SUPERLOCAL – Closing the FWE cycles at the urban neighbourhood level
City of Kerkrade, Parkstad Urban Region | Netherlands
The plan is to implement an Urban Living Lab focusing on the food-water-energy nexus in the context of the SUPERLOCAL project in the Bleijerheide district in the City of Kerkrade. Kerkrade is a mid-size city (c. 50,000 inhabitants) and part of the larger administrative urban region of Parkstad (c. 250,000 inhabitants). In the Bleijerheide district, HEEMwonen, a local housing corporation, wants to replace currently vacant high-rise buildings with high-quality but affordable low-rise housing, with a target of at least 100 homes by 2020. Together with the municipality of Kerkrade, HEEMwonen has developed the plan to do this according to ’super-local‘ principles: ’slow, less and local‘. The ambition is to recycle and re-use all existing spatial qualities, landscape elements, building materials and even social capital. In addition to environmental sustainability goals, also less tangible, social sustainability outcomes are aimed for, including a renewed, positive ‘spirit’ in the neighbourhood and the city. In the Parkstad urban region, which as a whole faces long-term demographic decline and vacancy of older high-rise apartment buildings, the innovative lessons that will be learned in SUPERLOCAL are eagerly awaited as a promising, sustainable way to deal with urban shrinkage.
The SUPERLOCAL project is currently in its first, preparatory phase. As the approach is unique, there are no standard procedures that can be followed. There are many open questions with respect to the regulatory, technical, economic and social aspects of this plan. Therefore, a relatively open, stepwise, learning-by-doing type of approach will be followed, with participation of a range of actors including the (future) inhabitants. The proposed Urban Living Lab on the FWE nexus matches very well with this approach and with many of the challenges that will be addressed in the SUPERLOCAL project. The main focus would be on the ambition of SUPERLOCAL-partner WML to develop a ‘zerowater concept’ for the redeveloped neighbourhood, i.e., a completely closed local water cycle. Possible components of this concept are: use of rain water, reduction of household water consumption, local purification and re-use. The FWE nexus is a highly relevant perspective to this concept, as on-site fermentation of domestic waste water would yield both local energy as well as nutrients for local food production.
The proposed Urban Living Lab experiments would contribute to FWE innovations in the SUPERLOCAL project by (1) introducing a participatory, transdisciplinary approach to arrive at solutions that are socially-robust, (2) providing novel tools to assess the local-global interactions of proposed solutions, and (3) conducting a participatory integrated assessment of both the local and the global sustainability impacts of proposed solutions.