Policy Brief: Empowering Eco-Urban Dynamics: The New Era of Urban Energy Mastery

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Energy efficiency converges with modern urbanism to ensure the sustainable development of urban areas. When designing and constructing urban areas, the associated energy consumption is critical in sustainably managing the overall energy demand, particularly when considering balancing rapid urbanisation with mitigating climate change, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

Moreover, integrating energy efficiency into city planning contributes with cost-effective advantages for residents, improving the quality of life and enhancing economic performance and competitiveness with the adoption of technologies and practices such as solar passive architecture, adaptive public lighting, and future-ready net-zero buildings.

Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all, and inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). With energy efficiency forming the cornerstone of modern urbanism, in this policy brief, we will explore challenges and opportunities in terms of incorporating and interconnecting energy efficiency with modern urbanism.

Securing Tomorrow: The Urban Investment in Shaping Future Urban Landscapes

Investing in energy efficiency and modern urbanism encompasses far-reaching benefits. Energy efficiency projects spur economic growth and stimulate job creation. Investment in energy efficiency reduces operating costs, thus improving competitiveness and positioning businesses as leaders in sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility.

Concurrently, energy efficiency encompasses environmental benefits by lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and strengthening energy security by reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels thanks to energy-efficient technologies. Improvements in energy efficiency contribute to better air quality and overall citizen well-being. To maximise this positive impact, it would be required that modern urbanism incorporates energy efficiency to lay the foundation for more livable, resilient, prosperous, and sustainable cities for future generations, while also conserving precious natural resources.

In light of climate change, modern cities should be adaptable and equipped to handle extreme weather events and diverse environmental challenges, while also providing a high quality of life, that to e.g. energy-efficient buildings, clean air, ample green spaces, and efficient public services, fostering environmental stewardship among citizens.

Challenges

Combining energy efficiency with modern urbanism encompasses several challenges. High public and private investment are required to develop and integrate energy-efficient solutions in urban infrastructures. Moreover, an overall behavioural change is required to advance the adoption of novel energy-efficient practices, altering long-standing habits and preferences, and aligning competing interests and priorities at policy level.

Re-designing cities requires foresight in terms of balancing energy efficiency with diverse citizen needs, e.g. transportation, housing and efficient resources management (water, waste and energy) ultimately culminating in a significant urban planning challenge, requiring innovative and interconnected approaches, to ensure accessibility, encompassing low-income and marginalised communities.

Modern Urbanism in the context of The New European Bauhaus

To overcome the challenges and ensure the successful integration of energy efficiency and modern urbanism for the benefit of current and future generations, a collaborative, co-creative approach among government, businesses, and citizens would be valuable.

Reimagining Spaces: The New European Bauhaus Vision

The New European Bauhaus (NEB) initiative by the European Commission is closely related to Modern Urbanism. The NEB is a creative and interdisciplinary movement that aims to connect the European Green Deal to our living spaces and experiences. It focuses on creating beautiful, sustainable, and inclusive environments that are enriching, inspired by art and culture, and respond to needs beyond functionality.

The initiative emphasises the importance of sustainability in harmony with nature and the environment, which is a key aspect of Modern Urbanism. It encourages the development of urban spaces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also environmentally friendly and accessible to all. By fostering a dialogue across cultures, disciplines, genders, and ages, the NEB aligns with the principles of Modern Urbanism, which seeks to create urban areas that are walkable, community-oriented, and designed for the well-being of all its inhabitants.

Moreover, the NEB prizes and projects serve as demonstrators for innovative approaches to constructing and renovating in a spirit of circularity and carbon neutrality, preserving cultural heritage, and regenerating urban spaces. These are all elements that contribute to the advancement of Modern Urbanism, making cities more livable and resilient for the future.

In summary, the New European Bauhaus initiative complements and enhances the goals of Modern Urbanism by promoting a holistic approach to urban development that is sustainable, beautiful, and inclusive.

The New European Bauhaus: Cultivating Creativity Amidst Complexity

The New European Bauhaus (NEB) is an initiative launched by the European Commission that aims to bridge the gap between science and technology, art and culture, to create sustainable, inclusive, and beautiful living spaces. It’s a movement that encourages co-creation and interdisciplinary collaboration to address complex societal challenges, such as climate change, pollution, and loss of biodiversity, through innovative design and architecture.

The challenges in implementing the NEB are diverse and include many different factors such as Transversal Collaboration where it is necessary to bridge gaps between citizens, professionals, and various disciplines to foster a collaborative environment for sustainable development.

Economic Growth vs. Sustainability which means that a balance between the demands of economic growth and the need for sustainable practices and finite natural resources is desired or Technological and Cultural Integration that should incorporate new technologies and cultural perspectives into the built environment in a way that is both innovative and respectful of heritage.

Yet another key challenge is Social Inclusion which should ensure that the benefits of the NEB reach all segments of society, including addressing issues like social segregation and energy poverty. Lastly, Funding and Resources require adequate funding to support NEB projects and initiatives across Europe.

These challenges require a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including governments, businesses, communities, and individuals, to ensure the successful realisation of the NEB’s vision for a better living environment.

Building Harmony: Unveiling the Value and Benefits of the New European Bauhaus

The New European Bauhaus (NEB) initiative brings significant value and benefits, aiming to transform the way we live by marrying sustainability with aesthetics and inclusion. Here are some of the key values and benefits such as Cultural Enrichment which means that NEB fosters environments that are not only functional but also enriching, inspired by art and culture, enhancing the quality of our living spaces, Sustainability where sustainable practices that are in harmony with nature, helping to address climate change and environmental degradation, are promoted, or Inclusivity where initiatives encourage the inclusion of marginalised people, fostering dialogue across cultures, disciplines, genders, and ages, making it a collective movement for better living spaces.

Moreover, Interdisciplinary Collaboration where NEB aims to bridge gaps between various disciplines, facilitating the exchange of knowledge and fostering innovative solutions for living that incorporate sustainability, circularity, and affordability, is highly relevant Aesthetic and Functional Integration by integrating quality of experience and aesthetics into the design of our habitats could also be of interest, where NEB seeks to create spaces that are beautiful for our eyes, minds, and souls. Economic and Environmental Goals are also very crucial values since the initiative aligns economic growth with environmental goals, leveraging human creativity to find living solutions that are both sustainable and economically viable. Last but not least, Community Engagement is of great importance too, where NEB places a strong emphasis on community involvement, ensuring that the transformation of living spaces is a participatory process.

In essence, the NEB is a visionary project that aims to reshape the future of living in Europe, making it more sustainable, inclusive, and aesthetically pleasing, thereby improving the well-being of its citizens and the environment.

Recommendations

In our point of view, Modern Urbanism can be improved by focusing on several key areas such as Green, Inclusive, and Innovative Spaces by creating urban spaces that are green, inclusive, and innovative is essential.

City Reimagined: Elevating Modern Urbanism

This includes addressing the digital divide, ensuring access to essential services like healthcare, and improving access to green spaces. Defining New Urbanism Principles in the sense that New Urbanism Principles that can help make cities more pedestrian-friendly, reduce dependence on private transportation, and create public parks and spaces designed at a human scale, should be embraced.

Or Urban Health where it is strived to improve urban health by reshaping the built environment, building cross-sector collaborations, and drawing on insights from urban communities can lead to healthier cities. Additionally, a National Urbanisation Strategy is necessary, where a national urbanisation strategy is formulated that can help identify urban development priorities and better coordinate actions by all actors involved, including the private sector. Lastly, employing Technology and Data in modern urbanisation is crucial for sustainable urban development. Smart cities depend on data to deal with economic and social challenges.

By focusing on these areas, Modern Urbanism can evolve to meet the needs of current and future generations, creating cities that are not only more livable but also sustainable and resilient.

Green Metropolis: Europe’s Path to Sustainable Urbanism

Improving Energy Efficiency and Modern Urbanism in Europe can be achieved through a combination of policy, technology, and community engagement. Policy and Legislation, such as the recently revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive should be strengthened, since they can drive improvements in energy efficiency and support the EU’s wider effort to reach a carbon-neutral economy.

Implementing the EU’s Renovation Wave strategy to double the renovation rate and foster deep renovation can significantly enhance the energy performance of buildings, which are responsible for over 40% of the EU’s energy use.

Yet another important strategy is the Smart City Best Practices where stakeholders can learn from best use cases across Europe, such as those in Aarhus, Amsterdam, and Valladolid. These can guide cities in strategic sustainable planning and the demonstration of very low-energy new buildings. Naturally, Energy Transition is yet another important point to consider since cities play a crucial role in the energy transition by changing the way they use energy. EU countries must reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase renewable energy consumption, and achieve energy savings.

More Green Approaches are necessary and here, success stories from European cities using green approaches, such as circular economy and sustainable procurement, can inform and improve sustainable urban development practices, could be of great use.

Community Involvement: Engaging communities in the design and implementation of energy efficiency and modern urbanism projects ensures that the solutions are tailored to local needs and have public support.

With respect to the modernization of buildings in all sectors, Energy Efficiency in Energy-Heavy Industries plays an important, if not the key role. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that the energy consumption in buildings is only a fraction of the overall energy consumption across all sectors.

The optimization of energy efficiency in energy-heavy industries such as manufacturing of chemical products, mechanical engineering, metal production and processing, among others, is of crucial importance. The Intercultural Cities Unit (Council of Europe) offers an Intercultural Perspective on Sustainable Cities by proposing a range of recommendations in order to foster interculturalism and green cities. For instance, it has been recommended to include people with different ethnic, religious, national etc backgrounds in public institutions that are in charge of urban planning.

This can be facilitated, if those organisations (especially governmental institutions) recognize multilingualism and foster a multicultural environment. Moreover, the Intercultural Cities Unit (Council of Europe) recommends to ensure best conditions for fair opportunities among all stakeholders. For instance, all residents must be granted the opportunity to participate in urban development processes that directly affect their daily lives.

Furthermore, it should be ensured that necessary conditions are created for community-based initiatives as well as enforcing equitable opportunities and access to the green labour market. At the same time, it is important to provide green stakeholders with equitable access to information about the city’s transformation processes with the help of multilingual, user-friendly and open-data platforms.

By focusing on these areas, Europe can continue to lead in creating sustainable, efficient, and modern urban spaces.

Conclusion

It can be concluded that on the one hand, modern urbanism faces a broad palette of different challenges but on the other hand, likewise, there are multiple different instruments and methods that the EU can use to tackle these issues.

It is recommended to focus on creating favourable conditions for renovation and energy efficiency improvement of buildings. Sustainable, modern urbanisation goes hand in hand with big major initiatives such as the New European Bauhaus (NEB), the Renovation Wave of the European residential and commercial buildings as well as the European energy transition to green energy technologies.

The synergies of all those approaches should be used in a way that multiple social, economic, ecological and welfare goals are reached simultaneously. Yet, it is crucial to focus on some, few major goals first which are, in our point of view, the establishment of a regulatory framework that would allow potential, innovative urbanisation projects to have no complications in getting funds or finding sponsors, constantly initiate funding open calls that would allow to young entrepreneurs, architects, urbanists etc a platform to present their ideas on how to improve cities so that the very best project proposals could enrich European cities, after their realisation. Finally, it is also important to relate to successful European use cases as an inspiration for those city districts that are in need of a renovation and modernization wave.

Leitung Wissens- und Technologietransfer, Koordinatorin von EU-Projekten // Head of Knowledge and technology transfer, Coordinator of EU Projects

Stellvertreter Kommunikation und Verbreitung PLATOON // Communication & Dissemination Deputy