Urban Future - "Resource Efficient City of Tomorrow"

Challenges fort he cities of tomorrow with research issues referring to resource management, efficiency and technology development

Short Description




Due to the ongoing trend of global urbanization, more than two-thirds of the world population will live in cities by the middle of this century. The city is the human habitat of the future. Cities are the centers of human activities and as such, centers of culture, innovation and economic activity as well as focal points of global resource consumption and social conflicts. Although urban areas cover only 2% of the earth's surface, they are responsible for 75% of the global resource consumption and for 80% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, cities open many chances for sustainable development. In our modern society, profound technological, economical and social changes are taking place. The so called megatrends (demographic trends, globalization, climate change, economic change, global resource depletion, etc.) have a far-reaching impact on urban developments. The resulting challenges for the city of the future can be structured into the following areas:

  • urban structure
  • energy
  • water and wastewater
  • products and wastes
  • mobility
  • economy
  • urban management
  • man and environment

Projects all over the world show that the implementation of sustainable cities has already begun. Curitiba, solarCity Linz Pichling, Bo01 Malmö, Dongtan and Masdar are some seminal examples for sustainable urban developments. Currently most of these best practice examples are based on a new development on a greenfield site. In Europe one of the main questions is, how to deal with the existing structures of historically evolved cities. Cities have to develop new ways, how to remain their function in an uncertain, dynamic environment. It is expected, that cities for 2-3 billion people have to be built until 2050, most of them in developing countries and transition countries.

Due to existing birth-rate trends, the world's population is expected to reach its peak in 2060 and then will start to shrink again. In the year 2150 the world's population will be only 5 billion people again. These developments challenge us to fundamentally rethink the way cities are designed. Today, we live in yesterday's cities. The current urban structure is largely based on the cheap availability of resources like fossil fuels. Increasing resource depletion will result in higher, more volatile prices and limited availability of indispensable resources, which will impose significant pressure on urban systems. Many technological solutions (e-mobility,…) on that problem carry a risk of reducing the dependency on fossil fuels but on the other hand creating new dependencies on other scarce resources.

The changing demands on cities call for innovative approaches to city retrofit and city renewal. One of the central challenges is how to develop modern, efficient and forward-looking cities while remaining the charm and the heritage of the historically evolved cities. The challenges of global urbanization generate a considerable demand on sustainable urban solutions. Construction, maintenance and reconstruction of urban infrastructure are capitalintensive sectors. Thus the adaptation of the current infrastructure systems requires new business and financing models. In particular shrinking regions have huge problems in financing their infrastructure. Sustainable urban development has to reduce urban resource consumption. The central question is, how to satisfy human demands like nurture, work, communication or transportation in a resource efficient way.

The topic “city of the future” is a strategic topic for Austrian RDI-policies, which tackles central societal issues. The bundling of existing R&D strengths (passive house technologies, environmental technologies, transportation technologies, energy technologies,…) in the focus topic “city of the future” facilitates a converging development and allows the utilization of synergies among the diversified competences of the Austrian R&D portfolio. The complexity of urban systems and growing sustainability requirements call for integrative research, interand transdisciplinary cooperation and cooperative technology development. Thus efficient structures and an adequate framework have to be established, which support integrative research. Austrian companies have technological knowhow in all relevant sectors, in some subdomains, Austrian companies are even market leaders or technological leaders. It can be concluded, that the fundamental scientific and technological requirements for an R&D focus on the topic “city of the future” are fulfilled. Due to the complexity of the topic, strong international cooperation is recommended. Ultimately, it can be concluded, that

  • urban technologies represent a large future market.
  • overall concepts and system solutions are increasingly important.
  • the demand is concentrated in cities.
  • system solutions require holistic approaches and have to fulfill sustainability criteria.
  • Austrian companies are already active in the market.
  • appropriate R&D subsidization would extend the lead of Austrian companies.

Contact Address

DI Richard Obernosterer
RMA Ressourcen Management Agentur
9524 Villach, Europastraße 8
Tel.: +43 (4242) 3652224
E-Mail: richard.obernosterer@rma.at
Web: www.rma.at