Markus Hesse, professor at the University of Luxembourg: “There is an appetite for ‘smartness’ in Luxembourg”
Photo: University of Luxembourg
Luxembourg is not asking the right questions. Sustainable urban developments are much more than a PR stunt.
The Luxembourg government is committed to the circular economy model. It has adopted an ambitious strategy to promote the production of eco-technology products, as well as support R&D into clean technologies and encourage their use across all business sectors, including construction and urban development.
The concept of the circular economy involves a move away from the linear model of “take, waste and make” to “one that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles”, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
This is a huge challenge for the construction industry, which relies on intensive energy and material waste by its very nature. However, the government’s ambitious strategy requires “a dynamic construction sector implementing top notch technologies”, notes the Luxembourg Eco-Innovation Cluster. As such how are urban developments in Luxembourg faring in the light of this requirement? Are we getting closer to the concept of a “smart city”?
“The answer to this question is very much a matter of definition, and whether the issue is about being just ‘smart’ or whether we are talking about cities,” says Markus Hesse, a professor of urban studies at the University of Luxembourg. “Perhaps a good definition is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, including sustainable real estate, communications and market viability.”
Hesse told Delano in an interview: “There is an appetite for ‘smartness’ in Luxembourg, but that at the moment it remains at the policy-making level.
“Governments, including the Luxembourg government, are looking at the EU’s guiding ideas for urban development, and also increasingly corporate ideas, trying to see how they can be adopted into public policy.”
With regards to cities, Hesse believes a key issue for Luxembourg is how land is allocated for urban development. “If we consider smart cities just in terms of new clean technology and appliances, it does not address the more basic governmental challenges of housing and town planning. These need to be resolved first, then we can talk about smart cities.”
In fact, Hesse was quite clear about what smart cities and the use of clean technology in urban development should not be--a PR stunt.
“From what I have seen so far, Luxembourg’s handling of the smart cities concept has most been for economic, marketing and PR purposes. We see new technology as the solution to all our problems, while the more basic challenges and constraints (such as housing) seem to be absent from the debate.”