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The sustainable character of the smart city

Jos Hesselink • 23/03/2022
Cities are increasingly adopting smart solutions to achieve energy and environmental objectives.

Street lighting will be replaced by LED lamps, city buses will be electric and where possible a DIFTAR waste collection will be introduced. Creative information campaigns point out to residents of cities that achieving these environmental objectives is not possible without, for example, an urban solar and/or wind energy location or extra bicycle paths.

The big risk is that these 'one-size fits all' solutions are not equally easy to apply everywhere. There are major differences in the speed of adaptation and development between cities. Not surprising in itself: because so many people want so much. The extent to which city dwellers are or are not open to innovation and the way in which they respond to the implementation of sustainability concepts differs from city to city. After all, every city has its own culture, political signature and, in combination with divergent climatic conditions, this requires a very focused approach.

However, the United Nations has a much broader definition and sees the smart and sustainable city primarily as an innovative city that uses IT and other resources to improve the quality of life, efficiency of public services and competitiveness. At the same time, this innovative city must ensure that it meets the needs of current and future generations of inhabitants with regard to economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects.

Citizen involvement is essential for a successful energy transition. Rapid implementation of measures that could have a major impact on the wallet or the living environment are thus initially avoided. Various cities are experimenting with public-private projects around smart and local energy generation and storage and share their findings regarding these Positive Energy Districts (PED) with each other in a partnership such as ATELIER.

This project is funded by the European Commission and aims to exchange knowledge and expertise in the development of new PEDs in European cities. Based on successful projects in Amsterdam and Bilbao, all available knowledge and information about project management, technical implementation and stakeholder management is shared, so that any city that wants can start using this toolbox.
Policymakers who tinker with and build a more sustainable city need the involvement of stakeholders such as investors, planners and advisors who take up their role and contribute to this collaboration.

The successful implementation of smart and sustainable solutions in cities is therefore not so much related to the implementation of the technology, but much more to making available the knowledge and best practices acquired in other cities. So that cities can follow their own path to smart sustainability, in line with the location and nature of the city.

A column by Jos Hesselink is published every month on a topic related to the value of the city. In this he gives his vision on the social relevance of cities, urban development and therefore also real estate. This vision is the result of internal research and dialogue with internal and external stakeholders, in close collaboration with consultants and analysts from our Real Estate Strategy & Innovation team. More background can be found in the white paper: the sustainable nature of a smart city.

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About Real Estate Strategy & Innovation

Real Estate Strategy & Innovation in the Netherlands consists of analysts in the field of sustainability, strategy, area development, market intelligence, business intelligence, digital business, data and GIS. We provide data-driven strategic real estate advice to our clients, which consist of users, investors, financiers and the government. Advice that is substantiated with our broad real estate knowledge and in-depth analyzes based on our real estate data.

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