Urban symbiosis: A new paradigm in the shift towards post-carbon cities

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The metabolic flows of cities have to be reduced. Thus far, efforts have been mainly directed to providing the city with renewable resources, diminish resource consumption, and/or reuse the wastes and emissions. The dense fabric of urban infrastructures does not only provide a high level of services. By the proximity of infrastructures symbiosis might be created between them. This urban symbiosis might lead to a considerable reduction of resource consumption and/or carbon- and other emissions of all systems involved. However, developing symbiosis between urban infrastructures implies that the owners/operators of the infrastructures are able to align their interests too. This might be problematic as infrastructure operators developed a culture of autonomy. Moreover, they are nowadays owned by various public and private entities that pursue different agendas. The top down planning model of infrastructures appears to be at the end of its life cycle; citizens, businesses and NGO’s request participation. Early participation, using future methods and workshops might contribute to align actors for promising urban symbiosis options. The paper analyses barriers in developing urban symbiosis and sketches strategies how to deal with them. It uses the example of urban waste water systems to sketch strategies to develop symbiosis between urban infrastructures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-24
Issue numberJuly
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventSBE 2016: Conference on Sustainable Built Environment: Towards Post-Carbon Cities - Torino, Italy
Duration: 18 Feb 201619 Feb 2016


  • urban symbiosis
  • urban infrastructure
  • systems innovation
  • long term visioning
  • sewage systems


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