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Basic Data

Project Title

  • The Moveable Nexus: Design-led Urban Food, Energy and Water Management Innovation in New Boundary Conditions of Change

International consortium

  • Prof. Wanglin Yan, Keio University (Japan, Lead PI)
  • Dr. Bijon Kumar Mitra, Institute of Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) (Japan)
  • Prof. Greg Keeffe, Queens University Belfast (UK, PI)
  • Mr. Kevin Logan, Maccreanor Lavington (UK)
  • Prof. Sami Sayadi, Qatar University (Qatar, PI)
  • Asso. Prof. Geoffrey Thün, University of Michigan (USA, PI)
  • Prof. Andy van den Dobbelstee, Delft University of Technology (NL, PI)

Duration

  • April 2018.4 ~ March 2021.3

Total Budget

  • 1,670,883€

Facets of study sites

Partner City Belfast (BEL) Doha (DOH) Detroit (DET) Sydney (SYD) Tokyo (TOK) Amsterdam (AMS)
Main thematic Divided city Food security Vacancy and Capacity building Urban Development process Ageing and disaster risk Co-creation of spatial
Climate Maritime Desert Continental Subtropical Subtropical Maritime
Bioregion Northern Ireland Arabian Desert Great Lakes Basin Sydney Basin Kanto Plain & Tama Hills Atlantic Mixed Forest
Scale Neighborhood Precinct: Uni-campus Metropolitan region Large Greenfield: 3rd City Neighborhood Neighborhood
FEW-focus F: Diet, E: Algae, W: Flood F: Local plantation, lowering UHI, E: Solar, W: Drought, reuse, F: Urban production, E: Waste to energy, W: Great Lakes Basin, F: Regional food-bowl, E: Large and small hydro, W: Heat F: Food in urban rooftop/rural, E: Solar, W: Water-river basin F: High tech, vertical, E: Wind & integrated renewables, W: flood, controlled
Motto ‘The Aquaponic city’ ‘The urban water machine’ ‘The post-industrial city’ ‘The fridge city’ ‘WISE city’*1 ‘The circular city’
Take away Technologies People Engagement Regional synergies

Scalar Cascades

Far future design Community Engagement Design with flows for far future
Goal Existing technologies in the city Expanding the effectiveness of food production in the city with minimal water availability How to overcome jurisdictional barriers Using landscape as cooling machine through plantation, crops and water Multi-layer FEW cycles Close FEW cycles at city level
Data Baseline data Place based data (QU campus) Regional jurisdictional data Regional landscape data Building and land use data Flows of FEW data
Method for workshop Roadshow Design workshop Large scale spatial drawing Creative COCD Design Workshop & GIS analysis Stakeholder co-design
Paradigm shifts 2050-2080 2050-2100 2035-2070 2030-2060 2040-2080 2040-2070
Outputs Part I of few-print: Advanced FEW Technologies in the city into the future Part II of few-print: Community gardens and permaculture, for higher scales Part III of few-print: Jurisdictional system, Visualizing Cascading systems and scales Part IV of few-print: FEW-urban landscapes Part V of few-print: FEW-integration in local community Part VI of few-print: Energy cascading / REAP for Food and Water

Note: *1 WISE=Wellness, Intelligent and ICT, S: Sustainable and Smart, E: Ecology, energy, economy. This is the catchphrase of the project in Yokohama City for next Generation of suburban town.

Design-led Nexus Approach

Design is by its nature a trans-disciplinary approach to problem solving, which draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning in order to explore potential innovative solutions to problems [Kimbell, 2011]. Designers explore concrete integrations of knowledge that will combine theory with practice for new productive purposes [Buchanan, 2010], integrating the opinions and needs of multiple stakeholders. In spite of the romantic image that design is a highly personal process, in most cases design proposals are in fact the culmination of shared knowledge and consensus on a specific issue [Kimbell, 2012]. These advantages make a design-led approach particularly appropriate to addressing wicked problems. The integration of food, energy and water is not yet mainstream. and there is no established design methodology in practice. The nexus approach with regards to FEW in particular was not common in urban planning and design because of the complexity of the problem per se, the uncertainty of outcomes, and the difficulty of communication between scientific research and design as it is practiced. This article proposes a design-led approach through the concept of the moveable nexus. The goal is to mobilize natural and social resources in urban spaces with integrated technology and knowledge in order to uncover and carry out FEW management innovations. It is also a response to the call of Sustainable Urban Global Initiative: Food-Water-Energy Nexus (SUGI-nexus)[SUGI, 2016] by Belmont Forum and the Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe. In their words they ask us “to move stakeholders to action through dialogue from a sector oriented technocratic approach to one that recognizes more diverse viewpoints and rationalities”.

Nexus Principles

The nexus idea can be traced to works by Ignacy Sachs in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in particular with reference to the food and energy nexus in UNU(United Nations University) food-energy program [Sachs, 1980, 1988]. The World Bank worked on the food, water and trade nexus [McCalla, 1997] and later replaced the idea with new concepts, including virtual water, at the Kyoto World Water Forum in 2003 [Allan, 2003a; Merrett, 2003]. The importance of the three nexus pillars of water, energy, and food was officially recognized at the first Nexus Conference in Bonn, Germany 2011 [Hoff, 2011], making that year Nexus Year One. Since then, our understanding on the nexus has been seriously improved. The essence of the nexus thinking can be summarized [Martínez-Martínez & Calvo, 2010; Hoff, 2011; Kurian & Ardakanian, 2015]:

  • Investing to sustain ecosystems
  • Creating more with less
  • Accelerating accessibility

Understanding and acting upon this concept is central to diminishing the human footprint on planetary boundaries [Kurian & Ardakanian, 2015]. Implementation of these principles relies on finding solutions to the question: Where, how, and who will produce food for cities [Yan and Roggema, 2019]:

  • Where - the relationship of production and consumption
  • How - the relationship between costs and benefits
  • Who - relationship between working and living

Moveable Nexus

Initiated by the Belmont Forum SUGI/M-NEX project, the moveable nexus is considered as an innovative methodological package for FEW management and utilization that make use of the spatial, temporal, and service linkages of natural and social resources. It helps designers and practitioners to structure the procedures, knowledge and techniques in design practices with regards to FEW. It is also a moveable platform to deliver the accumulated methods and techniques across cities and countries with regards to practice, with the following three principles:

  • to mobilize social and natural resources to create more with less for all the needed with design solutions.
  • to move stakeholders to action through cross sectoral dialogue with informed platform of M-NEX.
  • to move around local and global to the needed with the support of guiding principles and informed platforms.

The package offers an indication as to how to practice nexus thinking in a way that will lead to its integration with urban planning, architectural design, and environmental policy studies. Ultimately it is a communication platform that can be moved to a design site with the support of scientific data and knowledge.

Implementation Methods

  • Six research sites

M-NEX research consortium with seven organizations in six countries (Japan, UK, Qatar, United States, the Netherlands, Australia) has been established, with its study areas being Tokyo-Yokohama, Belfast, Doha, Detroit, Amsterdam, and Sydney. The cities differ in terms of geographical features, bioregions and societal conditions, but from the table it is clear all cities are mature and share several common concerns in terms of sustainability in their urban areas. The project will take the complex sustainability challenges of its involved cities, and communicate FEW design solutions in concrete, visual, and physical ways to stakeholders and residents. This will deepen the understanding of FEW and promote consensus-building on actions plans for future cities. Each country team will determine the research contents in consideration of the local needs and proceed collaboratively. For example, the UK team (Belfast) will work on design of food factories, while the Dutch team (TUD) will focus on energy planning in FEW-nexus. All of the teams will learn from each other and study the potential to incorporate FEW-management into their own cities. Ultimately, they will deliver their research findings, policy recommendations and technical innovations, such as implementation of FEW at a University campus (Doha), revitalization of a post-industrial city (Detroit), and future FEW strategies for consumption-oriented cities (Tokyo-Yokohama, Sydney).

  • Charrette Design Workshops

The moveable nexus shall be developed incrementally through a series of design workshops at the above six living labs with all of the partners (see Figure 3). The project engagement will consist of six stakeholder workshops, one in each living lab that engage with key aspects of the FEW, in a bioregional context. This international workshop coincides with one of the (six) participatory workshops in each city. The international team will participate in this workshop and bring their particular skills and knowledge to it. Each of these international workshops has their own focus. The first workshop in Belfast focuses on the creating an Initial vision on the technical food systems and the city. In the second workshop in Doha the focus is on the city farm, stakeholder participation and urban agriculture. Workshop three (Detroit) focuses on climate futures, development of regional scenarios and resilience in light of a changing climate. Workshop four (Sydney) focuses on building Integration, integrating FEW-technologies at user scale. Workshop five (Tokyo) focuses on stocks and flows for regional planning and the nested neighborhood. And the final workshop (Amsterdam) focuses on implementation, from strategy to tactics. Each team will bring its own topics to the international design workshop, and the teams together will refine them and build common design methods, evaluation indicators, and co-creation mechanisms. The teams will bring what they have learned back to their countries, put them into practice in their local Living Labs and undertake action toward the next international workshop. Finally, the knowledge obtained at each workshop will be integrated and provided as expertise and solutions from the M-NEX Project at each level, from building to neighborhood, city, and region.

  • Urban Living Lab

Each national team builds an urban living lab in the study area, hold stakeholder and community design workshops, consider local FEW-topics, and develop solutions. The urban living lab in each city is featured with the local social and bioregional context. see "Urban Living Labs" below.

  • Data Management

M-NEX highlights

  • Local production and local consumption
  • Urban agriculture
  • Redesign urban food life

M-NEX Platform

Design Method

  • Best practices

Design applications of FEW-nexus in cities could take a diversity of forms, including technology or policy, buildings or landscape, commercial products or public engagement programs.

  • M-NEX Guidline

Design methods at the moveable nexus provide guiding procedures to explore solutions with stakeholders. The procedures of the design method construction consist of the follow steps in general as shown in Figure 2.

  • Inventorying FEW-related existing or potential resources and availability of space for urban agriculture, including rooftops, vacant houses, or abandoned, improperly used or void lands.
  • Designing solutions to improve the efficiency of land and space use for food production and ecosystem services with less energy and water consumption by integration of FEW technology and knowledge.
  • Composing the nexus matrices that mobilize the material and flows of resources cross sectors and disciplines in the social-ecological context.
  • Evaluating the environmental costs and the added benefits of the solutions through the enhancement of spatial, temporal and service connections among specific social-ecological systems.
  • Delivering the alternatives of solutions to and reiterate the design process with stakeholders.

This is co-design and a reflexive process with stakeholders. The inventory includes social, financial, industrial aspects. The mobilization of resources implies the activation and connection of existing and potential capitals across industrial, administrative and academic boundaries with more flows and services.

Evaluation Tools

  • Best practices

The evaluation of design solutions is a tricky issue. There exists a long list of indicators to assess the impact of human activities on the environment, such as the most typical ones, food mileage (f), CO2 emissions (e), virtual water use (w) and EF(Ecological Footprint) etc. However, no such an indicator could properly describe the interaction of food, energy and water. EF[Wackernagel & Rees, 1998] converts the CO2 emission in human consumption to land area equivalent to the area of forest demanded for absorbing the correspondent emission.

  • M-NEX Guidline

M-NEX proposes an indicator few-print which express the quantity of FEW resources to be consumed and the flow, that is, the service among the three layers. The few-print is a combination of food mileage (f), CO2 emissions (e), virtual water use (w). It also represents the ambition of nexus thinking, creating more with less. On the other hand, the functions of urban agriculture are multifaced. People enjoy home gardens or shared farming not necessarily for the CO2 reduction but rather for other benefits, such as education, health, culture and communication etc. Similarly, some new issues can emerge from the process, such as a reduced few-print that goes along with reduced accessibility to those resources by the residents of an area. Investors might also pursue common shared values with the public on urban agriculture and ecosystem services rather than on food production itself. Therefore, in addition to few-print, we incorporate three social indicators in perspective of citizens’ quality of life, health and happiness (H), accessibility (A), and resilience (R), (collectively refer to HAR). Although each indicator has been intensively studied, such as the health and happiness [Groenfeldt, 2006; Urban Nexus, 2013a], accessibility [Walker et al., 2010], and resilience [Magis, 2010; Mitchell, & Harris, 2012] the trade-offs and synergistic effects with environmental factors have not been examined. The development of the few-print and HAR is a complex process in design. The numbers might mean different things as scales change from household, to city block to neighborhood, to the city and bioregion. The indicators of the moveable nexus in this way may not be useful tools to judge the quality of solutions but more appropriate for communication. Stakeholders will need to understand the trade-off and synergy of different solutions at different scales so that each partner could rethink the relationships about costs and benefits, and their behavior.

Participation

  • Best practices

Involving users in urban design and development has long been a core concept though practice is often different between social contexts [Bergvall-k, Howcroft, Ståhlbröst, & Melander, 2010]. “Through engagement with a product or service over time and space, the user or stakeholder continues to be involved in constituting what a design becomes” [Kimbell, 2012]. Designers explore concrete integrations of knowledge that will combine theory with practice for new productive purposes [Buchanan, 2010]. “Design with users, design by users or design for users are popularly advocated within areas like innovation and product development” [Bjögvinsson, Ehn, & Hillgren, 2012; Wahl & Baxter, 2008]. However, how to sustainably involve stakeholders especially over the long term is not easy for any participatory project. There are examples, however they tend to be self-selecting groups who have bought into a larger goal. The community involvement of residents in Freiburg, who collectively built their eco town over decades. People who move to Freiburg did so in order to be part of that process [Freiburg, 2018]. Bringing otherwise regular people into design is a more challenging task.

  • M-NEX Guidline

In the moveable nexus, the participatory mechanisms are the collaboration process of four type of partners:

  • intermediate support organizations,
  • the local community,
  • experts in spatial planning,
  • and public or private sectors.

Each partner owes specific resources and advantages such as physical spaces, skills, knowledge, financial or regulative options. Our understanding is that intermediate support organisations, mostly driven by local actors, play a key role to connect stakeholders together. The engagement of the multiple stakeholders is conducted through a series of design workshops in the moveable nexus. All of the stakeholders incorporate equity into every stage of design process, from research to formulation [Powell, 2016]. During the workshop, design experts visualize resources and produce solutions. Local community gain awareness of the issues and co-create the shared values. Private or public sectors could be inspired and then turn the plan and design into political and business actions. The design workshops will be informed with scientific evidence. The moveable nexus provides a platform for communication and learning of stakeholders, in which the FEW resources and evaluation indicators aforementioned are installed. As the results, the design solutions incorporate the wishes and intentions of all of the participants and then fits a variety of action plans and projects, while enriching the physical and social resources that are unique to the region. Finally, the moveable nexus itself is co-developed incrementally with stakeholders through the processes in practice. Urban living labs are used as a platform to implement/accommodate the contents of the moveable nexus and secure the sustainability of the practice.

Urban Living Labs

General Information

  • Living lab network

Urban Living Labs (ULL) are initiatives that focus on the collaboration of multiple stakeholders (government, industry, research institutions and communities] in different stages of the research, development and innovation process [Thinyane, Terzoli, Thinyane, Hansen, & Gumbo, 2012]. It is also a recommendation of funding agencies such as JPI Europe Urban. Over the decades, the concept of living labs has become widely accepted in design practice with design thinking and system thinking [Kimbell, 2011], shifting design from design “things” to design “Things”[Bjögvinsson et al., 2012]. The moveable nexus by its nature requires the bioregion-specific collaboration of stakeholders. On the other hands, the methodology and platform of the moveable nexus could be applied everywhere for the researcher, designers and practitioner who share common understanding. An urban living lab could be an existing one run by cooperative stakeholders or a new one initiated by researchers. With the support of a living lab, researchers could work strategically with stakeholders to co-design long-term strategies for urban productivity in light of changing contexts. The living labs created in research areas could be part of a global network for comparative studies. The moveable nexus and urban living labs are complementary ideas each other. The former provides contents while the latter has advantages of practical platforms with stakeholders. The moveable nexus could also help urban living lab to move around with the shared contents, thereby enabling global deployment. In this sense, the moveable nexus could add new values to urban living labs with integrated solutions for urban FEW managements.

  • Best Practices

Compared with regards to its popularity to open innovation, lead users, public health, IT tools, user-driven design [Bergvall-Kåreborn, Holst, & Ståhlbröst, 2009], it has only a limited success. Voytenko, McCormick, Evans, & Schliwa [2016] surveyed five living lab projects granted by JPI Europe Urban and concluded that the concept was mostly used to secure funding. There remain many questions about the impacts and effectiveness of urban living labs both in their own geographical domain and more broadly at regional and national scales. For example, how do ULLs evaluate their own impacts? How do they build on feedback results and findings of evaluation to improve their activities and impacts? Researchers, designers and stakeholders have difficulties in communication with each other because of the gaps between scientists and citizens, long-term global goals and the short-term personal interests on sustainable issues as well as FEW issues. Answering the questions need a collaboration network working on common issues with a designated scheme.

M-NEX Tokyo

  • Site description

The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku revealed the vulnerability of modern cities. Many areas in Japanese cities were built in the twentieth-century postwar period of high economic growth and are now approaching a time when infrastructure and other upgrades will be needed. Japanese cities are also facing declining birthrates and aging of the population and becoming more compact, even as they face rapid changes on the spatial and temporal dimensions in terms of the supply and demand for food, energy, and water [Moreno-Peñaranda, 2011]. Urban Living Lab Tokyo is going to work in cooperation with WISE Living Lab, a community-based project initiated by Yokohama City and Tokyu Corporation since 2012. In the summer of 2018 the Japanese government selected 29 municipalities as pilot SDGs model projects including Yokohama City, started to tackle these issues [Cabinet, 2018]. The M-NEX Japan Team is designing new management systems to secure the accessibility of urban FEW in the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area plus sustainable improvements in the quality of life, and the necessary infrastructure to support all of that.

  • Stakeholders engagement
  1. M-NEX TKY is recognized as a project of WISE Living Lab in April 2018 under the program of Future Suburban city initiated by Tokyu Company and Yokohama City. M-NEX is also recognized as a pilot project in Yokogama SDGs Design Center, contributing to the government-granted SDGs future city program.
  2. M-NEX TKY established the joint project “Visualizing the ecosystem services in Futako-Tamagawa” with Tamagawa Town Community, Tokyo City University, NPO Waterfront Biodiversity Network. The project acted regularly, organized meetings, field tours, and workshop every two months. The project also contributed to the Research Group for Green Infrastructure in Setagaya Ward, supported by Setagaya Ward government. M-NEX join research meetings regularly and co-organized workshops.
  3. M-NEX TKY approached to Nagata Corporation, a farmer in SFC around and worked with Field Yu, a citizen farming group supported by Nagata Corp.
  4. M-NEX TKY cooperates with IT companies to develop a field sensor network and AR sandbox for monitoring and simulating land use changes and the impact on water and energy.
  5. M-NEX TKY develops partnerships with utility companies, Municipalities and NPOs in Great Tokyo-Yokohama Metropolitan Area, including Tokyo Gas, Yokohama Waterworks, Department of Agriculture and Environment of Kanagawa Prefecture, Setagaya Ward Tokyo and Yokohama City etc.

M-NEX Belfast

  • Site description

Northern Ireland has generally weak infrastructure and a very poor natural gas network due to the recent civil strife known as 'the Troubles’. In supply side of food, a strong reliance on imported food due to heavily industrialised and dense beef and dairy farming, very little arable agriculture. On the other hands, a strong dependence on the car due to poor public transportation in conjunction with poor diets due to food poverty, leads to increasingly prevalent issues surrounding obesity and diabetes. The Belfast Living Lab is based in the designated Urban Villages project. This project funded by the Northern Ireland Assembly works in 5 of the most deprived neighborhoods in Northern Ireland, to facilitate sustainable development of these at risky groups.

  • Stakeholders engagement

M-NEX Doha

  • Site description

Qatar has limited water resources; the climate is too hot and dry for much agriculture; dust storms are a serious threat. It has the highest per capita emissions of carbon dioxide in the world because of free electricity and the reliance on energy-intensive desalination for potable water. Qatar is extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels and rising temperatures due to climate change. A recent embargo by neighboring states including Saudi Arabia, a major food supplier of Qatar, has heightened the necessity for more efficient and resiliant food systems and supplies. The Living Lab in Qatar will be built on the existing Edible and Regenerative Campus project as well as on ongoing research and networks at Qatar University related to the FEW-nexus such as new food crops, halophytes and micro algae and reuse of water etc.- under the theme of the "The Urban Water Machine" with the engagement of all the University communities.

  • Stakeholders' engagement

M-NEX Detroit

  • Site description

Referred to globally as an example of post-industrial shrinking cities, Detroit has suffered from chronic socioeconomic and race segregation coupled with income inequality that amplified de-population of the central city. The urban footprint of Detroit is vast (143mi2) in area, and designed in parallel with the emergence of the automobile and models of single family car ownership. Currently 22mi2 acres of vacant residential and commercial land within the municipal limits. Extensive area of land are characterized as brownfields. While USDA metrics for food deserts point to a crisis of food access within Detroit, multiple alternative sources are emerging within the UA space. Community, NGO and larger organizations are undertaking urban agriculture practices and food hub production is increasing. This context is ripe for FEW-nexus based analysis. Which may assist stakeholders in catalyzing change while identifying multiple collateral benefits to water and biomass-linked processing practices. The M-NEX Detroit will work with the U-M Detroit Center as a LivingLab partner. Located in the heart of the city’s Cultural Center, the U-M Detroit Center serves as a gateway for University and urban communities to utilize each other’s learning, research and cultural activities.

  • Stakeholders' engagement

M-NEX Amsterdam

  • Site description

Amsterdam is dealing with climate adaptation issues and with the ambition to become climate neutral by 2050, as well as natural gas free. The city is still strongly reliant on food supply from elsewhere (only a small share comes from the region). Schiphol Airport is a collection point of waste (food, water, materials), which is treated or incinerated elsewhere, far away. The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) has The Circular City as one of their three key themes. AMS, an institute by TU Delft, Wageningen University and MIT, collaborates with the City of Amsterdam and local stakeholders, using the city as living lab for the transition to a sustainable future. The M-NEX Amsterdam is going to work in cooperation with the AMS Institute, the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions. The M-NEX Living Lab will be selected and elaborated with AMS Institute and the City of Amsterdam, involving stakeholders from the city, public, private and individual to work together.

  • Stakeholders' engagement

M-NEX Sydney

  • Site description

It is foreseen the Sydney region will be confronted with a rapid increase in population in the next 20-30 years [Greater Sydney Commission, 2018]. The number of people will almost double and reach a total of approximately 8 million people. To cope with this enormous change the regional planning authority (Greater Sydney Commission) has presented the region as a metropolis of three cities: the old Harbour city in the East, the central Parramatta river city and the newly to be developed Western Parkland city around the new Badgerys Creek airport [Greater Sydney Commission, 2018]. The Urban Living Lab will be the new Western Parkland City, around the new Airport of Badgerys Creek. The task is to explore what new type of city could emerge here, given the fact that current development processes often not lead to a very smart, resilient and sustainable outcomes, as these neighbourhoods tend to have sparse green and trees, maximised housing space on plots, people commuting to the city and spend large amount on energy because of the need of airconditioners.

  • Stakeholders' engagement

Related Information

Publications

  • Yan, W., & Roggema, R. (2019). Developing a Design-Led Approach for the Food-Energy-Water Nexus in Cities. Urban Planning, 4(1), 123–138.
  • Mitra, B. K., Shaw, R., Yan, W., & Takeda, T. (2019). Water-Energy-Food Nexus: A Provision to Tackle Urban Drought (pp. 69–86). Springer, Singapore.

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