Research Highlights

A feature of the main research area that sets it apart from other urban research centres at national and international level is the degree to which the humanities, social sciences and health are integral to all research activities. A number of project highlights are outlined below.

Urban Culture and Scenarios for Future Society

Scripts for Postindustrial Urban Futures: American Models, Transatlantic Interventions

In 2017 the Volkswagen Foundation approved a doctoral research group with seven doctoral fellows and one postdoc position to be hosted by the UDE and supported by colleagues from North American Studies of all three UA-Ruhr universities. The group was set up to conduct transatlantic research into powerful normative “scripts” that have become especially popular in recent years. The coordinator is Prof. Barbara Buchenau, Anglophone Studies, and the cocoordinator Prof. Jens Martin Gurr, also Anglophone Studies. The project focuses on scenarios for an ecologically sustainable, artistic and creative, or socially and culturally inclusive future for the urban communities that once belonged to heavy industry in the USA and Germany.

“Scripts” are recommended and suggested actions and behaviours that are communicated through narratives and media and have a major impact on society. They are self-descriptions that trace developments and experiences from the past to the present and build on them to develop strong future scenarios. North American Studies scholars are working closely with public institutions and private companies involved in urban development in the German and American regions under examination to explore scripts for postindustrial urban development. The researchers are especially interested in processes of transatlantic transfer and exchange of formative US self-descriptions and patterns of interpretation since the late twentieth century.

These kinds of postindustrial urban scripts are investigated explicitly from the perspective of the Ruhrgebiet, a region and research landscape that has undergone comparatively sweeping structural change and for a long time seen its population shrinking, simultaneously aging and becoming more heterogeneous. This perspective shows that German cities like to draw on the narratives and media depictions of American cities in their self-reflection, even if it is to distance themselves strategically in a specific urban context (“This is not Detroit” – Bochum as the Opel plant was closing down).

Research in the group is based on fieldwork and its doctoral members actively working with practitioners to identify and analyse narrative, figurative and media strategies for urban development, which are revised and developed using reference projects. Another aim of the collaboration between humanities and cultural studies researchers trained in discourse, hermeneutics and semiotics and partners working in urban development on both sides of the Atlantic is to anticipate potential “misdevelopments” contained in the present blueprints for a postindustrial urban future. In the choice of material and interest of inquiry the individual projects go far beyond the disciplinary fields of American literature, culture, history and media and for the first time link academic training of young American Studies researchers structurally with professional fields of urban development on both sides of the Atlantic.

Urban Ecosystem and Water Research

NRW Fortschrittskolleg FUTURE WATER

FUTURE WATER is a graduate school that is receiving 2.7 million euros in funding from the NRW State Ministry of Culture and Science and comprises seven research groups from four UDE faculties, Chemistry, Biology, Engineering, and Social Sciences, and one research group each from the Ruhr University Bochum, Hochschule Ruhr West, the EBZ Business School, the Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology e.V., and the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI).

Sustainable water management is central to the twelve interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary doctoral projects. A substantial travel and training budget allows the members of FUTURE WATER to build their own extensive research and career network from a very early stage, which benefits the doctoral candidates and the graduate school as a whole. The concept’s success is apparent from around 30 publications, two graduations and many positive reports during the three years it has been running. The second cohort of doctoral candidates start their projects at the end of 2017. Whether funding for FUTURE WATER will continue beyond the first phase up to 2022 depends chiefly on the political situation in NRW.

URBANTIP – Tipping points in urban metaecosystems: Disentangling the complex interactions of social structure, environment and human health

Ecosystems have complex dynamics that are characterised by interactions, reactions and delayed effects and that react to anthropogenic stressors. Reactions to human-induced stress can reach a critical threshold or tipping point, which can cause the system to abruptly “tip” into a new state. These kinds of changes from one state to another can result in a rapid decline in biodiversity.

URBANTIP is a consortium project in the preliminary phase of a two-step funding line of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) on “Tipping points, dynamics and interactions of social and ecological systems” (BioTip). The goal of the transdisciplinary research project is to examine the dynamics of the possible interactions in the urban metaecosystem. The Ruhr metropolitan region is the basis for the study. The project will identify tipping points in the region at which the quality and composition of the ecosystem is changing and the ecosystem services associated with it are declining. More indepth analysis will look at what the effects mean for urban biodiversity, human health and social living conditions. The aim at the end of the project is to arrive at strategies and management recommendations that can help to avoid passing a tipping point.

EUCOST Action: DNAqua-Net International Network

Nutrients, contaminants and climate change are endangering aquatic ecosystems and their ecosystem services worldwide. This has indirect consequences outside densely populated areas, but within cities there are many direct socio-economic consequences. According to the EU Water Framework Directive, all Member States must ensure that surface waters achieve or maintain “good status” by 2027. If effective measures are to be taken, identifying and recording species and populations of organisms living in the bodies of water is vital. DNA-based methods offer a quick, standardised and comprehensive way of doing this. The process takes only a few days from sample taking to compiling the species list of microbes to higher animals and costs little more than the procedures commonly used to date. However, there are still some technical and conceptual questions to answer before the DNA-based techniques can be used in existing processes.

This is precisely the problem picked up on by the international network DNAqua-Net, which launched in November at the UDE and will be funded by the EU for a total of four years. DNAqua- Net is a EU COST Action (Co-Operation in Science and Technology) of representatives from science, associations, authorities and industry.

Just one year after its launch, over 350 people from 47 countries are part of the international consortium. The network works in five research groups on concrete proposals as to how DNAbased techniques can be used to standardise measurement and analysis of biodiversity and ultimately make it part of monitoring practice. A variety of networking instruments, such as Short-Term Scientific Missions (STSMs), workshops, Conference Grants, Open Access Funding and Training Schools, support knowledge transfer between the participating partner countries, communication of methodological knowledge to practitioners, and many examples of cooperation at the interface between science and industry.

MARS – Managing Aquatic ecosystems and water Resources under multiple Stress

Human behaviour impacts to a particular degree on the aquatic ecosystems worldwide. Especially in densely populated regions, centuries of direct and indirect use have caused changes in water bodies, with negative consequences for sustainable human use. In Europe, they include deterioration in the quality of drinking water and groundwater, an increased risk of flooding, and impaired regeneration. The European Water Framework Directive is the legal basis for integrated management of groundwater and surface waters, the condition of which is adversely affected by multiple stressors.

The MARS project (Managing Aquatic ecosystems and water Resources under multiple Stress,, funded through the Seventh EU Framework Programme for Research, explores multiple stressors on different spatial scales: on the level of individual water bodies, experimental mesocosms show the effects of stressor pairs on selected biological parameters; sixteen case studies throughout Europe are exploring the effects of multiple stressors on ecological status and eco-system services in complete river catchment areas; at European level, crossborder data sets are being compiled and analysed to examine effects on water body status. The knowledge gained through these studies is used to develop water management tools and is the basis of a guideline on the management of rivers and lakes under multiple stressors.

Urban Logistics and Mobility, Production and Supply

Logistics processes run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They even carry on when life in the city slows down, at night for instance. Modern logistics are an important part of the necessary future transformation processes in the city. It is through logistics, for example, that systemoriented perspectives of future urban supply and mobility systems are possible. Logistics guarantee smooth resource procurement and production throughout the distribution chain into trade and to the end consumer, secure the supply of all basic needs, and are used to analyse and organise traffic flows inside and into urban areas.

In supply, the BMBF project “Innovative Logistics for Sustainable Lifestyles” (ILONA, 2015–2018, coordinated in the ZLV by Klaus Krumme and PD Dr. Ani Melkonyan) is the first priority area to be funded on logistics in the “Research for Sustainable Development” (FoNa) programme. The central concern in the project is with understanding and innovation of the interplay between supply chain services and sustainable lifestyles, also using tools such as system dynamics modelling. Case studies explore topics such as how regional urban food supply can be organised (around the city of Linz, Austria) and sustainable consumer behaviour in fashion/ecommerce.

In traffic, a project funded through the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRE) on “The Lower Rhine – a safe and secure logistics destination” (2016–2017) looks at stationary traffic in cities and the region, an area with hitherto underestimated potential for optimisation. Central questions of the study, which is coordinated by the Niederrhein Chamber of Industry and Commerce Duisburg-Wesel-Kleve and the ZLV (Prof. B. Noche, A. Hoene) include: Where and how can shipments and containers be stored safely? Where can goods vehicles drivers stay during their rest periods? What can intelligent control of transport operations bring to optimisation? The project’s goal is to work in dialogue with the relevant actors locally to identify and assess concepts, solutions and examples of bestpractice for the Lower Rhine region and indicate what action can be taken.

Urban Factory – Resource-Efficient Factories in the City

UDE subproject lead: Prof. Dr. J. Alexander Schmidt (ISS) Cooperation with the Institute of Urban Planning (ISS) at the UDE with TU Dortmund University, TU Braunschweig, and the Fraunhofer Institute Dortmund and industry partners Period: 2015 to June 2018

The “Urban Factory” project of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) works with model projects to build a knowledge platform on energy and resource efficiency of industry and production in the city. Modern factories can only be integrated in cities if they meet the highest energy standards and the lowest emission levels (odour, noise, pollutants). Factories and cities can make moves in this direction, primarily to lower energy consumption, on their own, but more comprehensive efforts are usually limited to isolated solutions (“green factories”). The Urban Factory research project looks for methods that can help to raise the overall potential for resource efficiency by connecting factories and the city.

The research project brings together the disciplines of industrial engineering, production, urban planning and development, logistics and energy design with companies, municipal authorities, utilities companies and citizens. The aim is to move away from the purely energybased focus of traditional efficiency initiatives, which take electricity as their only measure. This project is different because it extends to technologies and simulation/planning tools to develop methods that enable an integrated reduction in soil, fuel, gas or oil consumption and considers the vital role of urban society and its planning processes and participation.

NEMO Consortium Project – New Emscher Mobility: Integrated Scenarios for Sustainable Mobility in the Ruhr Region

The Emscher river conversion is an important driver of regional development in the Ruhr region. This process is not merely a major opportunity for ecological renewal of the waters and green space in the area; redeveloping the river system also opens up new urban planning perspectives, particularly in terms of sustainable mobility. In the course of the river conversion work, over 200 km of former service roads for the Emscher will be opened for public use, which is a unique opportunity for the transition to a greener transport system.

In NEMO, a collaborative project funded by Stiftung Mercator, an interdisciplinary team of researchers is exploring what a sustainable mobility system in the area around the Emscher could look like. They are working towards developing integrated scenarios that are based equally on urban planning and economic expertise and simultaneously incorporate the needs, ideas and wishes of local people. These perspectives are combined using innovative computerbased modelling to create a viable picture of future mobility in the Emscher area.

The project is conducted in close dialogue with the Regionalverband Ruhr (RVR) and Emschergenossenschaft (EGLV), as well as municipal authorities in the area covered by the study. This will ensure that planning and decisionmaking processes tie in with the NEMO studies. It is hoped that their arguments support local sustainable mobility concepts and the NEMO simulations confirm regional planning concepts or can make a scientifically verified case for decisions in favour of local development alternatives.

The partners of the project, which is headed by Prof. Dr. J. Alexander Schmidt, are the ZLV (PD Dr. Ani Melkonyan), the Institute of Land and Sea Transport Systems (ILS) of the Technische Universität Berlin, and DIALOGIK gGmbH Stuttgart.

Global Networks for Sustainable Urbanisation: Integrated Environment and Supply Chain Management

Several grants from the European Union (Erasmus+) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) made it possible for the ZWU and ZLV research centres to set up a number of joint initiatives. They dealt with international exchange, establishing excellence networks for sustainable urban development (SUD), particularly relating to key issues of urban industrial supply, the underlying ecological and resourcerelated aspects, and product service systems.

The projects are part of an overall concept and contain a strategic combination of environmental and supply chain management with a focus on urbanisation processes. “EnviChain – the Basis for Sustainable Development”, for example, gives undergraduates, doctoral candidates and established scientists from Egypt (Fayoum University, Arab Academy of Science, Technology and Maritime Transport) the chance to advance work on the “Water-Energy-Food-Security Nexus” and the related implications for (urban) development of Egypt and North Africa (EU Erasmus+, 2017-2018). DAAD grants for the “German-Arab Knowledge Colloquium” cover the entire Arabicspeaking world and were awarded for “Resilience of urban-industrial Systems” (2015) and “Knowledge on the Water Energy Food Security Nexus in the MENA Region” (2017).

The “WE-Chain” DAAD Summer Schools (funded after 2014 also in 2016) as part of the worldwide Leading Trade Fair for Environmental Technologies IFAT (Munich) were a source of dialogue between participants from all over the world on effective protection of urban resources and governance of ecosystem services, and redesigning product life cycles and value creation systems that are critical to sustainability. Participants in the ECoL Summer School on “Food Supply Chain” likewise came from all over the world to consider and discuss international cases and opportunities in food production and the food trade under the effects of climate change and urbanisation (DAAD 2017).

Urban Climate Protection

NRW-Fortschrittskolleg Energy Efficiency in the District – Clever supply.rebuild.activate

Project lead: Prof. Christa Reicher (TU Dortmund) UDE researchers: Prof. Angelika Heinzel, Prof. J. Alexander Schmidt, Prof. Christoph Weber; project partners at TU Dortmund, Ruhr University Bochum and Bochum University of Applied Sciences Period: 2014 to 2018

The NRW-Fortschrittskolleg is a graduate school funded by the NRW Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research and has 14 doctoral posts (one of which is funded by Stiftung Mercator). Its work focuses primarily on exploring the system innovations and structures that are necessary to achieve widespread implementation of energy efficiency measures in different types of urban districts. The research priorities fall into three categories: 1) socio-technical dynamics, 2) participants, governance and courses of action, and 3) superordinated contexts. Interaction between the individual doctoral projects produces disciplinary work in the graduate school while also revealing points of contact and connections to the other disciplines. These areas of overlap between the disciplines are especially important in transdisciplinary exchange.

Collaboration on Urban Climate Protection: Duisburg.Nachhaltig

Coordination: ZLV Coordination Office UDE project participants and partners: Institute of Construction Management (Prof. Alexander Malkwitz), Institute of Energy Technology (Prof. Angelika Heinzel), Institute of Energy Economics (Prof. Christoph Weber), European Development Centre for Ship Technology and Transport Systems (Dipl.-Ing. Berthold Holtmann), Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology (IUTA) (Prof. Dieter Bathen), Chair of Transport Systems and Logistics (Prof. Bernd Noche), UDE Sustainability Process (napro) (Prof. André Niemann)

Funded by the National Climate Initiative of the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB), researchers from the main research area of Urban Systems worked under the ZLV as coordinator with the City of Duisburg’s Climate Protection Office and partners from public works and municipal authorities and economic and community representatives to develop Duisburg’s climate protection concept Duisburg.Nachhaltig (Duisburg.Sustainable, 2015–2017). In a total of seven action areas, Duisburg’s special features as an urban industrial manufacturing location and its function as a European logistics hub were considered together with aspects of urban cultural diversity, sustainable urban mobility or the need to strengthen the local sharing economy. The project centres physically on the circular economy as the city’s metabolism, and socially on the joint production of knowledge in an urban centre of excellence.

The start of work on the project marked the beginning of a process of participation that is intended to mobilise large sections of the city’s population to meet the urban climate protection targets up to 2030 and beyond. The central strategy used in the project is Urban Transition Management (UTM) of the DRIFT Institute (Rotterdam) and the international ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) network. In future, UTM is to be controlled and implemented on the basis of the Duisburg “Sustainability Alliance”, which comprises actors from all groups of urban society.

Local transformation processes are informed by findings from the BMBF’s “Energy-Efficient City” initiative: the “Mobilität.Morgenstadt.Ruhr” priority project was funded between 2016 and 2017 and makes the findings and tools valid and applicable for Duisburg. A Web 2.0 platform operates on the clearing house principle: with technological support, an action committee compiles existing knowledge, develops and discusses new ideas and implements them as agreed. A major distinction between this and other platforms is that content can be created and edited by every user (regardless of association membership or institutional affiliation), which means that it can remain comprehensive and up to date in the long term (open source).

BMBF Project: Subproject under the “Climate Initiative Essen – Action in a New Climate Culture”: Measuring and recording the walkability of urban spaces

UDE subproject lead: Prof. Dr. J. Alexander Schmidt, Institute of City Planning and Urban Design (ISS) In cooperation with the Centre for Logistics and Traffic, the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI) and the City of Essen Period: 2011 to 2017

Street layout can have long-term effects on mobility behaviour in a neighbourhood. The concept of walkability relates from a planning perspective to an environment that encourages movement; measuring walkability is a way of gathering information for policy-makers and planners. The study sets out to test different methods of measuring walkability. It focuses on mixed-use areas of neighbourhoods, where walkability is a major part of everyday mobility and social participation. Seven study areas in Essen were examined for their walkability using a tool developed in the project, “Integrated Walkability Audit on the Microlevel” (IWAM), and compared with results of analysis on the macro level (city as a whole). The study showed that the macro- level results do not coincide with those on the micro level, or that they differ from area to area or segment to segment. Smaller-scale analysis at street level and additional surveys are therefore needed to better understand walkability.

Urban Health Research

Relationship between Street Traffic Noise and Green Spaces and Subjective and Mental Health

In an effort to gain insights into the complex relationships between the built and social environment and health, researchers led by Prof. Susanne Moebus analysed the associations between street traffic noise and green living spaces with different health effects.

Many people are affected by traffic noise in urban areas. Major international studies have already shown that noise can have negative effects on health (e.g. cardiovascular disorders). Although it is not disputed that noise is a trigger for stress, little is known about the relationship between noise and the symptoms of depression. To find out more, an initial study was conducted of 3,300 participants in the population-based Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (aged between 45 and 75) in Bochum, Essen and Mülheim/Ruhr, who at the beginning of the study (2000–2003) showed no symptoms of depression. Noise was measured at the subjects’ homes using noise maps in accordance with European guidelines. A high noise level was defined as the annual average for 24h noise of >55db(A). The results show that around 40% of participants are subject to a high noise level. After a five-year period, 9% of participants developed symptoms of depression. The findings indicate that participants who live on streets with a high level of traffic noise (> 55dB(A)) have a 29% higher risk of developing symptoms of depression than those who live on comparatively quiet streets (≤55dB(A)). It was also shown that less well educated participants (≤ 13 years of formal education) were more sensitive to noise.

Another analysis took a closer look at green living spaces and subjective health, neighbourhood satisfaction and perceived security and social relations (social contentment, neighbourhood social capital) in connection with occurrence of depression. The database of the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study was similarly used in this analysis. Green space was calculated from satellite image data using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) in a 100m zone around the subjects’ home addresses. The results suggest that the NDVI has a positive association with neighbourhood satisfaction and high neighbourhood social capital. Perceived poor health was negatively associated with neighbourhood satisfaction and neighbourhood social capital. Overall, these studies help to create a better understanding of the relationship between the built and social environment and health, and supply empirical data to support the findings.