Sustainable Urban Systems and Circular Cities of the Future
6 September 2018
1.30 pm – 3.00 pm. Registration from 1.00pm, seated by 1.30pm
MND Auditorium, MND Annex A, 5 Maxwell Road Singapore 069110
Free event. Registration is full.
2 BOA-SIA CPD pts, 2 SILA CPD pts
Lecture Poster (136KB)
Lecture Report (954KB)
Lecture Slides (42.6MB)
Lecture Video & Photos
De Ceuvel. Source: Metabolic
De Ceuvel was transformed from a polluted industrial site into a neighbourhood equipped a circular economy – salvaged houseboats have wastewater treatment, composting, bio-digestion, a struvite reactor and greenhouse facilities. Source: Metabolic
Cascading positive impacts can be reaped by shifting from monoculture (single-crop agriculture) towards symbiotic agriculture systems when the input and output of different crops support one another. Source: Metabolic
Eva Gladek shared several notable case studies to illustrate applications of sustainable urban systems.
Source: Centre for Liveable Cities
The lecture attracted a vast range of audience keen to learn about the circular economy. Source: Centre for Liveable Cities
Eva Gladek shares her vision on
circular cities and the circular
economy, particularly on the
urban systems approach adopted
Starting with the development
of De Ceuvel - Amsterdam’s
sustainable business park and
‘cleantech playground’ - Metabolic
has driven numerous circular
urban development projects
across the Netherlands and
worldwide. Based on recent
work with the city of Rotterdam
and the city of Charlotte in the
United States, Ms Gladek shares
strategies for transforming cities
to a circular economy - and the
integral next steps that cities need
to take to realize the transition.
“Imagine a circular city where you have all of your wastes that
are getting collected and reprocessed into valuable materials…
within the city itself. All the buildings are designed for
disassembly and recovery so you’re putting less pressure on
mining and hinterland needs.
You’ve dramatically reduced the need for shipping and created
new, smaller logistic cycles which need a different kind of
management. It’s the kind of environment that we should want
to live in.”
With its numerous green and blue spaces, Singapore is well known as a city
in a garden. But can its urban life and the economy be further improved by
taking inspiration from natural systems?
This was the prospect raised by Eva Gladek, founder and CEO of Metabolic,
a consultancy specialising in circular cities and sustainability. In her recent
CLC lecture in September 2018, she made a case for how circular economy
principles can make cities more efficient, sustainable and liveable.
Today, cities spend a huge amount of energy, time and money on extracting
resources from the environment to make products that are eventually thrown
away. A circular economy means preserving the material, technical and
knowledge inputs within products and establishing pathways for maintenance,
reuse and adaptation to other uses.
“The circular economy is about creating extended, infinite cycles of value,
just like a natural system does,” said Gladek.
An example Metabolic has developed in Amsterdam is De Ceuvel, a formerly
polluted industrial site. Gladek and her team transformed this 5,000 m2 site
by salvaging houseboats to adapt into buildings, and including wastewater
treatment, composting, bio-digestion, a struvite reactor and greenhouse
facilities. Its success led the Dutch city to request scaling up strategies for
larger neighbourhoods, such as Buiksloterham.
“One of the reasons (why) the circular economy is becoming so popular,
especially in Europe, is that this represents a huge pathway for saving a lot
of money,” explained Gladek. “That is because all of that value is not getting
destroyed, but getting retained and cycled through the system.”
According to management consultancy McKinsey, adopting a circular economy
approach would save Europe up to US$630 billion per year. In another
example cited by Gladek, it was calculated that comprehensive plastics recycling system in the city of Charlotte in the United States could save it
more than 900,000 barrels of oil annually, as well as create an industry with
US$35 million in revenue and more than 1,300 jobs.
More than just saving the environment and money, Metabolic defines the
circular economy via seven pillars. This includes maintaining materials
at their highest value of use, basing energy on renewables, the proper
maintenance of water sources, supporting biodiversity, preserving human
culture and society, preserving human health and wellbeing, as well as
using resources in ways that generate multiple forms of value.
In addition to circular economy principles, Gladek says a structured,
strategic approach towards interventions can result in cascading
positive impacts too. For instance, shifting from monoculture (singlecrop agriculture) towards symbiotic agriculture systems where different
crops are grown such that their input and output support one another.
Mushrooms grown on coffee grounds may produce carbon dioxide for
plants, which also receive other nutrients from fish. Similarly, black soldier
flies can consume municipal organic waste, with their larvae being turned
into animal feed or protein pastes.
“It’s more than just thinking: how do we close and fix all the resource
cycles, but (also) about how do we create new integrated, symbiotic
solutions,” said Gladek.
For highly developed cities like Singapore, she suggested turning towards
more sustainable, resilient methods of construction. Buildings can be
designed to be easily deconstructed and reused so as to close the cycle on
building materials, reduce the pressure on landfills and create a lot more
value. For instance, the Dutch have come up with this idea of “material passports” where they see their buildings as a “resource bank”, and track the
different materials in them in digital databases. Such practices can enable
the growth of new industries that extract scarce materials through up-cycling
used products. In this way, countries can become resource brokers even
though they have no access to natural resources.
With the emergence of climate change and its many impacts on our world
today, there is a pressing case for cities to adopt a circular economy to tackle
the root cause of over-consumption.
“There’s no reason why anyone should… say well, no, we actually want to be
living in polluted, messy and wasteful environments,” said Gladek. “I think it’s
just about making this vision really clear and building these business cases
step by step, so we can all collectively move there.”
This report first appeared in the
Oct 2018 Better Cities newsletter.
About the Speakers
Founder and CEO of Metabolic
Eva Gladek is the founder and CEO of Metabolic, a leading consulting and
venture building company that uses systems thinking to tackle critical
sustainability challenges. She is an expert in technical environmental
management techniques and has developed leading frameworks for
systems thinking and the circular economy. She is consistently listed
among the top influencers in sustainability in the Netherlands, a country
recognized as leading the transition to the circular economy.
Managing Editor Eco-Business
Adjunct Research Associate
Centre for Liveable Cities
Ms Jessica Cheam is the Managing Editor of Eco-Business, an award-winning journalist, TV presenter, director, producer, and a social
entrepreneur. She has more than a decade of experience in journalism
with a particular expertise in sustainable development. She has been
awarded numerous accolades in the field, including the Earth Journalism
Awards at the UN climate change meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 and
the Young Journalist of the Year by Singapore Press Holdings in 2010.