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1Urbanization and reurbanization are characteristic features of development in the early 21st century, a global megatrend. Cities, where over 50% of the world’s population now live (and this share is increasing; cf. UN 2015), account for the most global economic performance, consumption of energy, greenhouse gas production, and amounts of waste produced. But on the other hand, cities also offer best opportunities for dealing with current challenges as “engines of innovations” and transformation processes in prior centuries. Urban actors can create synergies of people, resources, human and financial capital, and potential innovation skills and networks. So cities are both: responsible for and affected by global change. They pose not only significant risks but also provide great opportunities to advance sustainable development. The dense and compact city has the potential to be a sustainable and resource-saving living space when multifunctional structures, a well integrated transportation infrastructure network and democratic development processes are given. Sustainable urban futures require a focus on the needs of humans, environmental friendliness and health.

2This book is based on contributions to the international symposium on “Sustainable Urban Development at Different Scales” organized by the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany, in May 2014. The symposium took the global urbanization and reurbanization trend as an occasion to discuss cities as sustainable living spaces. The event “brought together experiences from theory and practice as well as different cultural and disciplinary perspectives on current issues of sustainable urban development at different scales and in different local contexts” (Quint/Albiez 2014, p. 116).

3The symposium was held in cooperation with the Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL, U.S., and the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Budapest, Hungary. This was the 10th symposium of the trans-Atlantic research initiative “Forum on Sustainable Technological Development in a Globalizing World” initiated in 2002 in Budapest.1 Details on these past conferences are provided at the end of this introduction.

4The conference examined several cross-cutting features of urban and institutional sustainability. The research highlighted examples from Europe, Asia, North and South America. Results suggest that geographic and socio-economic differences in urban sustainability can occur across continents and within. Complex systems interplay among economic, social and environmental sub-systems were evident in many case studies. Optimizing the communication of technical information between sometimes polarized stakeholders and government agencies can be central to measurable advances with sustainability challenges.

5Examples from countries worldwide show that leadership in urban and regional sustainability has been advanced by universities and associated institutions. Such institutions along with the increasingly diverse and effective NGO community have collectively educated new sustainability leaders, provided proof-of-concept of applied projects, and through research and development, helped drive government and industry innovation.

6In research and policy approaches, priority is often given to advances in sustainable development activities in urban and metropolitan regions. It is necessary to consider and address the most relevant problems, risk factors, and constraints including climate change, environmental pollution, resource scarcity, demographics and immigration dynamics, social inequality and fragmentation. Technical questions for problem solving include relevant socio-economic, institutional, and organizational aspects.

7The increasing differentiation of urban space requires an intensive discussion of the challenges of its sustainable development at different scales. A growing number of megacities are in contrast to other cities in western societies. Additionally, the meaning of the local scale with its cultural and social specificities gains importance in the context of urban transformation (cf. Quint/Parodi 2014; Schnur 2014). This pushes forward the relevance of districts in research and development. All in all, spacial scales include those equal to or below that of the entire city and city region (meta level) with a focus on neighborhoods down to individual elements of the built city, e.g., buildings (meso level). Questions of assessment, community governance, environmental quality, housing provision and land use planning play a central role in the search for suitable conceptual and methodological approaches.

8The needs and real living conditions of people can be well identified and analyzed at these intermediate, district scales. Elements of community, identity, commitment, participation, and solidarity are more tangible and easier to examine compared with the higher-scales of a city. Issues such as mobility, traditional supply systems, and interactions between different economic, technological, natural, and social sub-systems can be better analyzed and managed at this level. Therefore district-scales play an important role for urban transitions to more sustainable practices. Integrative approaches including the different dimensions of sustainability, diverse technical disciplines, and business and government sectors are essential to these studies.

9The main objectives of the 10th symposium of the “Forum on Sustainable Technological Development in a Globalizing World” were to address the above areas of research on urban systems and their interrelations, to reflect on the different types and functions of district-scale issues, and to discuss previous experiences with practical implementation in the design and application of concepts, assessment methods, and actions towards more sustainable urban systems.


10This book is divided into four sections: Framework (1), Research and Development Processes (2), Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainable Cities (3), and Sustainable Universities (4). Sustainable Development is generally known as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED 1987, p. 41). An important element of this definition is inter-and intra-generational equity.

11Section One deals with this temporal element in several manners: Kerstin Gothe focuses on the current challenges of sustainable development from the perspective of urban planning. Armin Grunwald discusses questions which are essential for shaping cities in the future. Thomas Lützkendorf and Maria Balouktsi give an overview of different types of Sustainable Assessment Systems for new and existing neighborhoods in Germany.

12The focus of Section Two lies in research and development processes in realizing urban sustainable development. Oliver Parodi, Marius Albiez, Sarah Meyer-Soylu and Colette Waitz use transdisciplinary research approaches to examine the transformation of an existing district of the city of Karlsruhe, Germany, into a sustainable district. In this context, active participation and experiments in an Urban Transition Lab play major roles to foster urban sustainable development and generate transformational knowledge. The chapters by Albert Geiger and by Ildiko Tulbure emphasize the roles of national governments and city administrations in sustainable development and local citizen participation. Appukuttan Damodaran’s and Tanushree Haldar’s research on climate stress and unsustainable resource utilization systems in peri-urban villages in Bangalore shows the importance of locality, ecosystem management, and cultural aspects in sustainable development processes.

13All over the world, city populations are increasing. Urban conditions like limited space and high population pressures, as well as imports of energy and goods, make cities vulnerable to ecological, societal and economic challenges multiplied by climate change, demographic change, and destruction of ecosystems (cf. Rees 2012, pp. 262–265). However, cities offer spaces for new progressive ideas and opportunities to foster urban sustainable development and resilience. In Section Three, these two sides of the same coin are faced from a European point of view. Anja Szypulski examines the potential of co-housing for sustainable neighborhood development and discusses both obstacles and possibilities. The chapter by Sandra Huning focuses on the importance of gender, class, ethnicity, and other categories of social differentiation in terms of ways that urban spaces can be used in equitable manners. Freya Brandl’s work on converting existing flats into communal apartments, emphasizes the role of communal-living in the context of an ageing society. This approach can reduce costs, support energy efficiency and foster social exchange. It also fits in with other examples of the sharing economy.

14Urban universities have been essential engines of innovation for centuries and can serve as models for theoretical and applied research into sustainability across disciplines. In Section Four, Ingrid Hemmer and Peter Bagoly-Simó discuss relationships among universities and sustainable development in Germany using the example of the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt. Finally, Kenyon Lindeman shares experiences from the U.S. in developing four-year academic programs in Sustainability Studies at Florida institute of Technology and the utility of systems science in helping students decompose complexity among highly interdisciplinary subjects. In addition, some primary issues that were examined during the symposium are summarized in a separate outlet (cf. Quint/Albiez 2014).

15These chapters highlight examples from Germany, several other European countries, India, and the US. Geographic and socio-economic differences in urban sustainability can occur across continents and within. In some regions, urban planning is often focused on re-inventing older, existing cities, while elsewhere, planning can be focused on managing rapid growth in new cities. Complex system interplay among economic, social and environmental sub-systems were evident in many case studies. The history of urban planning is well-developed in Europe compared to some other areas and there is evidence that collective foresight in community planning may contribute to more proactive societal responses to emerging challenges such as climate change than in areas without long traditions of urban and regional planning.

16Especially in Europe, at least two general trends in the field of urban sustainable development appeared to be present. There are community-based approaches by civil society organizations like the Transition Town movement and there are approaches to develop technological innovations to improve sustainable development by companies or research establishments (cf. Quint/Albiez 2014). Both trends are embedded in their own institutional or social structures and follow their own logic, but they should not be understood as two separate paths. We have to combine both strategies to develop participative, well-adjusted approaches to face different challenges and dilemmas. Usually, this combination does not occur without conflicts. Therefore, we have to consider different stakeholder interests and the ability to satisfy them. It is equally necessary to include specific local and cultural conditions: every society should decide on its understanding of sustainability and the way to realize it.

17In this case, Urban Transition Labs (see chapter 2, Parodi et al.) are a new and very interesting approach because they fulfill various functions and they offer spaces to examine new societal and technological innovations to improve sustainable development in a defined urban environment. They also further reduce boundaries between scientists and non-academics. Given the challenges, experimentation and education are not enough. How will we deal with coastal mega-cities with increasing sea level rise? How can we stop the deterioration of global ecosystems? How can we prevent increasing social inequality and the unavoidable cascade effects? This book cannot answer all of these questions but we hope it will advance the development of applied solutions.


18This volume would not exist if the authors had not been willing to comply with the requests of the editors regarding deadlines and other specifications. Thank you very much for this. We would also like to thank Georg B. Kaiser, Hohen Neuendorf near Berlin, who was in charge of the “formal” harmonization and design of this volume, Katja Saar, Karlsruhe, for the graphic layout, and KIT Scientific Publishing, Karlsruhe, for printing. In the U.S, we would like to thank Gordon Nelson for his leadership, Siemens AG for financial support, Morgan Wilson for data inputs, and Bryan Lindeman and Beth Schoppaul for assisting text reviews. Last but not least, the editors owe their thanks to Jürgen Kopfmüller and Oliver Parodi from ITAS for their conceptual and to ITAS and the KIT Focus Project on Humans and Technology for their financial support which was essential for both the symposium and the printing of this volume.

19The editors would also like to express their hope that more applied scientific efforts on the issues examined here will follow, with new, societally important perspectives and applications. We are hopeful this work will exist not only as “book knowledge”, but will also soon be reflected in measureable increases towards more sustainable practices at all scales.

A Short History of these Conferences

20Two universities, Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech) located in Melbourne, Florida, and the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) have been cooperating since September 2001, supported by a U.S. State Department CUAP Grant for three years on environmental protection and environmentally sustainable technologies. The then existing Department of Innovation Studies and History of Technology at BME also had a long period of prior cooperation with the Institute of Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the (former) Research Center of Karlsruhe (Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe – FZK), now the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). When BME and Florida Tech personnel met in June 2002 to conduct a “Sustainable Tourism” workshop with participants from ITAS, they discussed the idea to initiate and develop a forum devoted to assessing how technological development can be made sustainable. The decision was made that these institutions would try to develop and realize international workshops devoted to this goal in Hungary, Germany and the U.S., alternating if possible. The resulting workshops were:

  • 2003: “Rationality in an Uncertain World”, Budapest, Hungary, December 4–6;
  • 2005: “Sustainability’s New Age, Preservation & Planning (SNAP)”, Melbourne/FL, U.S., February 2l–23;
  • 2005: “Converging Technologies – Promises and Challenges”, Budapest, Hungary, December 8–10;
  • 2007: “Sustainable Pathways: New Research and Practices”, Melbourne/FL, U.S., March 6–7;
  • 2007: “Foresight, Roadmapping, and Governance”, Budapest, Hungary, December 7–8;
  • 2009: “Sustainability 2009: The Next Horizon”, Melbourne/FL, U.S., March 3–4;
  • 2010: “Sustainability 2010: The Cultural Dimension”, Berlin, Germany, June 9–12;
  • 2011: “Sustainability 2011: Is It Worth It?”, Melbourne/FL, U.S., March 8–9;
  • 2012: “Regional Aspects of Sustainability”, Eger, Hungary, June 7–9.

21Published materials of the earlier conferences include (in chronological order):

  • Nelson, G.; Hronszky, I. (eds.): How Science Can Support Environmental Protection? Florida tech-BME Partnership Programme Yearbook 2003. Budapest 2003
  • Nelson, G.; Hronszky, I. (eds.): Science Supporting Environmental Protection. Budapest 2004
  • Banse, G.; Hronszky, I.; Nelson, G. (eds.): Rationality in an Uncertain World. Berlin 2005
  • Nelson, G.; Hronszky, I. (eds.): Environmental Studies. Implications for Sustainability. Budapest 2005
  • Banse, G.; Grunwald, A.; Hronszky, I.; Nelson, G. (eds.): Assessing Societal Implications of Converging Technological Development. Berlin 2007
  • Hronszky, I.; Nelson, G. (eds.): An International Forum on Sustainability. Budapest 2008
  • Nelson, G. L.; Hronszky, I. (eds.): Sustainability 2009: The Next Horizon. Melville, NY 2009 (AIP Conference Proceedings, Vol. 1157)
  • Banse, G.; Nelson, G. L.; Parodi, O. (eds.): Sustainable Development – The Cultural Perspective. Concepts – Aspects – Examples. Berlin 2011
  • Banse, G.; Grunwald, A.; Hronszky, I.; Nelson, G. L. (eds.): On Prospective Technology Studies. Karlsruhe 2011 (KIT Scientific Reports 7599)
  • Periodica Oeconomica 2012. Research Papers from the Field of Economic Science. Special Issue on the Regional Aspects of Sustainability. – URL: http://www.gti.ektf.hu/PO2012.html



Quint, A.; Albiez, M. (2014): Sustainable Cities: Challenges and Opportunities at Different Scales. Report from the International Conference “Sustainability 2014: Future Urban Development at Different Scales”. Karlsruhe, Germany, May 7–9, 2014. In: TATuP – Technikfolgenabschätzung. Theorie und Praxis, Vol. 23 (2014), No. 3 (November), pp. 116–118

Quint, A.; Parodi, O. (2014): Die europäische Stadt. Wege zur Nachhaltigkeit. In: Verantwortung Zukunft No. 2, pp. 42–46 (in German)

Rees, W. (2012): Cities as Dissipative Structures: Global Change and the Vulnerability of Urban Civilization. In Weinstein, M. P.; Turner, E. T. (eds.): Sustainability Science. The Emerging Paradigm and the Urban Environment. New York a.o.p., pp. 247–273

Schnur, O. (2014): Renaissance des Lokalen – Quartiere im Fokus von Wissenschaft und Politik. In: Ministerium für Bauen, Wohnen, Stadtentwicklung und Verkehr des Landes NRW (ed.): Bericht zur Stadtentwicklung 2013 – Quartiere im Fokus. Düsseldorf, pp. 6–10 (in German)

WCED – World Commission on Environment and Development (1987): Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future (Brundtland Report). Oxford

UN – United Nations (2015): World Urbanization Prospects. The 2014 Revision. New York (UN, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division).–URL: http://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/Publications/Files/WUP2014-Report.pdf

Notes de bas de page

1 Cf. http://www.itas.fzk.de/tatup/041/itas-news.htm.

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