Cities as Living Organisms

In 2050, cities adjust and transform to adapt themselves to changing conditions – like organisms living in harmony with their surroundings. Like all living organisms, future cities have the ability to recover from the effects and impacts of changes, such as climatic and weather conditions. The people benefit from the resilience of their cities, and they enjoy an environment in which urbanisation and nature go hand in hand. They also contribute to the resilience of the city. They care for nature, and respect its value. The public spaces provide a good atmosphere and help to build social cohesion and inclusion. The city is constantly adjusting, to optimally respond to environmental and social changes.

Urban Living Labs (ULLs) framework and the co-creation toolkit developed in UNaLab collect all of the instruments used for the co-creation and experimentation of innovative solutions in a real-life urban environment together with the engagement of citizens and all relevant stakeholder groups in a city.

Cities as living organisms

Leveraging Natural Value at Micro and Macro Level

In 2050, there is a balance between cities and their surrounding natural and rural areas. Cities, especially in Europe, take careful decisions on their maximum size, in relation to affordable limits of natural resources and a high quality of life. At the same time, (technological) solutions enhance life and work in the city’s surroundings, making the city an integral part of its landscape, in harmony with agriculture and nature. A holistic view of nature in and around the city ensures that all value and benefits are captured. There is a good understanding of how smaller and larger green and blue areas contribute to the micro and macro climate, and how the two influence and need each other. There is a deep respect for ecosystem services provided outside the city, such as maintaining nature and biodiversity outside the city. This results in more and better jobs for people in rural areas.

Value Model, a framework developed within UNaLab, provides cities with an instrument to leverage capital for NBS co-development and co-implementation where business models are not applicable due to an indefinable value chain and unclear assignment of benefits to specific beneficiaries.

Leveraging natural value at micro and macro level

Reinventing Nature in the City

In 2050, designing cities for a high quality of life has reached a new level. We revalue our European heritage of designing cities on a human scale, with places that satisfy the wish for both enjoyment and beauty by benefiting fully from their local contexts. For example by providing a hilltop park with an attractive sunset view, or by creating a green riverside boulevard. The overall city planning is based on a holistic vision of a healthy and enjoyable living environments. Here, green spaces serve as ‘lungs’ and ‘air conditioners’, and water as ‘arteries’. Natural solutions are used to offer people comfort – for example with trees providing shade in warm regions, and green areas with ponds to collect rainwater in wet regions. Urban spaces, squares and boulevards are combined with green and water to create pleasant places that are also resilient to extreme weather events. Green areas in each neighbourhood allow recreation in people’s own surroundings, and connected green areas — such as gardens, urban forests and parks — make it easy for pedestrians and cyclists to move around the city. The transformation towards cities that embrace nature is driven by citizens themselves, who want to implement solutions they have enjoyed in other places.

Open Nature Innovation Arena (ONIA) developed in UNaLab supports the co-creation process. It can be utilised for problem identification, NBS co-creation and feedback collection. ONIA enables challenge management as a public call to participation to solve a local problem, and further analysis and improvement of the ideas proposed by the citizens as ensures transparency for voting and selecting the ‘best’ ideas.

Reinventing nature in the city

Synergy in Nature & Augmented Technology

In 2050, nature and technology go hand in hand. Technology is used to collect data and monitor nature. This leads to a deep understanding of the factors influencing the health of nature and nature-based solutions. This knowledge allows nature to flourish in and around the city – for example with organic food production augmented by hightech to optimise resources and make cities self-sufficient. In this way science provides new solutions, together with evidence of the impact of the solutions implemented in the city. Data enables fact-based decision-making and building the overall economic case, including any expected downside risks. In this way technology supports better designs, and helps to gain acceptance of the solutions by citizens. Ethics and morality are safeguarded by ensuring people are always in control, and are free to take their own decisions.

City Performance Monitor (CPM) developed in UNaLab aims to facilitate the participatory planning process along the NBS co-creation process synthesising and presenting indicators in a user-friendly manner. In CPM, it is possible to track the progress towards the goals and objectives set during the co-creation and target setting phases of NBS implementation. Evidence generated thanks to CPM can be used for informing decision-making and securing the future investments for the NBS replication.

Synergy in nature and augmented technology

Tailored Use of Limited Resources

In 2050, small-scale local manufacturing and services provide a secure supply of products and services tailored to individual needs. Short supply chains can easily be upscaled and downscaled as needed, contributing to resilience. People actively participate in decision-making on the use of scarce resources and measures to make the city climate-resilient. This results in an awareness of the value of (natural) resources such as water, wind and sun, with people using these wisely. All flows to, from and within the city are monitored to understand the need for these resources and their availability. Circular systems are implemented to ensure zero waste of materials, energy and water. Companies provide expertise and create incentives for people to invest in nature based solutions for climate and water resilience.

Systemic Decision Support Tool (SDST) developed in UNaLab support understanding of NBS impacts, participatory planning and decision-making. SDST can be employed during the co-creation process allowing stakeholders to visualise and discuss the potential direct and indirect environmental, social and economic impacts of no-action as compared to implementation of selected nature-based solutions (NBS) in scenarios without or with climate change and/or population growth

Tailored use of limited resources

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