New Sweco Urban Insight theme: Circularity
This year, Sweco’s international knowledge platform, Urban Insight, will highlight and discuss the transition towards the key theme of ‘Circularity’. Together with experts, scientists and the public, we will discuss the transition towards greater sustainability in urban areas and highlight key steps we must take to achieve net zero cities and societies.
Where we once saw a building, we now see a bank of materials. Where we once saw a consumer product with a price, a use and a bin to which it is destined at the end of its life, we now see a valued resource where its first lifecycle is merely the beginning. At the practical end, achieving circularity is in the choice of materials, designs, business models, data tools, collaborations and logistics networks that come together as a system to continually recover and reuse old materials for reinsertion back into the economy.
It is also in being able to demonstrate the financial and environmental benefits of doing so. It has long been argued that green business is good business, and a green society is a healthy society: why would you accept large levels of waste as part of any business or societal model? A circular economy is where a strong economy is a strong environment and vice versa.
Circularity – the various practical strategies for achieving circular flows – is becoming a vital consideration for our clients. By giving them the tools to help fight climate change, prevent biodiversity loss and address crucial social needs, Sweco can empower them to become circularity leaders.
On the road to becoming more circular, cities are facing a slew of challenges, from stakeholder engagement to investment in new infrastructure (energy, public transport and blue-green networks) through to planning and implementation. We spoke to Kathleen Van de Werf, urban planner at Sweco Belgium and Urban Insight steering group member, together with Alistair Carruth, Expert Leader for our 2022 theme: ‘Towards Circularity’ and circularity specialist to better understand Sweco’s role in our clients’ path towards circularity.
Why are circularity and the circular economy important?
Our clients are seeing a total mind shift that goes beyond mere building and budgeting, one where even potential tenants are asking about their sustainability credentials and how they are addressing equity and social issues. And, in addition to design and engineering, they are seeing a greater need to establish partnerships and manage all the flows.
Cities are growing fast. This has brought pressure on the built environment, not just in terms of the quantity of structures, but in terms of how they must be designed, constructed and how they operate. The built environment should be thought of as a dynamic system where sustainable materials and processes are used, and where design and management facilitate the renewal of materials, whether during maintenance or at the end of the structure’s life. Circularity is important because it enables sustainable practices, and there is now universal acceptance that society must become sustainable if we are to address the environmental crises that we face.
A circular economy holds particular promise for achieving multiple United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), including SDG12 on sustainable consumption and production, SDG7 on energy, SDG8 on economic growth, SDG11 on sustainable cities, SDG13 on climate change, SDG14 on oceans, and SDG15 on life on land.
How do you think Sweco can make a contribution here?
For one thing, the role of architects, urban planners and engineers in the transition to a circular economy is evolving from one of being a master planner to a ‘partner in transition’. Sweco has the expertise that is needed to connect scientific research with policy support and to translate policy frameworks into the concrete implementation of the necessary spatial interventions, such as for mobility networks, energy networks, robust ecosystems and more.
I also believe there is great potential for Sweco. Urban Insight is a forum to bring together collaboration and knowledge from around the world. It can shine a light on the journey towards circularity and the practical aspects involved. If we can share our skills and expertise across borders, we can more easily meet the different challenges and objectives of our clients in each Sweco country.
Global and local Sweco initiatives will be organised during the year to inspire, and to open up for discussions about sustainable urban planning. We aim to bring together experts to build better societies of the future. Share our knowledge and yours through Urban Insight. Keep an eye out on our ‘Insights’ hub throughout 2022 and join the Circularity conversation.
More about the Urban Insight initiative
Urban Insight is Swecos cross-border knowledge platform initiative that provides expert insights about sustainable urban development. We aim to put our knowledge in the hands of our clients to ensure their upcoming projects contribute positively to our future.
The initiative is built on a series of reports, based on facts and research, written by Sweco’s experts from numerous sectors including energy, engineering and architecture.
Since its foundation in 2018, Sweco’s cross-border platform, Urban Insight, has reached 28 million people across Europe through articles and news alone.
Sweco have delivered 24 Sweco expert-authored reports to governments, policymakers and the public throughout Europe. The initiative provides society and decision makers with the facts needed to understand and meet both current and future challenges.
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