How would you describe your ideal city

urban planning - This is how we live in the city of the future

What will the cities of the future look like? The horror scenario are overpopulated metropolises that are suffocating in smog and traffic chaos. The alternative: electric cars glide silently through the streets, the air is clean. Roof gardens supply people with fresh vegetables, solar panels with sustainable energy.

As part of the “Morgenstadt” research project, experts from the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are looking for ways to prevent the horror scenario. On the other hand, they want to implement the alternative concept at least partially into reality with modern technology and clever ideas. They want to make the cities of the future more livable places that are free of noise and emissions.

Alanus von Radecki heads the “Urban Governance Innovation” division at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. He has a clear vision of what, for example, mobility will look like in the ideal city of the future. The problem is clear: the streets are already overcrowded, the transport system is reaching its limits. “In addition to well-developed local public transport, in the future autonomous electric cars will be used jointly via sharing concepts,” says von Radecki.

"Private cars will be the exception"

With car sharing, you rent a car using a smartphone app. In most large cities, this is already possible today - in the future, most traffic could be organized this way. It would be kept fluid by the fact that the cars drive independently and are steered by an intelligent system.

“Private cars will tend to be the exception,” says von Radecki. "Because there is simply not enough space left in the city for them." For example, Helsinki intends to ban private cars from city traffic within the next few years. Combustion engines will soon no longer exist either.

If there were fewer cars shared for this purpose, there would be more space for green spaces in the city. And that, says von Radecki, will also be needed in the metropolises of the future. “Parks and green spaces improve the climate because they cool the air.” In contrast, the heat builds up in built-up cities in summer.

Energy from wastewater

Another major challenge in the cities of the future will be the use of resources. Important questions are: How do you ensure the supply of clean drinking water and clean energy while protecting the environment at the same time? “The greatest potential lies in intelligently networking the systems,” says von Radecki. "Then you can be much more efficient."

For this purpose, the Fraunhofer Institutes have developed Deus 21, a technical system with which water can be saved and energy can be obtained from wastewater. The water supply in Morgenstadt could therefore look like this: Rainwater is collected from the roofs of houses and processed in such a way that it can be used for washing and showering.

Toilets are flushed with the aid of a negative pressure system, similar to that used in airplanes, and this saves water again. The waste water from the houses is then used to generate biogas that can be used to generate energy. The approach has already been successfully tested in a new housing estate in Knittlingen, Baden-Württemberg.

A new technology for generating energy in the future is the wastewater treatment plant of the Deus 21 project. Source: Rafael Krötz / Fraunhofer IGB

Last but not least, there is another task to be solved in Morgenstadt. Even today, people with lower incomes are being pushed to the outskirts because they can no longer afford central housing. “It is important to prevent such a division in society,” says Radecki.

The Fraunhofer scientists have a few ideas on how this can be done. One, says von Radecki, are multi-use offers: “If, for example, a furniture store is to be built in the city center, a daycare center can be integrated right away. And put a block on top for social housing. "

Another approach is to set up coworking spaces at the neighborhood level, jobs for the self-employed with mostly lower incomes. In this way, they could make ideal use of the infrastructure and network with companies in the city.

Tiny houses as a way out of rising rents

One way out of rising rents is so-called tiny houses: Small, often mobile residential units that offer everything on a floor space of a few square meters and can be rented out very cheaply. It is conceivable to set up these around communal spaces so that everyone has a private living area, but does not have to live really cramped.

But: How are the inhospitable, stuffy concrete deserts, which are already bursting at the seams, to be miraculously transformed into beautiful, clean morning cities? Von Radecki admits that major investments would have to be made in the major cities of Asia or South America. The Scandinavian countries are playing a pioneering role in optimizing their cities.

All you have to do today is look at Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Malmö or Eindhoven. The change to a modern city that is worth living in is not a sure-fire success either: “This requires political decisions. In any case, it's never too late for a change. "

From Irene Habich