Circular cities: The future of urban spaces

With increased urbanisation, also urban planning is facing greater challenges - Circular cities can be a possible solution for that circular cities

Circular Cities

Author: Ilka Bröskamp

More than half of the world's population is already living in cities and, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 85% of GDP is being generated here. Urban habitats also play an important role as producers and consumers of natural resources. Because they are responsible for 50% of global waste production and 60-80% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Increasing social inequalities, climate change and global pandemics are confronting cities with growing challenges and urban city planning needs to master these in future. Circular cities can address many of those problems. As these modern urban cities combine approaches of smart cities and circular economy. While car-sharing, co-housing, Inclusion and self-sufficient economic models are some of the trends that are being considered. We take a closer look at the promising model of circular cities and its benefits.

What are circular cities?

While there is no general definition for the concept of circular cities yet, it has a clear vision: circular cities bind the principles of circular economy in all areas, including:

  • Green infrastructure and regeneration
  • Smart City and modern mobility
  • Inclusion and accessibility
  • Strengthening of local markets and production
  • Sustainable management and leadership

Circular Cities: New urban systems via modern technology

An urban system is being created, that is regenerative and accessible for everybody. By this way climate goals, such as avoiding waste, using renewable energy and resources or reducing CO2 emissions, are tracked by default. The application and development of modern technologies have an important and supporting function. Above all, this approach applies to new models of mobility and a green infrastructure.

But not only economic factors are important. Social aspects are increasingly taking the center-stage. In addition to generating wealth, circular city systems primarily aim to increase the quality of life for their residents.

Animation of the Berlin Tegel project Quartierplatz

Source & Copyright by Berlin TXL

Promotion of local markets and self-sufficiency

In addition to goods and capital, people must also be integrated into the circular flow of values. Circular cities offer many opportunities to achieve this goal. For example, jobs can be created by strengthening local markets. By this way unemployed people, who have been left behind by the linear economic system, gain access to the labor market and become an active part of the economy again.

In addition, circular cities aim to revitalize the local production of goods. By means of strengthening regional supply networks. Last but not least, the corona pandemic has shown how fragile international supply chains can be in crises and how important it is for cities to be self-sufficient.

Social and economic integration

Above all, a change in management structures is essential for the implementation of these circular strategies – politically, as well as in companies and society. Values of the circular economy, ecological energy and sustainability must be an indispensable part of businesses.

Circularity always alos means connectedness. Circular cities not only enable people to connect with each other, they particularly connect affluent with lower-income parts of the city. An exchange between large corporations and young start-ups is being created. This also ensures that government and non-profit organisations work together in an inclusive way.

Another positive side effect: Strengthening the community offers the opportunity to turn individual consumers into users of shared goods and services. Car sharing-, co-housing- and similar models are showing how sharing economy can work. The advantages, especially in terms of sustainability, are obvious.

Conclusion: Circular cities as a future urban model

Circular cities need a systemic change. Away from old patterns towards more sustainable structures. Circular principles are already being implemented in urban living spaces in Western Europe. Cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Glasgow and Peterborough in the Netherlands and Great Britain are pioneering at the moment. With the Project TXL there is also a best practice example in Germany.

Due to its high concentration of people, resources, capital and technology in a relatively small geographical area, cities have the potential to significantly advance global change towards a more sustainable, circular economy.


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