III: Lessons learnt for circular cities and development

Implementation: pathways, levers and dynamics

Circular cities and development pathways

There are considerable differences in the way “circular” is conceptualised across the cities studied. In London the conceptualisation is economic. In Amsterdam a dualism appears between circular economy and circular development, although the linkages between the two are acknowledged. In Paris and Stockholm, a much more holistic conceptualisation of circular development has emerged. Circular actions are most clearly territorialised in Paris and Amsterdam. There is also some variation in motivations for becoming circular cities. The emphasis on social solidarity as a motivation for circularity demarcates Paris’s motivations for circular development from the other cities studied.

The case studies also demonstrate several common features. First, there is a tendency to focus on circular economy rather than circular development in circular strategies. Second, the motivations for doing so are largely economic and environmental. Third, there is a propensity to concentrate on looping actions, rather than regenerative and adaptive actions within the circular strategies (although links maybe made). These looping actions include the reuse, recycling of materials and water, or energy and heat recovery. Fourth, circular cities focus on the localised looping of organic (including soil, food, sewage) and construction waste streams, because these offer greater economic opportunity. Fifth, circular cities replace existing grey infrastructure with recyclable, adaptable and blue- green infrastructure to aid the looping of materials and water. Finally, there are also commonalities in the levers for circular transformation. These tend to be capacity building, regulatory and fiscal instruments, leveraged by land or financial incentives. The cities demonstrate there are several circular development pathways, even within a European context. Amongst the case studies three circular development pathways have emerged: city-regional, eco-district and temporary-experimental pathways.

I City-regional pathway

A city-regional pathway has been adopted in Amsterdam, Stockholm and Paris. This takes two forms. First, where development facilitates the localised looping of resources (organic, waste-water and construction waste) within the city- region. Closing these resource loops offers significant economic opportunities. It also increases urban resilience (by addressing resource security) and improves the health of the urban ecosystem (cleansing soils and water). It is supported by the spatial development plan.

Second, where strategic programmes have been set-up to encourage the development of all circular activities by repurposing sites and buildings across the city-region (e.g. Paris Reinvented). These programmes enable the city to adapt to the changing urban context and often incorporate ecologically regenerative actions. The key levers for transformation include public land, funding and databases linking projects with appropriate spaces. Both city-regional pathways impact on land-use, urban form and infrastructure.

II Temporary-experimental pathway

Grass-root, temporary experiments provide the opportunity to test the feasibility of circular activities for a short-time period in space-scarce cities (e.g. de Ceu- vel, Les Voisins, Bellastock, Brixton experiments). This development pathway relies on the use of temporary sites and the engagement of community and small businesses to implement circular activities. It is facilitated by temporary planning permissions and in some cases limited funding. However, a lack of affordable space and competition for sites is a problem, particularly in ensuring a sustained circular transformation.

III Eco-district pathway

Planned eco-districts (QEOP, SRSP, Hammarby and Clichy Batignolles) have resource looping, ecologically regenerative and adaptive capacities incorporated into their design, infrastructure systems and development processes. Circular principles have been adopted by QEOP, SRSP and Clichy Batignolles in the construction and disposal processes; the design of infrastructure; the water supply system and the ecological regeneration of the sites. All of these projects are large-scale, new build developments on prestigious sites. The key levers for transformation include significant public funding, release of public land and regulation (planning conditions and contractual agreements).

Thus, the case studies begin to inform a typology for circular development pathways. This typology can be tested and developed through further investigation across the existing and emerging circular cities in Europe.

Levers for circular development

Amongst the case studies a common set of levers for circular development have also emerged (Figure 7.1). Policies and goals provide the strategic vision for the cities to adopt a circular development pathway. These inform the local decisionmaking process and help to prioritise circular actions. This is particularly important when there are competing priorities and pressures on scarce land. Planning provides the main tool for implementing circular development. Contractual agreements are the legal instrument used to enforce it. These are particularly applicable to publicly owned land. In Amsterdam, circular land release and contracts have been used to encourage the adoption of circular development.

Spatial plans focus on development and bring together the three circular actions. They can be used to allocate land for circular activities (e.g. Amsterdam) or to ensure the mixture of uses, urban form and infrastructure support circular activities (e.g. Stockholm). It is important that the synergies between circular actions are acknowledged in the plan (e.g. Amsterdam) or through linkages identified across several plans (e.g. Paris). Where actions are dealt with separately (e.g. London Plan) the important synergies (and conflicts) which emerge from taking a more holistic view are lost. Planning conditions can also impede circular development. Moving from a prescriptive to a performance-based approach enables a range of responses to achieving circular development goals (exemplified by De Ceuvel).

Temporary planning permissions are also useful tools for enabling low value circular activities, particularly in land scarce cities (e.g. Paris and London). They provide an opportunity to understand issues surrounding implementation and how to best facilitate circular development. The problem with temporary permissions is that the temporality itself reduces the potential for up-scaling. This might be tackled through more systematic provision of space across the city for circular activities.

Flexible and collaborative planning (as used in Stockholm Royal Seaport) encourages the emergence of adaptable spaces and buildings, alongside engaged communities, who take an active role in the provision of the built environment. This combination of adaptable urban form, self-organising communities and developed learning networks help to deliver greater resilience in cities and reduce the wastage of infrastructure and land.

Planning needs the assistance of the other levers to ensure that circular development pathways emerge. Capital and operational subsidies have been used across all four cities to encourage the transformation of business models, infrastructure and service provision. They have also been used to support circular

Levers for circular development

FIGURE 7.1 Levers for circular development.

Source: Authors own produced by Draught Vision Ltd.

social practices (e.g. urban farming, food-reuse). These are the most popular economic instruments for transformation.

Taxation - landfill tax (across Europe), empty properties tax (London) and carbon tax (Stockholm) - has encouraged a shift away from resource wastage and the use of fossil fuels (and greater use of recovered energy and heat). Taxes have produced changes in social practices and systems of provision. Local taxes could be used to support the circular transformation process through investment in infrastructure (as in Stockholm). Public investment may also offer support for circular transformations (e.g. green investment of public pension funds in London). Public procurement is being used in London, Amsterdam and Paris to transform services and infrastructure, to enable circular development. For example, Amsterdam requires that reused baked bricks are used to construct 100% of the public realm works in the city. Paris has developed a tool for calculating the ecological footprint of procurement, which is proving useful for encouraging and monitoring the implementation of circular procurement policies. The use of local currency is perhaps the most innovative economic instrument for encouraging circular activities, tested in Brixton and De Ceuvel.

Capacity building increases awareness, understanding and expertise amongst actors and builds networks (e.g. supply chains) to enable circular development to take place. City councils may provide space in existing buildings for circular businesses (e.g. LWARB’s Accelerator Programme) or land for circular development (e.g. Buiksloterham, Amsterdam). They may help to build fora for the exchange of information and networks for delivery (e.g. CE100, Circular Economy Club, C40 cities, Eurocities, Sustainability Cloud); provide training programmes (e.g. circular innovation programme in Amsterdam, London’s Accelerator Programme); encourage labelling (e.g. for refurbished and second-hand goods in Paris) or help to establish data platforms (e.g. PUMA, Circle Scan, Sol-dating) and tools (e.g. green index, ecological procurement tool, lifecycle analysis tool) which enable implementation. Urban experiments can be seen across all four cities (e.g. Fablabs, Living Labs). These are used to determine modes of delivery and challenges to implementing circular development pathways.

Municipal provisioning powers could also enable cities to directly control the manner in which services (energy, water, waste, transport) are provided and the type of infrastructure built (as is the case with the water supply in Paris). If a city also prioritises circular development, this can be used to leverage the transformation process. Nowadays, there are a limited number of cities with provisioning powers, because of the shift towards privatisation of services. Stockholm provides a good example of a city, which lost its provisioning power for energy, which has created difficulties in replication of the ecocycles model.

Co-provisioning enables the community to work with public and private actors to deliver circular development. It is exemplified by the community projects in Brixton; the bottom-up development process in De Ceuvel and the food reuse and urban farming schemes in Paris, Amsterdam and London. Co-provisioning engages a range of actors, which splits the burden of cost and increases local support for circular activities. It also helps to encourage the adoption of circular practices at a local level.

System dynamics

The case studies provide evidence that all three circular actions work synergisti- cally together to deliver circular development (Figure 7.2). Looping actions support ecological regeneration and help to build urban adaptive capacity. Looping actions (recycling soil, organic waste, grey and black water) remove pollutants from the ecosystem and enable growth of vegetation (e.g. SRSP and QEOP), resulting in ecological regeneration. Recycling sites and infrastructure (looping) enables the city to adapt to the new demands being placed on it; thus, it becomes more adaptive (e.g. Pop Brixton, Les Grand Voisins). Recycling black- and grey-water and recovering energy from organic waste (looping) can increase urban resilience to resource scarcity (e.g. Paris, Amsterdam). For example, Amsterdam aims to extract proteins from waste-water to feed its population, which

Dynamics between circular actions and other strategies

FIGURE 7.2 Dynamics between circular actions and other strategies.

Source: Authors own produced by Draught Vision Ltd.

will increase resilience to food shortages. Heat recovery, reuse of food and properties (looping) enable access to affordable food, warmth and shelter amongst the disadvantaged (e.g. Paris, Brixton), and thus builds urban adaptive capacity.

Ecological regeneration also reinforces looping and adaptive actions. Healthy ecosystems are more effective in recycling of water, organic waste and nutrients (looping). This increases self-sufficiency (clean water, food) and adaptive urban capacity. Human health improves in healthy ecosystems, which increases the population’s resilience. Phytoremediation of contaminated sites (ecological regeneration) enables the reuse of land for activities including water storage and urban agriculture (e.g. QEOP, SRSP). This increases urban productive capacity and thus self-sufficiency. Community involvement in gardening, agriculture and conservation projects (as seen in Brixton, Paris, QEOP) helps to build natural, social and human capital within communities, which increases resilience. In addition, all cities studied incorporate blue-green infrastructure to enable adaptation to climate change and improve the health of inhabitants. However, “green gentrification” can produce inequalities, as poorer groups are forced out by high property prices. This creates a conflict between ecological regeneration and a community’s ability to adapt to issues such as urban poverty, food scarcity and health problems.

There is also evidence to support synergies between circular actions and other urban strategies (localisation, substitution and optimisation). There is a strong positive relationship between localisation strategies and resource looping, as demonstrated in Amsterdam. Localisation increases the economic feasibility of reusing, recycling and recovering energy from organic and construction waste; reduces emissions from associated transportation and helps to build the local economy. Localisation strategies can also enhance adaptive capacity in communities. Local engagement in community projects, collaborative planning and learning networks increases local capacity to adapt to changing needs (e.g. Brixton, De Ceuvel). The local focus can also help to build community support for environmental stewardship, especially where the benefits of local actions can be seen locally (QEOP, Brixton and De Ceuvel). This builds adaptive capacity, stronger local social and learning networks, which can be mobilised to tackle other issues (e.g. Transitions Town Brixton).

Optimisation strategies and looping can demonstrate a synergistic relationship. For example, smart metering of potable water can encourage greater grey- water recycling (as seen in Paris). Substitution strategies demonstrate a synergistic relationship with ecological regeneration. For example, green corridors (ecological regeneration) can encourage the adoption of active modes of transport (substitution strategies) as demonstrated in QEOP. Looping actions produce alternative materials and energy sources which substitute for existing options. For example, biogas in Paris, produced from the anaerobic digestion of organic waste (looping), is substituted for gas in the city heating system (substitution strategies). Cellulose and proteins extracted from sewage in Amsterdam (looping) are used for building materials and feedstock (substitution strategies). Blue-green infrastructure is used to substitute for grey infrastructure (as is the case for Paris’s water system), which reduces material consumption and enhances ecosystem services (ecological regeneration).

Of course, there are also conflicts between circular actions and other urban strategies. For example, Stockholm demonstrates how substitution strategies may clash with looping actions. The city has been unable to shift towards renewable energy and recycling systems because of their potential to undermine waste-to- energy systems. Localisation may limit the opportunities for resource looping, if there are limited producers and consumers of waste products within a locality (as highlighted in Brixton). It may also limit the carrying capacity of a system, its ability to produce the resources it needs and assimilate the waste it produces. This is why Amsterdam and Paris are both taking a city-regional approach to construction and organic waste.

Optimising strategies reduce material waste, which can undermine looping strategies (e.g. ecocycles in Stockholm). All four cities demonstrate how optimisation strategies may also clash with circular actions, particularly when applied to land. The optimal use of land (at least from a market perspective) maximises value, by building luxury residential and commercial development on empty sites. This prevents low-value circular activities in cities. Thus, there is limited land available for the industries needed to create industrial symbiosis; for green space and urban agriculture; for solidarity projects and providing space to allow infrastructure to adapt for new needs. The relationships between sharing and circular strategies have not been determined through the case studies. Thus, more research into these synergies and conflicts is needed to determine which development strategies are likely to operate together successfully in circular cities.


The case studies have begun to demonstrate how circular development manifests in practice. They highlight the differences between circular economy and circular development, and have begun to produce a typology of circular development pathways. The case studies have also demonstrated a range of levers which can be used to encourage circular development. They have investigated how circular actions taken in the city interact and how they operate alongside other urban strategies. Much more needs to be learned, but these findings provide a good grounding for understanding how circular development might be successfully implemented in practice.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >