Sustainable Urban Infrastructures

Bas van Vliet, Gert Spaargaren, Ingrid Boas, Mattijs Smits, Judith van Leeuwen, Sanneke Kloppenburg, Mandy de Wilde, Marten Boekelo, Saskia van der Kooij, Patience Mguni, Kris van Koppen and Jeroen van der Heijden.

Urban Infrastructures accommodate urban life: water and energy supply, housing, road and rail infrastructures, data grids, waste and sewerage systems. They have a major share in the depletion of the world’s resources, the production of wastes and in emissions causing urban smog and global warming.

Sustainability solutions on a metropolitan level change the lay-out and operation of infrastructures and the consumption of their services. They are fuelled by societal demands for climate neutrality, for creating a circular economy and new forms of citizen involvement. In response a range of innovative modes of urban governance are emerging, with new actor configurations, policy arrangements and social practices.

The research of the Environmental Policy Group explores the emergence of new social practices and institutions in the reconfiguration of urban infrastructures as to inform scholars and practitioners in urban transformations and environmental change. Our researchers do this by applying and developing a range of theories in a number of empirical contexts around the world.

A major research theme is that of smart energy systems and how they shape and are being shaped by social practices and social relations around energy. Applying social practice theory, our research focuses on both domestic and management practices in “smart” systems. We further explore this through what is referred to as the ‘urban nexus’, bringing networks and flows of energy, water and food together in user practices and how they become integrated in circular systems of consumption and provision. We also critically explore processes of technology-society relations and system innovation through theories related to social construction of technology and transition theory. On a broader level we also look at citizen involvement in climate adaptation and infrastructure change. 

By applying social and political theory our research informs the organisation of environmental policy and governance and develops new pathways for metropolitan transformations.