Category Archives: Day by Day

Development of Wilhelmsburg

The Wilhelmsburg quarter of Hamburg is being developed alleviate density in the city.

In the morning we met up with Rolf and made our way to the train station. Along the way we stopped by some former meatpacking warehouses that have been repurposed into art galleries, a kindergarten, a brewery, restaurants, and other cultural attractions. While these businesses are revitalizing the area, the meatpacking district is becoming less and less affordable for people with low incomes. Rolf also mentioned that some people want to clean out the Rote Flora, the center for political extremism and one of the hubs for protest during the G20 summit, and convert it into a nonpolitical public space. However, this would remove some of the diversity and history from the St. Pauli quarter of Hamburg. After perusing some of the other redevelopments in the area, we proceeded to the platform and caught an S-bahn to Wilhelmsburg, the island in the middle of the Elbe River.

Our guide, Rolf, points at the old autobahn running through Wilhelmsburg on a model of the island. The autobahn is slated for closure in order to reduce noise pollution and make life on the island more pleasant.

Our first stop in Wilhelmsburg was the city planning office of Hamburg. In the center of the lobby was a detailed model of the entire city. We took a seat on the steps and Rolf launched into a lecture on the development of Wilhelmsburg. He explained that during the Third Reich an autobahn was built through Wilhemsburg. Hamburg fell under western control after the second world war, and companies in the packaging and shipping industry took root in Wilhelmsburg to take advantage of the port and the newly built autobahn. After reunification these companies expanded to the market in east Germany with ease, which actually hindered economic innovation and causes problems with job creation today. These companies developed the western edge of the island, leaving most of Wilhelmsburg untouched. As urbanization and globalization caused Hamburg to become more densely populated, the city had to come up with innovative solutions to housing people. One such solution was building up Wilhelmsburg and making it an appealing place to live.

However, there were many challenges to making the island livable and attractive. Wetlands, pollution, and flooding are all barriers to development on* the island. Nevertheless, the city of Hamburg, which owns the land, began by building a kindergarten, a medical center, a retirement home, and a hotel on the island. People began to move to the area. The south side of the island became a center for education, and north became filled with sporting facilities. The southeastern edge is a pristine, untouched forest, and the center is a large public park called Inselpark. This abundance of green areas makes the city feel spacious and less dense than it is in reality. Another autobahn was built through the island, and public transit makes traveling between the island and the city center easy and convenient. Rolf explained that in the future the city will close the old autobahn, reducing noise on the island and making a more attractive place to live. After gaining an understanding of the development of the island, we left the city planning office to see what the island had to offer. We strolled through the Inselpark, which the locals have turned into a recreational area. There were basketball courts, skateboarding ramps, a public pool, and even a towering rock climbing facility. People seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the park, and part of me was dying to put on a climbing harness and join in the fun. We continued our tour through a residential area. The flats in this area were created as part of an experiment that the government was conducting; one building had tanks of water on the outside walls and was growing algae to sell to fish farms, one was affordably built out of slabs of concrete and was subsidized by the government to provide affordable housing to low-income families, and another had solar panels to generate energy and walls made of foliage to keep the building cool during the summer and warm during the winter. The area had a friendly and inviting feel, and seemed to be gaining popularity.

A group of children gather on a soccer field in the Inselpark. The park was part of a citizen effort to make their neighborhood in Wilhelmsburg more lively and enjoyable.
The climbing gym at the Inselpark has been a huge success with young people. All skill levels can enjoy the gym, and if climbing doesn’t interest you then the bar or office spaces in the building may.
The algae house is a good example of the housing experiments that are happening in Wilhelmsburg. The outer walls of the house are filled with tanks of water and algae. The water is in motion constantly to prevent the algae from settling. This causes maximum algae production. The algae is dried and sold to fish farmers.

-Ayla Gizlice

Bunkers, Landfills, and Energy. (oh my!)

This afternoon in Hamburg, we explored several converted sites that now produce renewable energy.

After our lunch in the Mensa at the Department of Urban Planning and the Environment on Wilhelmsberg (an island created by a fork in the River Elbe), we traveled to the Energiebunker, a former WWII air raid bunker that has been converted into a renewable energy power plant. It was built in 1943 using 80,000 tons of concrete and offered shelter for over 30,000 Hamburg residents. In 1947, British Allied troops demolished the interior of the bunker. The building remained unused for over 60 years, but in 2010 the rubble inside was cleared and rehabilitated as part of the International Building Exhibition (IBA). Then in 2013, a terrace on the eighth floor was opened to the public. The building has a 1300m2 south-oriented solar shell with a 99KW peak. The panels on the roof produce thermal solar energy, while those on the side produce power. The bunker has other renewable efforts: a biogas CHP-unit produces power and heat, an ongoing woodchip-plant project produces heat, and the waste heat of nearby industry is stored in the bunker’s natural gas boilers (capacity: 2 million Liters) and supplies the local heat grid. The grid has a radius of about .5km, providing heat to 3000 households and electricity to 1000 households. The project cost 27 million Euro total: 15 for refurbishment and 12 for the energy concept. Hamburg took the initiative to convert a WWII Nazi bunker into a sustainable energy plant. Looking forward, Hamburg.

Next, we went to the Energieberg. Like the Energiebunker, this landfill was converted to a renewable energy production area. We watched an epic video presentation that made waste management appealing. The story begins in 1945, when a mountain of rubble was compiled from destroyed towns. It was called Georgswerder. Four years later, it became a waste dump for nearby manufacturers. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, no one was worried about what this waste heap could morph into… In 1954, Germany won the World Cup; in 1961, the Berlin Wall was erected; in 1962, one third to a half of Wilhelmsberg flooded; in 1963, JFK was assassinated; In 1969, man landed on the moon. So, in 1967, when dioxin was being produced in Hamburg, no one thought anything of it. Even when the hazardous waste was dumped at Georgswerder. “The waste will absorb the toxins” was the general sentiment. But as the most poisonous chemical humans have created, dioxin is 10,000 times more poisonous than cyanide. Birth defects affected villages in the vicinity and people became incredibly sick. The toxin was found in seven different locations. Finally, in 1984, the hazardous mound was covered and the toxin was contained so it could no longer seep into the groundwater. This transformation was only possible because of people’s efforts and cries for a safer environment. Something we could use more of in the US – citizen involvement. The site was publically opened in 2011, with solar and wind providing energy for 4000 household (20% of Wilhelmsberg).

Our last stop was a house owned by Conrad, a friend of our guide. The house is a multi-family home with shared cars, solar energy, and a 20-KW CHP unit. They have 2 Tesla batteries that store the energy throughout the day, and use that energy for the home and car charging. Excess solar energy can be sold to the grid at 12 Eurocents/KWh, and extra CHP-produced energy can be sold at a range of 4-6 Eurocent/KWh. Perhaps what is even more interesting is that Conrad owns a wind park. Or a part of it. He and six neighbors started the project and others from adjacent villages invested. Conrad’s wind park contains twelve 3-MW turbines, producing 100 million KWh/year for 25,000 households. Wind energy is not taboo here, as it is in some US states. In some parts of North Carolina, people of resisting the energy transition. It is almost a German right to own part of a wind park. Now, we just need to bring this mindset back to the US.

-Kaitlyn Ave’Lallemant

Introduction to Hamburg

Harbor tour and a walk through St. Pauli

“Welcome to Hell.” This is what we read on signs and graffiti as we exited the Hamburg train station. As we made our way to the hotel, we saw similar signs that all expressed an anti G20 sentiment. In the days leading up to our arrival, thousands were protesting capitalism, climate polices and globalization, among other issues, but some of the protests became violent. Rioters took to the streets smashing windows, looting stores, and starting fires, all of which left the streets littered with a tremendous amount of glass. The initial shock of the past events were eased as we saw citizen after citizen walking along the streets with their children and friends to clean up the glass off of the streets. It was a beautiful to me to see such citizen involvement and participation from the people of Hamburg in order to heal the wounds that were inflicted upon their city.

Our tour guide, Ralph, explaining to our group how the public are involved in the design of developments in Hamburg.

Later in the day, we went with our guide, Ralph, on a tour of Hamburg’s harbor. Walking to the harbor, we saw multipurpose water barriers. When these water barriers are not in use, they are simply steps and a place for people to walk or watch the water. However, these devices can elongate on rails adjacent to them in order to prevent water from going into the streets. The Port of Hamburg is located on the river Elbe, and it is Germany’s largest port. This busy harbor is home for an array of ships including container carriers, tankers, cruise ships, and many others. The depth of the harbor is an issue that it is currently dealing with. The present depth of the harbor is not deep enough for larger world ships to come through the port, and there is discussion about whether or not it should be dredged in order to accommodate them. Many environmentalists are concerned with the ecological implications of dredging. Also, the city has been struggling with the EU Commission as well as the people living in the surrounding area over these issues.

The boat that took our group around the Port of Hamburg. Our tour guide narrated the harbour tour.

After the harbor tour, we walked through some of the St. Pauli district of Hamburg. In this area, there is a lot of public participation in influencing governmental decisions. For instance, there have been areas where companies have tried to kick out tenants, but locals have occupied the buildings to ensure that there is housing for those of low income. Because of these public actions, the government created a new participation process to increase public engagement and input from the citizens for the architects and planners to use. This plan led to pictures being put up to illustrate what a space could look like, and the public would then, in turn comment, on the proposal. This idea allows designs to put people first while showing that the city belongs to all.

Another strong example of public engagement was seen through the Garten Deck in St. Pauli. The Garten Deck incorporates flowers, beehives, compost, and seating for the public to enjoy. This urban garden was formed as a self-organized space that demonstrated to politicians the desire and need for public space within the city.

-Stephen Lapp

G20 Protests and City Tour of Hamburg

G20 protest remnants and the various neighborhoods and sites of Hamburg

Upon meeting up with our tour guide, Rolph, we learned a bit about the G20 protests that had taken place over the past couple days. One of the first things he told us was that while the city might appear to be a normal city, Hamburg is in a state of tension beneath the surface. The people of Hamburg are still trying to process what had happened at the G20 protests on Friday and Saturday. During the protests, roads were barricaded for 8 hours to prevent police and firefighters from entering. Numerous stores had broken windows. Several cars were set on fire. Distrust between the government and the people penetrated throughout the city. When we first arrived in Hamburg on Sunday, evidence of the protests could be seen everywhere: graffiti statements, stickers, posters, signs in store windows, and even sidewalk chalk exclaimed resistance against the G20 event. However, among all of the protest efforts was evidence of the care people had for the city. Hundreds of volunteers were working to clean glass from the streets and graffiti from building walls. A street performer played the drums on one of the most popular streets of the region, bringing the citizens together to enjoy music.

The G20 “Welcome to Hell” movement was one of the most violent protests during the conference. Here, a sign shows the logo of the protest and explains the demonstration details.

A collection of feminist signs hung along one of the walls near the train station. They encouraged people to reach out to G20 leaders to address the inequality in education women receive.

One the first places we stopped at on our Monday tour was a meeting point for many of the protests. Outside the building hung the sign “Capitalism will end anyway. You decide when!” This was one of 3-5 buildings throughout Hamburg where people can meet to discuss alternatives to capitalism. The plaza surrounding the building was a place where people were looking to change the world. It is also a common gathering place for students.

“Capitalism will end anyway. You decide when!” was a poster hung outside one of the main meeting points of the G20 protests. This building also houses discussions about alternatives to capitalism.

We then walked through a region of town known as the Slaughterhouse region. True to its name, meat packaging had once taken place here. In the 80s and 90s the city had bought this region before it was supposed to be torn down. The city leaders hoped to improve the area, but they also wanted to keep a balance of housing prices. Gentrification, or the movement of a middle class into a newly developed region, was a concern for the leaders. Rolph explained that the city tried to keep affordable flats open to people and that problems arose when this housing was no longer considered affordable. As we walked, we saw a leftist neighborhood: a sign stating “FCK G20. Make capitalism history – another world is possible!” hung outside the neighborhood gates. Nearby, sidewalk chalk exclaimed “No cops, no border, no action”. Continuing through the city, more protest signs, political graffiti, and broken store signs showed evidence of the protests that had taken place.

This banner hung outside a leftist neighborhood that we toured in the morning, promoting the end of capitalism.

Before leaving the Hamburg region immediate to our hotel, we discussed a World War 2 bunker that could be seen nearby. During the war, cannons lined the top of the bunker. After the war, people wanted the bunker destroyed; however, it would have been too expensive for the city to destroy. Currently, an investor is buying the bunker and is hoping to build a rooftop garden. This is a common theme for the bunkers in Hamburg: the city or private investors are looking into making bunkers into a more useful structure for the city.

We then hopped on a tram to the harbor region of Hamburg. Here we discussed how the city had raised the harbor sides by 1.5m to protect against global climate change. Nearby, a prototype for a house floated on the water. The home was a two story house, and it was said that it was too dangerous for the canals of the city. This specific home was around 300-500 thousand euros. These floating houses are being explored for an option to cope with global climate change and rising sea levels. While the prototype that we saw would not work for canals, there are many floating homes that are on the canals of the city. There are only 1000 spaces left for canal floating homes, and it is predicted that these will fill up within the next decade.

Pictured here is a double story prototype for a floating house. While this particular model of the floating house cannot be placed on the canals due to height restraint, many other floating homes are on the canals. These homes are being explored as a response to global climate change.

We then visited the Elbphilharmonie building. This building- with its one of a kind wavy roof that appeared to match the waves of the harbor- was a popular attraction in the city. A symphony hall was perched on top of the building, and an incredible view of the harbor and the city accompanied a walkway around the building. The Elbphilharmonie is considered a signature building of the city. It is a place where the imagability of the city comes into play: the building provides a site that is memorable to Hamburg. While the Elbphilharmonie was originally estimated to cost 70 million euro and take 5 years to construct, it ended up costing the city 700 million euro and took 12 years to build. This brings in the question of what a signature building in the city is worth.

The Elbphilharmonie building in Hamburg is considered to be a signature building in Hamburg due to its unique design. Visitors can view the harbor and the city from the walkway around the building.

We then trekked through the rain to our next location: the Unilever building. This glass building with unique ceiling designs and plenty of open space is a public space that strives to bring people together on the outskirts of the city center. From the bottom floor, several stores could be seen, such as a market, a Dove store, and a cooking site. People meandered and chatted freely with one another.

Pictured here is the Unilever building: a public place where people can gather to shop, chat, and hang out. The goal of this space is to move people out of the center of the city.

Our final stop before lunch was a site from which companies, community housing, and a school could be viewed. The city had originally not planned for having a playground with the school. In order to conserve space and provide a play area for the children, a garden was constructed on the roof of the school. This is an excellent example of how cities can maximize their space. The garden could also provide an opportunity to help reduce the overall heating of the city that occurs because of the common black rooftops. The community housing nearby provides families with easy access to the school and to the nearby businesses. Overall, the combination of the companies, the school, and community housing exemplifies how cities can be planned out to provide people with easy access to everyday events.

A school (left), a company (center), and community housing (right) are pictured here, demonstrating the mixing of the three into the city. On top of the school is a garden and playground, which was strategical planning for the city: the city did not originally plan for a playground for the school.

-Emilee Armstrong

The Ruhr Transition

The Ruhr area has transitioned from major coal and steel production into one of the “green” guiding lights of Europe

Today, we began with a wrap-up discussion of our time in Eindhoven. We then travelled to the town of Essen, which is in the Ruhr area, which is considered the old industrial heart of Germany. There, we visited the Zollverein Industrial Complex, an old coal mine transformed into a museum and took a tour led by guide Peter Reuter. Walking up to the museum I was struck by how huge the physical infrastructure of a coal plant is.

We begin our tour by looking at a small scale version of the complex.
The building of Zollverein Industrial Complex.

Beginning in the early 19th century there was a huge steel and coal mining industry that moved into the Ruhr area. It completely industrialized the small farming area, which led to a huge economic boom. It also led to horrible pollution. In the 1950’s pollution was so bad that you could only see 17% of the sunlight on the ground during the day- they had to keep street lamps on at all times. The typical life expectancy for miners at that time was only 25 years, so they were encouraged to get married and reproduce young. This brought up an interesting point. Our guide said that industrialization led to the realization of human rights as more than a philosophical argument.

We got to look into the coal mines’ mills, which used to crush coal into smaller pieces with its own weight.
Students look at examples of the size of the coal before and after milling.

Soon, technology progressed to the point where miners were no longer needed. They became almost completely replaced by machinery, something that is continuing to happen in the coal industry in America. Misplaced miners were reeducated and highly valuable in industries similar to coal, such as steel. However, it still took time for acceptance. Many old mines were turned into event venues, art galleries or restaurants. Old miners would refuse to go to these places at first. Now they are some of the most popular venues in the Ruhr area. This was a really great example of ways to reuse old infrastructure and avoid razing and rebuilding. Many of the old railroad tracks that went to pick up coal have been repaved into bike paths and other forms of transportation infrastructure.

On the rooftop, we could see the many surrounding towns and cities making up the Ruhr area. Because they were originally small farming communities before industrialization, many don’t have a city center.
Old mines have become some of the most popular event venues in the Ruhr area.

As one of the poorest areas of Germany, many things still need to change for the Ruhr region. The outsourcing of steel in the 1980’s left many out of work. Now, much of their economy comes from the over 1 million tourists that visit the region each year. While there are still many large businesses based there, the majority of work is mechanized. Most jobs are minimum wage, and are service oriented. Despite this, there are many new initiatives that are hoping to bring more vitality to the region. The Ruhr area is incredibly diverse, thanks to the many international investors and diverse cultures that have moved there, which allows many different paths and innovation to occur there.

In 2017, Essen was given the European Green Capital Award, which is given to one European city that consistently meets environmental standards and is committed to improvement and development of sustainability. Our guide explained the way that Essen got the award as being just letting all of the plants grow nonstop, except to add biking paths and pedestrian areas, which led to trees and wildlife areas springing up everywhere. They have also completely redone their wastewater management system. Originally a manmade system of open sewers, they have converted it into enclosed underground sewers while retransforming the original water systems into near-natural bodies of water.

The 150-year transformation from polluted coal and steel industrial area into the Green Capital of Europe is inspiring and provides a beacon for cities trying to redevelop.

From Black Coal to a Green Role

A look into Essen’s history as a coal powerhouse and how the city turned green

We started out the day with a recap of the prior week we spent in The Hague and Eindhoven. We mainly discussed smart city aspects involving innovation and technological advancement. Then we made our way to Essen which contained Zollverein, the most modern coal mine in Europe during the 1930s. Many countries and coal producing regions would take visits to Zollverein to study the techniques used that made the coal mine more efficient than other mines. The facility was incredibly large and industrial. The inside housed large machines, conveyor belts, coal carts, and mine shafts. We started atop the main building overlooking the town of Essen and surrounding area. It was easy to see the vastness of the mine and understand how long it took miners to get to and from the wash station where they would start and end the day.

Overlooking a large portion of Zollverein, which was one of the most modern coal mines of the 20th century. Also pictured is some restored green space.
A view from the “ceremony place” where marriages took place in the mine. It was surprisingly common for workers to get married in the mine despite their daily involvement for work.

Next we took a look at one of the mining areas and sampled some of the tools miners used in the mines. Work techniques for breaking off coal evolved from a simple hammer and chisel to a safer more complex hammer and chisel to the jackhammer. The jackhammer was the heaviest and most dangerous tool. It kicked up a lot of dust which caused black lung and also sent workers home still shaking from the vibrations. Bad working conditions in mines was something I had known for a while but getting to see the environment out of context firsthand was startling. Eight hours a day would be spent in the mines and an additional 4-5 hours was spent traveling and washing causing many miners to just sleep in the mines for multiple days. We also learned how horses were used in the mines to carry loads of coal. Horses would stay 4-5 years at a time in stables in the mines. We concluded the visit to Zollverein by going to the loudest part of the mine where coal was dumped to lower level and sorted by workers. The noise was 118 decibels which is 2000 times louder than moderately loud speakers. Workers spent 8 hours a day here with no ear protection in shifts of 18 months at a time which left many of them practically deaf.

The loudest place in the mine. Tons of coal was dumped from here to lower levels daily at a volume of 118 decibels.
A look at some of the tools used to break off coal. Hammers and chisels were used first and then the jackhammer became more popular because of its efficiency.

Zollverein was an important part of the history of Essen and prompted us for our next small tour which was an exhibit dedicated to Essen’s prize of being Europe’s green capital of 2017. This is surprising considering throughout the 19th and 20th century the area was a major contributor to global warming. After much destruction of the environment in the 19th century Essen recognized the problem and put in conservation and restoration programs to achieve a healthier environment. The exhibit featured park plans, animal exhibits, gardens, and forest samples. Essen and the Ruhr area actually took grade pride in leading the green revolution. A lot of the initiatives have come from locals with garden initiatives. The Ruhr area also plans on putting in a cycling superhighway as a main means of transport. The main goal the greening of the Ruhr area is for all citizens to live only a couple minutes from any parks or green space. This exhibit concluded our journey for the day.

An overlook of the Essen ‘Green Capital of 2017’ exhibit. After many years of environmental destruction, the city recognized its new role in green restoration and focused an exhibit on some of the projects put in place.
Some local species on display in the Essen exhibit. Deer, bobcats, fox, squirrels, and fungus are all featured.
An overview of a park project in the exhibit. The major goal of the revitalization was to have green space within a few minutes of every citizen.

Both Zollverein and the Essen exhibit were located on the same industrial grounds which is a unique way to display the change in mindset that has occurred in the area. What used to be an industrial area has shifted to an eco friendly hub for green space. If it was not for the industrial roots and environmental degradation caused it is likely that Essen would not be the green capital of Europe. This is a prime example of how an old town has changed from high impact to low impact on the environment and maintained citizen participation. I think the US can use Essen and the Ruhr area as a guide to creating livable healthy environments from old unusable coal mines.

-Charlie Garnett

A Visit to Bayer

Stepping Inside the Life Science Company

While leaving Eindhoven after such a short visit was disappointing, the prospect of returning to Germany had all the students excited, myself included. We took a bus to Dusseldorf, a pit stop before traveling to the Ruhr Area, and stored our luggage in the train station. From there we took a train to Leverkusen to see the Bayer headquarters. Bayer, a major pharmaceutical company, did not originally seem like a visit to be included on a program surrounding smart cities and renewable energy. However, after a walk through the campus and tour of Baykomm, the communication center, there were many ideas to take away from the visit.

Entering Baykomm, the communications center for Bayer. Inside is where we met one of our guides for the day and had the opportunity to engage with some of their interactive learning tools.
Bayer’s campus is covered with walking paths and beautiful gardens. Walking through this campus makes it clear that the employees have access to plenty of green space and can stay active throughout the day.

First and foremost were the innovative education tools the Bayer communication center is using to promote lessons on the life sciences as well as the projects they are working on. Teachers in the area can bring their elementary school children into classrooms and laboratories here that contain equipment many schools cannot afford. Merle Jackel, our guide for the afternoon, showed us a lab specifically used to teach children about the importance of a healthy bee population. The decline of bee colonies in parts of the world is of major public concern; of the 100 crops providing 90% of the world’s food, 70 benefit from bee and other insect pollination. The lab not only shows young students how they themselves can help bees stay healthy, but introduces them to a world of research and science. Inspiring students at a young age to pursue an education in science is important for the future health of our world’s ecosystems.

Inside one of the labs that school teachers may bring their students to. This one specifically is devoted to learning about bee health, its importance, and how students can help improve it.
Inside the communications center, employees and visitors stay up to date with facts and figures about the health of the world. Pictured here is the square meters of arable land required to feed one person today (1,995.56) and people still affected by poor nutrition (738,309,030).

Bayer was founded in 1863 as a synthetic dye production company, but in the 1890s they developed their first synthetic insecticide. Dye production turned crop protection company, it is not surprising that bee health is not the only environmental-based project Bayer works on. While Bayer now concentrates in human and animal health, a major focus of theirs remains crop science and researching arable land and nutrition. With a predicted population of 10 billion people by 2050, providing enough healthy food is a goal for this life sciences company. Unfortunately, the presentation did not go into depth on the agricultural research and innovation Bayer is pushing forward. They also glossed over the deal with Monsanto, one of the biggest takeovers of its kind at a value of 60 billion euro, describing it simply as the key to having the “complete solution” to agricultural technology. With Monsanto’s representation for engineering food and pesticides, I am curious to see the affect this has on crop technology worldwide. Additionally, with Monsanto and Bayer owning 30% of the seed market combined, it will be interesting to see how seed prices for farmers are affected.

One of the program’s students participating in the interactive learning at the communications center Baykomm. Here he is putting on the “Senior Simulator” and tasked with opening up pill bottles. This allows Bayer to see what improvements can be made to make their senior consumers more at ease.

An intriguing part of the presentation was the stress they put on Bayer’s separation from their chemistry counterparts. Bayer is a purely life sciences company with a separate chemical industrial area is located next door – Chempark Leverkusen. Merle Jackel explained that the separation was necessary in order to stay competitive. Bayer did not have the budget to keep the chemical processes under its company, and the chemical group could be more competitive with other chemical based companies if it separated from Bayer. A tour through the Chempark revealed that the entire operation was still supported by coal, and not much innovation was occurring to make production more efficient and sustainable. The emphasis on cost-benefit production as opposed to innovation and sustainability seems like a theme that may stem from the classic shareholder model. Overall, many students left the visit wondering what role Bayer, Monsanto, and its chemistry counterparts would play in the future of smart and healthy cities.

The bus we boarded for an air conditioned tour of the chemistry park, which was nice after a long day of traveling.
During the bus tour, we were taken inside one of the buildings to see a model of the entire chemical park. This picture highlights the use of coal and continuation of a more traditional industrial campus.

-Sarah Wotus

Automotive Campus: Creating a Greener Future

Electric vehicles and innovation ecosystems will power our economic and environmental future

After traveling via train to Eindhoven yesterday, we spent our first full day in and around Eindhoven today (July 5). Within fifteen minutes of leaving the city, we were biking through the countryside, alongside a beautiful canal and a seemingly ceaseless row of old trees. Eventually, we came upon Helmond, sometimes called the “automotive city” because of its role in vehicle innovation. In Helmond, we visited the “Automotive Campus,” where we listened to two presentations focused on the future of vehicles and their intersection with smart cities. We also were able to look around a workshop on the Automotive Campus where students from Fontys University (in Eindhoven) build their own electric cars, one of which drove to Berlin with only one recharge. While we didn’t learn much about the technical aspects of these student-built electric cars, it was impressive to witness an example of the hands-on learning that students in the Netherlands participate in to further their education and to hear about the companies that financially support this technical, hands-on form of learning. We picked up a great deal of information during our first day in Eindhoven, but I thought some of the best insights were on the future of electric vehicles and innovation ecosystems.

Just ten minutes out of Eindhoven, we already reached beautiful green areas surrounding the city.
We were able to bike alongside a beautiful canal for much of the bike ride to the Automotive Campus.
We arrived at about 1:00 at the Automotive Campus.

Both presenters prefaced the importance of transitioning to electric vehicles by mentioning the impending threat to the Netherlands from climate change. While Eindhoven would be safe, most other major Dutch cities could be underwater in mere decades if no major action occurs to combat climate change. That’s why the innovation occurring at the Automotive Campus is so crucial. Our first presentation focused on smart and green mobility, with our presenter Daniel introducing us to facts and goals for the Netherlands. The largest ambition for the nation is having one million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in 2025, a huge increase from the current amount of 113,000 registered EVs. It’s pretty appealing for the Dutch to embrace EVs because gas costs are very high here, making electric a better economic and environmental option. Along with the increase in EVs will come an increase in public and private chargepoints for EVs, although our presenter emphasized that he thought the main increase would occur in private chargepoints (either at workplaces or homes).

After our presentations at the Automotive Campus, we went to a workshop where engineers and Fontys University students were piecing together electric cars.
We left the day having learned a great deal about Automotive Campus, Fontys, and all their partners. All in all, this day was fascinating and a huge success.

When electric vehicles are mentioned, the conversation often focuses around cars. But the Netherlands is truly looking to the future by investing in heavy duty electric powertrains and e-buses. As of now, 43 e-buses operate in Eindhoven and 100 operate in Amsterdam. The most complex question around e-buses is the time it takes to recharge the buses, but there seems to also be a solution for that in the Netherlands. Faster chargers, also known as superchargers, can charge a bus in as little as twenty minutes. Fast recharging could make e-buses a more viable option for public transit across the world. Because of more and more e-buses, public transportation will cause less pollution and more cars can be taken off the road, decreasing traffic and increasing efficiency.

Here is the electric engine of a beautiful white convertible, showing that while expensive, it is possible to move from a typical gas vehicle to an electric one.
Fontys students work together on elements of their “homemade” electric car.
Students listen as more is explained about building electric cars and about some specific successes of Fontys students.

In these two presentations, we also learned more about innovation ecosystems and knowledge clustering, an important part of smart cities that we have already looked at earlier in the trip. Our second presenter, Bram, discussed the so-called “triple helix,” otherwise known as the cooperation between knowledge institutes, government, and industry. This close cooperation allows innovation to occur in an environment where it is in the best interests of economic growth as well as individuals’ well-being. The triple helix is a form of knowledge clustering, with different parties bringing different viewpoints to the table and helping to create a smarter region, country, and world. These concepts are economic boons for startups and innovation and could be successfully implemented more in cities across the United States and the rest of the world.

-Joseph Womble

Automotive campus is a playground for transportation innovation

Green mobility innovations will make for an exciting future for cities

Our first class day while in Eindhoven began with the group biking to the Automotive Campus in Helmond. The Automotive Campus hosts a variety of startups that focus on innovations that will improve the efficiency of automobiles as well as help move toward the transition to electric vehicles. After our lecture we visited a workshop on the campus that is an extension of Fontys University of Applied Sciences. We made a trip to the university yesterday and today had the opportunity to see more of the kind of technical work that universities in the Netherlands do in order to foster relationships with universities and help prepare students to enter the workforce and think like “gamechangers.”

In the hall of the automotive campus is a map of automotive organizations in the Netherlands.

Our class time was in two parts: one lecture focused on innovations that are being worked on that will enable full automation of transportation and the other one focused on the transition to electric vehicles and how this would operate in an urban system. As part of the development of smart cities, we mostly talked about electric vehicles in the context of public transportation in urban areas. Green Mobility would include private cars and car sharing in addition to electric trains. Electric vehicles and automation together will decrease energy demand while also eliminating fossil fuel emissions with platooning, or the communication between automobiles and traffic lights.

Electric vehicle single-passenger charging outside of the automotive campus building.

The social implications of automation include more efficient use of space in cities. This is really important when thinking about the challenges that many European cities face when trying to expand outward. Automated vehicles and car sharing services within cities come with great potential for the development of public space due to less of a need for parking space within cities. Although less parking would mean a decrease of revenue for cities there could be more housing developments within the city. The introduction of more green spaces would improve water retention within cities as well as protect the air quality in cities.

Students watching engineering students in the Fonty’s university workshop.

Shared workspaces are an important aspect in supporting an innovation ecosystem with the development of new and improved technologies and data collection. Chapel Hill and many other cities in the United States would greatly benefit from more investments in public transportation. Public transportation intersects many different aspects of sustainability as it can decrease the carbon footprint while decreasing the collective cost of transportation resources within a city. Transportation also promotes social equity by making more of the city accessible to more people.

Timeline graphics in the hall of the Automotive campus show automobile development and innovation. They also include pivotal legislation restricting air pollution and the transition to more sustainable solutions.

As we have seen modeled in our visits to universities is that there is great potential for knowledge sharing when using triple helix solution models; using partnerships between the government, industry and universities to solve problems and improve cities. What we have found during our time in the Netherlands is how the transition toward renewable energy solutions and smart city planning is much more urgent when considering the serious consequences of climate change. Hopefully government and industry in the United States will soon realize the benefits of these innovations in strengthening the economy using the triple helix model to move the US to the forefront of innovative technology.

-Marques Wilson

Water Works

How The Dutch Utilize Their Overabundance of Dihydrogen Monoxide

Today we visited the historic Kinderdijk project in South Holland, NL. Kinderdijk is a system of windmills which have (and continue to) pump water up and out of a floodplain in order to make the ground their arable and habitable. Begun in the first half of the 18th century, the windmills (molen in Dutch), 20 in total, were constructed in a pattern of rows flanking a submerged parcel of land along the banks of the Maas river. The molen are ordered such that there is a sort of staggering in height as the water progresses through their ranks. The first set, a set of three mills, takes the water from where is naturally lays and pushes it through a turbine, stepping it up a degree in height. From there, the water enters two taller channels where 17 mills (16 of which still remain) bring the water from these channels one step further, pushing it into the neighboring Maas river.

An impressive view of several Kinderdijk molen (Dutch for “mills”)
A look inside one of the Kinderdijk windmills. The mills housed not only the machinery for the turbines, but also the millers themselves, who lived and worked in small rooms like this one.
The Erasmus Bridge which crosses the Maas River in downtown Rotterdam.
A view of the “Net Kous” (Net Stocking), a metal, tube-like structure which surrounds the Randstad Rail line in front of a business complex.

After visiting Kinderdijk we took a waterbus to Dordrecht. Before speaking on the latter, I would like to spend a moment discussing the integration of multimodal transportation across the Netherlands, as I have seen it. To get to Dordrecht, we had to switch vessels, take land and sea-faring means of transit, and interacted with a variety of differing companies along the way. All of this was done seamlessly by way of the OV ChipKart and its component scanning devices, which allow riders to slip between bus and bike, train and tram, and even waterbus, without ever having to deal with tickets or cash. By simply holding the card (after having made sure it is charged with enough money to cover the cost of transit) up to a scanner, the rider is allowed to enter and ride, checking out when they exit. The simplicity and well-oiled nature of this system is evident every time we travel in NL, but especially today, when aquatic vehicles too were involved, did it really strike me how messy such a process would have been if we had been traveling in, say, the US.

Looking out the back of the waterbus we took from the mediary dock (featured in the previous picture) to Dordrecht. This was the largest and fastest boat we rode on while staying in The Hague.
The gang hanging out on the back of the Drechtsteden, a small, ferry-like vessel which took us from Kinderdijk to a mediary dock, on which we caught a waterbus to Dordrecht.
Waiting on the platform of the Metro station directly below the Grote Markt, in downtown The Hague.
Moving sidewalks in the Rotterdam Central station, heading towards the river Maas.

We finished up the day in Dordrecht. The city did not possess much in the way of Smart development or Renewable Energy adoption, but another theme of urbanization was present. It was obvious that the town was dying, slowly but surely. Infrastructure, very well maintained everywhere else we had visited, was failing. Graffiti was visible everywhere, and though there was not an overwhelming homeless population, on Monday afternoon there was hardly a soul out on the streets. It was not until we reached the train station that real signs of life were present. So it is back in America as well, that areas on the periphery of growing cities languish in their shadows. Dordrecht proves that this is a global phenomenon, and thus a problem that we must face together.

An empty side street in Dordrecht. Lonesome views like this were common there, betraying a town in decline.
The Dordrecht mascott, a sheep, featured here all-dolled-up in a shop window.

-Forest Schweitzer