecting urban climates (mitigation).

Within the framework of the BMBF competition “Energy-Efficient City” (2010–2016), the pioneering project “Klima-Initiative Essen – Handeln in einer neuen Klimakultur” (Climate Initiative Essen – Action in a New Climate Culture) is a cooperation between the Department of Urban Planning, the Centre for Logistics and Traffic, the City of Essen, the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities, and TRC GmbH. This project is located in the spheres of urban development, mobility, building infrastructure, and renewable energies and features the interaction of top-down and bottom-up processes as technology, economy, and urban policymaking intersect with the dynamics of social and cultural developments. New services and networks are being created, supported by innovative tools for the development of decentralized neighbourhood energy concepts; the communal energy register offers a basis for decision making and efficient consultation and mobilization of citizens and communal stakeholders. There have been temporary interventions and on-the-ground experiments on the topic of urban space and mobility in order to make it possible for citizens to experience the benefits of sustainable, climate-friendly urban mobility in an Urban Share Economy. The Essener Klimaagentur (Essen Climate Agency) and its concrete consulting portfolio emerged from this project, as did the profile of the city of Essen as “KlimawerkStadtEssen” (www.klimawerkstadtessen.de) (climate workshop/city Essen), and a programmatic framework for all communal climate-related projects. Significantly, the project was able to contribute to Essen’s ultimately successful application for the European Green Capital Award 2017.

Several members of “Urban Systems”, together with other departmental chairs of the University Alliance Ruhr, were successful in securing funding from the Fortschrittskolleg/Promotionsprogramm EEQ “Energieeffizienz im Quartier – clever versorgen.umbauen.aktivieren” (Energy Efficiency in the Neighbourhood, 2014-2018), a call for proposals issued by the North-Rhine Westphalia Ministry for Innovation, Science, and Research. Those involved are, at the TU Dortmund Ch. Reicher (director; urban and urban land use planning), J. Myrzik (energy systems, energy efficiency, and energy management), H. Holzmüller (marketing); at the RUB R.G. Heinze (sociology, labour and economy), J.Ch. Pielow (mining and energy law); and at the UDE A. Heinzel (energy and environmental process engineering), Ch. Weber (energy management), and J.A. Schmidt (urban planning). 

Another highly innovative project is “Urban Factory – Entwicklung ressourceneffizienter Fabriken in der Stadt” (Urban Factory – Developing Resource Efficient Factories in the City), which will run from 2015 to 2018. Funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, this project develops a knowledge platform for energy-efficient and resource-efficient manufacturing in urban settings. The project does not conceptualize factories as users of energy and resources, but, together with practitioners, searches for model solutions of supplying surrounding neighbourhoods and developing them from the perspective of urban planning, industrial construction, factory planning, logistics, and energy design. Partners in the project are the Technical Universities of Braunschweig and Dortmund, and the UDE with the Institute of City Planning and Urban Design.

Supported by funds from the BMU (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety) and together with the UDE Institute of Construction Management, the Centre for Logistics and Traffic is working closely with the City of Duisburg, communal associate companies, and local business and industry, in order to develop a communal climate protection concept that aims to combine urban quality of life with industrial prosperity in a collaborative and participative fashion. The project takes special note of Duisburg’s position as one of Europe’s most significant steel-production and logistics sites, thus not only aiming for a reduction in greenhouse gases but for complementary sustainable urban development and the creation of a climate-friendly urban industrial economy (2015–2016).

Sustainable Urban Land Management

The joint research project “KuLaRuhr: Nachhaltige urbane Kulturlandschaften in der Metropole Ruhr” (Sustainable Urban Cultural Landscapes in the Ruhr Metropolis) was funded through the “Nachhaltiges Landmanagement” (Sustainable Land Management) initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) from its beginning in 2011 to its successful conclusion in October 2014. It investigated the opportunities and instruments of sustainable future land management across a broad range of disciplines and can be seen as a highly successful example of the  interdisciplinary cooperation in “Urban Systems”.

The research participants in this joint project were the University of Duisburg-Essen, represented by the ZWU, which also served as coordinating institution, four other universities (Darmstadt, Bochum, Kassel, and Braunschweig), the Regional Association Ruhr (RVR), the NRW Chamber of Agriculture, the Emscher and Lippe water boards, the City of Bottrop, the Ruhr Institut e. V., and the law firm Heinemann & Partner. The area of research focused on the backdrop of the Emscher Landscape Park (ELP).

Work at the University of Duisburg-Essen focused on developing and testing innovative ideas for sustainable management of land, energy, and water. Studies on the usage of lost heat in waste water showed that warming the waste water by 3 degrees celsius could be economically feasible and lead to a significant reduction in CO2. A concept for the decentralized retention of rainfall in automated cisterns showed that current precipitation prognoses are insufficient to buffer every potential extreme rain event using these “smart” cisterns, even though their storage capacity is sufficient to theoretically capture such extreme rainfall. A simulation of rain-caused elution of insulated building surfaces did not show a significant release of trace matter. Field studies of the Emscher rehabilitation showed that renatured sections of the body of water were first populated by pioneering species, and that the formation of a typical riverine ecology would take numerous years. Particular matter, among other factors, can determine the repopulation of river sections. Based on studies of land use in residential areas, potential conflicts in the urban use of biomass and the climatic function of open spaces were analyzed and classified using a simple evaluation system.  For example, a comparison of biomass strategies was made, and scenarios evaluated the differences between a mostly herbaceous biomass from deliberate planting, wooden biomass from forest maintenance, and cultivated wooden biomass, and related those scenarios to the current state of the respective open spaces. Parameters relevant to natural conservation, such as several biodiversity benchmarks, were also used to compare nine typical urban habitats as a foundation for predicting biodiversity development under different scenarios for the model space of the Welheimer Mark in the City of Bottrop. Under ecological and economic criteria, a business park scenario was evaluated as most attractive, while the “agro-forest” scenario produced the least compelling results. Additionally, the project resulted in a planning tool to develop an integrated logistics concept aimed at supporting decision-making processes regarding the usage of biomass. The successful development of this planning tool offers aid to municipalities in the process of developing long-term strategies for the use of urban biomass. The joint venture’s coordinators managed both the exchange between project partners and the dialogue with the public. A central task in addition to organizational management was to connect the scientific demands with the needs of policymakers.

IWaTec – Integrated Water Technologies

The IWaTec project was funded through the DAAD programme “Transformation Partnerships with Egypt and Tunisia” until March 2015 and created a research network for several university and non-academic institutions in Germany and Egypt. Together with a number of teams dedicated to water research at the UDE, Fayoum University in Egypt was the most important partner in the IWaTec project. In Germany, partners such as the Emscher and Lippe water boards were involved, while Egyptian industrial partners such as the Holding Company for Water and Wastewater were involved in addition to several research institutions.

The aim of IWaTec was to train eight Egyptian students per year in sustainable water research. A distinguishing feature was that the young scientists were not only able to develop a comprehensive theoretical knowledge in their six-month research projects with German partners but also acquired substantial practical skills. They can thus contribute strategies for solutions to the numerous problems that their home country has in relation to the valuable resource water. In the megacity Cairo especially, where the Nile is both the sole source of water and drainage, efficient and integrated technologies are paramount to adequate water supply and wastewater treatment, including under peak loads, for the population. Not only was collaboration between the partners highly successful, the project also resulted in several collective publications and follow-up projects such as “SUSWADialogue”.

Efficiency Cluster Logistics Ruhr

The Efficiency Cluster Logistics Ruhr won the first competition for recognition as an excellence cluster in the “Spitzenclusterwettbewerb” of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (funding from 2010 to 2015). In the cluster, researchers at the Centre for Logistics and Traffic work in close cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Logistics (IML) in Dortmund and 16 other research partners and around 140 businesses. Together they develop innovations in the know-how and technology-intensive field of logistics in supplying fragile urban systems, increasing efficiency in the use of natural resources and responding to the demands of an individualized society with new services. “Dynamics in Navigation”, for example, a project on intelligent adaptive navigation systems for the end user in urban traffic, yielded important findings and new research perspectives with a high innovatory potential for cities. New self-learning knowledge databases for intermodal transport chains that include social and ecological parameters (“Organisatorische Innovationen mit Good Governance in Logistiknetzwerken” – “Organizational Innovations with Good Governance in Logistics Networks”) help the cooperating businesses in relation to urban supply chain issues. The “Dynamic Consolidation” project aims at providing logistics concepts for the introduction of flexible and dynamic connections in cargo rail traffic between globally-interacting urban logistics nodes, with the connection between Duisburg and Moscow as a focus in the project.  

Central questions posed by the Efficiency Cluster were further amplified in the European Research Area (Seventh European Framework Programme) and carried into international research syndicates. Through the partners ZLV and the EffizienzCluster Management GmbH, topics from the Efficiency Cluster were internationalized and further developed with a focus on sustainability potentials through the project LOG4-GREEN (www.log4green.eu) in the EU programme “Regions of Knowledge” (which ended in 2014). Members of the Efficiency Cluster Ruhr work across sectors with five European logistics regions (Wallonia, Normandy, the Metropolitan Region of Istanbul, the port metropolis of Odessa, and Carinthia) in a “triple helix” of research, municipalities/public administration, and commerce. The results feed into a Strategic Interdisciplinary Research Agenda (SIRA) for the EU Commission, support for young experts in specially developed formats, and transregional and regional action plans. The European projects FIspace (www.fispace.eu: Future Internet Business Collaboration Networks in Agri-Food, Transport & Logistics) and Finest (Future-Internet-based ICT Solutions for Sustainable Transport & Logistics) provide virtual living labs and commercial platforms for collaborations using Future Internet Technologies, which allow ZLV researchers to cooperate with other research partners but especially with businesses and other groups of stakeholders (customers, government agencies, banks, and others), all in order to promote transparent, sustainable, and climate-friendly business processes in logistics.

Logistics and Urban Lifestyles

The BMBF project “Innovative Logistics for Sustainable Lifestyles” (ILONA) is coordinated by the ZLV and started in 2015. It is the first project of its kind to consider the high service levels of the logistics economy in relation to lifestyles in sustainable and urban economies. ILONA investigates new concepts for collaboration of regional food producers and delivery and supply concepts in the Vienna metropolitan region, and it analyzes sustainability challenges and potentials in e-commerce supply chains while developing new sustainable modes of product delivery. Two questions are central to the project: How can logistics services be designed so that they both fulfil socio-ecological demands and facilitate sustainable consumer lifestyles? Conversely, how can consumer behaviour be adapted so as to support sustainable logistics structures? The syndicate partners work together to research potential new business models in sustainable economics (“lead sustainability service provider”) and improve the scientific methods of measuring sustainability in complex patterns of value creation, using “strong” models of sustainability and the language of “system dynamics”. Partners in the project are the Collaborating Center for Sustainable Consumption & Production Wuppertal, the University of Witten-Herdecke, the Center for Media & Health in Gouda, Netherlands, the EffizienzCluster Management GmbH, and the firms Schachinger Logistik (Austria) and Fiege Logistik (Germany).

Urban Change in the U.S.

The doctoral programme “Spaces, Communities, Representations: Urban Transformations in the United States” was funded by MERCUR from 2012 to 2015. Six PhD candidates at the Universities of Bochum, Dortmund, and Duisburg-Essen engaged in their doctoral dissertations with issues of urban transformations in the creation and usage of space, in the composition of, and interaction between, communities, and in cultural representations of urban space in the United States of America. The U.S. is of special interest to the research of urban space as both current central urban developments – urban growth and urban shrinking – can be investigated side by side. The research focuses on processes of economic and social change, the valorization or gentrification of previously neglected neighbourhoods, as well as on the (also changing) symbolic meaning and representation of urban spaces and their emblematic architectural and infrastructural sites, which can be seen in relation to developments in the Ruhr region. This project likewise features a close collaboration between colleagues at the three universities of the UA Ruhr. Alongside the published dissertations themselves, numerous publications have emerged from the project, including a collection of essays that was published at the beginning of 2016 presenting the project’s most significant findings. 

Book Publication: Gelsenkirchen. Stadtentwicklung, Strukturwandel und Zukunftsperspektiven (Gelsenkirchen. Urban Development, Structural Change, and Future Perspectives)

Gelsenkirchen like virtually nowhere else in the Ruhr region represents the rise and fall of a city, the battle against crisis, and dealing with change. The specific social and spatial transformation of an agrarian landscape into a post-industrial urban region was the focus of this project. This is only the second monograph in the series of books of the Geographische Kommission/LWL. 

The book first looks at the natural environmental setting of the city area, the administrative borders and divisions, and regional relations. Especially the complicated administrative developments that were often determined by outside forces have led to the emergence of today’s bi-polar city with its internal rivalries. 

Both parts of the city have undergone phases of different intensity in the way that industry has shaped them in their spatial-functional and economic development, from the pre-industrial landscape to the results of the International Architecture Exhibition, IBA Emscher Park. This has led to differences in urban development and in urban renewal and rehabilitation. 

Today’s diversified economic structure is analyzed taking a structural approach that borrows from cluster theory. Categorization of commerce is based on the concept of lead markets that are intended to cluster economic activity according to demand. Eight such lead markets emerge as relevant in the case of Gelsenkirchen. This approach allows for the identification of key economic agents and thus renders visible spatial agglomerations in the urban structure. Economic changes were and are accompanied or even initiated by projects and processes in urban development, planning and design. These range from the organizing principle of a system of centres with maximum complementarity, through the integration of a traditionally large stock of open and green spaces into the new conceptions of the Emscher landscape park, to achieving a balance between new residential and commercial building projects and the conservation of existing architectural heritage.

Publication: Wehling, Hans-Werner (2014): Gelsenkirchen. Stadtentwicklung, Strukturwandel und Zukunftsperspektiven. Münster, Städte und Gemeinden in Westfalen, Band 14.

Numerous further projects in all participating faculties investigate a broad spectrum of topics that range from questions of waste management and problems of the environmental impact of contaminated industrial sites via issues in urban water cycles, urban health, electric mobility and innovative traffic concepts to political, social, cultural, and technological aspects of urbanization in East Asia. The latter projects are located in the IN-EAST School of Advanced Studies, in which representatives of the main research area are centrally involved (see also the description in the section on the Institute of East Asian Studies in this research report).