Design thinking for Bucharest business district areas. Experimental workshop – inside view @Urban INC

Guest authors: Irina Paraschivoiu (Urban INC), Anamaria Vrabie (Urban INC), Silje Klepsvik (Kaleidoscope Nordic), Miia-Liina Tommila (Kaleidoscope Nordic).

This is the first of two posts (here is the second) based on an experimental workshop developed by Urban INC and Kaleidoscope (more details at the bottom).

Local buzz, global pipeline

In 2004 a group of economic geographers interested in innovation – Harald Bathelt, Anders Malmberg and Peter Maskell – defined the processes of interactive learning as a combination of ”local buzz” and ”global pipelines”. When local individuals, start-ups, and like-minded people locate in each other’s proximity, they are on their way to creating a local cluster (not necessarily a formal one), which is based on common interests, a particular field or simply geographical proximity. But for a local buzz or ideas to thrive, it also needs the ”global pipelines”, the strategic connection to the outside world, which allows for interaction, new ideas, openness and partnerships. Without the global pipeline, the local buzz runs the risk of stagnation, by missing out on the advantages of a broader collaboration.  

In a much less theoretical and rather more intuitive way, this knowledge creation process is exactly how Urban INC and Kaleidoscope got together to share experience which could be relevant to both parties and build upon knowledge and assets. Our exchange was gladly funded by the EEA Grants through the NGO Fund in Romania, as a follow-up to the capacity building of Urban INC in 2015-2016. This is rare opportunity for organisations working in Romania and Norway to meet and learn from each other’s different context and work experience.  Our meeting point was using design methods to unpack complex problems which cities face. Our different approaches were the black box on our horizon, the opportunity to learn and experiment with strategies and tools which operate in a slightly distinctive way. At Urban INC, design methods translate into design thinking and complex problem solving, aiming at behavioral, policy and wider societal change. Kaleidoscope, as an architecture office, engages in participatory processes and user-centered design to address urban challenges through inclusive methods.

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The Environmental Assessment Methods: Part 2 *

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.


Green Building

In 1996 in Canada the Green Building Association has developed an environmental complex evaluation tool based on the most recent and accredited estimation methods and on worldwide recognized ecological criteria (Francese, 2007). The Green Building (GB) method evaluates – through the use of some indicators – the positive and negative effects of a building on the environment. The GB uses thresholds for the evaluation. The building performances are represented through the use of quantitative or qualitative parameters. For the estimation of impacts the evaluator rates different characteristics. The score is from -2 to +5. The negative scores (-2 and -1) are attributed every time the performances of a building are lower than those imposed by law. Zero is the minimum acceptable value; besides, +3 corresponds to the best practice and +4 and +5 are the best possible solutions without an increase of the costs. The GB can be adapted to the local conditions of a particular environment, maintaining the same initial structure. Every year the GB Council updates the evaluation tool. The GB tool is divided into three levels: Continue reading

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Localizing Resilience Strategies: Embracing the Practice of Resilience in Response to Disasters and Climate change

Guest author: John Shaw, County Emergency Management Director, Florida, USA

Image credit: online (

There is a saying in emergency management, “all disasters are local.” Typically, this is understood to mean the acute disaster – the hurricane, the flood, the wildfire – is a local issue and occurs with little to no warning. What is often ignored are the chronic stresses on the community – homelessness, blight, and climate change – all are local issues that require a resilient approach for the community to survive. To increase the resilience of a community, leaders should have a basic understanding of the complex interdependencies beyond the immediate, life-saving response and short-term recovery actions.
Most emergency managers understand these basic interdependencies of their communities; for example, if schools are closed due to the disaster, then the parents or caregivers may not return to work because they need to supervise their children. This impacts the local economy every day there is not a solution to re-open schools. It impacts the first responders who are parents, too, and emergency services may be reduced to due reduced staffing levels. A disaster has multiple layered complexities that can continue to compound against each other, potentially causing a larger problem than the initiating event.
How does urban planning fit into disaster management? Critical to the understanding of resilience against natural disasters, against technological disasters, against terrorism, and against climate change is that it needs all aspects of the community to work together. Traditionally, emergency managers function best in coordinating the disaster response and short-term recovery, and many are trained to have an “all-hazards” philosophical approach. In theory, emergency managers should be able to coordinate any disaster, chronic stresses such as climate change notwithstanding. Urban planners are, among other traits, exceptional at devising long-term strategies to facilitate changes in a community. Continue reading

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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

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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

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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

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