Inner cities are under pressure in terms of liveability as well as sustainability. Focusing on effective use and diversity, pressure may be a bit released. One way to ensure a liveable and sustainable city centre is through circularity of the urban system. The Circular City is a significant effort towards the ambition to have structured the Dutch economy to be fully circular at latest by 2050. The circular economy is aimed at the conscious use of resources, power, and water, which is supported by the implementation of smart design. This means governments can regulate smart market incentives, innovation, and international cooperation for both citizens and businesses.
Starting in 2017, the municipality of Amsterdam has been developing the Buiksloterham industrial area into a residential-working area as an experiment of the circular urban district. Buiksloterham is an area in the North of Amsterdam near the IJ. It is located in between the NDSM dock and the Overhoeks area. At one point considered to be the most polluting brownfield area in the city of Amsterdam, now it will be transformed into one of the most innovative areas in the Netherlands. While the general zoning plan includes an urban district for working and living, the municipality has set specific targets for the themes of energy, the completion of material cycles, biodiversity, quality of life, and mobility.
Such vision aims for largely renewable energy. Resources and materials are recovered for reuse, repair, and further recycling. New developments may even be adjusted according to the availability of material. Moreover, there is careful attention to liveability by investing in biodiversity and an appealing aesthetic of streets and buildings. Additionally, the development attempts to achieve a social and diverse working-living climate where culture is regarded as an integral part of circular development. The establishment of new business models as well as the involvement of residents are similarly considered integral to the development. After all, the act of reusing will be optimal when the exact needs of local residents are met. Meet-ups between residents and businesses are facilitated to offer an opportunity to present their projects and build networks. The economy is local and resilient as services and goods are, in addition to money, exchanged with time and local exchange systems.
Concrete, the following ambitions have been set out:
- Buiksloterham is self-sufficient in energy and based on renewable energy;
- Buiksloterham is a ‘zero waste’ neighbourhood with a closed material flow as much as possible;
- Buiksloterham is rainproof and extracts nutrients from wastewater;
- Ecosystems in Buiksloterham are regenerated and the natural capital is self-renewing;
- Infrastructure in Buiksloterham is used to the maximum extent and local ‘zero emission’ mobility does not cause harmful emissions;
- Buiksloterham is a diverse, liveable, and inclusive residential area;
- Buiksloterham contributes to the local economy and stimulates entrepreneurship;
- Buiksloterham involves residents and businesses in local investments and value development;
- Buiksloterham is a healthy, safe, and attractive environment with ample recreation and relaxation.
Developments in the Buiksloterham area will shed light on the best approach to ensure circularity. As it stands, the prospects are very promising. The Circular City does not only apply to Buiksloterham, but can be found in several other cities in the Netherlands like The Hague, Utrecht, Rotterdam, but also smaller urban regions such as Apeldoorn or Dordrecht. The diversity of projects demonstrates a huge variety of possibilities and at the same time barriers in developing a circular city. In case you still do not get the message: this gained knowledge is to be reused for other urban districts, following the philosophy of circularity.