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Dietikon ZH – The master plan for the Niderfeld development region in Dietikon in the canton of Zurich calls for the construction of a cable railway. It is one among many plans throughout the canton of Zurich to alleviate traffic woes by turning to the skies.

The cable railway in Niderfeld will connect the future light rail Limmattalbahn stop with a possible urban rail stop, according to an article in the newspaper Limmattaler Zeitung. “Cable railways are something special for users, but they are also very efficient as they can be operated without a driver,” said the head of the urban planning department in Dietikon Jürg Bosch, when explaining its advantages over a bus.

Cable railways could one day be used in other parts of the canton of Zurich to alleviate traffic. For instance, there is a plan to connect the Altstetten railway station with the Hönggerberg campus of the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. The university district in the city centre could be connected to the main railway station with a cable railway, as could the Zurich Zoo to the Stettbach railway station. Here, too, the advantages are the ability to transport many people at a low cost.

There are also discussions underway to use a cable railway to make the park of the late artist Bruno Weber more accessible. Located between Dietikon and Spreitenbach, it is currently only reached via a steep path....

Bern – Switzerland and China want to deepen their collaboration on sustainability issues. During a working visit to China, Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard held talks on environmental and energy policy. China could benefit from Swiss expertise.

Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard was in China last week on a working visit and held talks with various representatives from the Chinese government. Both countries agreed that the economic ties between Switzerland and China have increased with the bilateral free trade agreement.

The two countries now want to strengthen relations on environmental issues and climate protection. China is reducing the high share of coal in its energy supply by turning to gas and renewable sources of energy, writes the federal government in a statement. Leuthard suggested last week that the two countries should extend bilateral cooperation in the field of energy.

Switzerland has extensive know-how in the areas of energy efficiency and storage. And as Leuthard pointed out, Swiss technology and expertise are being employed in the Sino-Swiss ‘low carbon cities’ project, which aims to reduce CO2 emissions in Chinese cities.

Switzerland and China also want to work more closely in smart transport infrastructure. In May 2013, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperating in the transport sector. The specific details of this will now be drawn up. Both countries have also agreed to intensify the exchange of information on road safety....

Zurich – Swiss associations, universities and other organisations are planning to join forces to promote education in spatial planning. Spatial planners play a key role in the development of the economy and society.

There is little awareness about the work of spatial planners, explained Lukas Bühlmann, director of the Swiss country planning association ‘Schweizerische Vereinigung für Landesplanung’ (VLP), and Frank Argast, president of the spatial planners’ trade association ‘Fachverband Schweizer Raumplaner’ (FSU), in an article in newspaper “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”.

They believe that supporting trainees is an area that has long been neglected in Switzerland. At the same time, the demand for spatial planners has grown considerably, meaning there is a huge lack of these professionals in Switzerland. Associations, universities and institutions now want to counteract this trend. To this end, they have signed a charter that commits them to supporting trainees in spatial planning.    

The revised law on spatial planning lays out why well educated trainees are urgently needed. In Switzerland, space is becoming limited, meaning that residential areas have to grow inwards. This could lead to a variety of potential problems, such as traffic and noise, which need solutions. Spatial planners have competences in many areas and are able to develop comprehensive solutions for these problems.

“Spatial planners are responsible for ensuring that residential areas and traffic and energy infrastructure are arranged sensibly over as little space as possible, and that they are interconnected and sustainable,” wrote Bühlmann und Argast. As such, they play a key role in the economy and society.  ...

Qinhuangdao – A new electric bus designed to prevent traffic jams has taken to the road in China for the first time. The bus straddles two lanes of traffic, allowing cars to drive beneath it, and should ease congestion and reduce air pollution.

A Chinese development is aiming to ease traffic congestion in big cities. The new electric bus straddles two lanes, meaning that cars can move beneath it. As a result, it does not need its own lane and cannot be caught in traffic jams. According to an article in newspaper “20 Minuten”, the bus is 22 metres long, 7.8 metres wide and 4.8 metres high. It can carry a total of 300 passengers, but plans also include connecting buses to allow space for 1,200 people. 

The first prototype took to the road in Qinhuangdao in northern China last week, reported the article. Expected to commence operations this year, it will travel at around 60 kilometres per hour. The aim of the new development is to ease traffic congestion in the big Chinese cities while also reducing air pollution.    

According to Greenpeace, one electric bus alone could replace 40 ordinary buses. This could lead to a reduction in fuel of 800 tonnes annually, which equates to savings of 2,500 tonnes of C02 each year.   ...

Stockholm – Planning to become more sustainable and fit for the future, Stockholm has organised the Smart City Hackathon competition. For one participant, it proved a significant step towards aggregating the existing infrastructure.

A total of 15 international teams participated in the Smart City Hackathon. One of them represented the EU project ALMANAC (Reliable Smart Secure Internet Of Things For Smart Cities), which is being supported by the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT. The project is developing a so-called Smart City Platform to help record existing urban services, infrastructures, data assets and others resources.

Team ALMANAC adopted this approach in the Hackathon, securing second place. The team developed an air quality warning system for asthmatics. It used the Smart City Platform to access weather and traffic data, which it then collected and aggregated. With ALMANAC’s method, real-time conditions are required in order to develop new technologies for smart cities. The platform is also to collate data from waste disposal companies, energy suppliers, waterworks and telecommunications providers.        ...

Zurich – The cantonal structure plan is adapted every year to respond to developments. The Government Council has now referred the template for the latest partial revision to the Cantonal Council.

The cantonal structure plan manages spatial development in the canton of Zurich in the long-term, explained the Government Council in a statement. It was adopted in March 2014 following seven years of review. During this time, contracts were awarded and legislative changes meant that, for example, adjustments needed to be made to water conservation. Changes were also made to certain projects.

The 2015 partial revision, which included the updated chapters, took only these changes into account. Held between November 2015 and February 2016, the public consultation received a total of 170 submissions. They contained suggestions and objections, which have now been incorporated into the new template. The submissions came from both authorities and private persons.          ...

Frankfurt – The KfW Development Bank is financing a green mobility project in the city of Kochi in India. Passenger traffic will be ferried along the city’s waterways, and the water transport routes will be connected to the rest of the city’s transport system.

KfW has agreed to grant India a loan of EUR 85 million (CHF 92 million) to build a dedicated water transport corridor in the city of Kochi, also known as Cochin. The money will go toward purchasing energy-efficient ferries, building and renovating jetties and dredging work along the waterways. The new ferries will consume 20 per cent less fuel than conventional ferries, and the water transport system will be connected to bus lines, metro stations and other forms of transport such as rickshaws and bicycle rental stations, writes KfW.

Kochi has set itself the goal of improving the quality of life of its population by investing in its infrastructure and modern services. Similar projects smart city projects exist in a total of 100 cities across India as part of Smart Cities Mission, a government urban renewal programme to make cities more citizen-friendly and sustainable.

“The expansion and energy-efficient modernisation of the water transport system will significantly improve the population’s mobility, reduce resource consumption and lower environmental pollution. Kochi is taking an important step in the direction of a smart city,” said Norber Kloppenburg, member of the executive board of the KfW Group....

Frankfurt – The world’s first Passive House hospital is now being built in Frankfurt. Reduced energy consumption is expected to lead to significantly lower running costs. Other hospitals may benefit from the hospital’s experiences.

The former hospital in the Höchst district of Frankfurt is being replaced by a new building that is being constructed in the Passive House standard. According to a statement from the Passive House Institute, the energy demands of hospital buildings are significantly higher than other building types, making it all the more relevant that a Passive House hospital is now being built.

“The basic intention of the Passive House concept, to significantly reduce the energy demand while providing improved comfort, is particularly worthwhile in the case of a hospital building. But special requirements must also be met,” said Oliver Kah of the Passive House Institute.

One way to reduce energy demand in hospitals is to use energy-efficient medical devices. “If the building facilities are not considered, then planners will have neglected about half of the total energy demand of the clinic. Efficient devices cut down on energy and reduce the cooling demand at the same time,” explained Kah.

When planning for the new hospital in Frankfurt, Kah and his colleagues investigated how the Passive House construction method can be applied to a hospital clinic in general. These findings could be used to benefit Germany’s other 2,100 hospitals, many of which are in need of refurbishment....

Bern – Gondolas are increasingly being seen in Switzerland as a solution to urban traffic problems, and urban cable railway concepts are now being tested in Zurich and Freiburg. The Austrian-Swiss Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group is a global market leader in cable railways.

Traffic problems are on the rise in Switzerland, especially in its densely built cities. Gondolas or urban cable railways are increasingly cropping up as an appealing option in the search for resource-conserving solutions for the model transport mix, according to an article on the portal Green Economy Dialogue

According to Christina Spoerry, head of transport strategy for the city of Zurich: “Urban cable railways have suddenly appeared on the agendas of Swiss cities.” The Zurich city council has included four cable railway concepts into its structure plan, and other Swiss cities such as Lausanne, Freiburg and Sitten are looking into similar solutions.

ETH urban planning professor and transport expert Hubert Klumpner believes that cable railway can be seamlessly integrated into a city’s existing mobility ecology to significantly improve its overall infrastructure. The Swiss Association of Cable Railways also sees huge potential in urban cable railways when they are properly integrated into a transport network.

The market leader in cable railways is the Austrian-Swiss Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group, which produces 60 per cent of the world’s cable railways. Marketing and sales manager Peter Baumann sees major interest worldwide in urban cable railways: “A modern cable railway must not shy away from comparison with other means of transport.”...

London – Europe’s busiest shopping street will be fully pedestrianised by 2020. All traffic – including buses and taxes – will be banned as part of London mayor Sadiq Khan’s efforts to tackle air pollution.

Valerie Shawcross, London’s deputy mayor for transport, told the London assembly last week that the mayor’s office plans to ban all vehicles on a nearly 2-kilometre stretch of Oxford Street from Tottenham Court Road to Bond Street tube station by 2020. The announcement is part of Sadiq Khan’s efforts to curb air pollution and congestion in central London. Khan was elected mayor in May 2016.

The project will be carried out in two stages to reduce disruption to the street, beginning with the eastern section from Tottenham Court Road to Oxford Circus. Cars are already banned from most of Oxford Street between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm every day except from Sundays. Under the new ban, this will be extended to taxis as well as the 168 buses that travel the street every hour.

According to the BBC, Oxford Street has enjoyed pedestrian-only Christmas shopping days since 2005. The traffic ban will coincide with the opening of the Crossrail, a new east-west line for the city with stations at both Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street that is expected to significantly increase the number of shoppers visiting the street.

More than four million people visit Oxford Street each week, amounting to over 200 million visitors each year to Europe’s busiest shopping street. A 2014 study from King’s College London found Oxford Street was the most polluted place on Earth, with pollution levels higher than those found in Beijing, reported the Independent....

Urdorf ZH – A master plan is being drafted to develop the Economic Area North in Urdorf as the municipality looks to encourage companies to move to the area. LEP Consultants AG is involved in the planning.

The Economic Area North in Urdorf will change its appearance at the latest in 2022 when the Limmattal rail through the region is completed, reports the Limmattal Zeitung. “It will become an urban and vibrant area to work and live in with a variety of industries,” said the head of planning Rebecca Baude. Start-ups and companies from medical technology or computer science will be able to find a home in Urdorf.   

A spatial development strategy is now being developed for the 400,000 square metres of the Economic Area North, which will result in a master plan by spring 2017. For instance, the idea of a tower – the so-called Urturm or Ur-Tower – will act as a local landmark. The consultancy firm LEP Consultants is currently involved in the planning with the assistance of helsinkizurich GmbH and the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

Companies in the Economic Area North have come to play an important role in the financial planning of Urdorf. In the 1990s, companies contributed just 10 per cent to the municipality’s tax revenues – today it is 30 per cent. Many of these companies are based in the Economic Area North....

Schaffhausen – The canton of Schaffhausen is set to enter into a partnership agreement with the Chinese province of Hunan to promote exchange on economic policies.

The Schaffhausen government is planning to enter into a partnership agreement with the Chinese province of Hunan to better present Schaffhausen to the Chinese as both a business location and tourist destination.

For its part, China would benefit from the agreement because it would gain access to innovative Swiss environmental and construction technologies and allow it to learn more about the Swiss experience in the development of cantonal and municipal management as well as the transformation from an industrial to a high-tech provider.

The Schaffhausen government would like to finalise the partnership by the end of 2018, according to a statement.

Similar partnerships with other Swiss cantons and Chinese provinces serve as a model for Schaffhausen. For instance, the canton of Zurich enjoys such partnerships with the provinces of Chongqing and Guangdong. The canton of Solothurn collaborates in a similar manner with the provinces of Gansu and Heilongjiang. 

In addition to cultivating relationships, these partnerships mostly serve economic interests by facilitating access to the Chinese market for Swiss companies....

Berlin – The German Energy Agency and the Chinese city of Deyang agreed to jointly develop a sustainable neighbourhood, bringing the total number of German-Chinese eco-city projects to 13. The cooperation was agreed on during the EU-China summit.

“Climate protection in urban development has a very high priority for China,” said Andreas Kuhlmann, chairman of the German Energy Agency (dena), in a statement on the EU-China summit. Kuhlmann and the mayor of Deyang in the Chinese province of Sichuan signed an agreement in Beijing to jointly develop an energy-efficient, climate-friendly neighbourhood.

“Eco-cities can aren’t built overnight. They require a structured approach, proven experience, extensive networks and strong commitment – and a lot of patience,” added Kuhlmann. “With our joint project, we hope to offer a practical example.”

dena will contribute to an energy and climate action management project to redevelop the Deyang High-Tech Industrial  Development Zone. Institutions and companies in the field of civil aviation, biotechnology and oil production will move into the 68-square kilometre area. Five square kilometres will be reserved for international cooperation, particularly with German technology and expertise. dena partners include the two German companies Wacker Chemie and Wilo. The cooperation is part of the German-Chinese project Eco-cities in China, which already has 12 other participating cities....

Zurich – The Hardturm site in Zurich will soon be home to a football stadium, two residential and office towers and nearly 175 cooperative apartments. The project Ensemble from HRS Investment AG and the real estate investment arm of Credit Suisse won the competition to develop the site.

The city of Zurich has a winner for the competition to develop the Hardturm site in Zurich West. According to a statement from the city, the Zurich city council chose the project Ensemble. Proposed by HRS Investment AG and the real estate investment arm of Credit Suisse, the project features an 18,500-capacity football stadium, two residential and office towers and 173 cooperative apartments. The two towers will be 137 metres high each, overtaking the Prime Tower by 11 metres.

The city of Zurich launched the investor competition for the Hardturm site in autumn 2015. According to the project guidelines, the winning project had to feature forward-looking architecture and be compatible with the neighbourhood. The city was also searching for a project that was ecological and sustainable. Of the five projects submitted, Ensemble was selected as the best project meeting these requirements.

The city has not yet indicated when the apartments will be ready for residents or when the stadium will open for business. The project has to be further developed until the owners can apply for building permits. A leasehold agreement will then have to be negotiated with the city....

Brussels – A new report from the European Environment Agency found that Europe must build resilient cities if it is to withstand the effects of climate change. European cities are especially susceptible to heatwaves, flooding, water scarcity and droughts.

In the report Urban adaptation to climate change in Europe 2016 – transforming cities in a changing climate, the European Environment Agency (EEA) outlines the challenges cities face due to climate change and analyses the approach cities can take to adapt to the negative effects of climate change, such as extreme flooding or prolonged heatwaves. It stresses in particular that short-term coping measures alone will not be enough to mitigate the threats, according to an EEA statement on the report.

Cities should instead invest in long-term preventive measures that address the root causes of their vulnerability. For instance, cities require better urban planning with more green areas that can absorb excess rainwater and cool built-up urban centres in the summer. Such solutions would transform cities into more attractive, climate-resilient and sustainable places.

The report also outlines the plans and strategies being developed and implemented by 100 cities across Europe, including Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Barcelona, Bologna and Bratislava.  But as it stresses: more needs to be done as far too many cities are not yet planning for climate change....

St.Gallen – The city of St.Gallen has the conditions in place to become a so-called smart city. The city utility tested a new type of wireless network that, in combination with a glass fibre network, enables the Internet of Things. A decision will now be made on a full version.

Over a six-month test phase, the utility Sankt Galler Stadtwerke (SGSW) extended the existing glass fibre network using a low-radiation radio technology known as Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN). According to a statement, this resulted in a so-called Smartnet, which enables wireless connection of a variety of objects. It can, for example, connect the control of electricity, water and heating infrastructure to each other. This type of networking – the Internet of Things – leads to increased efficiency and is an example of a smart city.

To meet the needs related to reading smart meters or controlling public lighting, it would be necessary to comprehensively cover St.Gallen with the Smartnet, and SGSW has made a proposal to the city council in this respect. If St.Gallen moves forward with this, it would become the first Swiss city to realise a network that would support the Internet of Things. SGSW said it could make the necessary extensions in just a matter of months....

Herten – German scientists have started the project “The city as storage” in the cities of Herten and Wunsiedel. It seeks to exploit already existing storage capacities.

The research project is based on the notion that the consumption and production of certain units of energy can be controlled. According to an article on SolarServer, this includes electric vehicles, heat pumps and cogeneration plants. By controlling them, it should be possible to store power from renewable sources of energy in urban areas in a targeted manner.

The scientists at the Technical University of Dortmund developed a system in advance that can be operated with so-called flexibility options. The researchers will conduct field tests in two cities over the course of a year in which cogeneration units, heat pumps, a photovoltaic system, a lithium-ion storage battery and an electric storage heater will be coordinated with each other to help balance the supply of wind and solar energy.

The research project seeks to demonstrate the benefits of such a storage system. It is receiving financial backing from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy....

Kigali – Rwandan authorities have ordered that cities build vertically to ease the urban housing challenge and ensure sustainable development in the future. But some would prefer a policy that focuses on affordable housing for low-income earners.

Rwandan authorities have adopted a new national urban housing policy that makes it mandatory for developers to build high-rise structures in cities. The policy comes in response to the high rate of urbanisation and land shortage. Traditional single-storey buildings will be outlawed to save land for other uses such as urban agriculture.

Edward Kyazze of the Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) told the New Times newspaper that high-rise buildings have the advantage that they require less infrastructure to connect to public utilities and infrastructure compared to low-density areas with one-storey structures. Multi-storey housing facilities will also feature social amenities, including sports and health facilities, shopping centres, social halls and learning centres.

But critics fear the ordinary Rwandan cannot afford multi-storey residential housing, particularly in the city centre with its high rents. Kalisa Vestinah, a student at the University of Kigali, would like the housing authorities to instead encourage developers to build affordable homes for low-income earners.

In Kigali, a lack of affordable housing is contributing to the growth of slums and other unplanned settlements. According to a 2012 housing market survey, the city requires close to 350,000 more residential units by 2022 in all categories – affordable, mid-range and premium housing – to satisfy growth....

Rapperswil-Jona SG – The cement group LafargeHolcim and the UK’s development finance institution CDC have launched a joint venture to produce and commercialise an affordable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional clay burnt bricks across Africa.

Clay burnt bricks require wood to produce, contributing to deforestation across Africa and increased greenhouse gas emissions. In an effort to make the production of bricks more sustainable, the world’s largest cement producer LafargeHolcim, which is headquartered in Rapperswil-Jona in the canton of St.Gallen, produces Durabric.

Described as an environmentally friendly and affordable alternative to traditional clay burnt bricks, Durabric bricks are produced from a mixture of earth and cement, which is compressed into a mould and left to cure naturally without firing. According to a company statement, this process reduces greenhouse gas emissions tenfold compared to traditional fired bricks. Durabric is already being used in Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.

To accelerate the production and commercialisation of Durabric in additional countries, LafargeHolcim has joined forces with the UK’s development finance institution CDC to launch a joint venture called 14Trees – named after the process, which saves up to 14 trees per house on average. The two partners are jointly investing CHF 10 million and intend to further finance the joint venture’s future growth.

“By combining CDC’s investment expertise with our technical skills and local knowledge, we will be able to scale-up the roll-out of Durabric more rapidly and in more countries,” said Gérard Kuperfarb, a member of LafargeHolcim’s Executive Committee in charge of growth and innovation....

Cambridge – In a bid to reduce building emissions, researchers at the University of Cambridge are developing a sustainable building material made of artificial bone and eggshell. The composite material takes very little energy to produce.

With building emissions set to rise in the coming decades to support an ever-expanding urban population, researchers at the University of Cambridge are looking to create new building materials that are strong, sustainable and inspired by nature.

Bioengineer Michelle Oyen, who works in the field of biomimetics, is constructing small samples of artificial bone and eggshell, which could be used as medical implants, or even be easily scaled up and used as low-carbon building materials.

Like their real-life counterparts, artificial bone and eggshell are composites of proteins and minerals. According to a Cambridge statement, the protein gives the material its toughness and resistance to fracture, while the mineral makes it stiff and hard. In her lab, Oyen and her team “template” the mineral components directly onto collagen, the most abundant protein in the animal world.

But Oyen cautions that it will take some time before we’re living in bone and eggshell houses. Although the process takes place at room temperature and the samples take very little energy to produce, the researchers are now investigating if non-animal-derived or synthetic proteins or polymers could be used instead.

In addition, the construction industry is a very conservative one and constructing buildings out of entirely new materials would mean completely rethinking the whole industry. “But if you want to do something really transformative to bring down carbon emissions, then I think that’s what we have to do,” says Oyen....