Amsterdam – Sustainability by Design
Welcome to Amsterdam
Orientation tour and welcome dinner, meet our expert partners.
Amsterdam – The Historic City
The well-preserved historic center of Amsterdam is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world’s most sought places to live and work. It’s considered the most innovative urban expansion of the 17th century and a symbol of free thinking, creativity, and tolerance that make Amsterdam so unique. You can still walk the same streets, look upon the same canals, and immerse in the same spaces where many of Rembrandt’s visions were born. Yet similar to many old cities, Amsterdam wasn’t built with post-fossil fuel future in mind. A clean infrastructure requires redesigning the urban fabric, and for a UNESCO-protected area that comes with a challenge: how to climate proof a historic site while preserving its unique value for the generations to come?
Did you know? The historic houses of Amsterdam are built on wooden poles. The water level in the city is well controlled to ensure the poles stay under water to maintain an anaerobic environment and avoid rotting.
The historic development
Water management in and around Amsterdam
Challenges: climate adaptation in historic districts, over-tourism
Amsterdam Sustainability Agenda
The Hague – Climate Policy & Water Management
Interactive Session with officials from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.
Westland – Sustainable Agriculture
The Westland region, south of the Hague, is the so-called greenhouse capital of the world, where Dutch farmers harvest impressive yields using 90% less water, non-GMO seeds, and almost no chemical pesticides. It all started two decades ago when the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture to produce “twice as much food using half as many resources”. Through cutting-edge agricultural technology, the Netherlands has since become the world leader in agricultural innovation. It is now the second largest global exporter of food by dollar value despite being 237 times smaller than the US. With the world population expected to reach almost 10 billion in 2050, could the Dutch “precision farming”, that doesn’t rely on soil, sunshine, water or pesticides be the solution to feed the world?
Did you know? Some Dutch farms use only 4 litres of water to grow 1 kg of tomatoes while the global average is 214 litres.
Amsterdam – The Cycling City
Amsterdam is the bicycle capital of the world. The city boasts some 400 km dedicated bicycle paths and over 200,000 parking spaces. There are almost 1 million bicycles in Amsterdam (yes, it does have more bicycles than people) and approximately 40% of the city journeys take place on two wheels. Since 1970, physical planning design with a clear division of space between pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and public transport, as well as innovative junction design, have had a significant effect on traffic safety. Today, Amsterdam’s biggest challenge is that the city is getting more crowded and there is not enough space for cyclists and pedestrians which can lead to unsafe situations. How can Amsterdam remain accessible and retain its human scale, while at the same time leaving room for further growth?
“A charging point at every parking spot, an electric car for every home.”
A zero-emissions mobility by 2030 is Amsterdam’s goal set in the Clean Air Action Plan which could lead to a more quieter, cleaner and healthier city, a possible 9% reduction in CO2 emissions, and an increase in life expectancy for all Amsterdammers. By 2025, all public transport including buses, taxis, delivery vans, mopeds, scooters, boats and ferries will be emissions-free. By 2030, the entire built-up area of Amsterdam will be emission-free for all forms of transport, including cars and motorbikes. The backbone for this ambition is the demand-driven charging infrastructure. The city is working with entrepreneurs and research institutes to build an extensive network of fast charging points and hubs using real time insights (every month more than 2,600 charging points generate data on roughly 78,300 charging sessions, including users charging behavior) to make it possible to apply smart charging and temporary storage. Currently, all electric charging points in Amsterdam are powered 100% by wind turbines. The next challenge is to use local solar energy to power the entire electric transport in the city.
Rotterdam – Water Management & Urban Innovation
The Netherlands has an intrinsic relationship with the water. The Dutch have become experts in keeping their feet dry ever since they settled in the marshy lands surrounding the Rhine delta. But in a country that lies largely below the sea level natural disasters are not abstract threats. In 1953, an unprecedented heavy storm struck the Netherlands. In just a few hours 700 sq mi were completely submerged and over 1800 people lost their lives. The national catastrophe led to the construction of Delta works, the largest flood protection system in the world and one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Since the realization of the Delta Works the seafront has remained relatively safe. Today’s challenges are the salty groundwater pushing through the polders and the increase in precipitation, heavier rains, and more severe storms due to climate change. Where to dispose the water in a densely populated cities like Amsterdam or Rotterdam which suffer from chronic space shortage and are already undertaking enormous efforts to keep the water under control? The Dutch approach: let the water in and work with the water rather than trying to defeat it.
Did you know? Rotterdam was almost completely wiped out during the WW2. Nowadays, it’s considered the safest and most sustainable port city in the world. Every year, international delegations of architects, engineers, and policymakers visit Rotterdam to learn from its expertise in water management.
Highlights: the Dutch approach to water management, climate-proof architecture, urban innovation solutions – water plazas, floating farms and the biggest roof park in Europe.
Amsterdam – The Circular City
The way we produce and consume goods in a linear economy is no longer sustainable. With the rising population, we won’t be able to sustain the level of resource use. Making the leap from a ‘take-make-waste’ to a circular approach is an urgent necessity to avoid becoming resource hungry and to reduce our carbon footprint. In 2015, Amsterdam declared its goal of becoming a leader in circular economy with focus on building/construction, biomass, food, and consumer goods, especially fashion.
Amsterdam Circular Program and lessons learned.
Houthaven – the first large-scale climate-neutral neighborhood in Amsterdam – seven car-free islands, 2,700 homes, various facilities and business premises. “All energy for heating, cooling, tap water and electricity that is connected to a building is saved and /or generated on location in a sustainable manner”.
Amsterdam North – Amsterdam’s “living lab” for circular, smart and bio-based development. Site visits: a new floating community, arguably the most sustainable & energy neutral floating neighbourhood in Europe. All houses have solar panels and batteries and are connected to a smart grid “energy-cooperative” allowing the neighbours to exchange excess energy using blockchain technology. Green roofs are used to grow food, rain water is collected and used for flushing toilets and waste water is treated at a biorefinery to produce more energy. The project is circular, resilient, and could serve as a blue print for cities and coastal areas that are already struggling to cope with the rising sea levels.
Concepts: circular economy, circular design, urban metabolism
Amsterdam – Sustainable Entrepreneurs
The Netherlands is a country with a unique history that was shaped by centuries-long battle with the water which means the eco-minded, collaborative culture is imprinted in the Dutch DNA. Back in the 17th century, Amsterdam was renowned as the home of free thinkers, philosophers, and artists. Nowadays, the city is becoming a playground for creative startups and urban entrepreneurs who are putting sustainability at the core of their missions.
Citymakers event — meet Amsterdam’s most inspiring entrepreneurs who are turning climate change into business opportunities. Fields: food innovation, sustainable textile & fashion, plastic, biomass, mobility, clean-tech.
Urban challenge in partnership with CITIXL
Using Amsterdam as inspiration, participants will be challenged to co-create ideas that could shape the future of their own cities. The urban challenge event can be organized in Amsterdam or in your home city.
For an example of urban challenge, check out Reclaiming Space Boston event (March 2019)