Smarter past, smarter future: lessons for smart cities

The smart city is much discussed as a sustainable urban development model. However, as discussed in former posts on the blog, “smartness” is in the eye of the beholder. Smart cities of the past can help us plan smart(er) cities. Especially, examples of former and traditional engineering, construction and design can provide a well of examples of what works in the art, craft and science of sustainable cities.


Babylon forever? Its Hanging Gardens can inspire green cities more than the Tower of Babel! Picture by Timo on Flickr. Creative Commons Non-Commercial 2.0 Attribution 

Learning from the past Continue reading

Posted in Beyond planning, Heritage and Planning, Planning, city, and society, Sustainability and resilience, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Green Infrastructure and Green City: The lenses to evaluate urban greening

Urban greening and green infrastructure are at the heart of contemporary urban sector discussion in the light of climate change debate. In fact, green infrastructure, in terms of using renewable energy and clean energy, is older concept than urban greening. The blog first introduces green infrastructure, and then discusses urban greening, green gentrification, green growth coalition, and environmental justice. The blog attempts to provide a lens for scrutiny of urban greening-related policies.

Green infrastructures, in the true sense of the term, use renewable energy, and clean energy. The Public Private Partnership literature speaks about green infrastructure, as private sector specialised skills are largely used in green energy generation. The literature focused on Value for Money (VFM) for such projects as the initial investment for energy generation is high. However, it is paid back over the life cycle of a project. There is another way the term green is used in practice. This is to indicate newly aligned projects. For instance, green expressway means a newly aligned expressway instead of upgrading an existing one. For instance, private sector actors prefer Greenfield smart city projects, as the process of land development is easier than redevelopment of brown-field projects. Although the true meaning of green is quite controversial here, it has not been so much discussed. Continue reading

Posted in Heritage and Planning, Planning, city, and society, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Highlights from 2016

2016 has been another rich year for the blog of the AESOP Young Academics, with more than 20 posts published on a wide variety of topics (more before). With more than 8 thousand visits, we saw a significant increase of visibility. Like in past years, visits have come from all around the world – Italy, USA, UK, Germany, India, France, Netherlands, Spain, Australia and Greece being the ten most represented countries.


In 2016, we welcomed two new regular contributors, Chandrima Mukhopadhyay (CEPT University, Ahmedabad) and Ian Babelon (Northumbria University) and a new member in the Editorial Board, Lorenzo Chelleri, who had been contributing regularly to the blog. I am confident their ideas and energy will enrich the blog from 2017 onward.

The list of Open Access journals is now an independent page and has reached a considerable size (more than 70 journals) and quality thanks to contributions from many people.

So, let’s take a look at the highlights from 2016, starting with the occasional contributors.

  • Alessandra Feliciotti (University of Strathclyde), focusing on the relation between urban form and resilience, reflected on the end of the positivistic dream and advocated urban design to embrace change and uncertainty.
  • Isabelle Anguelovski (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona) co-authored with Lorenzo Chelleri a critique on the use of the concepts of resilience and sustainability, highlighting the risk that ‘most of the times social negative implications for the most vulnerable groups constitute the trade-offs for enhancing overall and better city services and environment’.
  • Enzo Falco (Gran Sasso Science Institute) and Alessandro Rinaldi (Sapienza University of Rome) co-authored the most read article in the history of the YA blog, a summary of the main findings of a research on the (not so bright) future perspectives in academia for Italian PhD holders – a topic of interest way beyond Italy.
  • Manoel Schlindwein (TU-Darmstadt/Tongji University) discussed the new zoning plan for São Paulo and the conflicts surrounding it, particularly in relation to urban mobility.

And now on our regular contributors.

Looking forward for an even richer 2017!

(Simone Tulumello)

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The smart, resilient city: cliché or oxymoron?

The smart city concept builds on technological and governance innovations to better enable cities to face up to urbanisation challenges, including the ability to “bounce back” from social, environmental and economic crises and shocks. To become smart is to become resilient and sustainable (e.g. see the SRC repository). Smart, resilient cities are fraught with contention, however, because conjuring contrasting images of urban landscapes equally differing cultural aspirations. To many analysts, the smart resilient city resembles more an “impossible sustainability”, to borrow Erik Swyngedouw’s phrase. The smart city: cliché or oxymoron? I argue: both, and neither. Smartness, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. Continue reading

Posted in Beyond planning, Planning, city, and society, Sustainability and resilience, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Municipal bond: Water sector, capital and governance

Municipal bond is an innovative financing tool that uses private sector investment in infrastructure and improves the financial sustainability at the Urban Local Body (ULB) level. Financing being a crucial issue in development, especially in relation to inclusiveness and equity, municipal bond is a response to such challenges. In addition, with the increasing debate around power relation between various hierarchies of government and hence raising question about how democratic is decision-making at the ULB level, municipal bond offers unique solution. The bond makes ULBs self-sufficient in financing, and also makes them directly accountable to the users of infrastructure. The blog reflects on the performance of municipal bond in water and sewage sector, highlighting the strong interrelation between water, flow of capital and governance.

In general, municipal bond is a debt issued by the ULB to finance capital projects such as road, railway, sewage projects etc. The tool was traditionally used in the USA and Canada. You can find articles on municipal bond in the USA even from 1970s (here). Municipal bond, in general, is exempted from tax, which makes it attractive for private sector investors within the bracket of high income tax. However, revenue generated from municipal bond may be taxable. In the context of India, municipal bond was first introduced in taxed form, and later it was tax-exempted. Continue reading

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The Environmental Assessment Methods: Part 1 *

Environmental assessment methods are important tools to quantify the environmental impacts related to products or services.

In the following some environmental assessment methods related to the building sector are briefly presented.


HQE (Haute Qualité Environnementale)

The French Association HQE was born in 1996 under the guidance of the Department of Buildings and Collectivity with the aim to reduce the use of energy from fossil fuels. In the nineties, the same association gave rise to the homonymic volunteer environmental evaluation tool HQE (Association HQE, 2008).

This evaluation tool is constituted by some lists for designers. The lists are divided into three main categories in which some of the requirements necessary for the construction of high environmental quality new buildings are itemized (Francese, 2007). The three main categories correspond to the three most important scales of impact produced by a building:

  1. Impact on users;
  2. Regional scale impacts;
  3. Global impacts.

For each of the three categories, some needs and correlated actions able to minimize the impacts are identified. Continue reading

Posted in Methodology and ethics, Sustainability and resilience | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Open Access week 2016 and the OA journals list

Happy Open Access Week 2016!

For the occasion, I have updated the list of Open Access journals and moved here as page (rather than a post). It can be found here:

Please let us now of more journals that should be included in the comments.

And, most important, publish in Open Access!

(Simone Tulumello)

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