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Smart productive cities or how can cities achieve sustainability by creating their own resources?

How can cities use ‘smart’ projects and frameworks to achieve a net positive gain in their resource? Today, as part of the Smart CITIES 2.0 conference at Metropolitan Solutions in Berlin, city representatives, technical experts and business actors gathered in a session on ‘Smart Productive Cities’ to discuss this question.

As definitions of the term Smart Cities abound, the concept of productive cities is also used to address a wide variety of topics. From water to energy, food or other vital city systems, productive cities are cities which work on designing integrated approaches to generate resources.

For many, Smart Productive Cities are about cities creating their own energy. Siemens presented how integrated power management in the context of a multimodal energy concept could now be implemented at the scale of the city. Siemens showed how the area of Seestadt Aspern, a former airport in Vienna being redeveloped into a sustainable housing project, is being used to test this kind of system at a larger scale.

Presenting the story of how they transformed their old industrial port into a highly sustainable housing area, the city of Malmö, Sweden, demonstrated how a city can take advantage of its unused space to create projects that allow to test out new sustainable technologies. The housing development uses very efficient heating systems and produces exactly the amount of energy it consumes. The city acted as a facilitator but emphasized the need for a business case to exist to make things happen.

Trying to combine different issues, Almada, Portugal, has created community gardens throughout the municipalities. The gardens are located in strategic places to be able to act as places for water retention in case of floods. They are also used for social and educational purposes: bringing all citizens together, the city offers trainings on organic gardening, ensuring sustainable production of fruits and vegetables in the city.

Another example of an integrated approach was offered by the City of Linköping, Sweden, which managed to transform two issues it was facing into a creative sustainable project. Suffering from air pollution mainly due to public buses running on diesel and having to deal with important amounts of leftovers from slaughterhouses, the city organized a discussion with all actors which led to the creation of a biogas production system, using organic waste to fuel public transportation.

Offering a diverse range of perspectives and different examples of the concept of Smart Productive Cities, the speakers’ presentations all shared a common approach of looking at issues in a more systemic way. The variety of projects and tools presented looked for solutions with a cross-sectorial approach, linking the different challenges and assets of the city. Ultimately, Smart Productive City projects shared the common goal of making  cities more sustainable, going beyond resource efficiency improvement and becoming net productive systems in ecological, economic and social terms.