Project

COST Action CA17133 Circular-City.eu

Goal: Our world is approaching a situation where several resources are becoming scarce at the same time, e.g., energy, nutrients, water, space, while at the same time climate change is proceeding. This will cause problems even in areas where such problems may at present seem negligible. Wealth and wellbeing of coming generations will depend on our ability to adapt our economies to this challenge in the finite world we are living in. Transforming today’s cities into sustainable cities is one of the main adaptations that will be necessary. A holistic approach looking at cities from a system’s perspective is needed to achieve this goal.

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Aida Bani
added a research item
Cities are producers of high quantities of secondary liquid and solid streams that are still poorly utilized within urban systems. In order to tackle this issue, there has been an ever-growing push for more efficient resource management and waste prevention in urban areas, following the concept of a circular economy. This review paper provides a characterization of urban solid and liquid resource flows (including water, nutrients, metals, potential energy, and organics), which pass through selected nature-based solutions (NBS) and supporting units (SU), expanding on that characterization through the study of existing cases. In particular, this paper presents the currently implemented NBS units for resource recovery, the applicable solid and liquid urban waste streams and the SU dedicated to increasing the quality and minimizing hazards of specific streams at the source level (e.g., concentrated fertilizers, disinfected recovered products). The recovery efficiency of systems, where NBS and SU are combined, operated at a micro-or meso-scale and applied at technology readiness levels higher than 5, is reviewed. The importance of collection and transport infrastructure, treatment and recovery technology, and (urban) agricultural or urban green reuse on the quantity and quality of input and output materials are discussed, also regarding the current main circularity and application challenges.
Rocío Pineda-Martos
added a research item
Urban agriculture (UA) plays a key role in the circular metabolism of cities, as it can use water resources, nutrients, and other materials recovered from streams that currently leave the city as solid waste or as wastewater to produce new food and biomass. The ecosystem services of urban green spaces and infrastructures and the productivity of specific urban agricultural technologies have been discussed in literature. However, the understanding of input and output (I/O) streams of different nature-based solutions (NBS) is not yet sufficient to identify the challenges and opportunities they offer for strengthening circularity in UA. We propose a series of agriculture NBS, which, implemented in cities, would address circularity challenges in different urban spaces. To identify the challenges, gaps, and opportunities related to the enhancement of resources management of agriculture NBS, we evaluated NBS units, interventions, and supporting units, and analyzed I/O streams as links of urban circularity. A broader understanding of the food-related urban streams is important to recover resources and adapt the distribution system accordingly. As a result, we pinpointed the gaps that hinder the development of UA as a potential opportunity within the framework of the Circular City.
Bernhard Pucher
added a research item
Water in the city is typically exploited in a linear process, in which most of it is polluted, treated, and discharged; during this process, valuable nutrients are lost in the treatment process instead of being cycled back and used in urban agriculture or green space. The purpose of this paper is to advance a new paradigm to close water cycles in cities via the implementation of nature-based solutions units (NBS_u), with a particular focus on building greening elements, such as green roofs (GRs) and vertical greening systems (VGS). The hypothesis is that such “circular systems” can provide substantial ecosystem services and minimize environmental degradation. Our method is twofold: we first examine these systems from a life-cycle point of view, assessing not only the inputs of conventional and alternative materials, but the ongoing input of water that is required for irrigation. Secondly, the evapotranspiration performance of VGS in Copenhagen, Berlin, Lisbon, Rome, Istanbul, and Tel Aviv, cities with different climatic, architectural, and sociocultural contexts have been simulated using a verticalized ET0 approach, assessing rainwater runoff and greywater as irrigation resources. The water cycling performance of VGS in the mentioned cities would be sufficient at recycling 44% (Lisbon) to 100% (Berlin, Istanbul) of all accruing rainwater roof–runoff, if water shortages in dry months are bridged by greywater. Then, 27–53% of the greywater accruing in a building could be managed on its greened surface. In conclusion, we address the gaps in the current knowledge and policies identified in the different stages of analyses, such as the lack of comprehensive life cycle assessment studies that quantify the complete “water footprint” of building greening systems.
Gösta F.M. Baganz
added a research item
Aquaponics, the water-reusing production of fish and crops, is taken as an example to investigate the consequences of upscaling a nature-based solution in a circular city. We developed an upscaled-aquaponic scenario for the German metropolis of Berlin, analysed the impacts, and studied the system dynamics. To meet the annual fish, tomato, and lettuce demand of Berlin’s 3.77 million residents would require approximately 370 aquaponic facilities covering a total area of 224 hectares and the use of different combinations of fish and crops: catfish/tomato (56%), catfish/lettuce (13%), and tilapia/tomato (31%). As a predominant effect, in terms of water, aquaponic production would save about 2.0 million m3 of water compared to the baseline. On the supply-side, we identified significant causal link chains concerning the Food-Water-Energy nexus at the aquaponic facility level as well as causal relations of a production relocation to Berlin. On the demand-side, a ‘freshwater pescatarian diet’ is discussed. The new and comprehensive findings at different system levels require further investigations on this topic. Upscaled aquaponics can produce a relevant contribution to Berlin’s sustainability and to implement it, research is needed to find suitable sites for local aquaponics in Berlin, possibly inside buildings, on urban roofscape, or in peri-urban areas.
Rocío Pineda-Martos
added a research item
Green building–integrated systems and technologies (e.g., green roofs (GR) and walls (GW)) are classified as nature-based solutions (NBS) in the context of urban green infrastructure (GI), which contribute to add both natural elements and processes, as a result of locally designed, resource-efficient, and systemic interventions in cities. They have also been considered to address several urban challenges towards cities’ circularity. The European Union (EU) Biodiversity Strategy and the Action Plan recently adopted by the European Commission, represent a comprehensive long-term programme aspiring to protect nature and reversing the ecosystem degradation by 2030. Sustainable and resilient societies under the challenge ‘innovating with nature’ are the leading aim of the EU Research and Innovation (R&I) policy agenda goals on NBS and re-naturing urban areas. The European GI/NBS Associations build the bridge to provide a network among stakeholders from academia, municipalities, entrepreneurs and private-sector entities and other non-governmental organisations, by creating a platform to build and share knowledge and create collaboration on sustainable GI/NBS, regarding building-integrated vegetation approaches as well as related policies, regulations and technical guidelines. The commitments of the foundations to encourage and promote the advanced adoption of green urban infrastructure practice and planning as part of the built environment, drive active efforts to support NBS innovation objectives and the transition from ‘grey to green’ infrastructure. The present manuscript aims at reflecting the crucial role of the Associations on GI/NBS, mainly GR and GW, to develop local frameworks applying innovative plans of action, and allocate R&I opportunities implementing relevant and inclusive urban regeneration solutions. Within this context, it will be highlighted the example of the Portuguese National Association of Green Roofs.
Rocío Pineda-Martos
added a research item
Cities worldwide are facing a number of serious challenges including population growth, resource depletion, climate change, and degradation of ecosystems. To cope with these challenges, the transformation of our cities into sustainable systems using a holistic approach is required. The pathway to this urban transition is adopting the concept of circular economy for resource management. In this way, resources are kept and reused within the city. Nature-based solutions can be implemented for these tasks, and besides the circularity, they can provide additional benefits for the urbanites and the urban environment in general. This paper describes which urban challenges related to circularity can be addressed through nature-based solutions. This systematic review was developed within the COST Action CA17133 Circular City that investigates how nature-based solutions can be used to progress the circular economy in the urban built environment.
Fabio Masi
added a research item
The transition to circular economy requires the redesign of the water infrastructure, even more in the context of overexploitation of water resources and water scarcity. The shift of the existing water management toward circularity can be achieved by using a diversity of approaches and technologies. Decentralized water reuse systems can provide reclaimed water close to the point where wastewater is generated. Nature-based solutions (NBS) seem one of the best fitting options for this purpose. Technologies like treatment wetlands, lagoons, algae ponds, willow systems, and similar are often not recognized by local authorities, water utilities, and public. Moreover, the great majority of decision-makers and end-users are still unaware of the NBS and circular approach to wastewater and resources. Hybrid systems can foster decentralization of the existing urban water infrastructure leading to more efficient control of the waste sources. In this chapter, we present several case studies from Europe, Asia, and Africa using NBS and hybrid systems.
Ragnheidur Thorarinsdottir
added 2 research items
Resource depletion, climate change and degradation of ecosystems are challenges faced by cities worldwide and will increase if cities do not adapt. In order to tackle those challenges, it is necessary to transform our cities into sustainable systems using a holistic approach. One element in achieving this transition is the implementation of nature-based solutions (NBS). NBS can provide a range of ecosystem services beneficial for the urban biosphere such as regulation of micro-climates, flood prevention, water treatment, food provision and more. However, most NBS are implemented serving only one single purpose. Adopting the concept of circular economy by combining different types of services and returning resources to the city, would increase the benefits gained for urban areas. The COST Action Circular City aims to establish a network testing the hypothesis that: ‘A circular flow system that implements NBS for managing nutrients and resources within the urban biosphere will lead to a resilient, sustainable and healthy urban environment’. In this paper we introduce the COST Action Circular City by describing its main objectives and aims. The paper also serves as introduction to the review papers of the Action's five Working Groups in this Special Issue.
The linear pattern of production-consumption-disposal of cities around the world will continue to increase the emission of pollutants and stocks of waste, as well as to impact on the irreversible deterioration of non-renewable stocks of raw materials. A transition towards a circular pattern proposed by the concept of ‘Circular Cities’ is gaining momentum. As part of this urban transition, the emergent use of Nature-based Solutions (NBS) intends to shift public opinion and utilize technology to mitigate the urban environmental impact. In this paper, an analysis of the current research and practical investments for implementing NBS under the umbrella of Circular Cities is conducted. A combined appraisal of the latest literature and a survey of on-going and completed National-European research and development projects provides an overview of the current enabling tools, methodologies, and initiatives for public engagement. It also identifies and describes the links between facilitators and barriers with respect to existing policies and regulations, public awareness and engagement, and scientific and technological instruments. The paper concludes introducing the most promising methods, physical and digital technologies that may lead the way to Sustainable Circular Cities. The results of this research provide useful insight for citizens, scientists, practitioners, investors, policy makers, and strategists to channel efforts on switching from a linear to a circular thinking for the future of cities.
Ragnheidur Thorarinsdottir
added 4 research items
The objective of this review paper is to survey the state-of-the-art on nature-based solutions (NBS) in the built environment, which can contribute to a circular economy (CE) and counter the negative impacts of urbanization through the provision of ecosystem services. NBS are discussed here at three different levels: (i) green building materials, including biocomposites with plant-based aggregates; (ii) green building systems, employed for the greening of buildings by incorporating vegetation in their envelope; and (iii) green building sites, emphasizing the value of vegetated open spaces and water-sensitive urban design. After introducing the central concepts of NBS and CE as they are manifested in the built environment, we examine the impacts of urban development and the historical use of materials, systems and sites which can offer solutions to these problems. In the central section of the paper we present a series of case studies illustrating the development and implementation of such solutions in recent years. Finally, in a brief critical analysis we look at the ecosystem services and disservices provided by NBS in the built environment, and examine the policy instruments which can be leveraged to promote them in the most effective manner – facilitating the future transition to fully circular cities.
Our modern cities are resource sinks designed on the current linear economic model which recovers very little of the original input. As the current model is not sustainable, a viable solution is to recover and reuse parts of the input. In this context, resource recovery using nature-based solutions (NBS) is gaining popularity worldwide. In this specific review, we focus on NBS as technologies that bring nature into cities and those that are derived from nature, using (micro)organisms as principal agents, provided they enable resource recovery. The findings presented in this work are based on an extensive literature review, as well as on original results of recent innovation projects across Europe. The case studies were collected by participants of the COST Action Circular City, which includes a portfolio of more than 92 projects. The present review article focuses on urban wastewater, industrial wastewater, municipal solid waste and gaseous effluents, the recoverable products (e.g., nutrients, nanoparticles, energy), as well as the implications of source-separation and circularity by design. The analysis also includes assessment of the maturity of different technologies (technology readiness level) and the barriers that need to be overcome to accelerate the transition to resilient, self-sustainable cities of the future.
Nature-based solutions (NBS) can protect, manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems. They are a multidisciplinary, integrated approach to address societal challenges and some natural hazards effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits. NBS applications can be easily noticed in circular cities, establishing an urban system that is regenerative and accessible. This paper aims to offer a review on NBS for urban water management from the literature and some relevant projects running within the COST Action ‘Implementing nature-based solutions for creating a resourceful circular city’. The method used in the study is based on a detailed tracking of specific keywords in the literature using Google Scholar, ResearchGate, Academia.edu, ScienceDirect and Scopus. Based on this review, three main applications were identified: (i) flood and drought protection; (ii) the water-food-energy nexus; and (iii) water purification. The paper shows that NBS provide additional benefits, such as improving water quality, increasing biodiversity, obtaining social co-benefits, improving urban microclimate, and the reduction of energy consumption by improving indoor climate. The paper concludes that a systemic change to NBS should be given a higher priority and be preferred over conventional water infrastructure.
Ragnheidur Thorarinsdottir
added a project goal
Our world is approaching a situation where several resources are becoming scarce at the same time, e.g., energy, nutrients, water, space, while at the same time climate change is proceeding. This will cause problems even in areas where such problems may at present seem negligible. Wealth and wellbeing of coming generations will depend on our ability to adapt our economies to this challenge in the finite world we are living in. Transforming today’s cities into sustainable cities is one of the main adaptations that will be necessary. A holistic approach looking at cities from a system’s perspective is needed to achieve this goal.